Guest / Limited Access /

If we spotted a church located in a racially mixed neighborhood, and all its worshipers were white, we'd rightly be concerned. Or if we attended a church that focused so much on reaching young families that singles and seniors felt uncomfortable, that too would bother us. Most of us would suspect the first church to be racist and the second, exclusivist. Both suspicions might certainly be true. But there is more going on: Each church is failing to live out the gospel.

An essential part of the gospel is that it is catholic—that is, the Good News is given to all people. And the church the Holy Spirit creates is catholic.

Putting the matter like this may make some Christians squirm. Many Protestants affirm, either weekly or semi-regularly, the Nicene Creed, proclaiming, "We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church," but many balk at that word, catholic. (That's why in my own congregation, we use the word universal rather than catholic, because the original Greek term katholikos means "whole, entire, universal.")

When most of us hear the word catholic, we think of the Roman Catholic Church. By naming itself "Catholic," the Roman Church has claimed that it alone is the true universal church. Its argument is severalfold: (1) Only Rome has a unified, worldwide authority; (2) only Roman Catholics exist in every global region; (3) the Catholic Church is the only Christian tradition that dates back to the time of the apostles; (4) only the Catholic Church has the fullness of grace and truth; and (5) the majority of Christians in the world are Catholic. In short, they claim to have always been everywhere—truly catholic.

I personally cannot affirm that "catholic" ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedWhy Do These Pentecostals Keep Growing?
Why Do These Pentecostals Keep Growing?
Many evangelical churches and denominations are in a state of plateau or decline. Why aren’t Pentecostals?
TrendingPope Francis Learns What Rick Warren, Russell Moore, N. T. Wright Think about Marriage
Pope Francis Learns What Rick Warren, Russell Moore, N. T. Wright Think about Marriage
(UPDATED) Warren turns Vatican conference into 'revivalist meeting,' while Moore explains why marriage crosses theological boundaries.
Editor's PickGrace in a Strip Bar
Grace in a Strip Bar
Being a friend of sinners with discernment and love.
Comments
Christianity Today
A Gospel for Everyone
hide thisMay May

In the Magazine

May 2014

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.