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kaffinator
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« on: March 06, 2014, 12:59:35 AM »

Preamble: I'm taking a serious look at Orthodoxy and have some questions. Would you help me out?

How does Orthodoxy view evangelism, especially here in North America?

The church I attend at present is like many others: we try to keep the expression of gospel simple and accessible. We deliberately keep the services welcoming, informal, and non-threatening to unbelievers. We use familiar musical styles. We'd like to think we are following in Paul's footsteps, becoming all things to all men so that we may by all means save some (1 Cor 9:22).

In stark contrast, Orthodox worship services are formal, deliberately mysterious, physically demanding, and culturally jarring in their unfamiliarity. This, even in parishes that are mostly converts.

How does this work? Or does it? How are people reached by the saving gospel of Jesus Christ through Orthodoxy (beyond cradles and vaguely dissatisfied protestants)? What does it look like when Orthodoxy confronts a secular humanist, consumerist, western world?
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« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2014, 02:38:19 AM »

Well firstly Orthodoxy which is the original Christianity has done quite well given that there were no Protestants or Protestant way of doing things for roughly 1500 years. I won't say Protestantism hasn't opened any new territory to the Gospel but how much new territory has been added in the last 500 years vs. how much was added before.

Secondly Orthodox services are remarkably similar no matter where there are found in the world so the characteristics you mention evidently haven't been too off putting to the various native cultures they've expanded into.

Lastly evangelism is mostly lifestyle.  To paraphrase be a witness for Christ always,  when necessary use words.

When we do use words in a  a secular humanist, consumerist, western world we bring an understanding of the Gospel, the original understanding of the Gospel,  that is greatly different than that with which the  secular humanist, consumerist, western world is already familiar and has already rejected.

Hope this helps.  Welcome to the forum.
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« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2014, 10:25:27 AM »

Hi Bob, thanks for the welcome and your response.

Can you expand on the "lifestyle" thing? I don't understand how people learn the Orthodox understanding of the gospel that way.
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« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2014, 10:31:54 AM »

Preamble: I'm taking a serious look at Orthodoxy and have some questions. Would you help me out?

How does Orthodoxy view evangelism, especially here in North America?

The church I attend at present is like many others: we try to keep the expression of gospel simple and accessible. We deliberately keep the services welcoming, informal, and non-threatening to unbelievers. We use familiar musical styles. We'd like to think we are following in Paul's footsteps, becoming all things to all men so that we may by all means save some (1 Cor 9:22).

In stark contrast, Orthodox worship services are formal, deliberately mysterious, physically demanding, and culturally jarring in their unfamiliarity. This, even in parishes that are mostly converts.

How does this work? Or does it? How are people reached by the saving gospel of Jesus Christ through Orthodoxy (beyond cradles and vaguely dissatisfied protestants)? What does it look like when Orthodoxy confronts a secular humanist, consumerist, western world?
Hi Bob, thanks for the welcome and your response.

Can you expand on the "lifestyle" thing? I don't understand how people learn the Orthodox understanding of the gospel that way.

Evangelism ≠ Proselytism as Christ himself said: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert." (Matt. 23:15) Evangelism is rooted in the word itself, Evangel, the Gospel of Christ. Only by living the Gospel of Christ can we oppose the errors of the heathen masses and materialistic nonsense that is promoted by the West today.

St. Seraphim of Sarov: "Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved."
« Last Edit: March 06, 2014, 10:35:26 AM by xOrthodox4Christx » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2014, 10:37:09 AM »

Preamble: I'm taking a serious look at Orthodoxy and have some questions. Would you help me out?

How does Orthodoxy view evangelism, especially here in North America?

The church I attend at present is like many others: we try to keep the expression of gospel simple and accessible. We deliberately keep the services welcoming, informal, and non-threatening to unbelievers. We use familiar musical styles. We'd like to think we are following in Paul's footsteps, becoming all things to all men so that we may by all means save some (1 Cor 9:22).

In stark contrast, Orthodox worship services are formal, deliberately mysterious, physically demanding, and culturally jarring in their unfamiliarity. This, even in parishes that are mostly converts.

How does this work? Or does it? How are people reached by the saving gospel of Jesus Christ through Orthodoxy (beyond cradles and vaguely dissatisfied protestants)? What does it look like when Orthodoxy confronts a secular humanist, consumerist, western world?

There are so many assumptions which are not exactly "correct" in your post, that I would like to ask a couple of questions before I respond.
How familiar are you with Christian history?
Have you ever attended an Orthodox Liturgy?
« Last Edit: March 06, 2014, 10:37:39 AM by katherineofdixie » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2014, 10:56:07 AM »

Preamble: I'm taking a serious look at Orthodoxy and have some questions. Would you help me out?

How does Orthodoxy view evangelism, especially here in North America?

The church I attend at present is like many others: we try to keep the expression of gospel simple and accessible. We deliberately keep the services welcoming, informal, and non-threatening to unbelievers. We use familiar musical styles. We'd like to think we are following in Paul's footsteps, becoming all things to all men so that we may by all means save some (1 Cor 9:22).

In stark contrast, Orthodox worship services are formal, deliberately mysterious, physically demanding, and culturally jarring in their unfamiliarity. This, even in parishes that are mostly converts.

How does this work? Or does it? How are people reached by the saving gospel of Jesus Christ through Orthodoxy (beyond cradles and vaguely dissatisfied protestants)? What does it look like when Orthodoxy confronts a secular humanist, consumerist, western world?

There are so many assumptions which are not exactly "correct" in your post, that I would like to ask a couple of questions before I respond.
How familiar are you with Christian history?
Have you ever attended an Orthodox Liturgy?

St. Paul's Church was/is, were/are whatever tense you use; Orthodox Churches.
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« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2014, 11:55:12 AM »

Preamble: I'm taking a serious look at Orthodoxy and have some questions. Would you help me out?

How does Orthodoxy view evangelism, especially here in North America?

The church I attend at present is like many others: we try to keep the expression of gospel simple and accessible. We deliberately keep the services welcoming, informal, and non-threatening to unbelievers. We use familiar musical styles. We'd like to think we are following in Paul's footsteps, becoming all things to all men so that we may by all means save some (1 Cor 9:22).

In stark contrast, Orthodox worship services are formal, deliberately mysterious, physically demanding, and culturally jarring in their unfamiliarity. This, even in parishes that are mostly converts.

How does this work? Or does it? How are people reached by the saving gospel of Jesus Christ through Orthodoxy (beyond cradles and vaguely dissatisfied protestants)? What does it look like when Orthodoxy confronts a secular humanist, consumerist, western world?

You are confusing worship with evangelism.  We evangelize with our lives.  Our worship may evangelize unbelievers but that isn't its primary purpose.  It's primary purpose is the worship of God which deepens our relationship with him. 

The idea that worship is a primary tool of evangelism for unbelievers is not historic.  In fact, the ancient church didn't even allow unbelievers to attend most or all of the service.  That's why the Liturgy still has phrases in the middle like, Depart!   Let all catechumens depart!   And also, The doors!   
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« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2014, 12:29:32 PM »

xOrthodox4Christx: "living the gospel" is not a foreign concept to Evangelicals. But at some point, your unbelieving neighbor must come face to face with the claim of who Jesus is, and why that is important to him.

katherineofdixie: I'm more familiar with Christian history than most, but certainly not as well informed as some. I have attended an OCA liturgy. Please accept my apologies if I have phrased things incorrectly, if I have it's from ignorance not from any attempt to offend.

Yurysprudentsiya: I understand that the primary purpose of worship is not evangelism. But I can't read 1 Cor 14 and think Paul would have said "be sure to make your worship really hard to understand for unbelievers, or better yet, bar the door so they can't even get in".

To all: you have to understand I'm coming from a place where people boil the gospel down to four spiritual laws and print it up on cards and hand them out. You can call this reductionist if you want, but it is a message that someone can mentally grasp and consider and respond to. I mean no offence, but sometimes when I read Orthodox writers on what the gospel actually is, it feels like nailing jello. Hence my question. How does evangelism actually work in Orthodoxy? I'd like a little more meat on the bones than just "live an Orthodox lifestyle".
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« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2014, 12:32:46 PM »

xOrthodox4Christx: "living the gospel" is not a foreign concept to Evangelicals. But at some point, your unbelieving neighbor must come face to face with the claim of who Jesus is, and why that is important to him.

katherineofdixie: I'm more familiar with Christian history than most, but certainly not as well informed as some. I have attended an OCA liturgy. Please accept my apologies if I have phrased things incorrectly, if I have it's from ignorance not from any attempt to offend.

Yurysprudentsiya: I understand that the primary purpose of worship is not evangelism. But I can't read 1 Cor 14 and think Paul would have said "be sure to make your worship really hard to understand for unbelievers, or better yet, bar the door so they can't even get in".

To all: you have to understand I'm coming from a place where people boil the gospel down to four spiritual laws and print it up on cards and hand them out. You can call this reductionist if you want, but it is a message that someone can mentally grasp and consider and respond to. I mean no offence, but sometimes when I read Orthodox writers on what the gospel actually is, it feels like nailing jello. Hence my question. How does evangelism actually work in Orthodoxy? I'd like a little more meat on the bones than just "live an Orthodox lifestyle".

Why must my infidel neighbour convert to my religion? It is the Spirit of Peace, the God of Mercy that saves; not our works to convert him.

Quote
How does evangelism actually work in Orthodoxy? I'd like a little more meat on the bones than just "live an Orthodox lifestyle".

By living the Gospel, man is sanctified. The Fathers teach that 'God became man, that man might become god.' That is, to be like God in his attributes, of mercy, love, benevolence, righteousness etc.

Through adherence to the Gospel, as ones life is transformed, through sanctification, we give light to others. As Christ said: "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matt. 5:14-16)

Exactly as Christ said. Obey God, and man will be willing, because he has Free Will, to do so himself.

The Gospel is not a formula. It's a code. It's a way of life, that you live for and live in.

If you want a 'simple' Gospel message it's this:

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs
Bestowing life!


I don't think you are being rude, and I hope you don't see me coming off that way either. Just trying to answer the question. Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2014, 12:37:11 PM »

xOrthodox4Christx: "living the gospel" is not a foreign concept to Evangelicals. But at some point, your unbelieving neighbor must come face to face with the claim of who Jesus is, and why that is important to him.

katherineofdixie: I'm more familiar with Christian history than most, but certainly not as well informed as some. I have attended an OCA liturgy. Please accept my apologies if I have phrased things incorrectly, if I have it's from ignorance not from any attempt to offend.

Yurysprudentsiya: I understand that the primary purpose of worship is not evangelism. But I can't read 1 Cor 14 and think Paul would have said "be sure to make your worship really hard to understand for unbelievers, or better yet, bar the door so they can't even get in".

To all: you have to understand I'm coming from a place where people boil the gospel down to four spiritual laws and print it up on cards and hand them out. You can call this reductionist if you want, but it is a message that someone can mentally grasp and consider and respond to. I mean no offence, but sometimes when I read Orthodox writers on what the gospel actually is, it feels like nailing jello. Hence my question. How does evangelism actually work in Orthodoxy? I'd like a little more meat on the bones than just "live an Orthodox lifestyle".

The early church did not admit unbelievers.  This is historical fact.  We must not read our perceptions back on to St. Paul.  The idea that worship is primarily or even secondarily an opportunity to convert non believers isn't really any older than the 17 th century in Western Europe.  It is therefore not an apostolic notion.  

Our worship is not hard at all to understand once you have been initiated into it.  Most of the prayers haven't changed in millennia because the truths they express are timeless.  

Evangelism means to share the good news of Christ.  This can be done by telling others about Him but, more importantly, it is done by showing Him to others - by being His body and a witness to His power in the world by loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves.  In short, we must never stop living like we really believe what we hear on Sunday and working out our salvation.  Others will notice and will ask us to give a reason for the hope within us.  Then we must be prepared to do so.  

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« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2014, 12:53:26 PM »

So, Yurysprudentsiya, let me ask then: suppose it works and your neighbor asks. What do you say?
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« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2014, 12:54:16 PM »

katherineofdixie: I'm more familiar with Christian history than most, but certainly not as well informed as some. I have attended an OCA liturgy.

I ask because liturgical worship has been the way that the Church, the Body of Christ, has always worshipped God. If you read St. Justin Martyr or the Apostolic Constitutions you will find liturgical worship.

Indeed Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Episcopalians (to name a few) have all more or less continued in that tradition of liturgical worship, so that visitors from those faith communities find the Liturgy both accessible and familiar. It seems to be mostly (forgive me) visitors from other newer faith communities (who sometimes act as if they count it a virtue to excise all vestiges of historical Christianity from their theology, worship and praxis) who find Orthodox worship to be difficult or strange.

"The worship of the Orthodox Church is viewed as the Church's fundamental activity because the worship of God is the joining of man to God in prayer and that is the essential function of Christ's Church. The Orthodox view their Church as being the living embodiment of Christ, through the grace of His Holy Spirit, in the people, clergy, monks and all other members of the Church. Thus the Church is viewed as the Body of Christ on earth which is perpetually unified with the Body of Christ in heaven through a common act of worship to God.
...the Orthodox draw no distinction between the Body of Christ in heaven and those on earth viewing both parts of the Church as inseparable and in continuous worship together of God. Orthodox worship therefore expresses this unity of earth and heaven in every possible way so that the earthly worshippers are continually reminded through all their senses of the heavenly state of the Church. The particular methods for doing this are very far from arbitrary but have been passed down from the earliest periods in Christian history through what the Orthodox call "Holy Tradition"."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Orthodox_worship

“The earliest and clearest reference to liturgy comes in Acts, the book which chronicles the inception and growth of the early Church. The church at Antioch was the first Gentile church outside of Jerusalem, established approximately A.D. 38 when Barnabas was sent to teach there (Acts 11:25 ff.). Acts 13 describes the selection of Barnabas and St. Paul for the first missionary journey. This would have taken place approximately A.D. 46, in what by then was a well-established and structured community of believers.
Luke records that the calling of Paul and Barnabas was the work of the Holy Spirit, and that it took place during the “liturgy”. The text reads, “as they were ‘liturgizing’ (leitourgounton) before the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul to the work to which I have called them’”(Acts 13:2).”

http://www.stgabrielashland.org/historical-origin-of-orthodox-worship/
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« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2014, 01:01:35 PM »

So, Yurysprudentsiya, let me ask then: suppose it works and your neighbor asks. What do you say?

Well probably a lot.  But It includes that I have hope because I am being saved by Christ, who is God, one of the Trinity, the creator of all, who was and remains for eternity.   And that although we are created to enjoy a living relationship with God, we of our own will strayed from this relationship. But to bring us back God has come, Christ came, to unite humanity and divinity, the creator and the created, in Himself.  He was born of the Virgin and because He had no sin He defeated sin, giving life by His life and defeating death by His death, conquering by His glorious resurrection and destroying the chains of sin that hold us back from God.  I would state that my hope comes from His promise that this live which He shows, this light which I myself feel and see radiated from others both living and departed, makes me confident that if I follow Him I too will be forever with Him who is love.  That I am learning to see my fellow people and creation as He sees them, that is, good, and learning to love them.   All of this gives me hope that Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death and strengthens my desire to know Him more fully.  
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« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2014, 01:06:47 PM »

katherineofdixie, please don't think I'm attacking the Orthodox liturgy (I can see why you would think so from my first post). Evangelical churches have a liturgy as well, even if it rarely goes by that name, and of course is heavily contextualized (I'm sure people here would say 'overcontextualized') to its culture.

Yurysprudentsiya, thank you, that is very very very helpful.
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« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2014, 02:29:37 PM »

katherineofdixie, please don't think I'm attacking the Orthodox liturgy (I can see why you would think so from my first post). Evangelical churches have a liturgy as well, even if it rarely goes by that name, and of course is heavily contextualized (I'm sure people here would say 'overcontextualized') to its culture.

Yurysprudentsiya, thank you, that is very very very helpful.

You're right. All churches have some kind of liturgy.  I understand where you're coming from.

Where Orthodoxy differs on this point from the rest is that we believe that our liturgy, usually an eastern liturgy but also the ancient western liturgy still used by some Orthodox, and which has minor variations across cultures, is nevertheless an organic continuation and therefore fulfillment of the tabernacle/temple liturgy of the OT which is itself derivative of heavenly worship.   It has developed over time but each development was carefully scrutinized for theological faithfulness before it was adopted so that we indeed worship in spirit and in truth, that is, every word uttered is accurate and we worship, both figuratively and literally, in the pattern of heavenly worship and in the company of the saints.   
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« Reply #15 on: March 06, 2014, 02:39:15 PM »

katherineofdixie, please don't think I'm attacking the Orthodox liturgy (I can see why you would think so from my first post). Evangelical churches have a liturgy as well, even if it rarely goes by that name, and of course is heavily contextualized (I'm sure people here would say 'overcontextualized') to its culture.

Yurysprudentsiya, thank you, that is very very very helpful.

You're right. All churches have some kind of liturgy.  I understand where you're coming from.

Where Orthodoxy differs on this point from the rest is that we believe that our liturgy, usually an eastern liturgy but also the ancient western liturgy still used by some Orthodox, and which has minor variations across cultures, is nevertheless an organic continuation and therefore fulfillment of the tabernacle/temple liturgy of the OT which is itself derivative of heavenly worship.   It has developed over time but each development was carefully scrutinized for theological faithfulness before it was adopted so that we indeed worship in spirit and in truth, that is, every word uttered is accurate and we worship, both figuratively and literally, in the pattern of heavenly worship and in the company of the saints.   

In Protestant terms, you can maybe say that the liturgy and other texts universally approved for prayer services are part of our canon.  It isn't a very Orthodox way to describe it but it might help you to understand our point of view.   Indeed, the Bible is itself canonical because those were the books approved for public reading in church, because what was written in them was recognized as true by the Church who compared them with the tradition handed down from the Apostles.  To understand any theological concept or to amplify a Biblical text one of the first places we look is to the liturgy or universally approved prayer texts.   For this reason, while the liturgy has been added to or subtracted from over history, there must be a very very good reason for that to ever happen.   
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« Reply #16 on: March 06, 2014, 03:32:17 PM »

I'll just say, I very much appreciate an attitude of sobriety and care in changing something as important as liturgy. I guess I struggle with how much cultural adaptation God would have us employ. The Orthodox answer is "darn near zero since St. John Chrysostom" and that's a hard thing to swallow.

By the way, Yurysprudentsiya, you said it was historical fact that unbelievers were excluded outright from Christian worship services. Can you point me to some good documentation on that? I can't square it with 1 Cor 14 in which Paul explicitly references unbelievers being present, and what effect the activities of believers should have on them. Maybe I have cultural blinders on as you suggest, but this seems to be a pretty plain exception to your rule.
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« Reply #17 on: March 06, 2014, 03:48:41 PM »

Evangelism to Orthodoxy is to convert the Emperor/King and then have him kill every subject who won't get baptized.
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« Reply #18 on: March 06, 2014, 03:49:51 PM »

I'll just say, I very much appreciate an attitude of sobriety and care in changing something as important as liturgy. I guess I struggle with how much cultural adaptation God would have us employ. The Orthodox answer is "darn near zero since St. John Chrysostom" and that's a hard thing to swallow.

By the way, Yurysprudentsiya, you said it was historical fact that unbelievers were excluded outright from Christian worship services. Can you point me to some good documentation on that? I can't square it with 1 Cor 14 in which Paul explicitly references unbelievers being present, and what effect the activities of believers should have on them. Maybe I have cultural blinders on as you suggest, but this seems to be a pretty plain exception to your rule.

There is actually considerable cultural adaptation in the way liturgies are served.  The style of chant, the style of vestments, the style of icons, the language used, and small customs like the way certain processions are carried out differ from country to country.  I can immediately tell if a liturgy is being served in the Greek style or the Russian style for example although the words and movements are generally the same.   There is yet no unified American style but that will come as our culture is baptized, as we like to put it.  But even that style will remain within the traditional Orthodox Christian framework.  

As to your second question, Paul Bradshaw on Reconstructing Early Christian worship, which I won't vouch for other than as an example of what I'm saying, and which is on google books, starting at about page 56, collects early sources from 2-4 centuries explaining that catechumens were dismissed after or even before the Gospel reading.  Only the faithful could be present for the reciting of the Creed and for the Eucharist.  Early Christians were often accused of cannibalism by outsiders who didn't know what they were doing and heard snippets.  
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« Reply #19 on: March 06, 2014, 03:50:54 PM »

Evangelism to Orthodoxy is to convert the Emperor/King and then have him kill every subject who won't get baptized.

That has occurred both east and west but that is hardly the model Christ and the Apostles gave. 
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« Reply #20 on: March 06, 2014, 03:56:14 PM »

I'll just say, I very much appreciate an attitude of sobriety and care in changing something as important as liturgy. I guess I struggle with how much cultural adaptation God would have us employ. The Orthodox answer is "darn near zero since St. John Chrysostom" and that's a hard thing to swallow.

By the way, Yurysprudentsiya, you said it was historical fact that unbelievers were excluded outright from Christian worship services. Can you point me to some good documentation on that? I can't square it with 1 Cor 14 in which Paul explicitly references unbelievers being present, and what effect the activities of believers should have on them. Maybe I have cultural blinders on as you suggest, but this seems to be a pretty plain exception to your rule.

I don't think that Paul in 1 Cor 14 is talking about the Eucharistic liturgy itself in its entirety.  He may be talking about the first part of it where the catechumens are present, he calls them inquirers, and there may have been others allowed there, or some other type of prayer service. 
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« Reply #21 on: March 06, 2014, 03:59:59 PM »

I'll just say, I very much appreciate an attitude of sobriety and care in changing something as important as liturgy. I guess I struggle with how much cultural adaptation God would have us employ. The Orthodox answer is "darn near zero since St. John Chrysostom" and that's a hard thing to swallow.

By the way, Yurysprudentsiya, you said it was historical fact that unbelievers were excluded outright from Christian worship services. Can you point me to some good documentation on that? I can't square it with 1 Cor 14 in which Paul explicitly references unbelievers being present, and what effect the activities of believers should have on them. Maybe I have cultural blinders on as you suggest, but this seems to be a pretty plain exception to your rule.

I don't think that Paul in 1 Cor 14 is talking about the Eucharistic liturgy itself in its entirety.  He may be talking about the first part of it where the catechumens are present, he calls them inquirers, and there may have been others allowed there, or some other type of prayer service. 

It helps to understand that the liturgy combines elements of the synagogue and temple services.   The command to depart is not given until after the Gospel reading but there is evidence it originally happened before the Gospel was read.  Thus unbelievers could have been present for the opening prayers but they would not have been there for the readings, the sermon, and certainly not the Eucharist. 
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« Reply #22 on: March 06, 2014, 04:06:17 PM »

I think the separation of 'church' from 'where you would first go hear about Christ' is an important one to make for ancient times. And a distinction we don't currently have today, which makes it all the more difficult to see and understand how evangelism would happen, since we just take people to church to 'meet Jesus'.

But in times when people died for telling the mysteries of Christ, to the wrong person, the mode is just not the same.
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« Reply #23 on: March 06, 2014, 05:33:01 PM »

katherineofdixie, please don't think I'm attacking the Orthodox liturgy (I can see why you would think so from my first post). Evangelical churches have a liturgy as well, even if it rarely goes by that name, and of course is heavily contextualized (I'm sure people here would say 'overcontextualized') to its culture.

Not so much contextualized, as (again, forgive me) "dumbed down." This is the way that the Church has always worshipped - a pagan in 1st century Corinth might have felt that the Christian community should contextualize its worship to the culture. But Christianity was profoundly countercultural - and is so today.
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« Reply #24 on: March 06, 2014, 06:10:47 PM »

How does Orthodoxy view evangelism, especially here in North America?

The Great Commission

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  Matthew 28:19-20

The church I attend at present is like many others: we try to keep the expression of gospel simple and accessible. We deliberately keep the services welcoming, informal, and non-threatening to unbelievers. We use familiar musical styles. We'd like to think we are following in Paul's footsteps, becoming all things to all men so that we may by all means save some (1 Cor 9:22).

I think this is a misunderstanding of what St. Paul was saying.  He was one missionary, not the entire Body of Christ.  When he preached at the Jewish tabernacles, he observed the customs.  When he preached to Gentiles, he observed the customs.  When one is trying to evangelize, one needs to be able to relate to the person(s) he/she is speaking to on a personal level.  A generic approach rarely works

In stark contrast, Orthodox worship services are formal, deliberately mysterious, physically demanding, and culturally jarring in their unfamiliarity. This, even in parishes that are mostly converts.

How does this work? Or does it?

I can't speak for anyone but myself, but it was a breath of fresh air.  I had long felt church should be more like that, i.e. beautiful, formal, mysterious and participatory.  It actually feels like being in the house of God rather than a generic multipurpose building.

How are people reached by the saving gospel of Jesus Christ through Orthodoxy (beyond cradles and vaguely dissatisfied protestants)?

The Internet worked for me.

What does it look like when Orthodoxy confronts a secular humanist, consumerist, western world?

It looks like me having a conversation with my family and friends when an opportunity presents itself to show them something different.
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« Reply #25 on: March 06, 2014, 09:01:31 PM »

Just to wrap things up, let me summarize what I've heard from all of you.

  • Orthodoxy doesn't accept the Sunday church service as a legitimate venue for evangelism to unbelievers.
  • Orthodox evangelism is best conducted person-to-person, most importantly through the witness of a faithful life, and secondarily through explanation of the gospel if it is sought out.

I've got lots of other questions of course, but I'll start other threads as appropriate. Until then, I'd like to thank you all for your thoughtful responses. Peace out!
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« Reply #26 on: March 06, 2014, 09:05:43 PM »

Just to wrap things up, let me summarize what I've heard from all of you.

  • Orthodoxy doesn't accept the Sunday church service as a legitimate venue for evangelism to unbelievers.
  • Orthodox evangelism is best conducted person-to-person, most importantly through the witness of a faithful life, and secondarily through explanation of the gospel if it is sought out.

I've got lots of other questions of course, but I'll start other threads as appropriate. Until then, I'd like to thank you all for your thoughtful responses. Peace out!

Glad to be of help.  I would add a caveat.   We no longer close our services to unbelievers obviously.   If someone comes or is invited to come, and we do that, and comes to faith during that process we certainly are glad.   And many of us do strive to make sure that services are in a language people understand, have prayer books available for people to follow along, and are happy to answer their questions or stand with them so they're not left out.   And most parishes have coffee hour afterward for people to be welcomed.     But we do not otherwise alter the services.   
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« Reply #27 on: March 06, 2014, 09:51:57 PM »

Just to wrap things up, let me summarize what I've heard from all of you.

  • Orthodoxy doesn't accept the Sunday church service as a legitimate venue for evangelism to unbelievers.
  • Orthodox evangelism is best conducted person-to-person, most importantly through the witness of a faithful life, and secondarily through explanation of the gospel if it is sought out.

I've got lots of other questions of course, but I'll start other threads as appropriate. Until then, I'd like to thank you all for your thoughtful responses. Peace out!

Glad to be of help.  I would add a caveat.   We no longer close our services to unbelievers obviously.   If someone comes or is invited to come, and we do that, and comes to faith during that process we certainly are glad.   And many of us do strive to make sure that services are in a language people understand, have prayer books available for people to follow along, and are happy to answer their questions or stand with them so they're not left out.   And most parishes have coffee hour afterward for people to be welcomed.     But we do not otherwise alter the services.   


Indeed we would be doing them no favor to change the way the Church has always worshipped - for one reason, how could we know their individual needs? For another, our primary task at Liturgy is to worship God. Evangelism can happen through the Divine Liturgy but the whole point is worship.
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« Reply #28 on: March 06, 2014, 09:55:31 PM »

Just to wrap things up, let me summarize what I've heard from all of you.

  • Orthodoxy doesn't accept the Sunday church service as a legitimate venue for evangelism to unbelievers.
  • Orthodox evangelism is best conducted person-to-person, most importantly through the witness of a faithful life, and secondarily through explanation of the gospel if it is sought out.

I've got lots of other questions of course, but I'll start other threads as appropriate. Until then, I'd like to thank you all for your thoughtful responses. Peace out!

Glad to be of help.  I would add a caveat.   We no longer close our services to unbelievers obviously.   If someone comes or is invited to come, and we do that, and comes to faith during that process we certainly are glad.   And many of us do strive to make sure that services are in a language people understand, have prayer books available for people to follow along, and are happy to answer their questions or stand with them so they're not left out.   And most parishes have coffee hour afterward for people to be welcomed.     But we do not otherwise alter the services.   


Indeed we would be doing them no favor to change the way the Church has always worshipped - for one reason, how could we know their individual needs? For another, our primary task at Liturgy is to worship God. Evangelism can happen through the Divine Liturgy but the whole point is worship.

Yes, the only real modifications of the liturgy for the sake of the people have historically involved shortening it rather than anything which could be called stylistic.  It originally ran between 3 and 5 hours. 
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« Reply #29 on: March 06, 2014, 11:00:19 PM »

Sorry it took me so long to respond, I've been at a funeral all day. You've gotten some very good answers that seemed to have helped. What I will add in reference to your question to me, the four spiritual laws style evangelism, and nailing jello is that there is a difference in the understanding of salvation between many Protestant denominations and the Orthodox Church. This starts with the understanding that we have free will and choice and can choose salvation and then later un-choose it. Now some Protestant denominations would agree with this. A great many including many Baptists would not. For those who follow Calvin's ideas on pre-destination the emphasis of salvation is necessarily on the front end choice. In this day and age though unfortunately all too often people mix and match even incompatible theological concepts resulting in even Arminian believers who say they agree with free will putting too much emphasis on that front end choice.

Coming to a decision point and making that front end choice, of course is the point of the 4 spiritual laws and of your comment regarding "But at some point, your unbelieving neighbor must come face to face with the claim of who Jesus is, and why that is important to him."

For the Orthodox, for whom loosing salvation is a very real possibility every time we turn away from God and turn to sin, salvation is not so much about making that decision on the front end as it is about maintaining the decision all the way to the end. I liken the idea of salvation I had as a Protestant to getting on the pad at the bottom of an escalator and saying I am saved. In Orthodoxy I step on the pad and then begin going up the escalator and am only finally saved when I get off the other pad at the top.

In Orthodoxy then salvation involves not only making a decision at some point but is even more so about repenting when we sin, learning to ask for the mercy of God, and cultivating a life that brings us as close to him as we can be.  When we do these things, as others have referenced, evangelism becomes not so much something we seek to do as much as it becomes an out growth of what we are doing. Hope this isn't too much like jello.  Smiley
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« Reply #30 on: March 08, 2014, 09:06:57 PM »

Sorry it took me so long to respond, I've been at a funeral all day. You've gotten some very good answers that seemed to have helped. What I will add in reference to your question to me, the four spiritual laws style evangelism, and nailing jello is that there is a difference in the understanding of salvation between many Protestant denominations and the Orthodox Church. This starts with the understanding that we have free will and choice and can choose salvation and then later un-choose it. Now some Protestant denominations would agree with this. A great many including many Baptists would not. For those who follow Calvin's ideas on pre-destination the emphasis of salvation is necessarily on the front end choice. In this day and age though unfortunately all too often people mix and match even incompatible theological concepts resulting in even Arminian believers who say they agree with free will putting too much emphasis on that front end choice.

Coming to a decision point and making that front end choice, of course is the point of the 4 spiritual laws and of your comment regarding "But at some point, your unbelieving neighbor must come face to face with the claim of who Jesus is, and why that is important to him."

For the Orthodox, for whom loosing salvation is a very real possibility every time we turn away from God and turn to sin, salvation is not so much about making that decision on the front end as it is about maintaining the decision all the way to the end. I liken the idea of salvation I had as a Protestant to getting on the pad at the bottom of an escalator and saying I am saved. In Orthodoxy I step on the pad and then begin going up the escalator and am only finally saved when I get off the other pad at the top.

In Orthodoxy then salvation involves not only making a decision at some point but is even more so about repenting when we sin, learning to ask for the mercy of God, and cultivating a life that brings us as close to him as we can be.  When we do these things, as others have referenced, evangelism becomes not so much something we seek to do as much as it becomes an out growth of what we are doing. Hope this isn't too much like jello.  Smiley

One of the real problems in these type s of discussions is that Protestants and Orthodox have different - sometimes real different- understandings of theology. What makes it frustrating is that we can be using the same words and mean totally different things.
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« Reply #31 on: March 09, 2014, 05:33:49 PM »

Preamble: I'm taking a serious look at Orthodoxy and have some questions. Would you help me out?

How does Orthodoxy view evangelism, especially here in North America?

The church I attend at present is like many others: we try to keep the expression of gospel simple and accessible. We deliberately keep the services welcoming, informal, and non-threatening to unbelievers. We use familiar musical styles. We'd like to think we are following in Paul's footsteps, becoming all things to all men so that we may by all means save some (1 Cor 9:22).

In stark contrast, Orthodox worship services are formal, deliberately mysterious, physically demanding, and culturally jarring in their unfamiliarity. This, even in parishes that are mostly converts.

How does this work? Or does it? How are people reached by the saving gospel of Jesus Christ through Orthodoxy (beyond cradles and vaguely dissatisfied protestants)? What does it look like when Orthodoxy confronts a secular humanist, consumerist, western world?

I think Orthodox could do a lot better in helping our secular neighbours come to Christ. That said, we already do some great things:

Ancient Faith Radio
Orthodox Study Bible
Patristic Nectar
Monachos.com
orthodoxchristianity.net

I wish Orthodox would aim more for non Christian seekers and not just converts from other churches. It seems Orthodox evangelism is often piggybacking on the groundwork already laid by the local mega church, which brings the seekers to Christ initially.

There is an Orthodox evangelistic course, featuring Metr. Kallistos Ware, called "The Way".http://www.iocs.cam.ac.uk/courses/courses_way.html It  is similar to the popular "Alpha Course". I have tried to use it in our local parish, but haven't got much traction yet.
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