Orthodoxy and evangelism?

edited December 1969 in Faith Issues
Hello, i live in addis abeba (ethiopias capital) and lately i have noticed posters everywhere inviting me to come to churches with the siliest names(mind your buisness church,you go city church for example) and it drives me crazy i mean they are trying to squeeze their way into a country that has been orthodox for 1700 years and it got me asking how come theyre so good at it so heres my point we have been around for 2000+ years and i can count orthodox countries with my hands they are less than 500 years world and theyre everywhere and they have some serious problems and push some horrible doctrine even the catholics have jesuits is it us or is it something else?


  • Kalsam, I have a book that is in the midst of being translated into Amharic that directly attacks these churches and their disgusting motives. I have seen first hand the things they do to the Orthodox church. Hopefully it shuts their mouths because I am tired of hearing them speak.
  • They have more financial support, more liberal atmosphere (good or bad) and more frequent nice activities that gather the youth (sports, camps, gifts, servant groups, group singing, travels, discussions, free expression) etc.

    We all need to increase these activities that should also serve younger age groups. We have to think and work differently because it's an era of faster speedy activity, open communications, more consumption, more freedom and more impulsive energy.

    But... even if they have good intentions (in their own wisdom) and will not exploit people they are cheating you because you are kind, which is a good thing that they abuse - they should only seek those who do not yet know the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Orthodoxy. You will lose some people, those who do not understand the differences correctly and those who don't care.

  • In general Orthodox people are lazy and have become complacent in that it is more of their culture than salvation. This is not of course for every Orthodox person. But evangelicals have a certain fire about them that drives them to spread the Gospel, all be it an erroneous one interpretation wise. While the Orthodox are quiet and rarely even tell people about Orthodoxy. Thats just how it is and will probably always be.
  • All Orthodox Churches have a lot of regular worship duties to cover, other churches don't and rely mainly on activities. Our CO servants responsible of our youth are possibly not well managed and also must receive better formation.

    Some servants boast and others compete in silly ways, plus they do not know how to deal adequately with the preteen preparatory school age group. They still address them as if they were young children and didn't grow up. I would let them be servants at this age and engage them creatively in many useful activities and to avoid the frustration of them restarting activities from zero at high school age.

    They have the capacity to plan good events for themselves and we should allow all of them (girls, boys, rich or poor) to mingle more, with frequent encouragement and moderate guidance.

  • John your spot on, problem is the clergy is not open to suggestions because as I was told "the Bishops know more than I do." Therefore what other option have we? If this attitude exists then we will continue to see people leave, and very soon they will leave in much higher numbers as our youth gets older. Accept it.
  • well, it sounds like the COC is bad in the UK, cuz here in southern california, our clergy are amazing, we even held a protest at the Embassy in LA for Nag Hammadi.

    May God help your situations.
  • [quote author=geomike link=topic=9861.msg120860#msg120860 date=1287265655]
    well, it sounds like the COC is bad in the UK, cuz here in southern california, our clergy are amazing, we even held a protest at the Embassy in LA for Nag Hammadi.

    May God help your situations.

    At St. Marks in D.C. and in L.A. they embrace alot of protestant songs, in L.A. they even have a band, and they play protestant songs. The clergy is obviously oblivious to the dangers of this, but what do I know?
  • i am not aware of a band in la, but that certainly is protestant like to do something like that. May God help His church
  • The end is now. All we can do is stay strong and pray, voicing our opinion on deaf ears will do no good. Take care of your salvation and see to it that you are not deceived.
  • [quote author=kalsam link=topic=9861.msg120836#msg120836 date=1287239795]
    Hello, i live in addis abeba (ethiopias capital) and lately i have noticed posters everywhere inviting me to come to churches with the siliest names(mind your buisness church,you go city church for example) and it drives me crazy i mean they are trying to squeeze their way into a country that has been orthodox for 1700 years and it got me asking how come theyre so good at it so heres my point we have been around for 2000+ years and i can count orthodox countries with my hands they are less than 500 years world and theyre everywhere and they have some serious problems and push some horrible doctrine even the catholics have jesuits is it us or is it something else?

    How did someone like Fr. Peter become Orthodox?

    What were the milestones that led him to become Orthodox?

    I hope he can answer and explain to us what happened.

    Maybe we can do something to reproduce the same effect in other protestants.
  • Perhaps I wil say a few words...

    This is not my entire life story of course.

    I grew up in a devout Evangelical home. From my earliest years I was often in Church. Indeed as a teenager I spent almost every day in Church or in a Church activity. On Sundays I was in Church or Church activities from about 10:00 to 21:00. I can remember being 5 years old and disagreeing with my school teacher about the Flood of Noah. She didn't believe in it, and I insisted it was a truth.

    When I was 10 years old I attended a camp for boys my age organised by an Evangelical organisation. Towards the end of the week the pastor in charge invited those who wanted to become Christians to attend a meeting with him, but I didn't because I knew that I was already a Christian, and cannot remember a time when I did not have faith in Christ.

    My parents were very devout. They were involved in activities in the Chirch, especially running the Sunday School and Youth Work. My father was an elder in the Church, which meant he was part of the leadership team. We did not have a pastor, as in our movement, the Plymouth Brethren, we tended to believe in the ministry of all those, especially males, who had gifts and abilities. Our family fostered children, and so I grew up in a large, noisy home with children from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds.

    When I was 16 I was baptised by immersion by my father in fact. My baptism was particularly an expression of my own faith in Christ. I read widely, and was interested in prophecy, and increasingly the charismatic movement. From the age of 18 to 22 I helped each Summer at a children's mission held in a seaside town. Up to 50 young people would work under the leadership of old and experienced evangelists and would hold a Christian holiday club, organising preaching on the beaches and other activities. When I came back from my first experience I organised and led a similar activity in my home Church one Saturday each month and with a team of other young people we tried to share the Gospel with children in our area. Sometimes up to 180 children attended, and overwhelmed us. We even provided breakfast and lunch a few times.

    When I was about 21 I applied to attend an Evangelical Bible College on the South Coast of England to be trained for Evangelical ministry. I spent my third year specialising in Missions Studies and made two trips to Senegal, once under my one initiative, and for the middle term as part of my studies, in all spending about 4 months living with Evangelical missionaries there.

    By this time in my life I was vaguely charismatic, but had also discovered Catholic spirituality, and to a very small extent the Orthodox tradition - but mostly as an historic tradition. I went on retreat to several monastic houses - Anglican Franciscans. I began to use a Western book of Hours. Indeed at the end of my time at College I considered myself a Conservative Charismatic Evangelical Catholic. That may not make sense to many here, but a lot of other Western people would understand where I was at.

    I appreciated much of the Catholic tradition at this time and had read quite a few spiritual works. My emphasis was on spiritual growth. I had reached a point some time before where I felt that Evangelicalism had nothing to enable me to develop the spiritual life I needed to survive. My exposure to Orthodoxy at the time was a few books such as The Orthodox Church, and The Orthodox Way, an audio tape of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom in ENGLISH, and a copy of the text of the liturgy in ENGLISH.

    When I came home I didn't really fit in to my Evangelical congregation any more. I won't go into all the details. But focussing on my journey towards Orthodoxy. I found that my Dad was also interested and he started reading a lot of the same books as me. We enjoyed The Way of the Pilgrim, for instance, and started reading the Philokalia. At this time we knew no Orthodox people at all, but we appreciated being able to begin to experience something of the Orthodox spirituality.

    I could not have reached this stage without having resources in English. It made it possible to see that I could to some extent become Orthodox even as an Englishman. Indeed at some point during this time I realised that I did want to become Orthodox and did not want to become a Catholic. Yet I had still not met a single Orthodox person.

    I know began to try and find some contacts. There was a Greek Orthodox community which worshipped monthly or fortnightly in my home town. But when they sent their newsletter it seemed to me as a non-Orthodox that most of their activities were to do with being Greek - Greek dancing, Greek National Independence Day etc - and they worshipped almost entirely in Greek. I did not want to become Greek, I wanted to become Orthodox. Indeed a Greek correspondent online could not concieve of how I could become Orthodox since I was not Greek. (This was my honest experience as a serious Christian).

    I wrote to the Russian Orthodox Church and recieved some literature in Russian. I wrote to the Greek Orthodox headquarters and a clergyman implied that I could not become Greek Orthodox because I was English, and actually told me that I should become an Anglican because that was the Orthodox Church for English people. I did not want to become an Anglican. I did not want to try and learn Russian. I wanted to become Orthodox.

    For some reason I also wrote to Abba Seraphim's community, this was in the time before it had been re-united with the Oriental Orthodox in the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate. He invited my Dad and I for dinner and a chat. I met Father Michael who eventually became my priest. Abba Seraphim was clearly English, and yet was clearly committed to being Orthodox. He put no pressure on us at all. Indeed he made himself available to us so that we could be slowly instructed by him in the Orthodox Faith. He began a regular six weekly celebration of the liturgy in a place not too far from us so that we could easily attend and participate in Orthodox worship.

    After a while some other English people joined us. And so we gathered together to offer Orthodox worship in English, and to learn from someone who made themselves entirely available to us.

    Yet the way forward was not clear. I did not feel able to join Abba Seraphim's community while it was separated from the rest of Orthodoxy. And at this same time the Antiochian Orthodox Church in the US was working with a group of mostly Anglicans who could not accept the ordination of women to the priesthood. I attended one of their weekend conferences with my Dad, and enjoyed meeting some priests who had become well known to me by name, having also been from Evangelical backgrounds themselves. But the group of Anglicans was of rather a different culture to my Dad and I, and it seemed that some were running away from women priests rather than towards Orthodoxy. (This again was my opinion at the time as an ignorant enquirer).

    So it was not clear what to do. I wanted to become Orthodox, but I did not want to have to become a Russian or Greek. Nor was I sure I wanted to join a group of Anglicans with their own concerns, nor did I feel able to join with Abba Seraphim, whom I loved and respected, until the future was clear. Then in 1994 the discussions which had been taking place between Abba Seraphim and His Holiness bore fruit and a union was effected between the British Orthodox Church and the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate. A week after Pentecost 1994, when Abba Seraphim became a Metropolitan of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, I was baptised into the Orthodox Church by Abba Seraphim. The way forward, wherever it led, was now clear.

    Looking back, the key things for me, were:

    i. having access to Orthodox spirituality in English (I eventually bought many books of Orthodox spirituality in English translation, and books of Orthodox prayers),

    ii. having access to a spiritual authority who was able to engage with me in English,

    iii. being able to experience Orthodox worship often and in English,

    iv. being able to be connected to the wider Orthodox communion.

    If I had not met Abba Seraphim then I guess that eventually, if I had persisted with my interest in Orthodoxy, I would have attended the Antiochian Orthodox in central London. They celebrated in English, which would have been a key issue for me. There was also a community of Russians in Canterbury, but I am not sure what languages they worshipped in, I don't think it was mostly English, and a friend of mine was told that it would take many years for them to be able to become Orthodox.

    I would not have been able to feel comfortable joining the local Greek community, and I knew nothing at all about any Coptic Orthodox in the UK, nor would I have felt comfortable worshipping in Arabic and Coptic.

    It is interesting that in my experience I reached a point of wanting to become Orthodox without having met any Orthodox. I was easily convinced by history, and by Orthodox theology and spirituality. The issue was then where to go to become Orthodox. I know of many other English people who have tried to become Orthodox in a community that does not use English and have had to give up after a while. I am not sure for certain I would have persevered. I may well have decided that I would become some other type of committed Christian but one with an interest in Orthodox spirituality and history. There are many such people in the UK.

    What allowed me to become Orthodox was having Orthodoxy accessible in my own language. I cannot think of any other factor which was as important. This does not mean that I had some fear of other languages, indeed my bookshelves are filled with language textbooks and I love languages. But (in my own personal experience) I knew that to become Orthodox I needed to do so as an English man, and that Orthodoxy really is for English people or it is not Orthodoxy at all. This is why I could not join the Greek National Dance classes or celebrate Greek Independence Day. I AM NOT GREEK!

    Of course life has not been always easy since becoming Orthodox. But I am still entirely grateful to God and to His Holiness for the grace and imagination to accept the British Orthodox Church into communion and union, and the insistence that the BOC must not become Egyptian, even while entirely accepting the Coptic Orthodox theological and spiritual tradition as its own.

    I look forward to the day when there are multitudes of British people who are Orthodox, both in the BOC, the COC and among all the other Orthodox commnuities in the UK. It does seem to me that above all this requires prayer and fasting, sacrificial commitment to mission, and preaching the Gospel in English (and Welsh, and Irish, and Gaelic, and Kernewek and whatever other languages people speak here).

    Father Peter
  • Thank you Fr Peter for sharing this inspiring story. Clearly, God is/was in the details!

    mabsoota,aidan your stories are next ;)
  • Thanks fr. Peter for your response.

    Before we move on to Mabsoota's story, there's a lot of things in your account or testimony that do not add up (with respect to this topic)

    If you look at your story, you'll see that from the age of 0 to 21 - you were a devout Christian - evangelical Christian. Your father baptised you even!

    So, at the age of 21, this was your Christian Profile:

    * Evangelical
    * No praying/intercession of saints
    * We have ONE intercessor to the Father, and that is Christ - no need to ask for anyone else's intercessions.
    * Priesthood - to you, at the age of 21, you were a priest.. we are all priests.
    * The idea of the Holy Communion was impossible - this was idolatory (in the mind of ANY Protestant).
    * Confession to a Priest - this was out of the question - you as an Evangelical, you'd confess to one another.. that's it.

    So then you read some books on Orthodoxy and that pushes you to become Orthodox. That's good. Its good in a sense that it wasn't through people. I don't like that. I don't like it when people say "I met a nice person who was Christian, so I wanted to be Christian".

    But what exactly did you read that not only helped you become Orthodox, but reconciled what you were raised with what you believe now. This is a VERY difficult thing. I mean, if someone was a born again Christian at 20, and had no christian upbringing, it would be easier for them to learn and adopt Orthodox Spirituality. But having been raised as a protestant Christian from Childhood, and having good evangelical parents, it would be extremely hard to become Orthodox.

    What exactly did you read? Which passage turned your attention to becoming Orthodox??
    How did you reconcile, in your mind (and heart) what you believed to be wrong (Holy Communion) with what you believe now (i.e. that WE DO partake of the Holy Body and Blood).

    Evangelical Christians are not raised to understand the importance of the Eucharist. What is it that made you research into a field that to you was not only unimportant, but even a heresy!!

    Hez, once we figure this out, we can start to target people better. Its just a matter of placing the right information for them.
  • The problem is that your view of Protestants is too narrow and one-dimensional. I have said this many times to many people.

    There are certainly US type evangelicals, and lots of new black churches, which sometimes tend to be very narrow and even cult-like. But these are not the majority of Protestants or Evangelicals in the UK.

    A large number of Protestants are seeking for something deeper in their Christian lives. They love God and Christ, and want to be holy and serve Him. But within Protestantism there are limited resources for this to take place. Many investigate the charismatic movement, or even full blown Pentecostalism, but find that this is not the authentic wind of the Spirit they were promised. Some find a connection with the historic spiritual tradition of Orthodoxy and Catholicism, especially here in the UK.

    I recently gave a lecture as part of an MA course in Monastic Studies, and most of those attending were not Catholic but were interested Protestants. The British Orthodox Church has produced an introductory book to our Orthodox Spirituality and several hundred people have bought it, most are Protestants of one sort or another.

    Here in the UK, and in my own experience, it is this desire for a deeper spiritual life which draws people on. It is a desire for a deeper knowledge of God.

    There were two strands to my own journey. One was theological/historical. I used to read a great deal in any case, and had many theological works by serious Protestant theologians of the past. It was natural that my study of Church History would include the early period, although I found all the dates and details of all the councils and controversies rather confusing.

    I also discovered some of the Fathers of the Church for myself, and had a copy of works like the Didache, the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians etc etc. This made me aware that the Church had not ended with the Apostles, but had continued to have a real existence.

    In a sense I discovered the early Patristic Church. Not to a great extent. There was not so much published in the early 90's that I could get hold of. But I was aware very early on of the existence of an ancient tradition. I can remember being influenced in the prayers I used at our Evangelical communion by some of these 'catholic' sources. I can remember teaching in Bible Study that we might all need to be baptised again with a sacramental intent. This was all while I was an Evangelical. And I grew increasingly aware that the legitimacy of my own Church leadership did not appear to be built on Biblical grounds.

    I was becoming a Catholic even while at Evangelical Bible College, and this is the experience of many Protestants. Becoming 'catholic' while still being Protestant.

    The other strand of development was the spiritual, and this began with reading some Catholic spiritual works and finding them not to be wicked or evil, but to have lots of useful teaching. When I went to Bible College I read more Catholic works and also found them helpful. I was still definitely a Protestant, and in fact I have only ever attended a very few Catholic services in my whole life. I started to attend the local Anglican Church for the early morning eucharist. It was very traditional and liturgical. I went on retreat several times to a couple of the monastic houses of the Anglican Society of Saint Francis, and I began to use their Daily Prayers. I can remember starting to use the Hail Mary and the Jesus Prayer. Indeed during this period of my Evangelical life I also obtained some of the volumes of the Philokalia. I even tried making a prayer rope without having an idea of what one looked like. I bought a first printed and mounted icon as well, which I still have on a wall here at home.

    I was not unusual as an Evangelical. There were others who became interested in the historic British Christian heritage and wrote about the British saints of the past for an Evangelical audience. There were those who wrote about fasting, and lectio divina, and going on retreats. Even at my Evangelical Bible College there were others who worshipped with me in an increasingly 'catholic' manner (but not Roman Catholic particularly).

    We were seeking a closer walk with God, not Orthodoxy. It was only later that it became clear to me that Orthodoxy was the fulfillment of that desire for a closer walk with God.

    So I do not believe that all evangelicals do not seek the intercession of the saints. This was not my experience at all. I came to see it as a necessary part of my evangelical life. I DID seek the intercession of the saints. The issue of the priesthood and holy communion was not idolatry at all. It was a matter of whether I thought it was true or not. I think that you have a too narrow view of Protestants.

    I did not become Orthodox because I was looking for Orthodoxy. Indeed most modern Orthodoxy put me off when I discovered it. It was in a foreign language and did not seem to interested in me as a British person speaking English. What happened was that I became attracted by a deeper and richer spirituality, and entered into it as far as I could as an isolated person. I then had to consider how to move even deeper into this experience and this where my limited knowledge of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy led me to want to move in an Orthodox manner. It was at this point I was fortunate to come into contact with Abba Seraphim.

    There are a great many Protestants who are already very interested in a more historic spirituality, and are trying to integrate it into their own lives as far as possible. It is not appropriate to produce a list of what Protestants believe because it does not match any reality that I have experienced and continue to experience through my links with various Protestant groups and people. It is rather like Oriental Orthodox being told that they deny that Jesus Christ was truly human. It is so very often insisted upon by those who do not know us personally, but it is not true. Likewise it has never been possible to say that all Protestants believe X, Y and Z.

    I know a man who does not believe that in the eucharist the bread and wine become truly the Body and Blood of our Lord, but he has icons around his house, and seeks the intercession of the saints. Recognises the particular priesthood of the Church. Protestants are much more difficult to describe than any list. Indeed even at my Evangelical Bible College there were a great many different views held on a great many subjects. I was at the Catholic end of things, but there were those who were at the Pentecostal end, and there were many in the middle. I doubt anyone had exactly the same beliefs about everything. Some were very fearful of anything 'catholic', others were very willing to investigate things which might help them develop a more fruitful spiritual life.

    But what came first was the desire to seek more closely after God. What came second was the partial experience of some of the universal spiritual practices of the historic Churches. It was only third that I started looking for an Orthodox community. I did not 'want to become Orthodox' so much as 'want to experience more completely what I had started to experience and had read about'.

    This is what a great many Protestant people in the UK want. To find a way to know God better. And many will try all manner of fads. Some will absorb themselves in activity. Others will try to make worship exciting and noisy. Others will discover the ancient paths of prayer, as I did eventually.

    All of this does require that our spiritual treasures be made available to British people in their own language. There are only a very, very few people who will be interested enough in an Orthodox community to learn another language to find out about Orthodoxy. All of the books I read were in English, all the liturgy which touched me most deeply was in English. The prayers I began to pray were all in English.

    It was a complex journey, but at the heart of it was always a desire to know God, not a desire to join a particular group. This is why I am convinced that we must preach the Gospel of life in Christ and not preach the Church. The Church is the outcome of the Gospel, and some join or associate with Orthodox Churches because they like the music, or the art, or the ceremony, or the exotic. None of this is enough. We must be members of the Church because we have responded to the Gospel of Christ. I have been in touch with many people who like some cultural aspect of Orthodoxy in its widest sense. But if they do not desire to know Christ more than anything else then they tend to be like the seed planted on the thin soil. It springs up, nourished by the rich layer of nutrients it has discovered, but there is no depth and no roots and at the first spiritual difficulties it withers away because an enjoyment of music or art or ceremony is never enough to sustain spiritual life.

    Dear Zoxasi, does this explain my journey a little better?

    Father Peter
  • Dearest brothers and sisters in Christ,

    I hope that this message finds you well. I have been debating within myself over the last few days as to whether or not I should post something on this particular topic, and, by the grace of God, hope that I will be able to contribute something that we can benefit from.

    I suppose that it is often the case that when a person thinks of evangelization, their mind immediately goes to a certain amount of topics. Most people imagine that evangelization has something to do with going to another country, one in Africa or South America, for example, and spreading the Word of God; some imagine that it is handing out Bibles and discussing theological topics on college campuses with non-Orthodox people; still others imagine that it is engaging in discussions with our coworkers in order to attempt to bring some sort of enlightened understanding to them. While these examples stand to be true, they are not, in fact, what evangelization is, nor what it should be limited to. I find that most people will not go to another country to spread Orthodoxy, nor do they feel confident enough to engage in these types of discussions with people around them to logically lead people to God. In truth, most people probably don't feel that the call to evangelize is meant for them. I believe that this is because the idea of evangelization has become quite limited in our minds.

    The following was said earlier in this thread: "So then you read some books on Orthodoxy and that pushes you to become Orthodox. That's good. Its good in a sense that it wasn't through people. I don't like that. I don't like it when people say 'I met a nice person who was Christian, so I wanted to be Christian'." Unfortunately, this is precisely what should be one of the factors that brings people over to Christianity. Evangelization does not rely on some determined amount or types of physical tools upon which they may convince others. There are several examples of Protestants who are in fact more Orthodox in their writings than several of our own modern day writers: one such example is a Protestant who just passed away a few years ago by the name of Thomas Torrance. I personally have not read his materials, so I cannot say firsthand that his writings are Orthodox or not, but there are a number of Orthodox priests who speak very highly of him and his writings, Orthodox priests who truly know the dogma and theology of the Orthodox Church. But this type of knowledge can only go so far. Too often, we think that we have to convince others to come to Orthodoxy by means of formally educating them as to what this knowledge is. This is not the case.

    In the early Church, when the disciples and apostles went around preaching the Word of God after Pentecost, they did not wear black tunics and stand out physically from the others that surrounded them. What was it, then, that made people pay attention to them? What caught people's eyes? If one reads the sermon that St. Peter gave on the day of Pentecost, when thousands were converted to Christianity... I suppose the first question is, "what is it in this sermon that convinced people of Christianity?" These Jews who were in Jerusalem at the time were there to celebrate a Jewish Holiday, and had traveled to Jerusalem for this express purpose: what would drive these men to convert to Christianity, when the entire focus of their being at that time was celebrating a Jewish holiday? I'm sure many of you have read this particular sermon... the words don't seem to be "special" in the sense that they had some sort of profound dogmatic and theological points that were logically irrefutable, and by which the people, in being unable to answer the claims, solemnly came to Christianity, in a sense, against their will. What, then, was it that allowed three thousand people to convert?

    Truly, it was the Holy Spirit. What calls people to Christ is the image of Christ in people. In Fr. Peter's story of conversion, one immediately will take notice that it is not through a number of books that he came to the Church... it was, first and foremost, a desire for the Truth, a desire for what is real and good, a desire to find God. It was the work of the Holy Spirit within Fr. Peter that led him to this.

    What, then, is my true calling in terms of evangelizing? It is to strive to be living in Christ. It is having Christ living within me, and enlightening my actions and words. In order for me to properly understand in my limitedness what I should be, how I should be Christ-like, I will have to discover what Christ is like. Let us consider the following example... imagine that a light bulb that is turned off has the following words written in small print on it: "I am a lightbulb. I give off light." This is true, the purpose of the bulb is to give off light, but reading about it is different from experiencing it. I can walk around and show people this light bulb and tell them about the light that it gives off, while everyone sits around in darkness. We can sit in the darkness and discuss this light and its many benefits, and how it is so radically different from the dark room in which we find ourselves. Or... I can turn the light on. I can show them what the light is. Is this not how Christianity is? We find ourselves going through a multitude of books, amassing theoretical knowledge by which we can then go out and use as points of argument, and this may or may not yield the fruit that we desire. Indeed, no amount of theoretical knowledge will bring an atheist to Christianity, a Protestant to Orthodoxy. It is the Holy Spirit that does this.

    In fact, people SHOULD be brought over to Christianity because they met a nice Christian, but let's delve into what this truly means. This does not mean that a person was simply nice and just so happened to be Christian. Permit me to provide an example... there was a priest in Communist Russia by the name of Fr. Arseny. The story of his life has been documented in a couple of books, and in these books, one does not find some sort of profound theological, rational, logical argument in proper sermon form of why people should be Christian. Fr. Arseny lived a number of decades in a special camp that people who were supposed to receive the death penalty would go to live out their lives, in toil and anguish, receiving numerous beatings that would incapacitate an individual, working out in terrible conditions of extreme cold. Fr. Arseny, an Orthodox priest, did not sit and give sermons to the other prisoners. Fr. Arseny lived a Christ like life.

    There is a story that I recall from his book, forgive me if some small details here and there are not accurate as I do not have the material readily around me, but I think the spirit of the story will suffice. There was a prisoner in that particular camp who was out working in the snow, and who, through severe exhaustion, was brought over to his bed after a long day's work, his feet nearly frozen and subject to frostbite. While laying on his bed, an unknown person came over and removed this prisoner's shoes. The prisoner's first thought was "someone is trying to steal my boots! If they do so, I will not be able to work tomorrow, and they will surely beat me if I don't go outside. If I do go outside without my boots, I will lose my feet to the cold." Being in such terrible, incapacitating exhaustion, though, the prisoner could not move; he could not defend against this stranger who was taking his boots! The stranger removed the boots, and for some reason, massaged this prisoner's feet for a minute or two, and left, taking the boots. The prisoner could not understand why the person had massaged his feet, but before he could actively debate the reason within himself, he fell unconscious, the toil of the day taking its toll on him. The next day, he woke up to find that his boots were dry and readily available to him. Later, he would discover that the stranger was Fr. Arseny... Fr. Arseny came and removed the man's boots with the intent of drying them at the stove in their quarters so that the man would not lose his feet the following day. He massaged this man's feet to bring the circulation back into them so that frostbite would not set in. Prisoners usually would dry their boots before nightfall, because if they left their boots near the stove overnight, they would be stolen by the other prisoners. Fr. Arseny, knowing this, took this man's boots and placed them near the stove, and stayed up all night, guarding this man's boots, so that they would be ready for him the following day. This man, and many other men who had embraced atheism, who looked so condescendingly on the people they imagined to be "religious fanatics," were brought over to Orthodoxy because of Fr. Arseny. Not only prisoners converted, but also guards, men who worked for the name of Communism. It was because of the number of deeds that Fr. Arseny did... he did not enter into long theological discussions with them as to why it is that God must exist. The prisoners, though, would say "I know that God exists because I can see Him in you." They converted because they met a nice Christian, a Christian in the true sense of the word.

    The apostles and disciples received attention, not because they walked along wearing black tunics, but, in their common garb, they had something within them... the Holy Spirit shined through them. "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden, nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, that it may give light to all who are in the house." It is the light of Christ that brings people to Christ! This is true evangelization! When I live a life that is truly Christ-like, when people can see Christ within me, yes, they will be drawn to Christianity, to Orthodoxy, not because I convinced them by going into lengthy debates and providing them with textual resources, but because they see Christ living within me.

    It is not by my efforts that people will be brought to Christianity. I cannot do anything without Christ, who strengthens me. It is not as though I am strong and Christ adds to this strength. I am weak, and Christ provides more strength than I could ever imagine. Yes, in order to understand how I should act, I must know how Christ acts. This has been provided to us in several books, and one learns how man relates to God and God to man in the proper sense in Orthodoxy, by reading all of these dogmatic books. But this is type of knowledge can only go so far... it is experiential knowledge that is the key. When I live a life with Christ, people will see this, and they will see Christ within me, and will desire to have Christ as well in their lives. This is evangelism.

    When John the Baptist saw Christ walking towards him and proclaimed, "Behold! The Lamb of God!" why did people believe him? We know that John the Baptist had disciples, disciples that would eventually become followers of Christ. What was it that made them believe this proclamation? If someone I don't know very well comes up to me and says "Hey! The Holy Virgin Mary is appearing just around the block! Come, see!" I might make way over there in a very sluggish manner, that is, if I go at all. I'm sure many people have heard those men shouting on street corners, and pay them no attention. But, if, for example, a priest whom I love dearly came and told me the same line, I would not hesitate to begin running, hoping to catch only a glimpse of the Theotokos. It is the same line, the same words, and both may very well be true, but I trust one's words more than the other. John the Baptist lived a life with the Holy Spirit living within him, and his disciples knew this firsthand. When he then made such a proclamation, it had meaning, it carried weight. The problem in the world today is that we can speak true words, but unless I live a life guided by the Holy Spirit, the effect will be almost nothing. Evangelization must begin and continue to grow with the person living a life in Christ, so that when such a proclamation is made, people will know its Truth.

    Let us not limit ourselves into a certain mindset of what evangelism is, thinking that it is only through books and discussions and rational logic that we may convince others of Christ. I do not need to go to another country to begin evangelizing; I must be able to evangelize through my life at this moment, with those who live around me now, both outside of the Church as well as inside. If I only live a life full of theoretical knowledge of God but do not attempt to actually put it into practice, to strive to have Christ live within me... am I truly living life with Life?

    Glory be to God forever.
  • I will give ChildofOrthodoxy and Fr. Peter full replies later on.. thanks for your posts; but i just wanted to tell ChildofOrthodoxy very briefly that if someone becomes a Christian because they met a nice Christian person, then what is stopping someone leaving the Christian faith because they met very bad people in the Church?

    As I said before, my life was rendered miserable by Coptic people - from priests to Bishops to your average Coptic Joe. I mean "REALLY" miserable.

    You can't just become a Christian because u met a nice Christian.. I know loads of nice muslims, sikhs, budhists etc.. I am still Christian despite all that.
  • ChildofOrthodoxy, thanks for this post.

    You will see from some of my account that what mattered most was the opportunity to experience Orthodoxy. To experience and to participate in Orthodox Christian worship. I am still learning about Orthodoxy. I am still in the process of becoming Orthodox. It is a journey that does not end for any of us this side of death. Therefore our evangelism, though it must be prepared to answer the genuine questions of those who are seeking, is not a matter of learning knowledge about God, but experiencing the life of the Holy Spirit for yourself.

    Therefore I am in firm agreement with you. We ourselves must be the best witnesses to our faith by the way we life. Indeed I do not believe that anyone can be argued into faith. I find it better to try and walk away from such arguments.

    I have been to Orthodox congregations where I have been essentially ignored and not made to feel welcome. But in my small community we are determined that every visitor will know that they are welcome, and no-one will be ignored. This is also evangelism.

    I understand your post, Zoxasi. But it seems to me that there is a difference between someone being nice and someone being completely Christian. I have met nice people, but I have never met people as loving as the best of Christians. We are not Christians because someone is nice to us, but because we belong to Christ. I think ChildofOrthodoxy means that to be a sacrificial. loving, committed and faithful Christian is to attract people to Christ. But no-one should put their complete faith in men. Men always fail. This is a lesson all Christians have to learn at some point. But to demonstrate the Christian life with love and gentleness is a responsibility of us all. However difficult. It is an aspect of evangelism that all of us are commanded to embrace.

    Father Peter
  • [quote author=peterfarrington link=topic=9861.msg121537#msg121537 date=1288367770]

    I understand your post, Zoxasi. But it seems to me that there is a difference between someone being nice and someone being completely Christian. I have met nice people, but I have never met people as loving as the best of Christians. We are not Christians because someone is nice to us, but because we belong to Christ. I think ChildofOrthodoxy means that to be a sacrificial. loving, committed and faithful Christian is to attract people to Christ. But no-one should put their complete faith in men. Men always fail. This is a lesson all Christians have to learn at some point. But to demonstrate the Christian life with love and gentleness is a responsibility of us all. However difficult. It is an aspect of evangelism that all of us are commanded to embrace.

    Father Peter

    Well, if you put it that way, then yes. That's a good point.

    But remarkably, you never had that yourself Fr. Peter.. all you had was a book., or a few books that brought you to Orthodoxy.
  • Most people who have moved in an Orthodox direction in the UK have had to do so without much help from Orthodox people until quite recently.

    So it is not too surprising that people have been led to a deeper spiritual life by God through books etc.

    I did not know any Orthodox people until I met Abba Seraphim. And I can't recall ever being approached by an Orthodox person seeking to share their faith in my whole life.

    So if I had not been able to rely on books I would not have got very far. Once I became Orthodox there were real people I could ask questions of, mostly online.

    I guess this is why I am so concerned that we share our faith in English, because there are many, many British people who have a great need for God in their lives who will not find the Philokalia etc. But they do need to know that there are ordinary Christians in their neighbourhood who want to share a treasure with them.

    Father Peter
  • Dear Fr Peter,

    Can you share a little bit about HG Metrpolitan Seraphim's background, like whether he was born into Orthodox, how he decided to become a monk and serve the Lord?? How about your father, did he become Orthodox as well? Did any of your family members ( apart from your children, I suppose) follow your steps and became Orthodox?Why did the BOC choose to join the COC and not, for example,the Syrian or Armenian Orthodox Churchs? There isnt much info in the BOC website regarding this issues.

  • I think I can guess about the Armenians:  they have a great attachment to the Armenian language.  The Badarak (the Divine Liturgy) has to be in Classical Armenian.  The Armenian Alphabet is venerated.  It is on icons, mugs, paintings, tiles, gold medallions, etc.

    Their attachment is strong because it is a symbol of preservation through time.  Especially in survival from the Genocide at the beginning of the 20th century.

    I guess their would not have been enough latitude for the British identity for expression.
  • Mark, I do not know much about the Armenian church. Thank you for the clarification, it makes sense.Though,I admire them  for their ability in creating resilient communities throughout their dwelling areas who were able to preserve and sustain their own langauge, script and culture as well as orthodoxy despite the persecutions and ethnic cleansing they had had suffered under the Ottaman jihadists and terrorists.
  • Interestingly, the Armenian community in the UK under their new primate Father Vahan, who is a wonderful man, seems to be well aware of the need to educate the faithful and to use the English language as appropriate. Father Vahan has started an English language Bible Study which has about 50 people attending each week. He has started a Continuing Education programme which is providing interesting lectures in English. And he is a knowledgeable and steadfast partner with me in the Orthodox Education ministry in the UK.

    When we met for the first Orthodox Education day the plan had been that we would all pray the Armenian Morning Prayer in English, but a photocopier failure meant we couldn't produce the prayers to distribute but next time I am sure we will all pray the Armenian prayers in English.

    Father Peter
  • I'll answer this question first...

    The British Orthodox Church originated from the Syrian Orthodox Church in 1866, but under severe pressure from the Anglican Church in the UK, and in the Middle East, the BOC lost touch with the SOC. Very few Syrian Patriarchs died of old age in the 19th century, and the Ottoman Empire dominated Church life. So when the Anglicans objected to someone saying they were an Orthodox bishop arriving in England they responded by leaning heavily on the Syrians and the Ottomans.

    The BOC then had to struggle on for 100 years pretty much on its own.

    When Abba Seraphim became the head of the BOC he wanted above all to see a reunion with the wider Orthodox communion, and he was willing to be recieved as a layman if that was the requirement. He is certainly not in the episcopate for any prideful reasons, but has given his life for this British flock. But it was the will of God that when he came into conversation with His Holiness Pope Shenouda, through the agency of various friends in the COC, it became clear quite quickly that His Holiness saw the possibilities and had the spiritual imagination necessary. Of course His Holiness had already united a similar French Church a couple of decades before, so it was not something entirely new.

    The union happened with the COC because it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to His Holiness. I think that it required a Church which was already seeking to be able to make the leap into the West among its own faithful. I don't think that it was a matter of the BOC chosing, but of seeking to follow the will of God who brought this union about in His own time.

    God bless

    Father Peter
  • I know there are a good number of Armenian Clergy that carry out similar efforts, however, they are essentially forbidden from allowing any of the vernacular into the Badarak.  There was an encyclical from H.H. Karekin II, relative to the time of his elevation as Supreme Catholicos of all Armenians, that was specific to that effect.  Another declaration from their Synod reaffirmed the issue.

    They are very zealous for that language.  I dare say even more than Ophadece is to Coptic [purely a Jesting remark].
  • The Armenian Church has just celebrated the first Badarak in Dublin, Ireland, and has launched a mission in Wales.


    The problem with being a priest is finding time to worship with others. I would very much like to attend a Badarak with Father Vahan. I shall have to find an Armenian Feast when I can worship.

    Father Peter
  • The Armenians, generally, do not celebrate any Feast Days during the middle of the week.  They tend to have Badarak only on Sunday.  They have an unwritten modern rule that if the Feast Day comes in the middle of the week.  They carry it over to the nearest Sunday.  I guess the only hope would be the Nativity/Theophany.  They celebrate on the 6th of January.  Generally, they have a Badarak in the Eve and in the Morning of the 6th.
  • ok, specially for hezekiel, here is my story (it is quite long!)

    u may be a bit shocked to read protestant impressions of orthodoxy, please try not to be too shocked, but to understand why so few protestant know anything accurate about our church, and please use this knowledge to spread the faith more widely.

    my first experience of God came as a 5 year old child, asking my mum why she and my dad had changed. before that, they had lived without any religion, which was common in the uk.
    life improved after that, and often i was aware of God’s love with me even through very difficult times. i always liked to go to church. i loved singing and hearing Bible stories and praying. it was so different from my previous life before knowing God.
    over the years i found out that all churches were not the same, and that there were even a small minority of protestants that we met who said that catholics weren’t really Christians. i thought that was silly and was pleased to go one year to a catholic Bible study group with my mum just to prove it! at 10, i was the youngest person there, but that didn’t bother me. it was lent, and the nuns made us cake, but didn’t eat any themselves. they said they were fasting, but i thought fasting was when you ate nothing and drank only water for 24 hours or more. i wanted to find out why it meant something different to the nuns, but i was too shy to ask them and when i got home, i found my mum couldn’t answer me. in fact it was only after i grew up that i found anyone who asked as many questions about God as i did!

    when we went on a family holiday to greece when i was 16, we peered inside an orthodox church for the first time. we saw it was quite dark inside, there were some people walking around at the back apparently not paying attention to the service, (in my culture, if you take part in something you show your appreciation by sitting still!) and we couldn’t understand what was happening as we didn’t speak greek. there was no-one on the door to invite us in or ask us to wait, and it was so different that we didn’t go in.
    as the years went by, i went to university where i attended the monthly joint Christian prayer meetings (catholics and several protestant denominations) in the catholic chaplaincy and went to the Christian union (largely protestant) at other times. i still had not met an orthodox Christian. i moved house a lot, often attending a different sort of church each time.
    i always found it strange when people asked me ‘what is your denomination?’ and i thought it really strange when they (that is, average british Christians) expected that i would actively seek out a church just like their’s the next time i moved house with my job. i hadn’t been sufficiently impressed with any of the denominations i had seen, and i didn’t think that having a denominational label mattered. i suppose i was a bit baptist, a bit pentecostal and a bit catholic.

    as the years went by, though, i had a growing sense of discomfort about the way some Christians talked rudely about other churches, and began to think of ways i could visit all the churches so i could see what were the real differences and what were just different ways of expressing the same thing. i was always full of questions, and i kept looking out for an opportunity to find answers.

    at one stage i met some people who discussed orthodoxy, but only in a negative way, saying the orthodox churches were very legalistic and they didn’t like them. i wanted to know more, but i was certainly not encouraged in my search and i had learnt it was not polite to ask too many questions when the people i was asking are not interested in the discussion.

    many years later, i found out that a colleague at work (a very gentle man whose excellence and care in his work had caused me to wonder if he was a Christian) who was coptic and i asked him about his church. he was surprised i was interested, and said i could come if i wanted, but i might not understand much (in those days there was very little english in use and no prokector with a translation). in the end, his wife kindly translated.

    no-one came looking for me to invite me to any orthodox church, nor did i see any books about the orthodox church in the Christian bookshops i had visited. but i did have a mental list with things to find out about, and, as i knew nothing about the orthodox churches, i knew i should find out more sometime whenever i had the opportunity. i had just started reading about church history before 1500, something very very few protestant Christians have any idea about. i used to ask people (i bothered many people with so many questions) in church what happened prior to 1500, but they seemed to think nothing much happened. that was not a good enough answer for me!

    at this stage, i would not have said i lacked anything in my spiritual life, i was content, i shared my faith with my friends and i thought i had a reasonable understanding of the Bible. but, looking back, i realise i had a deep yearning which i could not express and which had not been fulfilled.
    all the other orthodox Christians i have met or heard about who were initially protestants have said the same thing, that they found a greater depth in the orthodox church, a more profound experience of God and more complete and sensible teaching.

    i can still remember that first service. i knew God was present, and i knew my questions were going to be answered. i was very happy, and i thought all my Christian friends would share my enthusiasm! Generally they did not and a few were very negative, which surprised me. i suppose they had not spent the past 18 years full of curiosity about other churches! i then went through 2 years thinking about all the churches and wondering if i could be a member of more than one of them! i visited coptic orthodox churches often, and found answers to all my questions. most people were welcoming and kind, and encouraged me to pray about my spiritual journey and to look for answers in the Bible. we moved house a few times, so i had the opportunity to visit several uk churches.

    the thing that impressed me most was the Holy Communion. previously, in one town, we had been anglicans, taking Holy Communion on our knees in reverence after communal repentance, and the coptic orthodox communion seemed to take this to a new level. as the months went by i found i had a strong desire to join in. by then i knew i was missing something. i took 2 years to make the final decision to join the coptic orthodox church, as i knew it was (for me, at least) an irreversible step, and one i would have to continually explain, especially to my rather sceptical circle of friends.

    to finally worship God in the orthodox communion was beyond all my expectations, and worth the difficult questions from friends and concerns about my salvation (or sanity!) from others. i think this is because people are generally afraid of the unknown and assume it is something negative. i have had to reassure my parents several times that i am ‘still a Christian’.
  • ps
    thanks child for orthodoxy for your post, and father peter for sharing your story. it really touched me and many things in it reminded me of my story.

    by the way, abba seraphim is lovely and an excellent speaker. i never met anyone who knows so much british history and church history and who really talks about the saints as though they were from his close family. may God give him many years and peaceful times.
  • Mabsoota,

    You did not mention if you are of Egyptian ancestry or are you a Brit?
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