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Author Topic: Prosyletizing and such in the Orthodox Church....  (Read 1356 times) Average Rating: 0
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blessedbeggar
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« on: November 10, 2010, 02:27:54 PM »

Hello again all. As someone inquiring, and coming from a pentecostal/baptist/evangelical background, I was wondering if prosyletizing is something that doesn't happen much in the Orthodox faith, or simply has a different manner and meaning in it? As a lay minister in my current church, I wonder where bringing people to Christ and into the fullness of Faith fits into the average Orthodox parish model? Any feedback would be helpful and much appreciated.

In Christ,
Blessed Beggar
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« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2010, 02:43:56 PM »

From what I read on this board so far, it's looked down upon.
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« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2010, 02:52:41 PM »

Hello again all. As someone inquiring, and coming from a pentecostal/baptist/evangelical background, I was wondering if prosyletizing is something that doesn't happen much in the Orthodox faith, or simply has a different manner and meaning in it? As a lay minister in my current church, I wonder where bringing people to Christ and into the fullness of Faith fits into the average Orthodox parish model? Any feedback would be helpful and much appreciated.

In Christ,
Blessed Beggar
Proselyting to non-Christians (which should include Mormons,Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Scientists etc) is encouraged.  Doing so to Christians whose baptism can be accepted by economia (RC, mainstream Protestants, etc.), it is prefered that proselytizing be done by witnessing (which is the better way of preaching anyway).

It is also better to cultivate a relationship that is inviting, rather than handing them a tractate.
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« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2010, 03:11:49 PM »

Hello again all. As someone inquiring, and coming from a pentecostal/baptist/evangelical background, I was wondering if prosyletizing is something that doesn't happen much in the Orthodox faith, or simply has a different manner and meaning in it? As a lay minister in my current church, I wonder where bringing people to Christ and into the fullness of Faith fits into the average Orthodox parish model? Any feedback would be helpful and much appreciated.

In Christ,
Blessed Beggar
Proselyting to non-Christians (which should include Mormons,Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Scientists etc) is encouraged.  Doing so to Christians whose baptism can be accepted by economia (RC, mainstream Protestants, etc.), it is prefered that proselytizing be done by witnessing (which is the better way of preaching anyway).

It is also better to cultivate a relationship that is inviting, rather than handing them a tractate.

I agree. Everyone I know who converted did so via a personal search or some personal contact with the Church. I don't know anyone who converted via proselytism in the sense of Evangelical proselytism.

But having lived in both worlds, I think our way is better. People will tend to be more committed if they have to work a bit for it than if it is virtually imposed upon them, through emotion (altar call), or argument (tracts), or some other way.

But that even stems from our different views of salvation—a one-time snap decision versus a lifetime of striving towards faithfulness. Evangelical-style proselytism doesn't work well with Orthodoxy's view of salvation.

I do think the Church needs to do better in making our actual existence known, however (and appearing open to outsiders). Some jokingly say Orthodoxy is America's "best-kept secret", but I think we should be ashamed that's the case.
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« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2010, 03:16:27 PM »

It seems to me that, in America, Orthodox parishes seek to minister to their communites through charity. Ministries that provide, food, clothing, school supplies, etc. As well as those that offer various activities and get-togethers, as well as attending community events. My parish in particular runs a bread ministry every Sunday to provide free bread to those in need, and has an active alms fund. We also have several county-wide events during the year, and we always set up a booth and answer questions.

For the more academically inclined, our priest does a lot of hosting talks and lectures. We've had a number of Orthodox speakers come through our parish, laymen and clergy. He also hosts a Fall Lecture Series each year. Often times, the other area priests are invited to speak on issues. Currently, we're wrapping up a four part series on the "Orthodox Experience in America." We're an OCA parish, and so our priest spoke on the OCA/Russian side of things. The local Greek and Antiochian priests were invited to each do their own talk on the Greek and Antiochian/Arabic side, and the final installment (which we will have in a couple weeks) will bring all the talks together.

Every parish is a little different, but I've seen things like this before. Particularly the active charity-based ministries seem to be common. Simply care for their physical needs and bear witness to your faith through those actions, they'll come in and see what you're about eventually. This is the biblical model of evangelism.

P.S.

And, in America, sometimes just looking "weird" is enough to draw someone inside, too!
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« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2010, 04:04:58 PM »

Whether proselytizing is encouraged or not really depends on where you are. Members of my old OCA parish in the US reached out to non-Orthodox with quite some zeal, even preaching on the street. The Finnish Orthodox Church doesn't proselytize very actively, but it tries to maintain some presence on national television and print media to attract people intrigued by its liturgy and teachings.

Elsewhere, there are complicated political and social arrangements that discourage proselytizing. In Russia the Russian Orthodox Church has agreed to not evangelize adherents of Russia's three other "historical faiths" (Judaism, Islam and Buddhism) to maintain some sort of social harmony. There are a handful of priests who will baptise Muslims who want to come to Christ (one recently martyred for his witness), but the church administration is uncomfortable with this.

From northwest Romania where I write these lines, I've always hoped that the Orthodox Church would spread the good news to Transylvania's Hungarian minority, who are generally Roman Catholic, Unitarian or Reformed. My Romanian brethren and a great number of priests, however, think that's crazy, for to them Orthodox is something only for ethnic Romanians and they'd rather not have anything to do with the Hungarians, with whom they have a historical feud.
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« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2010, 04:19:00 PM »


Proselyting to non-Christians (which should include Mormons,Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Scientists etc) is encouraged.  Doing so to Christians whose baptism can be accepted by economia (RC, mainstream Protestants, etc.), it is prefered that proselytizing be done by witnessing (which is the better way of preaching anyway).

It is also better to cultivate a relationship that is inviting, rather than handing them a tractate.

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Amen Amen, goodly words there my brother.  Witnessing is exactly and precisely what Christ has called us to be and do, and it is the only work of the Apostles, who are the witnesses of His Resurrection and Life.  And practically, it cultivates a better relationship and invitation than the boring, self-righteous activities we call "preaching" as a form of evangelism.  Preaching is for believers and sermons.
The Bible Thumpers of the world should take note of your humble suggestions Smiley

To spread the truth of the Orthodox, we must simply live our Orthodox lives in the midst of all the people, and demonstrate effectively how the Divine Mysteries and the Holy Tradition are always operating in our lives towards healing and salvation, and that only the Orthodox offers the purest renditions of God's economy of Grace on the earth.  

the cultural and linguistic issues are something which must be taken with a great deal of consideration by the way.  I often have people ridiculously excited to come to my Ethiopian parish with me, because they see how great God is operating in my life, but I actually turn them away, because I can see that they are not grounded enough in what to expect, and actually to take them to a Mass so thoroughly unprepared might actually be harmful! They may understanding the rituals, the icons, the incense, the prayers and get confused, especially here in the US with such a prevalent protestant background which has imbedded a demonizing of anything even remotely Catholic! Our Lardy the Virgin actually frightens many Americans, as do vestament clad priests chanting inaudible incantations! Worst of all, at times Americans, selfish as we are, assume EVERYBODY in the world just HAS to speak English, and many Americans actually feel antagonized and insulted when confronted with religious services in a 'foreign' language, where as in Orthodox this is fundemental to the Orthodox experience, as in most histories and places of Orthodox, from Egypt to India, from Romania to Russia, the Church prays in languages never spoken on the street.  We in Orthodox are accustomed to linguistic adjustments, where Americans often misperceive such as a kind of linguistic cheuvenism!  These are serious obstacles which must be overcome, slowly, patiently and in good faith and love.  We must show people HOW these Orthodox lifestyles change and benefit our lives, not just show them the Orthodox as it is at face value.  This can be very discouraging both for potential visitors and for Orthodox faithful who enjoy sharing their faith..

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2010, 04:31:02 PM »

Hello again all. As someone inquiring, and coming from a pentecostal/baptist/evangelical background, I was wondering if prosyletizing is something that doesn't happen much in the Orthodox faith, or simply has a different manner and meaning in it? As a lay minister in my current church, I wonder where bringing people to Christ and into the fullness of Faith fits into the average Orthodox parish model? Any feedback would be helpful and much appreciated.

In Christ,
Blessed Beggar

Most of the "proselytyzing" at our parish is done during our annual big dinner week. Free cathedral tours are offered throughout, and there are displays of Orthodox books set up.
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« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2010, 04:32:01 PM »


And, in America, sometimes just looking "weird" is enough to draw someone inside, too!

Yes, this is the "come and see" approach, it worked on me... Wink
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« Reply #9 on: November 10, 2010, 04:48:57 PM »

the cultural and linguistic issues are something which must be taken with a great deal of consideration by the way.  I often have people ridiculously excited to come to my Ethiopian parish with me, because they see how great God is operating in my life, but I actually turn them away, because I can see that they are not grounded enough in what to expect, and actually to take them to a Mass so thoroughly unprepared might actually be harmful! They may understanding the rituals, the icons, the incense, the prayers and get confused, especially here in the US with such a prevalent protestant background which has imbedded a demonizing of anything even remotely Catholic! Our Lardy the Virgin actually frightens many Americans, as do vestament clad priests chanting inaudible incantations! Worst of all, at times Americans, selfish as we are, assume EVERYBODY in the world just HAS to speak English, and many Americans actually feel antagonized and insulted when confronted with religious services in a 'foreign' language, where as in Orthodox this is fundemental to the Orthodox experience, as in most histories and places of Orthodox, from Egypt to India, from Romania to Russia, the Church prays in languages never spoken on the street.  We in Orthodox are accustomed to linguistic adjustments, where Americans often misperceive such as a kind of linguistic cheuvenism!  These are serious obstacles which must be overcome, slowly, patiently and in good faith and love.  We must show people HOW these Orthodox lifestyles change and benefit our lives, not just show them the Orthodox as it is at face value.  This can be very discouraging both for potential visitors and for Orthodox faithful who enjoy sharing their faith..

stay blessed,
habte selassie

This is quite agreeable. Orthodoxy, especially in Protestant or secular societies, must have a firm grasp on what our Lord meant when He spoke about casting one's pearls before swine. I don't say that to be offensive, simply that it is true. Just as Judaism was foolishness to the gentiles, so is Orthodoxy to the non-Orthodox.
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« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2010, 04:57:35 PM »


And, in America, sometimes just looking "weird" is enough to draw someone inside, too!

Yes, this is the "come and see" approach, it worked on me... Wink

Yeah, it almost got me. I was Calvinist for several years, but I always appreciated the absolute beauty of Orthodox Christianity, even though I found so much of its theology (including icons, ironically) so objectionable, I wished that Protestant Christianity also held that beauty.

Now, I'm converting, and so proud to not only have finally found the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, but also that it is the FULLNESS of the faith, and is adorned so beautifully in Her theology, eccelsiology and liturgy!
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« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2010, 04:59:34 PM »

There are little Orthodox tracts that you can purchase and leave at places where there are people that are interested in learning (like a college campus). I've thought about trying this before but haven't yet.

http://www.conciliarpress.com/booklets-brochures/booklets.html
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« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2010, 05:09:02 PM »

I think proselytizing is difficult in a culture that is already majority (nominal) Christian, which has already seen numerous waves of Christian sects, and where everyone already has his own entrenched opinion on Christianity, however misinformed it might be. Many people will just shut down or look for reasons to prove you wrong as soon as you hand them a tract or talk to them about Christ, because they've seen it so many times before. So sometimes the best way to evangelize is simply to present a good example (that's a tough one), talk about the faith when people ask about it, and make literature available without pushing it on people.
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« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2010, 05:10:42 PM »

I think Orthodox "proselytizing" will necessarily look quite different than what one would stereotypically expect from protestants due to the different understanding of salvation... i.e. theosis vs escaping damnation.  Coming into contact with a truly Orthodox person is the best argument for the faith there is.
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« Reply #14 on: November 10, 2010, 05:20:57 PM »

due to the different understanding of salvation... i.e. theosis vs escaping damnation.  

This is another topic of interest for me. What is the view of damnation or "falling from grace" or apostasy within the Orthodox faith?
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« Reply #15 on: November 10, 2010, 05:24:20 PM »

due to the different understanding of salvation... i.e. theosis vs escaping damnation.  

This is another topic of interest for me. What is the view of damnation or "falling from grace" or apostasy within the Orthodox faith?

"You ask, will the heterodox be saved... Why do you worry about them? They have a Saviour Who desires the salvation of every human being. He will take care of them. You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your own sins... I will tell you one thing, however: should you, being Orthodox and possessing the Truth in its fullness, betray Orthodoxy, and enter a different faith, you will lose your soul forever." - St. Theophan the Recluse (Source)

I don't think that's the entirety of the story, but it's a strong warning to people like myself (who have fallen away from the Church)...
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« Reply #16 on: November 10, 2010, 05:35:55 PM »

due to the different understanding of salvation... i.e. theosis vs escaping damnation.  

This is another topic of interest for me. What is the view of damnation or "falling from grace" or apostasy within the Orthodox faith?

I think the simplest answer is that it is possible.   Wink
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« Reply #17 on: November 10, 2010, 06:04:24 PM »

My experience in general is that evangelization in the Orthodox Church generally is differrent than that seen in Protestant Evangelical Churches or even in the Roman Catholic Church.

Ethnic Parishes generally tend to proselytize through their use of cultural events like Food Festivals in which they offer tours of their Church with the pastor and knowledgeable lay parishioners able to respond to questions. Pamphlets and books are available  along with a personal invitation to come and experience the Orthodox Church in Worship. Some Ethnic parishes are more active than others with additional outreach and charitable activities as part of their witness.

Largely Convert Parishes tend to offer educational opportunities. My Parish offers twice a year a 2 day Workshop presentation called "An Introduction to the Church" four presentations are given to those who attend:Friday, 7pm The History of the Church
and Saturday, 9am Holy Tradition, 10:15 Worship, and 1pm The Theology of Salvation. From this we almost always get inquirers who later become catechumen. We average 20-30 Adult conversions a year. Some Convert Parishes are more active than others with Choirs providing Community Concerts or participate in a community celebration or Festival (My local parish often supports our city's Christmas/ Winter Festival by having a booth and giving out pamphlets and free Nativity Icon Cards.

Is Proselytizing and evangelism occurring in the Orthodox Church ---Yes, but not in ways that are often seen by non-Orthodox as proselytizing or evangelizing in the  "Are You Saved" model often used by Evangelical Protestants.

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« Reply #18 on: November 10, 2010, 10:11:00 PM »

I think proselytizing is difficult in a culture that is already majority (nominal) Christian, which has already seen numerous waves of Christian sects, and where everyone already has his own entrenched opinion on Christianity, however misinformed it might be. Many people will just shut down or look for reasons to prove you wrong as soon as you hand them a tract or talk to them about Christ, because they've seen it so many times before. So sometimes the best way to evangelize is simply to present a good example (that's a tough one), talk about the faith when people ask about it, and make literature available without pushing it on people.

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

I used to feel similar, that Christian areas are saturated enough that missions and evangelical efforts are redundant.  For example, I am a part of the Rastafari community, and we are faithful irredentists hoping to return to Ethiopia (and many folks I know already have and do), and many in Rastafari believe that they will go as missionaries to Ethiopia.  I used to often say to brothers and sisters that Ethiopia is an ancient Christian land, and if anything they are going to evangelize to us! Then I became part of the Tewahedo community, and as I evolved out of catechism into Communicating membership at a parish, I began to realize that even within what is an obviously pious community such as the parish I attend, still folks need constant reminders of God working amongst humans.  The Ethiopians continually inspire me to continue on in the Faith, and often they come and tell me over coffee or lunch or at a festival how much I inspire them to continue in the Faith, just by being so present within the parish.  My activity in an ethnic parish is obviously sincere, as I am not part of the ethnic group, and so the people see that I don't just attend services out of cultural, social or familial obligation, rather I feel it in my heart.  We mutually inspire piety in each other.

That being said, Christians of all sects and traditions need this reaffirmation, and as we live our lives in the Faith and Love of Jesus Christ, we never know the seeds of hope we plant in the hearts of those we meet.  The Apostle Peter's shadow alone cured the sick, and they used the Apostle Paul's handkerchiefs to heal their sick and even raise their dead (talk about one man's trash is another man's treasure!), so how can we know how God uses our lives in the lives of others? 

This is true and sincere witnessing, not to prove a point or to attempt to convert or save anyone, but to just live our lives in good faith and pure love for the people, to do all the good that we can, in every way that we can, and to pray often and at every opportunity, for truly  it is ALWAYS the Grace of God, the Voice of the Holy Spirit, and the vibrating resonance of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which truly converts souls and brings men back into reconciliation with our Savior, and there is nothing we can do of ourselves, but pray for such healing vibrations of the Spirit.

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #19 on: November 10, 2010, 10:18:35 PM »

Hello again all. As someone inquiring, and coming from a pentecostal/baptist/evangelical background, I was wondering if prosyletizing is something that doesn't happen much in the Orthodox faith, or simply has a different manner and meaning in it? As a lay minister in my current church, I wonder where bringing people to Christ and into the fullness of Faith fits into the average Orthodox parish model? Any feedback would be helpful and much appreciated.

In Christ,
Blessed Beggar

You might like this:
http://ancientfaith.com/specials/2010_missions_and_evangelism_conference (2010 Missions and Evangelism Conference)
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« Reply #20 on: November 11, 2010, 11:58:52 AM »

...it is prefered that proselytizing be done by witnessing (which is the better way of preaching anyway).

It is also better to cultivate a relationship that is inviting, rather than handing them a tractate.

Indeed. I have never understood this terminology. We certainly can't "bring anyone to Christ" or even into the fullness of the Faith. The Holy Spirit does that. It seems to me that our responsibility is to live our lives as Christians, as a witness to Christ, and to love others. That's difficult enough for me. (YMMV, of course.)
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« Reply #21 on: November 11, 2010, 12:00:28 PM »

It seems to me that, in America, Orthodox parishes seek to minister to their communites through charity. Ministries that provide, food, clothing, school supplies, etc. As well as those that offer various activities and get-togethers, as well as attending community events. My parish in particular runs a bread ministry every Sunday to provide free bread to those in need, and has an active alms fund. We also have several county-wide events during the year, and we always set up a booth and answer questions.

For the more academically inclined, our priest does a lot of hosting talks and lectures. We've had a number of Orthodox speakers come through our parish, laymen and clergy. He also hosts a Fall Lecture Series each year. Often times, the other area priests are invited to speak on issues. Currently, we're wrapping up a four part series on the "Orthodox Experience in America." We're an OCA parish, and so our priest spoke on the OCA/Russian side of things. The local Greek and Antiochian priests were invited to each do their own talk on the Greek and Antiochian/Arabic side, and the final installment (which we will have in a couple weeks) will bring all the talks together.

Every parish is a little different, but I've seen things like this before. Particularly the active charity-based ministries seem to be common. Simply care for their physical needs and bear witness to your faith through those actions, they'll come in and see what you're about eventually. This is the biblical model of evangelism.

P.S.

And, in America, sometimes just looking "weird" is enough to draw someone inside, too!

Well phrased, I agree.
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« Reply #22 on: November 11, 2010, 05:00:54 PM »

Thanks all for the replies so far. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the education as I begin this new journey. I myself have always felt the best evangelism/prosyletism/witnessing tool has been our own walk with Christ. Though I am unsure if he is an Orthodox Saint, I am often delighted by the quote ascribed to St. Francis of Assisi: "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words." And again, "It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching."
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« Reply #23 on: November 11, 2010, 05:05:35 PM »

Thanks all for the replies so far. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the education as I begin this new journey. I myself have always felt the best evangelism/prosyletism/witnessing tool has been our own walk with Christ. Though I am unsure if he is an Orthodox Saint, I am often delighted by the quote ascribed to St. Francis of Assisi: "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words." And again, "It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching."

He is not an Orthodox saint officially, but he is loved and appreciated by some Orthodox, and while I cannot substantiate it, I believe it was on this forum that someone mentioned that in certain parts of Greece he is very popular and there are even sorts of unofficial processions for him. Perhaps others can clarify.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2010, 05:05:47 PM by Alveus Lacuna » Logged
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« Reply #24 on: November 11, 2010, 05:17:19 PM »

On the other hand, there is much criticism of Francis of Assisi, see the comparison of Francis and St Seraphim of Sarov at OrthodoxInfo, where the Italian friar is revealed to have gone troublingly astray from Orthodox doctrine.

(Yes, OrthodoxInfo is controversial, but the site is often thought-provoking and represents the views of an not insignificant portion of the Church).
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