Sunday, December 31, 2006

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?...

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?
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.

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.

3 Comments:

Blogger Abu Daoud said...

Yes, and then there is the evil twin sister, universalism.

Both of these ideas are absurd and unbiblical in the extreme. There is no basis in the Bible or Tradition for the "final option" or whatever you want to call it. It also makes the kind of work we do here in the Middle East (sharing the Gospel with Muslims) pretty pointless. I mean, if they all get a fully explained and complete presentation by God himself after they die, well, far be it from me to try to do God's work.

I want to go home where I can get good beer and pork and not have to hear the call to prayer five times every day.

But instead, the love of Christ compels us. Every day I see hundreds of people who are heading for hell because they have rejected God's Son, and in doing so, they have rejected God himself. We work, by his grace, to share goodness and truth, hoping that some will be saved from the everlasting separation from God that is Hell.

5:44 AM  
Blogger Abu Daoud said...

Oops, what I meant to say was that I agree. I mean, I don't know of anyone in the Orthodox Church(es) who was formerly not a Christian of some sort already.

Also, here in the Middle East I know people from the West, South, and West who are Catholic, Protestant, evangelical, and charismatic, who are dedicated to sharing with Muslims. I don't know anyone at all from an Orthodox church who is doing that.

5:55 AM  
Blogger William Weedon said...

What is sad about this is that it is quite common also in the other communions. Many a time, my Adult Catechesis class ends up confirming adults - they had been baptized into other Christian communions. But it IS a joy when we get a bonafide heathen in there and get to baptize him or her! It's happened, but it is not the mainstay of our growth. And that is sad. Just to let you know that Lutherans also struggle with this same problem. And what is doubly sad is that both communions once upon a time were quite committed to the refusal to proselytize, and understood that mission effort was indeed to be directed "where Christ is not named."

8:37 PM  

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