One is the great warmth, affection and magnetism of this man—Francis—and his willingness to allow the gospel to shape his ministry in a very profound and visual way. Additionally, the pressures of the culture we find ourselves in has, in a way, forced Catholics and Protestants together in a new way, where they realize that what divides them is far less than what unites them. … And when you hear a Pope stand up and talk about mercy, and forgiveness, and the broken hearts we all endure, and the need to push gossip aside and how destructive that can be in our lives, he’s getting down to the very granule level of faith that I think is appealing to the evangelical and Protestant mind.
The thing that has always impressed me about my evangelical friends—my in-laws are evangelicals, by the way—is their deep concern for the people in the pews next to them. And their willingness to go out of their own comfort zones to help those in their own community. And if the mainline churches and Catholicism have a problem, it’s that at times we can get very isolated. And though we check the boxes, we’re going to mass, we’re living our lives and we’re trying to be good people, extending that into our everyday lives can be a problem. Francis is calling people to allow that message to go deeper and to have personal reverberations in their own lives. I think that’s what they’re finding most appealing.
It’s also a very simple message. It’s a very blunt gospel, in some ways, which startles some people in the Catholic church. They go, “Wait a minute. What happened to the high theology? Where’s the graduate level exegesis here?” Francis isn’t that. I would argue that he’s boiling down the last two papacies with their the great messages and the intellectual heights that were scaled into a digestible message that the masses can absorb. And when I say “masses” I mean 99% of the people in the pews, whether they be Catholic or evangelical.