Sharing the Good News with Roman Catholic Friends
By Daniel R. Sanchez, Ph.D., Professor of Missions, Southwestern
Baptist Theological Seminary and President, Church Starting Network and
By Rudy Gonzalez, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament and Vice
President, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
©1992, Daniel R. Sanchez, Fort Worth, Texas. Permission to utilize this
copyrighted seminar was given to the Apologetics and Interfaith Evangelism Team
of the North American Mission Board in December of 2005. People may feel free
to duplicate it for the purpose of utilizing it in the training of those who
want to be more effective in sharing their faith with Roman Catholic friends
and relatives. Permission to use any part of this material as a part of a
publication by an individual or an institution will need to be obtained by Dr.
Daniel R. Sanchez, Professor of Missions, Southwestern Baptist Theological
Seminary, P.O. Box 22000, Ft. Worth, Texas, 76122-0248 or by e-mail directed to
For a significantly more extensive treatment of this topic including a
biblical analysis of Roman Catholic doctrines and practices as well as
biblically sound and culturally relevant methodologies for sharing the message
of salvation with Roman Catholics and leading them in biblical discipleship,
readers are encouraged to avail themselves of two resources:
1) Daniel R. Sanchez, Rudolf Gonzalez, Sharing The Good News With Roman
Catholic Friends, 2004, Church Starting Network, www.churchstarting.net.
2) Daniel R. Sanchez, Gospel In The Rosary, 2004, Church Starting Network.
SHARING OUR THE GOOD NEWS
WITH ROMAN CATHOLIC FRIENDS
Dear Fellow Believer in Jesus Christ,
It is my happy privilege to welcome you to this
brief seminar on how to lead your friends and relatives to a personal
experience of salvation in Jesus Christ. My goal will not be to help you to
discuss religion effectively, but to focus on the
relationship that all of us need to have with Jesus
as our savior. Jesus made it very clear that people need to be born again in
order to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3). This applies to people of all
religious backgrounds (including nominal Evangelicals).
Some seminars train people to share their faith with persons who have other
religious backgrounds. In this seminar we will focus on those Roman Catholics
(mainly nominal) who have not experienced the new birth. Some of these are dear
friends and very sincere people who do not have a clear understanding of the
biblical teaching regarding salvation. They need to know about this personal
experience with Jesus Christ which blesses people with forgiveness
of sin, a sense of purpose in life, the
abiding presence of the Lord, the
power to live victorious lives, and a
steadfast hope for this life and for
There are those who seek to witness to persons with a Roman Catholic
background by arguing, attacking, and
exposing what they consider to be erroneous beliefs
and practices. In all of my missionary experience, I have found that in most
cases these approaches offend and alienate people who otherwise might have been
willing to listen. The theme of this seminar, therefore, is "Tell
the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). We need to tell the truth of
the word of God, but we must do it in a spirit of love and compassion. We shall
seek, therefore, to establish bridges of communication so that we can share the
biblical teachings about salvation through personal faith in Jesus Christ in
such a way that people will be receptive to the message.
This brief seminar will focus on biblical teachings regarding the sharing of
the good news of salvation. It will also provided instruction on how to witness
in such a way that the attention of the listeners will be drawn to Jesus and
not to peripheral matters that might distract them from coming to a personal
experience of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Jesus and the Samaritan Woman
(St. John 4:4-42)
The dialogue that Jesus had with the Samaritan woman has valuable lessons
which can help us as Evangelical Christians to know how to share our faith with
those who have not experienced the new birth and who have questions regarding
their relationship with God. As we study this marvelous dialogue we discover
the things Jesus did to share very important spiritual lessons with a person
who had a religious tradition but had very vague notions about God and how to
relate to him. It was obvious by her life style that she had serious spiritual
needs that she did not know how to fulfill. As we study how Jesus related to
this woman, we can learn how to relate to people who also have spiritual needs
and are searching for purpose and meaning in their lives.
A. Jesus Cultivated a Friendship (St. John 4:4-6)
1. By going out of His way geographically:
John states that Jesus "had to go through Samaria."Actually, many Jews went
around Samaria on their way to Galilee. The statement that Jesus "had to go
through Samaria," says more about His commitment than about a geographical
necessity. In other words, Jesus felt a strong desire to go and tell the
Samaritans about God's love for them.
2. By going out of His way socially:
The Samaritan woman was startled that Jesus spoke to her. It was not
customary for a Rabbi to speak to a woman in public. Furthermore, as John
points out (see St. John 4:9), it was not customary for Jews to have social
contact with Samaritans. John's comment borders on an understatement. Jews and
Samaritans actually hated one another (see Nehemiah 4; Ezra 4). There was a
long history of hatred between these two groups. Despite this, Jesus was
willing to go out of His way socially in order to tell the Samaritan woman that
God loved her, was willing to forgive her, and wanted to give her the spiritual
resources so she could live a life full of joy and fellowship.
If we are to follow the example of Jesus and share with those who have
serious questions about their relationship to God, we must cultivate
friendships. Genuine friendship can become the bridge that overcomes suspicion,
fear, and doubts. As we develop a friendship, we can also become more keenly
aware of the spiritual needs of people and have a better understanding of how
to share the good news of salvation with them. Often to accomplish this, we
need to be willing to go out of our way geographically and socially. We can
become so comfortable with our circle of friends in church that we make little
or no effort to get to know people who have not invited Jesus into their lives.
We need to be intentional, therefore, about developing friendships, ministering
to them in any way we can, and in the process, sharing with them what Jesus
means to us and how they can also have a relationship with Him. We can do this
by befriending people at work, at school, and in our neighborhood. Inviting
them for a meal in our home, to a sports event, or other interesting activities
can help build these friendships.
B. Jesus Created an Interest: (St. John 4:7-15)
1. Jesus created an interest by beginning with a felt
The Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. That was what was occupying
her mind at that moment. Jesus, therefore, started the conversation by asking
her for a drink of water. In other words, Jesus did not just start talking
about spiritual matters out of the clear blue sky. She came to draw water, so
Jesus used that as the starting point of the conversation. Often people have
material needs (food, clothing, shelter, etc.) that we might be able to
minister to. As we do so, this can be the starting point of our cultivation of
2. Jesus created an interest by relating to a spiritual
The Samaritan woman asked Jesus, "Why is it that, being a Jew, you are
asking me, a Samaritan, for a drink of water?" (v.9). Jesus replied: "If you
only knew the gift of God and who it is that is speaking with you, you would
ask him and he would give you living water" (v. 10).
It was at this point that Jesus shifted the focus from material water to
spiritual water. In other words, he was saying, you came to draw water for your
physical thirst, but I have water that can quench the thirst of your
As he spoke to her about living water, a new possibility began to dawn on her:
How could this water Jesus was talking to her about quench the deep longings of
her soul? The more Jesus spoke, the more curious she became.
Like Jesus, we can often create an interest in the gospel by beginning with
felt needs. Psychologists tell us that some of the basic needs of human beings
are: (1) to love and be loved; (2) to feel secure; (3) to overcome a sense of
guilt; and (4) to have assurance about the future. As we cultivate a
friendship, we are in a better position to create an interest in spiritual
matters by helping them see that Jesus can make a difference. One way to do
this is to share our testimony of how Jesus has made a difference in our
C. Jesus Comprehended Her Situation (St. John 4:16-19)
1. Jesus did not condemn the Samaritan woman.
As the conversation continued, Jesus told her, "Go call your husband. When
she said that she had no husband, Jesus compassionately confronted her with the
sad history of her life. Five times she had sought happiness only to end up in
disappointment and despair. Jesus did not approve of her lifestyle, but there
must have been a tone of compassion in His voice and an expression of concern
on his face when he dealt with t his delicate subject. It is obvious that she
did not feel condemned or rejected by Jesus because she returned. When she went
to the village, she said to the villagers that Jesus "told her every thing she
ever did" (v. 39). The implication is that in spite of this, Jesus still showed
compassion to her.
2. Jesus found something positive to say about her.
When she said "I don't have a husband," Jesus replied: "What you have just
said is quite true" (John 4:18). Having awakened in her an interest in a
new lifestyle, Jesus maintained the dialogue on a positive note. She
continued to listen as she sensed that He was willing to see the best in
We can be in a better position to witness to people by avoiding a spirit of
condemnation. Even though we may not agree with their lifestyle, we cannot
expect them to act like born-again Christians until they actually are. Often
persons who have not had a personal experience of salvation feel a sense of
condemnation and rejection on the part of those who are trying to witness to
them. We need to remember that it is the role of the Holy Spirit to bring
conviction. We need to avoid a spirit of judgment and condemnation as we share
the good news of salvation with those who have not accepted Christ as their
savior. If they sense the love of Jesus in our hearts, they will be attracted
D. Jesus Concentrated on What Was Essential to Salvation (St. John 4:
1. Jesus avoided discussing religion.
The Samaritans were mistaken on several religious matters. They accepted
only the first five books of the Old Testament. They also believed that Abraham
had offered Isaac on their mountain (Gerizim) instead of Zion. That is why the
Samaritan woman was asking where she should worship. While Jesus was very clear
in explaining to her that "salvation comes from the Jews" (v.22), he did not
spend time trying to straighten out the Samaritan woman on every doctrinal
point before he shared the gospel. In other words, Jesus did not get side
tracked by discussing religion with her.
2. Jesus focused on relationship.
The Samaritan woman asked in what religious tradition God should be
worshipped (Zion or Gerizim's). Jesus responded that relationship is more
important than tradition: "true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit
and in truth"(v.23). These true worshippers are those who know the truth about
God and have a spiritual relationship with him.
If we are to follow the example of Jesus we will not spend time discussing
religion. We need to focus on relationship. Our question should not be "To what
religion do you belong?" but rather "What is your personal relationship with
Jesus?" May people operate under the false assumption that if they can just
prove to people that they are wrong, they will automatically want to invite
Jesus into their lives. Often the opposite is true. If they get into heated
discussions about religious beliefs, they run the risk of alienating people or
at the very least getting side-tracked and not focusing on Jesus at all. Later
in the discipleship process there will be time to study what the Bible says
about certain doctrines. While we are sharing our faith, we need to focus on
Jesus. He said: "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me." Let's focus
on our relationship with Jesus.
E. Jesus Communicated Patiently
1. As Jesus dialogued the woman's understanding grew
At first the Samaritan woman did not fully understand what Jesus was talking
about. This is evident in verse 15 when she said "Sir, give me this water so
that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." She was
still thinking about physical water. It was not until she said, "When he
[Messiah] comes, he will explain everything to us," (v.25) that Jesus said, "I
who speak to you am he."(v.28) The way the dialogue progressed is indicated in
the terms she used to refer to Him.
2. The way in which she referred to Jesus showed this
a. First she called Him a "(Jew)," a member of the
group she hated. Because he looked and sounded like a Jew, that's the only
thing she had to go by. For her, therefore, Jesus was a common ordinary
b. Then she referred to Him as "(Sir)" a person who could
be respected (v. 11). As she listened to him, she began to realize that this
Jew was different. He was treating her with respect, so she reciprocated by
seeing him as a respected person.
c. Then she stated "I can see that you are a "(Prophet)"
v.19). In other words "you are a man sent from God." When she realized that
Jesus knew all about her, she concluded that this had to be a person who was in
touch with God in an extraordinary manner. He was no ordinary man.
d. Finally she refers to Him as the "(Messiah)"
Jesus communicated patiently until she was able to understand that he was the
Messiah for whom people were waiting. It is obvious that her understanding of
who Jesus was progressed as Jesus dialogued with her, answered her questions
and demonstrated an unusual type of compassion and love.
People who have not grown up in an evangelical setting often do not
understand their need to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We
must communicate patiently until they are able to understand what the Bible
teaches about a personal experience of salvation in Jesus Christ. It may take
quite a long time for them to make understand what salvation is all about and
to make a decision to receive Christ. We, therefore, must be patient allowing
for the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts. It is, therefore, counter
productive to pressure people and to expect them to make a decision to receive
Christ when they still do not understand what this is all about or when they
still questions and doubts in their minds.
A. Don'ts - There are things that we simply should not do because they
these usually offend people, put them on the defensive, and distract us from
focusing on their relationship with Christ.
1. Don't (criticize) the Catholic Church, its doctrines,
practices or people. Even if you feel you have a valid point, it is counter
productive to criticize for two reason: (1) It is not in the Spirit of Christ;
(2) It will only antagonize people.
2. Don't (ridicule) any of the practices of the Catholic
Church. Some Evangelical Christians are too prone to make fun of their
sacramentals (images, statues, crucifixes, etc.) and practices. These things
are very dear to Catholics. If they are hurt, they will turn a deaf ear to what
we are saying and perhaps avoid out company. There is absolutely no excuse for
showing lack of respect to Roman Catholics, their beliefs, and their
3. Don't be (negative) just because you differ with someone.
You can disagree without being disagreeable. Just think, if you had grown up in
the same environment, you would probably have the same beliefs that they do.
You can prayerfully point them to what the word of God says instead of trying
to win an argument. A negative attitude will evoke a negative response to the
message of salvation.
B. Do's - These are the things that you should do to establish a
bridge of respect, appreciation, and communication.
1. (Love) your Catholic friends.
Find opportunities to show your love in practical ways. Remember, each
person you meet is one for whom Jesus died on the cross. Pray that as you
dialogue with them, they will feel the love of Christ in such a tangible way
that they will turn to him.
2. (Pray) with and for your Catholic friends.
Many of them have never had the experience of someone praying for them by
name. Mention specific needs. Say: "Lord, I pray for
(name) . You know that he or she has this need (name
the need) and You have promised to hear our prayers. Bless (name) ;,
help him or her." You may want to begin with the Lord's Prayer. This often
provides a bridge because most Roman Catholics are familiar with the beautiful,
3. See the (best) in them.
When someone says to you, "I'm a Catholic," be in a position both
spiritually and emotionally to say to them, "I'm glad to meet you." Let the
love of Christ flow through you. Remember, everyone you meet is a person for
whom Christ died.
4. Try to put yourself in their place (see 1 Cor.
Seek to reason, how would I move from a traditional to a biblical position?
Many Roman Catholics have a very limited knowledge of the Bible. Some of the
things you say to them about the Word of God may be entirely new. On other
teachings they may have a limited understanding, but, it can serve as a bridge
to lead them to a clearer understanding of God's Word.
Preparation for Witnessing
A. Prepare testimony
One of the most powerful tools in witnessing is to share our testimony.
People will generally listen when we share the difference Jesus has made in our
lives. When the apostle Paul (Acts 26) shared his testimony, he generally used
the following outline:
1. What my life was like before knowing Jesus.
2. How I came to know Jesus.
3. How Jesus helps me face life today.
4. How you can know Jesus too.
B. Practice Testimony
Write a brief paragraph under each major
heading telling how you came to know Jesus as your personal Savior. After you
have prepared your testimony, take time to share it with someone in your group.
When you share your testimony with a friend, speak about the doubts and fears
that you had, then share with enthusiasm the difference that your personal
faith in Christ has made in your life.
Preparing to Present the
There are some guidelines we must follow if we are to lead our Catholic
friends to experience personal salvation in Christ.
Do not discuss (religion). Your main purpose is to lead
the person to Christ.
Present the (gospel) with simplicity and sound
Distinguish between the (official) position of the
Catholic Church and what each individual believes.
As you study the Bible together, let the prospect
(discover) what the Word of God says. Encourage the person to
read the verses, to think about their meaning and let the Word of God speak to
Concentrate only on issues (essential) to salvation.
Don't discuss the (wrong) issues.
Don't ask: "Are you a (Christian?)" (Catholics consider
themselves Christians) or "Are you saved?)" Your question
should be: "What is your (personal) relationship with Jesus Christ?"
- Use a (Catholic) Bible or a version acceptable to
Catholics such as a Good News Bible.
- Emphasize that a gift is not a possession until
it is received (Romans 6:23; John
B. Marking the New Testament
One of the best ways to present the plan of salvation to Roman Catholics is
to use a marked New Testament. This helps them read the verses straight from
the Word of God. It is also helpful to give the New Testament to the prospect.
There have been numerous instances where the prospect has not understood the
full meaning of the passages until he or she has read them several times over
an extended period of time.
On the first page of your New Testament write the question: "What is your
personal relationship to Christ?" Then put: "Turn to page _
- After you turn to page where John 10:10
a. Color the verse with a light yellow marker.
b. Write on the top of the page the question #1: "Why did Christ
c. Write on the bottom of the page "turn to page __ " (Where
Rom. 3:23 is found).
Repeat steps 1-3 for each verse used in the gospel presentation writing
the appropriate questions of the gospel presentation (see next section).
Write on the last page of the New Testament:
Why did Christ come? (John 10:10)
Why don't we have this gift? (Rom. 3:23)
What is the result of sin? (Rom. 6:23a)
What is God's gift? (Rom. 6:23b)
How did God make this possible? (Rom. 5:8)
Can we earn this gift? (Eph. 2:8-9)
If we could earn this gift (Gal. 2:21), would Christ have died? (Gal.
How does this gift become ours? (John 1:12)
How did the dying thief receive this gift? (Luke 23:39-43)
Can we be sure we have this gift? (John 5:24)
Will you open the door of your life to Christ?i
Presenting the gospel
Begin with the question, "What is your relationship to Christ?" Explain, "We
are not going to talk about religion; we just want to find out what the Bible
says about our relationship to Christ." Lead from there to the questions found
in your marked New Testament.
After you have gone through the plan of salvation with your Catholic friend,
do the following:
If your friend is not ready yet, do these things:
Give your friend the New Testament as a gift.
Suggest that he or she re-read these portions of Scripture. Ask them to sign
his or her name when he or she has made a decision to accept Christ.
MY DECISION TO RECEIVE CHRIST
I admit before God that I am a sinner and that Jesus died for my sins. I now
open the door of my life to Christ and accept His gift of salvation.
There are many terms with which non-Roman Catholics many not be familiar.
Due to limitations of space we will include only those which relate more
closely to this study. For a more extensive list see the Catholic Almanac
listed under suggested readings. These definitions represent the Roman Catholic
Absolution: The act by which an authorized priest grants
forgiveness of sin.
Adoration: The highest act of worship directed only to
Ashes: The ashes of palms burnt during the season of Lent
placed on the foreheads of the people (usually on Ash Wednesday) to remind them
that they are dust and unto dust they will return.
Assumption: The taking up of Mary (body and soul) into
Catechism: Instruction of Roman Catholic on the doctrines
of their Church. The format is usually question and answer.
Eucharist: The sacrament of the Lord's Supper in which the
bread and the wine turn into the body and blood of Christ.
Immaculate Conception: The doctrine that Mary was conceived
Penance: A sacrament which stresses inner sorrow for sin
and external acts of atonement.
Purgatory: The state or condition in which those who die in
a state of grace, but with some sin in their lives, suffer until they are
admitted into heaven.
Rosary: A form of prayer which centers on the important
events in the lives of Mary and Jesus. This involves the reciting of Hail
Mary's, the Lord's prayer, etc. Beads are used as a guide to prayer.
Sacrament: A sacred sign instituted by Christ to give
grace. In the sacrament of confirmation, for instance, Christ confers the Holy
Walter Abbot, S.J., Documents of Vatican II, ed., (New Jersey: New
Century Publisher, 1966).
Jose Borras, "Catholicism Today And Our Mission Task," Baptist Witness
in Catholic Europe, (Rome: Baptist Publishing House, 1973).
Bartholomew F. Brewer, Pilgrimage from Rome, (Greenville, SC: Bob
Jones University Press, 1986).
Foy A. Felician, Catholic Almanac, (Huntington, IN: Sunday Visitor,
Austin Flannery, O.P., Vatican Council II, (New York: Costello
Publishing Company, 1975).
C. Brownlow Hastings, A Baptist View of Changes in Roman
Catholicism, (Atlanta: Home Mission Board).
James Killgallon's Life in Christ, (Chicago: Acta Foundation) or
other similar catechism.
Richard P. McBrien, Catholicism, (San Francisco: Harper & Row,
Michael A. McGuire, Baltimore Catechism No. 1, (New York: Benzinger
Ralph Michael, Share the New Life with a Catholic, (Chicago: Moody,
John Allen Moore, "Catholicism Today and Our Mission Task," Baptist
Witness in Catholic Europe, (Rome: Baptist Publishing House).
Albert J. Nevins, M.M., Answering A Fundamentalist (Huntington: Our
Sunday Visitor, 1990).
Adolfo Robleto, Un Vistazo a la Doctrina Romana, (Nashville:
Broadman Press, 1969).
Philip J. Scharper, Meet the American Catholic, (Nashville,
Broadman Press, 1969).
Paul G. Schrotenboer, Roman Catholicism: A Contemporary Evangelical
Perspective, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988).
Gerald Williams, The Contemporary Catholic Catechism, (Des Plains, IL: FARE,
i Adapted from Rev. Joe O'Connel's, "Witnessing to Roman