Enterring the Kingdom
Key Facts and Ideas
Many people are surprised to hear that the Orthodox Church is a missionary church ... but its history amply disproves the stereotype. Mission is about making God known and there are two approaches to this in the Orthodox Church that complement each other and are in no way alternatives.
The first may be described as holiness evangelism. Nothing or little may be said about God but the missionary can sometime attract even thousands by becoming a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit; someone who others seek out as a reliable guide to finding God.
St. Seraphim of Sarov was such a person. He said:- "Acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved." Even those not capable of such holiness can be an effective witness for others (which is just as well!). This approach does not say that we should never speak of God to others. Far from it. St . Seraphim talked about God to others ceaselessly ... but the original attraction, the first move, came from the seeker who was attracted by God to the saint for this purpose. The great advantage of this approach of course is that it links up deeds, relationships and words. It emphasises that God converts, we are simply his servants in attracting others - a very realistic and freedom respecting approach. It saves Christianity from the charge of formalism and hypocrisy. In the light of all these plus points it might be thought that this is the only commendable method of Orthodox missionary activity, but that would be wrong.
The second approach may be described as active integration. "Active" because the missionary is overt about preaching the gospel, training other local missionaries to share the work, establishing parish and monastic communities, translating texts and so on; "integration" because it is a fundamental principle in Orthodox missionary work that the Church's work and presence must properly "bed down" in a culture and use its traditions, languages and, of course, people.* So, you see, this method also respects the freedom and the enquirer and venerates what God has provided in the local culture as a means of grace.
A classic example of such outstanding missionary practice in recent times has been that of St. Nicholas who helped into being an indigenous Japanese Orthodox Church from what started out as an enclosed, essentially private, diplomatic chaplaincy. His labours have paralleled many times in the history of Orthodox missions and these continue to this day. Another example of active integration which drove a major expansion of Orthodoxy into the Slav world concerned the work of the Greek missioners Sts. Cyrilos and Methodios who even created an alphabet out of the oral language of these peoples. More about this can be discovered in the "Resources" section at the foot of this page.
[*This principle has not always been observed sadly in situations of the so-called diaspora where Orthodox have often maintained quite a different culture and language than that of the host country and not assimilated or integrated, religiously speaking. Such exceptions are not typical of the Orthodox Church at its best and more generally when it has indeed followed its own missionary principles].
Mission is serving people in God's Love.
What is the most significant thing anyone has said to me and also done for me that has changed my life in any kind of way?
1. Orthodox Christian Mission by Fr. Gregory Hallam
4. Journeys to Orthodoxy (Wikipedia)
5. Journeys to Orthodoxy (Antiochian Orthodox Deanery of the United Kingdom and Ireland)
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