Baptist to Catholic? Advice to a New Convert

We all have different journeys to the Catholic Faith. For those of us who came from Baptist or evangelical backgrounds (polity aside, they are essentially the same), we bring in different baggage and have different questions than someone from, say, an atheist background. In response to several questions from a recent convert, here are my answers.

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What helped you grow in your daily life and understanding of the Church?

I recommend Christian Smith’s How to Go From Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in 95 Difficult Steps so much that he should pay me. Here’s why: unlike most other books by evangelical converts, Christian Smith largely does not focus on apologetics but, as a sociologist, instead focuses on the experience of an evangelical coming into the Church. The book helped me start to identify the difference between good habits and bad habits I learned as an evangelical Christian. Good habit: scripture study. Bad habit: spreading the Good News without understanding other peoples of faith like, say, Catholics.

The one thing I miss and haven’t really replaced is quality podcasts. I used to listen to well-produced, hour-long sermons that were downloaded millions of times and great for deepening my relationship with Christ EWTN’s programming is ok, Catholic Answers is focused on apologetics, the best things I’ve found is Scott Hahn’s resources at the St Paul Center for Biblical Theology and Father Robert Barron’s podcast, Word on Fire. I’ve yet to explore much of Cardinal Dolan or Pope Francis’s homilies. Also, I bought Scott Hahn’s New Testament study Bible to help me further explores verses I didn’t understand as a Protestant. If you’d like more information, Teresa Tomeo’s book, Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, not Conformed to Culture has a couple pages of good resources.  

I feel awkward, like I’m not being a good Catholic. What should I do?

Be patient, this is a journey. Give yourself time—I know you want to do something, especially after having gone through RCIA, but give yourself room to grow. However, one concrete thing I’d recommend is to pivot away from apologetics. At some point you’ve got to stop learning the arguments against sola scriptura and continue your own personal journey. Instead, explore spiritual disciplines you know very little about—the rosary, the Liturgy of the Hours, adoration, the sacraments. Last year, when I was unemployed, I spent a lot of time struggling through the rosary in empty chapels. My relationship with Mary has deepened, some, but I’ve grown to really enjoy adoration and the peace of the Catholic sanctuary. I’d also recommend not giving up already established helpful practices like scripture memorization—this is all about growing deeper in the faith you already have.

What are the basic differences between Baptists and Catholics? Is there a graph?

My second-most recommended book is David Currie’s, Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic if you’re looking for longer answers. If you want shorter answers, Catholic Answers (www.Catholic.com ) is the only way to go. They have digestible information on any issues you want to know.

How do I evangelize as a Catholic?

Let’s set some context. In the Catholic Church, evangelization includes shaping the culture to reflect Christian values, performing acts of mercy like serving the poor, and verbally sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. In my experience, affirmed by many, Catholics today are least comfortable with the third point. Here is where cognitive dissonance may come in: I recommend you read this document by the U.S. Bishops (defines evangelization and many other things) and books like, John Paul II and the New Evangelization: How You Can Bring the Good News to Others ( if you just type New Evangelization into Amazon you will get a bunch of hits). However, you might not see it happening in your parish (be thankful if you do!) Be patient, pray, God is faithful and will not leave you alone.

Here’s what you shouldn’t do: Don’t go on a quest to prove to your family and friends that you are right and they are wrong in the name of Christ. Tone it down a bit, live out your Catholic faith, and be ready to answer questions as they come.

Thanks for writing!

-Anthony

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9 thoughts on “Baptist to Catholic? Advice to a New Convert

  1. Great read, the first time. I’ll be coming back to this in the morning, coffee in hand, to write down all of the books you’ve suggested. I am new on my journey to Catholicism. The more I learn, the more I want to learn. It just feels right. 🙂 Thanks for writing and sharing this!

    BTW — which bible do you use / recommend? And thanks again!

    • Hi Suzie,

      Thanks so much for the encouragement, happy to help any time. I have a few more books listed in the Recommended tab at the top of the blog.

      Douay-Rheims, Ignatius, and Navarre have been recommended to me. I’m still using my old Protestant Bible and the Scott Hann New Testament referenced in the post until I buy a new one.

  2. Great post Anthony, you are a real example to cradle Catholics on how to evangelise. We are so reluctant to accept that some practices from Evangelical Christianity might actually be good things like better Scripture study for a start.

    One very devout (in terms of attending Mass, Sacraments etc.) Catholic I know could not accept that Jesus could be tempted by Satan because He was God, for example, in spite of it being there in black and white in the Gospels.

    Only after some ‘very’ patient Catechesis on my part, did she see the Truth. You are so right about doing everything in charity; if I had gone in ‘like a bull in a china shop’ and declared her thinking to be heresy, denying the full humanity of Christ then not only would I have lost a friend but I may have also lost a soul for Christ.

    Keep up the good work 🙂

  3. Pingback: Catechist In Training | How to (and how not to) evangelise as a Catholic

  4. For some really good podcasts, check out http://www.discerninghearts.com. Take a peek and see what you might like there! Also, Lighthouse Catholic Media has low-cost CD’s or CD of the month club http://www.lighthousecatholicmedia.org/. Lastly, the Mary Foundation at http://www.catholicity.com/cds/cds.html offers some free CD’s that are nice to have on hand to share. Fr. Larry Richards on Confession and the Mass are great and I have listened to those more than once! I am a convert, also and love the wonderful treasure box of the Catholic faith!

  5. I’m glad you included the bit about weaning yourself away from apologetics and continuing to develop your spiritual journey. That is so important. I’m speaking not as a convert, but as someone who sort of “woke up” to my family’s Catholic faith. I dove into the apologetics, but I have to say that the most growth has come from increasing my devotion to the Eucharist, prayer, Scripture, and reading spiritual writings of the saints and popes.

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