A Mormon, A Catholic and A Christian Walked into a Church One Sunday…(no joking)
Yesterday I spent an hour with a young 20-something unmarried couple looking for a church “they can agree on.” He’s Mormon (devout, but open). She’s Catholic (spiritual, but not devout). Neither wants to convert to the other’s faith but both love each other and want to get married (after 4 years of dating). He still attends his Mormon church semi-regularly but she has church hopped or stayed away.
This couple came to our church looking for a place of acceptance, open to our Message but not willing to give up what they believe to be true. They had visited other churches and found many proved too judgmental, shallow, or cold (or at least felt that way). Thankfully, they also confessed they found openness, peace and even friends within our faith community. They may have even found a place to be married and a preacher to do it.
For the better part of that hour we engaged in a theological duel. I am no stranger to Mormon theology, history or practice (and he soon learned and respected my understanding of his faith). On the other hand, this Mormon missionary knew his stuff too. He countered several of my arguments with reasonable points of his own. I learned as much from him as he learned from me. He sharpened my own Faith and that’s good.
We departed, after this theological conversation he initiated, with a mutual respect. They said they’d be back (and I hope to see them next week). In the end, I simply invited both seekers into a journey with Jesus. I encouraged them to remember that Real Faith is messy and murky and often what we believed to be “true” can be far from the truth. I also confessed we don’t follow a prophet or pope, ordinances or ritual, but Christ alone. We live out what Scripture reveals…as perfect as we can. Man created religion. God wants a relationship.
It was a Message that seemed to resonate with both these young seekers. Neither needed someone to criticize or condemn their church (which they had already experienced). They already knew their religion had issues. However, there is also security in what they believed and was taught to be true. To reject it entirely was a leap of faith far too great, especially for this young Mormon.
I totally understand their desire to hold on to what is good (and believed to be of God). If what I believe is authentic and life-changing, then I don’t need to beat someone who has a different religious idea into submission. I actually believe God will do that work. My role is simply to respectfully challenge, reveal, prove and promote THE Truth, THE Way and THE Life. Argument won’t win the day, but love will.
You see, the largest segment of those who don’t attend church today aren’t “unchurched” but “formerly churched.” This growing segment of the American population is largely young Millennials (born 1982-2004) who grew up in church youth ministries, religious institutions and spiritual places. Most of them aren’t interested in returning to church until the topic of children come up. Suddenly, two people from two different faith backgrounds are faced with a dilemma. That’s how this Mormon-Catholic couple found us. In what faith will we raise our kids?
The formerly-churched seek a place that respects their past, pushes their Faith forward and connects them to authentic friendships. Before they can be converted to real Faith, they must (like all of us) be de-converted from the prisons of religion (traditions, rituals, faulty ideas and even heresy) that all of us experience.
Ultimately, conversion emerges out of conversation not condemnation. Change happens from dialogue rooted in doubts. Authentic Christianity is a powerful force for revival, renewal and restoration, but the process isn’t microwavable. Real Christianity, like any good soup, must simmer for a season. Truth happens.
And that type of true Christianity is attractive to anyone…you, me, Catholic or Mormon.