The Question

The Question

This might be one of the central questions of our times: how can the Catholic Church reach the ‘unchurched’.

Right now, we have to painfully admit that we don’t do that. We talk about it a lot, we write blog posts about it, we hold committees about it, we get all of the theory and theology right (which is a start, for sure); but, for all our talk, we don’t actually reach the unchurched and secularly-minded in a substantial way. If we do, it is agonizingly seldom.

Our Evangelicals brethren sure do seem to win more converts from our secularized culture than we as Catholics do. In many of those churches, their whole entire framework – their reason for existing – is to go get people. For instance, we have learned from Holy Trinity Brompton (where Alpha originated) that their target audience– that means the group they design all of their church functions to reach – is the 24-year-old urban man, whom they imagine to represent the most nonreligious demographic. And, while no place is perfect to be sure, their average age for attendees is 28 (and close to 50% men). Sadly, in the Catholic Church, our “bottom line” isn’t very good. We are still a little stuck in our bunkers, not knowing exactly how to turn our doors out and be radically missionary.

I don’t want to universalize. There are marvelous Catholic apostolates, communities and initiatives. There are still many Catholic men and women who are sold out for the Gospel and whose whole lives are angled toward reaching “the lost.” And perhaps the situation isn’t as dire as I am painting it. But, we can’t ignore the aggregated fact that we, as a Church, are still limping along when it comes to actually encountering the majority of people in our cities and towns. How many stories do you hear (in the secularized West) of people living a totally secular life and then being introduced to Jesus through a Catholic? How many people around you on Sunday or at a Catholic event didn’t grow up Catholic (or Christian)?


All of what I have said includes i.d.916. For all of our talk and effort, we have still not quite popped the bubble either.

This shouldn’t discourage us. How many times in history has the Catholic Church been sidetracked and forgotten who she is? And how many times has she, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, bounced back? God has not left our midst. He is in control and He will lead His Church to victory.

So, may I make a clarion call?

This should be the agonizing question that obsesses us and aches within our breasts: how can we have a Church that actually reaches people? What do we need to do to get radical about this? How can we extend ourselves to meet a culture that is far away from us? How can we restructure our Catholic life so that, years down the road, there are many people sitting next to you on Sundays who once walked an intensely secular path?

We must beg the Holy Spirit to plant in our hearts the thirst of Jesus for souls. We must ask for our hearts to be broken. The ‘here’ we are in is just not good enough. We need to go ‘there’! We must let this question gestate in our hearts. We must burn with a holy fire to attend to the challenge of our day. Without the drive and desire boiling in the heart of Jesus, we will give up way short of our goal and settle for Netflix.

So, let’s beg the Lord for His Heart, and then put steel in our spine, grit our teeth and lay our life down to attain the goal set before us.

Joey McCoy

Joey McCoy

Joey McCoy is the Assistant Director of i.d.9:16. He graduated from medical school in 2017, but felt Jesus pull him out of medicine to do full-time ministry. Joey's passion is to help people discover and embrace the most authentic ways of being "a people of God on the move" and how to live the way of life of Jesus in myriad contexts. Additionally, Joey is married, a father and enjoys the ocean, Michigan football, used bookstores and hunting for the finest espresso
Joey McCoy

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2 thoughts on “The Question

  1. Hi Joey, there is a really great little book called “Messy and Foolish” by Matthew Warner that I would recommend to you and your readership as a inspirational start to the shift in thinking that you are encouraging here; namely to exit our Catholic bubbles equipped with courage and love for instead of fear of the people who are “out there” in the secular world.

    Here are the “marching orders” in the intro to the book from Pope Francis in 2013 at the end of World Youth Day festivities in Brazil: “I want a mess. I want trouble in the dioceses! I want people to go out! I want the Church to go out into the streets! I want us to defend ourselves against everything that is worldliness, installation, comfortableness, clericalism, being shut in on ourselves. The parishes, the schools, institutions exist to go out!”

    Peace to you and thanks for the great writing you do for ID 916,

  2. post a question . sign in. Olga Zeveleva What is the atmosphere like in Charlottesville, VA in the aftermath of the white supremacist march and tragic deaths?

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