It’s been almost impossible to avoid running into the intriguing billboards and marketing for the #ExploreGod campaign in Austin. Some information has indicated that it is the largest billboard campaign ever to be run in the Austin area, which is a very impressive feat. Over 30 different billboards promoting an exploration of faith around the Austin area.
With all the attention, I’ve been receiving a lot of questions from many Catholics about this campaign. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions.
[question]1. What is the Explore God campaign about?[/question]
[answer]It’s an aggressive marketing campaign to raise awareness for the ExploreGod.com content and videos, the upcoming sermon series, and small group studies. There are over 330 individual Christian churches participating in the Austin area. You can find more information from their interviews with KEYE and KXAN.[/answer]
[question]2. Who is behind this huge campaign?[/question]
[answer]An Austin based entrepreneur name Dan Smith sold a website that he owned for millions and helped fund the project with other Christian leaders from the area (all protestant Christians). This cross-denominational group intends to make this a world-wide campaign after it has run in Austin.[/answer]
[question]3. Are any individual Catholic parishes or the Diocese of Austin participating in the campaign?[/question]
[answer]No. None of the Catholic parishes in the diocese are participating in this campaign[/answer]
[question]4. Why are Catholic groups, parishes, or the Diocese not participating in the campaign?[/question]
[answer]Catholics are not necessarily against this campaign, but the materials and programing do not support or articulate the faith in the clearest way possible. Even though there is some good material, the Diocese cannot support an educational program that does not fit 100% with the Catholic faith. There would be too much room for confusion and error.*
*The Diocese of Austin and Bishop Joe have not released an official statement about this, and it is likely that there will not be one.[/answer]
[question]5. Does the Explore God campaign and studies promote teachings that are against the Church?[/question]
Not explicitly. There are some very interesting and well thought out videos and materials that they created, but they follow the school of many non-denominational Christians and ignore the role and authority of the magisterium and Sacred Tradition. That said, they do promote some of the basic pillars of Christianity that we have in common with all Christians.
The do have a post that plainly explains the difference in between Protestant Christians and Catholic Christians. In their effors to be ecunemical, they do not denounce either perspective, but the conclusion’s focus on a pluralistic approach would lead us to believe that they support a non-denominational focus to the faith.
[question]6. Should a Catholic attend a study or sermon series for this campaign?[/question]
[answer]Attending one of these series could be problematic for anyone that is still learning the faith because it could cause confusion. The Holy Mass is the only way for Catholics to celebrate the Sabbath, but it is not a sin to attend those in addition with friends or neighbors. It would be best for anyone that did to already be well formed in their understanding of the Catholic faith and to go with the intention of sharing the perspective of the Church in a small group.[/answer]
Opinion about this campaign
Overall, this is nothing new, it’s just a much better funded and organized campaign than the average non-denominational Christian study. It has a higher visibility rate even than any secular billboard campaign ever seen in the Austin area, so this will naturally be surrounded by plenty of buzz and discussion from even the most non-practicing Christians.
The size of this campaign has encouraged many usually separated churches to come together for this unified evangelical mission, and that gives me great hope. I often talk about the amazing things that are happening the Diocese of Austin, but this shows us that the spirit is moving strong in the hearts of the Non-Catholic Christians of Central Texas too. Christianity has been split for far too long, and we pray that the protestants choose to one day stop their protest against the Catholic Church. Movements like these remind us that our hearts all deeply desire for the Church to be one.
Evangelization at this level of visibility and boldness is also to be commended. Some diocese have participated in the Catholics Come Home campaigns, but this has been executed to an even greater level. I admire the level of high quality content they have produced in their efforts, and Catholics could learn from their approach to use more in our catechesis.
The vagueness of the bold captions can be used to our benefit. This has come coincidentally at the same time we are preparing to wrap up the year of faith, and it provides us with many great segways of conversations with people at all levels of faith. I’m interested to see what will come of this, and I pray that may somehow help hearts lose their hardness to Him.