The primary purpose of the church service is not to reach people for Christ. Acts 2:42 tells us the purpose of the gathering of the church: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The early believers met as a church to 1) teach biblical doctrine, 2) provide fellowship for believers, 3) observe the Lord’s Supper, and 4) pray.
The question then becomes, “Does the Catholic Church fulfill the purposes of the church?”
The first purpose of the church is to teach biblical (apostolic) doctrine. Salvation by grace through faith is the most crucial issue, and the Catholic Church has turned “grace” into something to be earned, destroying the foundation of the gospel (see Galatians 1:6–9). In comparing Roman Catholicism with the Word of God, there are many other differences and contradictions as well. The Roman Catholic Church teaches many doctrines that are in disagreement with what the Bible declares. These include apostolic succession, worship of saints or Mary, prayer to saints or Mary, the pope/papacy, infant baptism, transubstantiation, plenary indulgences, the sacramental system, and purgatory. While Catholics claim scriptural support for these concepts, none of these teachings have any solid foundation in Scripture. These concepts are based on Catholic tradition, not the Word of God. In fact, they all clearly contradict biblical principles. Growing in Christian faith would be difficult while consistently being taught theology that is not supported with God’s Word.
Second, the church is to be a place of fellowship where Christians can be devoted to one another and honor one another (Romans 12:10), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32), encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and, most importantly, love one another (1 John 3:11). This may be possible in the Catholic Church if there are other born-again believers worshiping and fellowshipping there.
Third, the church is a place to observe the Lord’s Supper. According to the requirements for eligibility for Catholic Mass, a non-Catholic would be unable to participate in Catholic Mass. Biblically, the purpose of communion is to remember the death of Jesus Christ and the new covenant and to “proclaim” His sacrifice by means of illustration (Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:26). In a Catholic Church, the purpose of the Eucharist is something else entirely. When a person receives communion in a Catholic Church, the priest says, “The Body of Christ,” and the communicant responds, “Amen,” in agreement. This signifies a belief in transubstantiation. The majority of Protestants strongly disagree with the Catholic understanding of the Lord’s Supper, and it would be dishonest to say, “Amen.”
The final purpose of the church given in Acts 2:42 is prayer. Catholics view Mary and the saints as “intercessors” before God. They believe that a saint, who is glorified in heaven, has more “direct access” to God than we do. Therefore, if a saint delivers a prayer to God, it is more effective than if we simply prayed to God directly. This concept is blatantly unbiblical. Hebrews 4:16 tells us that believers here on earth can “approach the throne of grace with confidence.” All believers are saints and priests (Romans 1:7; 1 Peter 2:5), and Jesus is our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). There is no other mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).
While witnessing to Catholic friends is an admirable and God-honoring goal, the Catholic Church is likely not the best venue to reach that goal.