The Catholic Church is running tv ads in the Vancouver area targeting former Catholics, asking them to return if they’ve been away. One included a testimony from a man talking about the feeling he gets when the priest forgives his sins. His story also implied that he left the church in the first place because he couldn’t live with a particular sin he had committed.
Another ad focusses on the identity and “accomplishments” of the church, and a third suggests that those living in sin may want to repent before it’s too late. Gary Mason at the Globe and Mail reports that the archdiocese is spending $500,000 on this ad campaign.
It’s not everyday that we get to see the outreach approach of a church put as succinctly as in a 30 second tv spot. The ads speak to a larger problem in the global church (well, maybe the Western church), as the vast majority of churches have failed to recognize the significance of cultural shifts in North America.
Instead of identifying problems and discontinuity within our churches and dealing with them, we place blame on someone’s life of sin and continue to operate business as usual. But business is not as usual. The world is changing (and not necessarily for bad), but it’s churches and Christians that are a primary reason for church decline.
If we fail to communicate or even understand the potential for God’s love to work in a changed world, the church will continue its downward spiral into utter irrelevancy. As I watched these commercials, I first laughed at the claims made by the church, given the harm Christianity has done to all the same touted programs, and then I was discouraged to see the complete disconnect between their approach and the contemporary culture.
Our churches have turned from faith that is full of wonder and discovery to a belief system that answers to church decline with hatred and judgment for sinful outsiders.
In a recent conversation regarding people leaving the church and general disinterest, someone responded with a “biblical” statement about the gospel being offensive. As if to say, we don’t need to worry about what or how we express the gospel, because it is intended to be offensive. As if to say that we don’t need to question our traditions or our interpretations or our textual assumptions, because the gospel is supposed to be offensive.
The church will continue to fall, and Christianity with it, if we continue to preach this modern western religion instead of declaring the opportunity to share and explore the vibrant love and grace of God.
If we continue to turn our heads to the changing world, place blame on secularism and accept “offensive” as an escape route from the hard work of genuine faith, we will not be in a place to respond to those in need, spiritually or physically.
Here is the transcript of one of the Catholic Come Home ads:
Our family has spanned the centuries and the globe.
With God’s grace we started hospitals to care for the sick.
We established orphanages and helped the poor.
We are the largest charitable organization on the planet, bringing comfort to those in need.
We educate more children than any other institution.
We developed the scientific method and founded the university system.
We defend the dignity of human life and uphold marriage.
Guided by the Holy Spirit, we compiled the Bible.
We are transformed by sacred scripture and sacred tradition, which have guided us for 2000 years.
We are the Catholic Church,
With over 1 billion in our family, sharing in the sacraments and fulness of the christian faith.
Jesus started this church when he said to Peter, the first pope, “You are rock and upon this rock I will build my church.”
So if you’ve been away from the Catholic Church, we invite you to take another look.
Visit Catholics Come Home.org.
We are Catholic, welcome home.