Serving Former Catholics

According to The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, there are currently over 15 million former Catholics in America who now attend Protestant churches, many of whom comprise a considerable portion of our congregations.[1] After serving some of the 15 million this past week on Long Island, I am reminded of the enormous opportunity that we face in equipping these saints for gospel ministry.

One particular skill that we can impart to the people whom we serve is the ability to understand and navigate through complex cultural differences. For instance, we must explain how Catholics often define their religious identity by the catena of religious practices that emerge from one’s ethnic, institutional, and liturgical experience. These are traditions such as feasts, crossing oneself, processions, ashes on the forehead, eating certain foods (or abstaining from them), genuflecting, holy water, rosary beads, venerating saints, lighting votive candles, or having Mass said in the name of a deceased relative. We have the opportunity to help our churches thoughtfully address these traditions, in ways that serve the gospel instead of subverting it.

[1] The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, “Faith in Flux: Changes in Religious Affiliation in the U.S. (Executive Summary, April 2009)”, Pew Research Center,

Share this article on…

More Articles

Our Basic Need

In her first novel, Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor says of her character Hazel Motes that “there was a deep, black, wordless conviction in him that

Read More »

Models of the Church

When I was in seminary, Professor Rick Lints made a memorable statement. After lecturing on the Reformation’s conception of salvation, he asserted that “This generation

Read More »

The Crux of Gospel Preaching

The acclaimed Italian operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti was a nervous wreck before every performance. Perhaps this would be the day that he would finally fail?

Read More »