Also See Section On Catholicism
In helping a person find salvation, we must guide them down the same road that we ourselves have traveled. For regardless of a person's religious background, we all have the same basic spiritual needs. Each of us must confess that we are sinners under the condemnation of God. We must respond to the Spirit's call to repentance. We must come to understand Christ's saving work on the cross and God's free offer of salvation. We must place our faith in Christ to save us.
In assisting a person through these steps, it is also important to realize that he or she may have additional needs specific to his or her religious background. This is certainly true of Catholics. Here are eight things that you can do in helping Catholics find Christ.
Learn about Roman Catholicism
The better you understand Roman Catholicism, the better you will be able to effectively communicate the gospel to Catholics. Consider reading the new Catechism of the Catholic Church. Then use it in evangelism to point out to Catholics what Roman Catholicism teaches and to contrast it with biblical truth. You may also wish to obtain a simplified catechism and a Catholic dictionary. Finally, consider subscribing to a Catholic newspaper or magazine to keep abreast of current trends within the Roman Catholic Church. (See Section on Catholicism)
Pray For Catholics
The Bible tells us that the gospel ". . . is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Pray that God would open the eyes of Roman Catholics, that "if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will" (2 Timothy 2:25-26).
Since Catholicism tends to run along family and ethnic lines, many Catholics do not have a single non-Catholic Christian friend. Relatively few have ever heard a clear presentation of the gospel. Ask God to increase your love and compassion for Catholics. Then look for ways to nurture friendships with them. You will find that your greatest opportunities to share your faith usually come early in a new relationship, so don't let them pass. Catholics are more open today than most people realize. Each year thousands are turning to Christ. And don't be afraid to reach out to priests and nuns. Many are lonely and searching for answers.
Many Catholics are more dutiful than devout. They donít ask much of the Church, and the Church doesn't ask much of them. Family expectations are met and the conscience soothed in an equilibrium of peaceful co-existence with the Church.
If the love of God abides in us, we cannot sit by idly. Take the initiative. Get your Catholic friend thinking about his spiritual condition. Try, for example, offering your friend some Christian literature or a video tape. Ask him if he knows with certainty what will happen to his soul when he dies.
Donít be paralyzed by the fear of offending. Confronting your Catholic friend with the errors of the Church may be the best thing you can do for him. Some Catholics are going to get mad before they get saved. Later they will thank you for having loved them enough to have said something.
Promote Bible Study
The average Catholic is trusting the Church to care for his soul and to tell him what to believe about God and salvation. In coming to Christ, such a person must learn to think for himself, to take personal responsibility for his soul, and to base his faith upon Godís Word. This requires a major shift in his thinking.
You can help your Catholic friend to start the process by encouraging him to read the Scriptures. Make sure that he has a Bible that is readable and convenient to use, not an oversized family edition. Explain how the Bible is structured and how to find a Bible passage. Suggest a place to start reading. Invite your friend to a Bible study. A discussion-style study where visitors can simply observe if they so desire is best. Once a person seeking God discovers that he can learn directly from the Scriptures, there will be no stopping him.
Address the Real Problem
Your friendís greatest problem is not the Roman Catholic Church; it is his sin, so donít let Roman Catholicism become the focus of your discussions. Many Catholics have a deficient understanding of the seriousness of sin and its consequences. They think that because they have been baptized and are living relatively moral lives, everything is just fine. Help your friend to see what God says about sin in the Bible. Pray that he would become genuinely convicted of his sins. (See Sin)
Explain the way of salvation.
Do so directly from the Scriptures. This will help your Catholic friend to see that the authority for what you are saying does not rest with you or with your church, but on Godís inspired Word. Make sure that he understands what the Bible is saying by asking him to explain it to you. Since Catholics and non-Catholics use many of the same words but with different meanings, be careful to define your terms. (See Repentance and Salvation)
Go slowly! Do not prematurely lead your friend in a prayer to accept Christ. As we have seen, Catholicism is an endless series of rites and prayers. The more the better, or so they think. Your friend may interpret your invitation to pray to receive Christ as just one more rite, and repeat your words whether he understands what he is doing or not. Wait until the person is clearly under conviction of sin and understands the gospel. Then encourage him to make a decision for Christ, speaking to God in his own words. (See Is The Sinnerís Prayer Effective?)
Encourage a Clean Break
The Lord Jesus has commissioned us to make disciples, to baptize them, and to thoroughly instruct them in the Christian faith (Matthew 28:19-20). The work of evangelism, therefore, is not completed until your Catholic friend is saved, baptized, and incorporated into a sound, Bible-teaching church.
IPS Note: The Sound Bible believing church is getting harder and harder to find these days. Too many Bible believing Christians are on their own.
Encourage a clean break with the Roman Catholic Church. A thorough house cleaning may also be in order. Explain the value of disposing of everything associated with unbiblical beliefs and practices: statues, rosaries, scapulars, miraculous medals, holy cards, holy water, etc. (Acts 19:17-20; Jude 23). Do not underestimate how ingrained Roman Catholicism can be even in lapsed Catholics. Pray for spiritual liberation and encourage the individual regularly.
If a newly saved Catholic is having trouble leaving the Roman Catholic Church, try explaining more fully what Roman Catholicism teaches and why it is unbiblical. Start with the Mass. If the person is truly saved, he will soon realize that he should no longer participate in a continuing sacrifice of Christ or in the worship of bread and wine. If devotion to Mary is the problem, emphasize the glories of the Lord Jesus Christ and His sufficiency. As when coaxing an infant to release a harmful object clutched in his hand, the best method is to offer something better in exchange.
Jesus taught that following Him often involved opposition, particularly from family members (Matthew 10:34-39). Prepare a newly saved Catholic to expect trials. They usually start when the person leaves the Roman Catholic Church or decides to get baptized. Counsel the person to avoid harsh arguments and constant, unwelcome attempts at trying to convert family members. Rather, exhort the newly saved Catholic to witness to his family by living like Christ, by doing acts of kindness, and by being humble and patient.
Adapted from The Gospel According to Rome by James G. McCarthy, Harvest House Publishers, ' 1995.