Friday, September 13, 2019

Orthodox Evangelism – an Oxymoron?

I am reading a great book right now: “100 Natural Ways to Grow a Church – A Guide to Orthodox Evangelism in North America.” What is Evangelism? That is a Protestant thing, no? NO IT IS NOT – this is an ORTHODOX thing. Protestants might do this better than we do at this point in history, but it is time to take back that standard! Evangelism is the spreading of the Gospel. You know who did that first? The Apostles. And do you know what Church they belonged to? The ORTHODOX CHURCH!

This is our birthright, and this is our obligation. We’ll be talking a lot about this going forward in our parish, including forming a group that will have a sharp focus on this important part of being a living, growing, thriving Christian community. I think we should begin to examine everything we are doing in our parish family through two perspectives: how does this effort serve our parish family -AND- how does this effort welcome new people to God’s Church? This is not to say we should stop anything that we are doing. It is to say: can we tweak what we are doing so it more actively and warmly welcomes new people to our parish?

Evangelism happens in two ways: when people come to us and when we go out to people. There are very Orthodox ways to do both of these things. And there are very NOT Orthodox ways to do both of these things. We will work on training ourselves to do this the right way – the Orthodox way – over the course of the next few months and years. Everyone will participate in some active way in this effort. Some will “do stuff”. Others will pray. And the prayer is just as important – maybe MORE important – as the “doing stuff” that has to be done to welcome those who come to us of their own accord AND those that we go out to meet and invite to the Lord’s House.

There are sort of two pivotal instructions from our Lord in this regard:

1. THE GREAT COMMISSION: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

2. THE GREAT COMMANDMENT: “...thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

A lot of this work will be small paradigm shifts on our part. For instance, we have a festival coming up this weekend. We are all working like crazy to make the festival happen and to make it successful using the metrics of financial success and bringing new people to the Church. Do you know what that “bringing new people to the Church” metric is? EVANGELISM! And as we think about what we do – and with God’s help and with our parish family’s hard work we do a lot – in the light of Evangelism we will get better and better at making the Orthodox Church a place for those who are seeking God. We’ve got the Pearl of Great Price – and it is not ours to hide. We need to share it! The Great Commission is not an option, and neither is the Great Commandment. We are called to fulfill these instructions of our Lord! Can we do it! We CAN do it if we work hard and ask God’s blessing on our work!

Keep an eye out here for more on this topic. How you can work. How you can pray. What you can do. Consider subscribing to Blogtushka so you don’t miss any updates. The Lord put us in this time and place so that we could best save our souls to be sure, but He also did that because it is our job to sanctify this place. To fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandment with zeal and Christian Love. And to do it in a way that is fully and authentically Orthodox. Let’s start with this weekend’s festival! Let it be a warm welcome to all those in our community who are not yet part of our parish family! And if we do this with the love of Christ shining within us we will have begun to fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. BEGUN! There is more to do of course. May the Lord guide us, bless us, inspire us, and strengthen us to hearken to His words and to actualize them in our lives!

Asking Your Prayers,

Fr. Gregory

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