When Evangelism is Offensive

When Evangelism is Offensive

I’m still mulling over a treadmill “conference” I had with a dear friend this morning at the gym.

This particular person is very religious, but not Christian. My friend shared the recent experience of being invited to a “dedication” (Baptism type ceremony) for a friend’s newborn child. The ceremony occurred within the context of the regular Sunday church service at a large, local, non-denominational Christian church in my hometown. Many friends of the baby were invited to attend — several of them non-Christian and of another faith background.

My friend emotionally told me about how offended some of the guests felt at the tone of the ceremony. Apparently large screens in the church were used to post bible verses that this person felt were very offensive to their own faith background. Additionally the pastor preached about the duty of every Christian to evangelize using whatever means necessary. In the midst of the pastor’s encouragement to “spread the good news”, my friend noted that never once was service to others mentioned. It was all about, “share the bible” or “pray over them” or “stay away from non-Christians who might lead you astray“.

The friend confided in me that their experience with our Church was different — that Catholics are frequently seen in the community doing acts of service, feeding the hungry and caring for the homeless. My friend’s perception — whether it is accurate or not — is that Catholics “walk the talk“.

I didn’t give much in the way of affirmation of this friend’s remarks — I was too busy questioning myself.

I know I spend quite a lot of time “talking God” — just ask my sons.

But do my actions out in the “real world” reflect the love I feel for Him and for my faith? Would people look at me and think, “she’s all talk and no action“? Would they think that of my parish, or my family?

If someone of my friend’s religion dropped in as an invited guest on any given Sunday at my parish, would they feel welcomed, cherished, and supported or offended and maligned? Good question.

I’ll likely be listening with my friend’s perspective fresh in my mind next Sunday. I hope it also impacts my other six days of my week just as much.

A question for you: Is your Church evangelistic in action as well as in message? How would non-Catholic friends “feel” if they visited your parish?

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  • kathyschiffer

    Wait: This non-Christian person was offended to read Bible verses at a Baptism? You CAN’T have a baptism without saying that the infant (or adult, whatever) is now a member of the family of God. If that’s offensive to a non-Christian, she should stay home from church and just go to the party.

    • lisahendey

      It wasn’t bible verses in general, it was a few select bible verses that the person felt categorically were offensive to other non-Christian religions. I hear what you’re saying – I’m just sharing that we never really know who is in our pews. This friend was speaking more about the issue of service within our community vs. merely preaching.

      • michigancatholic

        I’m trying to imagine which bible verses this person could mean, and how bible verses could be construed as being contrary to Christianity. Maybe she’s reacting to the commentary on them instead of the verses themselves?

        • lisahendey

          MI just to be clear – she wasn’t saying that the verses were non-Christian, just that they were offensive to other religions…

  • tedseeber

    7% of Catholics do 84% of “walking the talk”. What a wonder we could accomplish in this world if we could get that to 8%!

  • Kmewalt

    Preach the gospel always, if you have to use words. – St Francis knew what he was talking about 🙂

    • Oooh, I was thinking along the same lines. I saw your comment after I wrote mine.

  • Jill Mazzei

    I listened with your friend’s perspective in mind this morning @ 9:30am Mass. I thought the message in the scriptures and homily were inclusive and loving.

  • Reminds me of the addage attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.” There are times when words are offensive. Christ’s light should come out of our actions. That woman who confronted the muslim terrorist in London this week comes to mind. Dawn Eden has a nice piece on her Catholicism:

  • moseynon

    Quoting Lisa:

    “A question for you: Is your Church evangelistic in action as well as in message? How would non-Catholic friends “feel” if they visited your parish?”

    Hmmm…what does it mean to be evangelistic in action, as well as in message? The Catholic Church, and I suppose most parishes, are very good at providing social services. There has been recent criticism, perhaps justified, that Catholic services have become social work, rather than Christian love.

    But in the parish, at Mass, on any given Sunday, do we convey Christ and his love, to others? I wonder if that is what Lisa is asking, or if she is asking something different.