What, Me Do Missionary Work?
An important assessment from Fr. Thurman's blog:
I know that disaffected Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Evangelicals will come to the open doors of my parish if they honestly want to inquire about the Faith of the Apostles that is the Orthodox Church—what about all of those folks doing something else on Sunday morning that have no relationship with Christ whatsoever?...There does seem to be an enormous focus in some quarters on doing "missionary" work that essentially consists of transferring believing Christians from one church body to the Church Body. Due to my ecclesiology, I'm not terribly troubled by that: I believe the Orthodox Church is the true (and only) Church, and those seeking the fulness of Christianity will only find it within Her. However, this is not the same as conversion of non-believers. Ironically, evangelicals enter Orthodoxy; then when non-believers come to them, they must give them...evangelical resources (More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell, or Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ)! Here is a situation which should be remedied by those interested in doing missionary work.
My concern: Why do we Orthodox never talk about the unchurched in our mission strategy? Why are we not concerned with those over 50% of Americans who never even darken the door of any church, let alone an Orthodox parish?
I have a nit to pick with the post, though:
If other Christians are looking for the truth of Orthodoxy, they will find it and it is accessible to them. (Everything can be found in the standard books, web sites, or calling the local Orthodox parish.)This is, of course, assuming the average American has any idea what Orthodoxy is or why he should be looking for it. He does not. And we're all, unfortunately, aware of situations in which calling the local Orthodox parish is the last thing a spiritually vibrant inquirer should do. There is much work to be done. However, Orthodox "missionaries" seem to have only taken up one portion of the work.