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Proselytism?

Posted on July 31, 2014 at 12:30 AM

Dear Pope Francis,

I read these days that you that you spoke against “religious proselytism” which in your view means talking with someone to persuade him. Instead we should respect other’s beliefs and inspire them through witness so we can grow together in communicating.

As a fellow Catholic who loves you like a father I want to respond you publicly.

You might mean well when you are saying this, but this goes so much against everything Christianity stands for I need to reply in love.

I am a cradle Catholic, but I have taken a long way till I came back to the Catholic Church. Among others I spend years with Israelis and in evangelical churches, so I am somewhat familiar with non-Catholic belief systems.

Wikipedia says “proselytism […] is the act of attempting to convert people to another religion or opinion”. How can this be wrong for a Christian?

 

Matthew 28:16-20New International Version (NIV)

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

You seem to have a great love for Evangelicals. So do I. I would even call myself an Evangelical Catholic. Evangelicals, however, pay great importance to evangelizing (or what you might call “proselytizing”). That’s something different, you might object. No, it’s not – not with regard to the Great Commission. We could discuss about the means (and here our personal witness through our words and deeds is very important), but not about the need thereof.

Sadly though most Catholics seem to have given up on the Great Commission or do not even know what that is. The common view is “live and let live” or “it does not matter what somebody believes in, they will all go to heaven”.

No, they won’t. I am not saying that all of those who have never heard of Jesus will go to hell, but from that speaking against attempts to convert people is a whole lot different.

Look to Jesus and His apostles: They gave their lives to convert other people who previously adhered to pagan beliefs – or to Judaism. That is exactly what “proselytizing” is all about. Saint Paul was even chosen for this reason – the disciple of the most important Jewish rabbi in history that became a follower of Jesus to reach out especially to the non-Jews.

I am afraid that what you said will confirm people in the erroneous belief that it does not matter what people believe in and that evangelizing (or however we might call it) is something we don’t do anymore.

Jesus did not talk about the small and the wide gate for no reason. Neither was his warning that nobody will come to the Father unless through Him just something one needs to see in a different light today.

It is not up to us to decide who will go to the Father and who not. However, it IS up to us to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

Dear Pope Francis, I respect you and I love you – but there is someone I respect and love even more: Jesus. Therefore I call you to clarify your position so people will not be lead astray.

Some might laugh and say who is this guy that he dares to tell the Holy Father what to do?

I am nobody – and I am everybody. Jesus died for me as He died for each one of us. In His eyes we are all at one level – God’s children. As a brother in Christ – with the full responsibility and authority thereof – I call you to follow Jesus’s Great Commandment and teach others how to do that.

 

In brotherly love,

 

Robert Gollwitzer

July 30th, 2014

 

(Sources: http://www.ucatholic.com/blog/10-secrets-for-happiness/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proselytism)

Is Your Church A Religious Club?

Posted on July 7, 2014 at 9:20 AM

“No, of course not!” – that’s most likely the knee-jerk response to this question. How does anybody even dare asking that?

 

Well, let’s take a closer look. I even go as far to say that most churches ARE religious clubs.

Just for the record: That is not altogether a bad thing. It only becomes bad when this is all there is to it.

 

Most church-goers are middle class people, at least in western industrial nations. Lots of them have their own families. And this is how the usual church bulletin looks like: groups for mothers with kids, choir meetings, outdoor events, meditation, retreats, youth activities, and the like. If your church is evangelical, you might add Bible studies and vacation Bible school. Sometimes you have missionaries reporting from their service and collecting funds – which reminds me of those rich ladies doing something charitable while having a copious dinner in their expensive clothes and jewelry. No, it is not a bad thing to report from missions, but the mindset that might be behind it could be.

 

Now think of all those activities – as good and nice as they are, why would you need a church for that? “But Bible studies are different!” you might object. Yes, they are – but then again, thinking of the many sermons I have heard in the past and some of the Bible studies I attended I dare say that – as well-motivated as they might have been – they sounded more like Christian wellness to me than food for the soul that makes your heart burn with passion for Jesus so that you stand up, leave everything behind and follow Him.

 

Is our church really so different from a religious club? A club with a religious background where we go to in order to have some common activities and at best do a little social stuff too?

Isn’t the truth more like this: The radical call for discipleship that Jesus issued has somewhat cooled down to a social meeting with a spiritual touch that helps the members feel better about themselves? Instead of “being church”, we “go to church”. Instead of following Him at all costs and with an undivided heart we do what feels good to us. We are looking more for a social activities club, a therapeutic group to talk about our mental problems, an organization that helps us deal with boredom, loneliness and a bad conscience?

 

I am not out to play the blame game or look down on anybody. My point is to think about what we are doing and where we are going. If we somehow forgot about the Great Commission and the Great Commandment on the way or watered it down a lot.

 

Someday we might think back at our lives and give everything to go back and do things differently. How about we do that now.

 

Robert

"Me, Myself & I": Wellness Christianity

Posted on June 4, 2014 at 12:50 AM

I don’t know about you, but if you go to any given Christian Sunday service (and it doesn’t almost even matter which denomination), you get the same picture pretty much everywhere: A nice service with nice people and a nice message. You can’t really say much against it, but then again – also not much for it. It’s all about love, forgiveness, nice & touching emotional stories and the like. Again: in and of itself that’s not really wrong. Is it not?
Let’s look back how Christianity started. Jesus’ radical call to give up everything – wealth, family and even life – to follow Him. Discipleship as the living symbol of the great Christian paradox: Die to live. Lives that spoke through their own examples, sermons that set hearts on fire, evangelizing at the cost of one’s life. Read the testimonies of the early Christian martyrs and weep.
What is left? Not much I dare say. Nice meetings, big events that don’t really say much nor do they have any lasting effects, church congregations that haven’t heard the words “hell”, “Satan”, “damnation”, “sin” for decades – not to speak of a godly sexuality and a Christian life. Right, Jesus is all about love. The hippie-like Jesus that paints everything rose. Who cares that back in the days Jesus could get really angry, spoke about Satan and hell like no other and did not care to shy away butts from the church benches as long as He had it right with God.
As to the Bible – well, technically it is still around, but man did they make something out of it. Back then it was a book that changed lives and gave people spiritual food. Now everything is “re-interpreted”. The biblical stories had been written by humans in their own historical and cultural circumstances. You can’t take that at face value and for sure it is not valid anymore. What’s left is that fuzzy “love”-feeling. Who cares that love in the biblical context is not a fuzzy feeling but a covenant where a person gives himself or herself in a life-giving manner reflecting the love that Jesus has for His bride, the Church – and in the marital context this love becomes so much “one flesh” that you have to give it a name nine months after – reflecting the trinity.
Don’t get me wrong – historical and cultural Bible interpretation has its place – but it is only ONE of many different aspects that need to be taken into account when studying the Bible. If you knock it down at that – and at that only – then you can throw away the whole book. If there are no lasting standards that no generation is allowed to change and that are valid across the centuries, then you can throw away the whole book.
Or – in other words: Then Christianity becomes the “me, myself & I” wellness-Christianity, where it is all about how I feel good about it, which church congregation offers me the best program, how the psalms give me feel-good-messages, how I can even mix things up with Zen-Buddhism, Yoga, pagan and even occult religious practices – or simply my own preferences, feelings and experiences. In other words: it all comes down to the satanic “do what you want” cult – with the sad side-effect that most are not even aware of that and would ascribe such thoughts to radical “fundamentalists”.
That’s the bad part of it. But then you have also the small gate to heaven that Jesus mentioned that few people will pass. Yes, they might be few, but they exist and they will get there.
You want to be one of the gang? Then go and check out what real discipleship is all about. Tell Jesus you want it, you want HIM and Him alone and that you are willing to give up everything for Him. And then let Him work in and through you. Yes, you will have to face consequences for that. People will mock you at best, or even harm you physically. You will lose everything and it won’t “feel good”. But then again you will find a sort of satisfaction that is beyond spiritual wellness. A satisfaction that unites you with Jesus’ life on the deepest level – the joy, the humility, the courage, but also the redemptive suffering.
You want all of that? Be careful before you answer. Because a “yes” might cost you everything – and give you everything: eternal life.
Robert

Belanglosigkeit

Posted on

Habe mir gerade die Homepage einer evangelischen Kirchengemeinde angesehen (ist aber austauschbar - hätte genauso gut irgendeine andere, auch katholische Gemeinde sein können). Wie überall dreht sich hier alles um das "Wohlfühl-Christentum". Der Missionsauftrag, die Weitergabe kirchlicher Lehre, Jesus Christus als Zentrum allen Tuns etc. spielt keine Rolle mehr. Es geht nur mehr darum, dass sich die Gemeindemitglieder wohl fühlen, dass sie zusammen etwas unternehmen und auch ein wenig Wohltätiges tun (um das eigene Gewissen zu beruhigen?). Die einzelnen Mitglieder sind im Mittelpunkt, nicht mehr der, auf den die Kirche aufgebaut sein sollte. So gesehen müsste es noch nicht einmal eine christliche Gemeinde sein - irgendein sozialer Club mit Freizeitprogramm und spirituellem Touch würde es auch tun. Das Ganze wirkt "nett", belanglos und beliebig. Weder Fisch noch Fleisch - lauwarm. Oder noch nicht mal das.