Before we can consider questions concerning Evangelicals and Catholics, we need to define some terms. Evangelical is a relatively new term and one that is quickly losing its meaning. It comes from the Greek word euangelion, which means “good news” or “gospel,” and Evangelicals include all those within Protestantism who profess Jesus as Lord and Savior, emphasize a personal relationship with Christ, and believe they are mandated to spread that good news to everyone (Matthew 28:19–20). That ideology is expressed in many forms and through many churches such as Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, and Independent. But evangelicalism is not a denomination itself; it was intended to represent all born-again believers across the globe, those whom the Bible calls the “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27) or “the church” (Colossians 1:18, 24; Ephesians 1:23; Acts 15:30).
Catholics, however, view their particular organization as the only true church and all non-Catholics as disobedient. Therefore, the concept of Catholics and Evangelicals worshiping together has problems from the start. The differences between Catholicism and evangelicalism are real, as the Reformation made clear. Evangelicals cite the many non-biblical ideas and practices of Catholicism as reason enough to view Catholics with skepticism. While there are solid, born-again Christians within the Catholic Church, and there are unsaved people within the evangelical community, the theologies and practices are so opposing that spiritual or ecclesiastical cooperation is difficult, if not impossible. In order to merge churches, Catholics would have to cease being Catholic, and Evangelicals would have to overlook the many unbiblical Catholic practices. For both Evangelicals and Catholics, such compromise would constitute a violation of conscience.
We should always seek peace and harmony when doing so will not violate God’s truth (Romans 12:18). There are many social issues upon which Catholics and Evangelicals agree, such as abortion, homosexuality, morality, and helping the poor. We should strive to work together for the common good whenever possible. An Evangelical should not refuse to serve in a soup kitchen because the cook is Catholic. And a Catholic should be willing to join his voice with Evangelicals to oppose abortion on demand. In these ways, Catholics and Evangelicals can work together.
All people of faith should investigate the religious customs and practices handed down to them and refuse to settle for anything but God’s unaltered truth. Those who were raised Catholic may have never been given the opportunity to examine the beliefs they were given. And those raised within evangelical churches should never assume they are right with God simply because they hold to the five solas of the Reformation. To do so is to follow the same pattern of religiosity followed by unconverted Catholics.
Whether Catholic or evangelical, we all must come to God the same way, or we cannot come at all. We don’t come to Him through a saint, Mary, or baptism. We don’t make ourselves right with God by chanting memorized prayers, following rituals, or attending church or Mass. We must each come to Him humbly confessing our sin and surrendering our lives to the lordship of Jesus (John 14:6; 15:14). We must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He gave His life on a cross to pay for our sin, and that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9–10; 1 Corinthians 15:2–5; John 3:16–18).
Finding a church to help us grow is not part of guaranteeing our salvation, but it is part of obedience and a way to stay grounded in truth (Hebrews 10:25). As we learn God’s Word, we are better equipped to discern whether our church’s teachings are following Scripture. When a church, whether Catholic or evangelical, adds to or takes away from God’s inspired Word, we should find another church.