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Author Topic: What's the best way to witness?  (Read 5190 times) Average Rating: 0
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Shiloah
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« on: October 02, 2004, 08:46:29 PM »

What are your recommendations on how to share our faith with non-Orthodox ?

I'd like to hear from those who have experience in this and who can give some practical advise. It is always inspiring to hear from those who've "been there done that".  Grin


Thank you kindly,
Shiloah                  
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« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2004, 12:13:06 AM »

Who cares about "witnessing"?  Cramming your religion down somebody else's throat that hasn't asked for it? Trying to manipulate them to make them feel guilty? What a Protestant question!
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« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2004, 12:48:03 AM »

Oy, well now, that was impolite.  St. Paul didn't wait for an invitation to preach in the cities he went to.
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« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2004, 04:14:26 AM »

Real Orthodox "witnessing" if we must call it that, I think would be simply to invite people to Church to "come and see."  Having daily services in the local parish (Matins and Vespers, for instance), even if there is a very low attendance, is another way of witnessing to our faith.  Building a proper Church Building that proclaims the glory of God (if the parish can afford that) is yet another way. And works of mercy are another way of witnessing: donating food to local food pantries, staffing a soup kitchen, contributing to a homeless shelter etc.  I don't think leaflet distribution (what some call "tracts") or bumper stickers will do the job.  Orthodoxy just is not good at one liners, and we are certainly not a bumper sticker religion.
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« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2004, 12:58:25 PM »

Well, that's definitely true.  But on the other side, St. Paul engaged in formal preaching in an evangelistic setting, so I think it's a balance between the two sides, although all the things you mentioned are quite helpful as well.
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« Reply #5 on: October 03, 2004, 01:17:36 PM »

I hesitate to join in here, but might it be useful to hear from one on the "Other Side" of what not to do?  I've had some...ahem... less then positive encounters with some EO persons.  Like the one who posted long ago on GEnie that "*Only* Byzantine Chant is acceptable for worshipping God" (so no other forms of EO chant were allowed.) There were others.

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« Reply #6 on: October 03, 2004, 01:57:46 PM »

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Posted by: Tikhon29605  Posted on: Today at 12:13:06 AM  
Who cares about "witnessing"?  Cramming your religion down somebody else's throat that hasn't asked for it? Trying to manipulate them to make them feel guilty? What a Protestant question!  
Posted by: lellimore  Posted on: Today at 12:48:03 AM  Oy, well now, that was impolite.  St. Paul didn't wait for an invitation to preach in the cities he went to.  

Lellimore, look at it this way: what indeed sounds impolite (towards my initial question) actually has nothing to do with me. What Tikhon does not realize is, that he is giving a few others a slap in the face with his answer, such as Jesus Himself, who said that if He would be lifted up He would draw all men unto Him. And I know He was talking about His being lifted up upon the cross on Golgatha for all to see. Yet if the Disciples/Apostles would not have kept telling the world about this crucifixion it would have been just one of thousands that occurred every day somewhere in the Roman Empire and would soon have been forgotten.
Jesus was witnessing. He is called the faithful witness in Rev.1:5. And He still is saying to us today what He said to His Disciples in John 15:16 - to bear fruit, and in verses 26-27 " But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: 27.  And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning."

The famous words of Mark 16:15 have not been revoked or voided yet, nor have those of Matthew 28:19.

Tikhon's words are also a slap in the face for all the witnesses and holy martyrs who have faithfully taken the commissioning appeal of Jesus to heart. For the North American continent I would like to point out respectfully St.Herman of Alaska (http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/herman.htm).

To be a witness also means to have personal knowledge of something and to give a public affirmation of it by word and/or example.

And being we all know about "the others" do it, my humble question was: How should we do it?

Jesus cared enough about witnessing that He did nothing in secret but made His life an open book for all to read. In a way, by doing so, He did "cram His 'religion' down the throat" of His contemporaries because they certainly had not asked for it and got very upset and offended about it. We know the outcome of it, and I, for one, am most grateful to him that He did Smiley  He sure was a living testimony of what He believed in and very 'protestant' at that.  Grin  In fact, His life was a continuous protest against the dead traditions of Judaism. I wouldn't necessarily call His ways manipulative, but He sure tried to prick their conscience.

In regard to the works of charity Tikhon mentions, I think he is right on since that is what the Lord has encouraged us to do, and it  certainly is a good way to start. Yet it does not replace Matth.28:20 nor Mark 16:20.

I really would like to know whether there is anybody on this forum who has first hand experience in promoting the true faith and what they would recommend to do or warn not to do.

No offense meant,
Shiloah




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« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2004, 12:32:45 AM »

Real Orthodox "witnessing" if we must call it that, I think would be simply to invite people to Church to "come and see."  Having daily services in the local parish (Matins and Vespers, for instance), even if there is a very low attendance, is another way of witnessing to our faith.  Building a proper Church Building that proclaims the glory of God (if the parish can afford that) is yet another way. And works of mercy are another way of witnessing: donating food to local food pantries, staffing a soup kitchen, contributing to a homeless shelter etc.  I don't think leaflet distribution (what some call "tracts") or bumper stickers will do the job.  Orthodoxy just is not good at one liners, and we are certainly not a bumper sticker religion.


Well ...this might seem strange to some here...but with the knowlege and consent of my priest...I have recently begun to make it a point to seek out people who are trying to become closer to God.

I was a trained apologist for the Roman Catholic faith before converting to Orthodoxy...so this is not exactly new ground for me. So liberating though to be presenting the true faith and not trying to have to explain some areas of RC Dogma I never really believed anyhow. If people are trying to become closer to God through Bible study, discussion groups, etc. I make it a point to be present and bear a gentle witness for the true faith.

Where I live there are a great many malaffected Roman Catholics who have fallen away from that Church and seek out such groups...looking for answers. Often it is a crisis in their personal life that has compelled them to seek comfort in God. So far (...I have not been doing this long...)they seem amazed when they learn they can still be catholic without having to be a Roman Catholic....or being in a church that pretends to be Roman Catholic with all the trappings but no real basis in Apostolic Tradition.

In group discussions I respectfully and humbly attempt to present what the Orthodox interpretation or belief is on whatever the topic is. However I make it a point to make friends and have personal private conversations before or after the formal discussion. During these times I might just answer questions...or perhaps make a small gift of an Orthodox prayer book, prayer rope, etc. for someone truly in need and seeking God's help through prayer. True to Scripture, the Holy Spirit does give you the words when you open your mouth. The Holy Spirit also tells you when to shut up and listen to someone. When you listen you learn. When you talk you teach.

When it comes to worship I invite people to come and see only when it seems they are ready to say yes to the invitation.  

If I see a new face at our Parish on Sunday and no one has already yet stepped up to act as their host, I step up, welcome them and do what I can to make them feel welcomed, wanted and comfortable.

In the short time I have been doing this, it seems there are a great many people trying to become closer to God. There are many opportunities in US society where we can meet such people under circumstances where topics like faith, religion, Scripture, etc. are very acceptable discussion topics. Most Americans have very ignorant ideas of Orthodoxy. Thinking one must be or speak Greek, Russian or what have you...This is not their fault. It is our our duty to gently educate people, invite them to come and see, and let them know the true faith is in our country, available in English, and instead of being somber, strict, legalistic or whatever they might think it is. It is in fact joyful...and is but a window into the eternal joy the faithful will know in paradise.

There is nothing wrong with being a witness. There is nothing unorthodox about it. In fact Christ commands us to seek out those in physical and spiritual need, help them  and give them the good news. We can all do something. Whether it is helping at a foodbank, mentoring a child or  challenged-adult, visiting those sick in spirit or body, the aged and infirmed...there are countless opportunities for us to be faithful to Christ's teaching about how to treat our fellow man.
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« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2004, 12:41:55 AM »

Good stuff, spartacus.  Much of what you mentioned are things I've also done.

To add something: one could also take into account the various "externals" we have in Orthodoxy as bearing witness...this is tricky (or can be), as it's easy to put things like icons, prayer ropes, 3-bar cross necklaces and the sign of the cross "on display" only for the purpose of getting noticed instead of genuinely using them for our own spiritual benefit, which would then be seen by those to whom we are a witness.  Nice conversation starters, if you will....
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« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2004, 12:48:20 AM »

In fact, His life was a continuous protest against the dead traditions of Judaism.

It was not the traditions that were dead. It was the souls who were placing those traditions above the Spirit with which they were intended that Christ cnstantly challenged and confounded in His Divine Ministry.

To say that His life was a "protest" against Judaism seems a little absurd Huh

 For in order to make a "protest", it is usally the "protestor" who is making an appeal against a greater authority. The Son of God was sent to fulfill the promise God made to the Jewish people. His life, crucifiction and resurrection here on Earth was not a "protest"! Angry It was Scripture fulfilled!  Cheesy Gently and with humility...and occasional righteous indignation in the presence of people doing evil when they should have known better.
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« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2004, 12:53:43 AM »

Good stuff, spartacus.  Much of what you mentioned are things I've also done.

To add something: one could also take into account the various "externals" we have in Orthodoxy as bearing witness...this is tricky (or can be), as it's easy to put things like icons, prayer ropes, 3-bar cross necklaces and the sign of the cross "on display" only for the purpose of getting noticed instead of genuinely using them for our own spiritual benefit, which would then be seen by those to whom we are a witness.  Nice conversation starters, if you will....

A Prayer book I might give to someone who wants to learn how to pray and is asking for help with this. A prayer rope I tend to give to someone after they have attended at least one Divine Liturgy and expressed an interest in wanting to learn more..."You ever sen one of these?"...or pehaps I might show someone my prayer rope if people are sharing their practices and beliefs with things like Saints Medals and Rosaries (remember...a lot of Roman catholics by me) The prayer rope I usully do not give unless they also have a prayer book.
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« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2004, 02:30:26 AM »

Shiloah,
No, I wouldn't say Tikhon's words are a "slap in the face" - just that you come across as Protestant-like using words like "witnessing".  However well intentioned you may be, it just sounds odd and unOrthodox.
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« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2004, 03:00:03 AM »

Glory to the Lord above else.

Peace be to you all.

Answer: with you life.
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« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2004, 08:01:01 AM »

Quote
No, I wouldn't say Tikhon's words are a "slap in the face" - just that you come across as Protestant-like using words like "witnessing".  However well intentioned you may be, it just sounds odd and unOrthodox.

Acts 1:8 - But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Take from that what you will...
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« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2004, 09:30:13 AM »

Thank you for your posistive participation in this topic. Spartacus, your post is very commendable. That is exactly what I was hoping to see - as a good example and "role model".

In regard to the traditions I can agree with you because of Matth.15:1-9
" 1.  Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
 2.  Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
 3.  But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
 4.  For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
 5.  But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
 6.  And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
 7.  Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
 8.  This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
 9.  But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

I lso agree with you that the Life of Christ was the fullfillment of Scripture. I was using the word 'protest' as a play with words .  I meant it in the meaning of 'to object to something'. He certainly respected all Godly traditions but objected to the man-made traditions like for instance the money changers in the temple or the attitude of not doing good deeds on a sabbath etc.

In fact, His life was a continuous protest against the dead traditions of Judaism.

It was not the traditions that were dead. It was the souls who were placing those traditions above the Spirit with which they were intended that Christ cnstantly challenged and confounded in His Divine Ministry.

To say that His life was a "protest" against Judaism seems a little absurd Huh

 For in order to make a "protest", it is usally the "protestor" who is making an appeal against a greater authority. The Son of God was sent to fulfill the promise God made to the Jewish people. His life, crucifiction and resurrection here on Earth was not a "protest"! Angry It was Scripture fulfilled!  Cheesy Gently and with humility...and occasional righteous indignation in the presence of people doing evil when they should have known better.  

Thank you, Rho, for adding Acts 1:8

And, as optxogokcoc added, our life is a witness . Even before we open our mouth, before any acts of kindness, people will watch you , and what they see in you, that's what they will identify your faith with.

Is there anybody on this board who visits with inmates in jails and/or ministers to law enforcement? Could you please email me and tell me about it?

Thank you kindly,
Shiloah
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« Reply #15 on: October 04, 2004, 12:21:35 PM »

Acts 1:8 - But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Take from that what you will...

First of all, I'm sure the word 'witness' has several variations in different translations.

That aside, in Protestant circles, they use it as a buzz-word.  In the EO Church, since we don't even see it to mean the same thing as Protestants, when they say 'Witness' it comes across as pedantic, disturbing, you name it.
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« Reply #16 on: October 05, 2004, 03:26:54 AM »

The word in Greek is "martus," from which we take "martyr" (obviously).  
The word "martus" didn't take the connotation of martyr until after the Church began.  In the times right before the Church sprang up, the word carried the meaning of witness before a magistrate, in a judicial setting.   Since so many Christians ended up 'witnessing' to their faith and dying for it, "martus" began to carry the meaning of martyrdom.
At any rate, I'm just saying that the comparison between the current "Protestant" practice of sharing the truth with people and that of the early Church is good enough not to discount just because you may have a visceral reaction to the word.
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« Reply #17 on: October 05, 2004, 09:12:32 AM »

Rho,
It is not THAT "Protestants" witness the Good News, but their version of the Truth that causes the "visceral response".

Demetri
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« Reply #18 on: October 06, 2004, 07:11:59 AM »

Believe me, I know that much.
But that's not what Shiloah was saying.  I was just pointing out the terminology... one shouldn't do what was done to the term just b/c one doesn't like Prottie theology.
At any rate, at least ONE part of the Prottie "version" of the truth has strong parallels to the Apostles...
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« Reply #19 on: October 06, 2004, 02:27:32 PM »

And that would be...?

(I think I know, but I don't want to put words in your mouth...)
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« Reply #20 on: October 07, 2004, 08:34:07 AM »

The method of witnessing, the meaning of the word "witness."

Context, context, context.
(Where have you heard that before?)   Wink Roll Eyes
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« Reply #21 on: October 07, 2004, 04:02:24 PM »

<Sigh> FINE.  I thought so.   Roll Eyes

Although...one could point out that, when Paul was speaking to congregations at large, he told them to witness through their lives, and not so much through their words...yes, the persecution was in full force at that point, but it wouldn't have mattered, ultimately...the command to witness chiefly through preaching or telling was given to those whose charge it was to devote themselves to preaching, to the Word of God and to prayer.

I guess what I'm thinking here is that, in terms of sharing the faith, Christians in the first century didn't have to "go on the offensive" and find people to start conversations with about the Lord; their lives were such that they had to be sure they could provide an answer for their faith, both in season and out of season -- the best offense being a good defense, if you will.
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« Reply #22 on: October 08, 2004, 02:14:05 AM »

Good point, but let us not forget how many times we see Paul and other people preaching, like in synagogues, before those in authority, in marketplaces, etc in the book of Acts.
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« Reply #23 on: October 08, 2004, 06:56:57 AM »

Quote
Good point, but let us not forget how many times we see Paul and other people preaching, like in synagogues, before those in authority, in marketplaces, etc in the book of Acts.

That's right...Paul and others being "those whose charge it was to devote themselves to preaching, to the Word of God and to prayer."
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« Reply #24 on: October 08, 2004, 09:42:35 AM »

Yet Saint Stephen, the first "witness," was not charged w/ preaching at all but rather w/ serving tables.  
He was a deacon, and in the NT, deacons serve, like behind-the-scenes.   They don't preach or lead the church or anything.  Their primary purpose is to serve.
Yet he "witnessed" to the risen Lord in the same way that I have described.  So the NT picture is that "witnessing" is not limited to what you have said.
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« Reply #25 on: October 08, 2004, 12:20:17 PM »

Yet Saint Stephen, the first "witness," was not charged w/ preaching at all but rather w/ serving tables.  
He was a deacon, and in the NT, deacons serve, like behind-the-scenes.   They don't preach or lead the church or anything.  Their primary purpose is to serve.
Yet he "witnessed" to the risen Lord in the same way that I have described.  So the NT picture is that "witnessing" is not limited to what you have said.

Actually....

He was called on all the wonders that followed him by the Synagogue of the Freedmen to give an account.  They basically dragged him before the Sanhedrin to give a defense of the faith.  So he didn't go around witnessing as much as the Apostles -- who devoted themsleves "to prayer and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4) -- but he was appointed through the laying on of hands to a specific office and function within the Church...one of which functions was healing and miracles, which got him in trouble.

So again...we should be ready to give thorough reasons for our faith if and when we're asked, but let's not go around just witnessing, witnessing, witnessing unless we've received the calling or are given the opportunity to do so.
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« Reply #26 on: October 08, 2004, 01:52:25 PM »

Actually....

He was called on all the wonders that followed him by the Synagogue of the Freedmen to give an account.  They basically dragged him before the Sanhedrin to give a defense of the faith.  So he didn't go around witnessing as much as the Apostles -- who devoted themsleves "to prayer and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4) -- but he was appointed through the laying on of hands to a specific office and function within the Church...one of which functions was healing and miracles, which got him in trouble.

So again...we should be ready to give thorough reasons for our faith if and when we're asked, but let's not go around just witnessing, witnessing, witnessing unless we've received the calling or are given the opportunity to do so.

Rho,
So as Pedro has said, the "witnessing" as you are probably thinking should be de-emphasized or maybe focused differently and the focus for the average lay person (the vast majority) should be of what Pedro is saying.  That's our whole point.
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« Reply #27 on: October 08, 2004, 03:01:01 PM »

So, are you all saying that as an Orthodox Christian you don't talk about your faith unless you're asked?

And what do you all do with Matth.25:31-46?

Who decides on what person is allowed to devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word?

And if only appointed people are supposed to spread the gospel, where are they in the Orthodox Church?  It must mean more than a little 5-10 minute message before the liturgy?

Are we not all commissioned, which does not mean that we all have to 'be in ministry', but somehow I would think that our faith needs to be a part of our life more than just attending on Sunday?

I look at the biographies of the Saints and they did do a lot of things that made people listen up. One glorious example is St.John of Kronstadt, or St.Thekla.

With witnessing I actually mean to show evidence of the Lord's work in your life. I never had going from door to door or such in mind. My initial question really meant what it said, and I am sorry that quite a few - may be former protestants - reacted so allergic to the word. It is a proper English word and sorry that it got so strained by certain denominations.

It is really hard to say anything here without being mis-interpreted or intentions suggested that never were there in the first place. I wonder why that is?

May be when someone has been an (ardent) protestant once and they have come to the Orthodox faith, then they want to be so ardent Orthodox that it is almost fanatical, just to make sure they have laid aside all former false doctrine.

I guess, eventually when you're all a little older and have mellowed down a bit, things will get more balanced.

There is the expression "Of what the heart is full the mouth runs over."

Rom.12:1 gives us an idea of what is pleasing to God, and also the rest of that chapter. If we live such a life, people certainly will see a good witness of our faith and they will be inclined to seek you out about it.

By bad-mouthing others our faith becomes very undesirable, I'd think.

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« Reply #28 on: October 08, 2004, 05:38:50 PM »

So, are you all saying that as an Orthodox Christian you don't talk about your faith unless you're asked?

Again, no, no, no!  Just because we emphasize or focus on something else, doesn't me we don't do another thing.  I think you're trying to read too much into what we are saying.
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« Reply #29 on: October 08, 2004, 06:56:09 PM »

So, are you all saying that as an Orthodox Christian you don't talk about your faith unless you're asked?

In an attempt to aggressively win someone over to the faith?  Yeah, that's what I'm saying.

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And what do you all do with Matth.25:31-46?

Plenty!  That's all the stuff I left out of my life as an apiring "soul-winning" Protestant.  The stuff you referenced is all the things you do behind the scenes -- meeting material needs and what not -- none of which made any reference to canvassing neighborhoods and campuses with "cold calls for Jesus" and the like.

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Who decides on what person is allowed to devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word?

Everyone should, to the degree that private devotion will allow.  But the clergy, ordained through apostolic bishops, exist specifically to devote themselves to this very thing and to nothing else.

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And if only appointed people are supposed to spread the gospel, where are they in the Orthodox Church?  It must mean more than a little 5-10 minute message before the liturgy?

Granted, I'd like to see more of an Orthodox presence in the religious millieu out there...would it be so awful to have something on TV folks could see, or something on the radio (when people are actually listening, that is)?

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Are we not all commissioned, which does not mean that we all have to 'be in ministry', but somehow I would think that our faith needs to be a part of our life more than just attending on Sunday?

Yep...hence my comments on the Matt. passage above.  Those things mentioned by our Lord on the Last Day are the things I think the laity should be the most impassioned over and the most responsible for, as they are witnesses (in the truest sense!) to the love of God.

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With witnessing I actually mean to show evidence of the Lord's work in your life. I never had going from door to door or such in mind.

OK...you're right about the "former Protestant" thing, though...I started getting tired of that (the "street evangelism" thing) before I had even thought of leaving Protestantism, though...my aversion to what I've called the "cold call" system basically came from the low success rate it was having regarding other peoples' feelings.  Since becoming Orthodox and "laying off 'em," I've actually seen more openness to my beliefs than I ever did as a Protestant.

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I guess, eventually when you're all a little older and have mellowed down a bit, things will get more balanced.

 :cwm22:  Shiloah, do you see how what you just said could very well be taken as a "oh, you young whippersnappers -- you'll understand it all when you get to be like me" kind of comment?  Seriously, that was quite offensive.  I don't see a lesser aversion to false doctrine as something necessary to the aging process.  I'm sorry if you do....
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« Reply #30 on: October 08, 2004, 10:28:12 PM »

 Grin Ha, Pedro, you're hot stuff  ...caramba caracho...
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« Reply #31 on: October 12, 2004, 03:31:31 AM »

Much as I hate to disagree con mi amigo, I just would like to point out a few passages.

Acts 8: 4Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. 5Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7For unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed, crying with a loud voice, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8So there was much joy in that city.

Acts 11: 19Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.

So it would appear that the NT picture is not exactly as Pedro has described it (unless I misunderstand you, amigo m+¡o).  Philip the Evangelist spread the word w/o any discernible "official" sanction, and let us not forget the "those who were scattered."  Was there only a small number?  Or might we understand that they scattered quickly in the face of Saul's persecution? Not everything the church does should be or can be slow, you know...
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« Reply #32 on: October 12, 2004, 03:09:42 PM »

Hmm.  Rho makes some very good points.  Gracias, compadre.

I guess part of what has prompted the previous few replies of mine was that, in the days when Scripture was being written, along with several periods within ante-nicean Christianity, there was severe persecution going on at the hands of unbelieving Jews and Romans.  In this environment, coupled with the absolute certainty that Christ WAS COMING within their lifetime, then yes, it's understandable that overt preaching was going on.  In a situation like that, what other choice did they have?

But nowadays...we've realized that Christ didn't come back then.  We await Him, no doubt...but we realize He may not return within our generation, or within a hundred of our generations.  Or He may return tomorrow.  We should prepare for the latter, while allowing for and understanding God's timetable if the former is the case.

Also, we are no longer under the life-or-death persecution of the first belivers...and I say that because 1) we are therefore obviously not as committed to Christ as the Church as many of the holy martyrs of the Church were (or are, in still-communist or radically muslim countries), and 2) it makes for a lot easier of a time for those around us and how they view our faith.  And that's what witnessing comes down to: what is the most effective way to present our faith to others that is attractive, but not compromised?  For Ss. Polycarp, Ignatius, and Peter and Paul, it was their total willingness to be martyred and joy and love for their captors that drew thousands to the faith -- a totally selfless act.  

I'm just not sure that overt witnessing, while direct and more focused on "the message" (whichever one that happens to be), should be employed or relied on AS MUCH towards those who don't see our faith in the context of standing up to threat of physical death.  In that context, yes, the direct message makes a bigger impact.  But now, when the physical violence isn't present, we have to rely more on the "unseen warfare" of our own souls -- a "white martyrdom," in other words -- to produce the true holiness that will shine out to others and be the best witness available.

"The Word became flesh / And He dwelt among men / We have seen Him with our eyes / And we have held Him in our hands / But before you say whatever you will, I think you'd better do the best that you can / Or it won't do."
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« Reply #33 on: October 13, 2004, 06:29:34 PM »

...I guess part of what has prompted the previous few replies of mine was that.... there was severe persecution going on at the hands of unbelieving Jews and Romans.  In this environment, coupled with the absolute certainty that Christ WAS COMING within their lifetime, then yes, it's understandable that overt preaching was going on.  In a situation like that, what other choice did they have?

But nowadays...we've realized that Christ didn't come back then.  We await Him, no doubt...but we realize He may not return within our generation, or within a hundred of our generations.  Or He may return tomorrow.  We should prepare for the latter, while allowing for and understanding God's timetable if the former is the case.

Also, we are no longer under the life-or-death persecution of the first belivers...and I say that because 1) we are therefore obviously not as committed to Christ as the Church as many of the holy martyrs of the Church were (or are, in still-communist or radically muslim countries), and 2) it makes for a lot easier of a time for those around us and how they view our faith.  And that's what witnessing comes down to: what is the most effective way to present our faith to others that is attractive, but not compromised?  For Ss. Polycarp, Ignatius, and Peter and Paul, it was their total willingness to be martyred and joy and love for their captors that drew thousands to the faith -- a totally selfless act.  

I'm just not sure that overt witnessing, while direct and more focused on "the message" (whichever one that happens to be), should be employed or relied on AS MUCH towards those who don't see our faith in the context of standing up to threat of physical death.  In that context, yes, the direct message makes a bigger impact.  But now, when the physical violence isn't present, we have to rely more on the "unseen warfare" of our own souls -- a "white martyrdom," in other words -- to produce the true holiness that will shine out to others and be the best witness available.

"The Word became flesh / And He dwelt among men / We have seen Him with our eyes / And we have held Him in our hands / But before you say whatever you will, I think you'd better do the best that you can / Or it won't do."

Pedro,  we may not get thrown in prison (yet) for overtly preaching, as you call it, but there are nations in this world where life-or-death persecution is like in the days of the first believers - and in a way, they are first believers. For them everything is just like you say, and they are willing and "stupid' enough to go through with it - just like in days of old during the first centuries.

Please consider just one article of many in similar situations.

http://www.persecution.com/basic/coach.cfm
Special Report: The “Stupid Evangelists” in Iraq

Following is a report received from our Arabic contact:
Two days after the Jordanian-Iraqi border was opened, we waited in a line of about 200 cars. We entered Baghdad at about 8:00 a.m. I went to the main evangelical church, which was open during Saddam’s reign. This is the largest evangelical church in Baghdad with about 300 members. I remembered how religious freedom was mentioned in the press. Pictures of the church and congregation have been printed in many magazines in the West.

There I met Pastor Ekram Mehani, leader of a Baghdad evangelical church, who once praised Saddam and stated, “We are the biggest church.” What would he say now that Saddam is out of power? I asked him about his vision now that Iraq was open. He did not answer this question. Instead, he described his meeting with the “top American official” and Iraqi Christian leaders. The Iraqi Christian leaders requested that no new churches be registered in Iraq, because their churches would lose members. They were more concerned of their own sheep being stolen than going out to find new converts.

I asked him if any groups, such as an “underground” church (a church not observed by the officials), were reaching out to Muslims. Seated on a brown couch, Pastor Ekram began angrily waving his hand and mentioned some names of house-church leaders in Baghdad. “They are stupid. They (police) put them in jail, because they don’t listen. They were evangelizing Muslims, working outside the church walls. They are troublemakers.” I could tell that he felt like they deserved to go to jail; they were placing his religious empire in political danger.

I left this meeting and crossed Baghdad to meet these “stupid evangelists.” There was no electricity. I tried to push the doorbell, but there was no sound, so I went in through the kitchen door. The Christian brother hugged me, “We are surprised to see you so soon!” His wife, son and daughter stood with him. This leader of a large house church group told me, “Ekram is the one who reported us to the police along with his chairman of the Board.” Many of Baghdad’s underground church leaders were frustrated members of his church and were warned not to go out and share Jesus, or it would “cause the church problems.”

The wife of a pastor who was imprisoned said: “We were in shock when he went to jail, because we thought we would never see him again. The police told my husband, ‘We need you for five minutes.’ No judge, three or four officers took his clothes and eyeglasses and blindfolded him and slapped him around. They told him, ‘You work with foreign groups to depose Saddam. Secret Christian meetings are illegal in houses.’” He was in jail for 39 days. “After they took him, two police came to our house to take our Christian books and papers. They asked us to turn on the computer but there was no electricity. After they left, the electricity came on, and I erased the emails.”

Five or six Muslim converts attend the illegal meetings. They find ways to work in universities where there are more conversions (of Muslims to Christianity), but the new converts don’t attend the large meetings. The house church Christians told me, “We sent nine Muslim converts to the evangelical church, but the church officials were afraid. They kicked them out. They wouldn’t baptize them, so we baptized them in the bathtub.”

I left funds with some of them. (Editor’s Note: We cannot describe all of our current literature programs, but you will find information on our Action Pack program in Iraq on the back cover. We send these Iraqi Christians Scripture materials on persecution. They will print them inside the country. They asked for such books. We must act now.) One Iraqi underground church leader told me, “We know that we won’t have a Muslim-style government. But most of the Cabinet will be Muslim. We will continue to be persecuted by the official church and by Muslims for reaching out.”

Attending a meeting of 80 people, I preached (in Arabic) from the encouraging writings of the prisoner—the apostle Paul. The congregation was happily singing and praying. I told them, “Many Christians, including Iraqis in America, are praying for you.” After two-and-a-half hours, nobody wanted to go home. They sat down and wanted more sermons.

During my 3,200-kilometer trip crisscrossing Iraq, I went to seven house-church groups. I met with leaders of these “troublemaker evangelists” from more than 12 groups in three cities and four villages. None of them are content to sit in churches and enjoy their religious freedom by staying inside the building.

An official pastor from another evangelical church in Baghdad said to one of these released Christian leaders, “Don’t think you were in jail because of Christ, it is because you were stupid, evangelizing outside the church walls.” I wish we had more stupid evangelists.




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« Reply #34 on: October 14, 2004, 05:25:16 AM »

That is an excellent article from the Voice of the Martyrs.

Another thing that Pedro mentioned that bothers me is that it sounds like he is trying to make the case that things aren't urgent now.  Maybe here in the West things aren't urgent in terms of Christians' life expectancy being measured in months rather than decades (as it was for many in the Early Church), but why will we not consider the state of unbelievers as urgent?  
People need Christ and if their sin is not taken away by His blood, they will be lost.  People die every day.  Your favorite unbelieving coworker could die on the way home from work today.  TODAY is the day of salvation.  It is the message of the foolishness of the cross that the Holy Spirit uses to bring salvation - especially in our postmodern culture where most any action is met w/  a dreamy, vague smile, a nod, and a "Wow, that's so great."  People don't tend to be all that impressed w/ works of charity alone.  

The need is great.  The Cross is greater.
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« Reply #35 on: October 14, 2004, 11:10:06 AM »

The need certainly is very great. And of course, we could stay at home and in our nice warm and air-conditioned church houses and pray for the unbelievers to be drawn by the Father to Christ.  And we do that certainly, as you all know. But there must be a good reason why Jesus told the Disciples to "Go ye ..." and not just "Pray ye ..."  Smiley
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« Reply #36 on: October 14, 2004, 11:29:03 AM »

I remember a story from a life of one saint (I forgot the name, let's cal him NN) who lived when the  East Roman Empire was under Turks. He was hired by Turkish moslem man to do some work in his home, but the boss stated one condition - that NN wouldn't preach Orthodox faith in his family. NN agreed and startd working. After two yeras of watching NN life and behaviour the boss asked him:
- "I've been watching you for a long time. How do you manage to be such a selfless and loving person?"
- "My faith changed me" - NN said
- "Please tell me more abouth your faith"
So NN ministered the Orthodox faith in his family and then the whole family was baptized.

I think this is the best example of how we should witness our faith.
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« Reply #37 on: October 15, 2004, 11:31:34 PM »

Another thing that Pedro mentioned that bothers me is that it sounds like he is trying to make the case that things aren't urgent now.

Mmm.  Sorry.  Wasn't my intention.  I'm just trying to take a different approach to the urgency, I guess....

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People need Christ and if their sin is not taken away by His blood, they will be lost.  People die every day.

This is true; narrow is the way that leads to life, and there are few that find it.

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Your favorite unbelieving coworker could die on the way home from work today.

May God grant that they find salvation.  If God uses me to speak with them about Christ, then glory to Him.  If not, I trust God to work apart from me.  I don't consider it a foregone conclusion that I must always be the one (or even one of the ones) who actually brings up the subject of other peoples' salvation.  I do, however, see myself as having been given a full-time job of taking the plank out of my eye in order to do any good, of letting my light so shine before men that they may see my good works (instead of hear my uninvited words) and glorify my Father who is in heaven.

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It is the message of the foolishness of the cross that the Holy Spirit uses to bring salvation - especially in our postmodern culture where most any action is met w/  a dreamy, vague smile, a nod, and a "Wow, that's so great."
 

Yep; the Cross shows us what love is by showing us the fullest manifestation of God who is Love.  Definitely not a poplular idea, this facing evil, calling it such, and then denying ourselves any repayment of evil for evil, even to the point of death, knowing that our lives are hidden with Christ in God and will be revealed.  Yet this message of the foolishness of the Cross is put forth by more than just words.

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People don't tend to be all that impressed w/ works of charity alone.

True; such acts must be done through and coupled with faith in Christ Jesus.  And when this happens, as in the case of Mother Teresa, such people are seen as the greatest of saints.

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The need is great.  The Cross is greater.

True, the Cross is greater than any sin.  It is also greater than I am...and my desire to be "used."
« Last Edit: October 15, 2004, 11:32:57 PM by Pedro » Logged

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