Why Do Orthodox Not Actively Seek Converts?

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Something I have wondered about is why the Orthodox Church does not actively seek converts. On the streets I have mostly seen Evangelicals or Protestants but rarely do I see Catholics or Orthodox people. I know that the church does do missionary work but it seems to mostly be in non-Western countries. Why therefore do the Orthodox not seem so active in converting people?

Is it because of the perception that in the West people over the centuries became less comitted to religious observance and therefore converts from Asian or African countries would be more devout and loyal? Or perhaps they also feel that along with this reason there is also the issue of many Westerners not wanting to be religious at all.
 

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Because it does not work?

Remember seeing some Evangelical missionare carrying a 2-metre cross (actually he was pulling it, the cross had wheels) and shouting something in English about Jesus. People just were laughing and taking photos. I'm sure his success rate was 0%.
 

Arachne

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Look at it like door-to-door selling vs. setting up a shop. Which one do you think sells more? The one who accosts people unsolicited, or the one who lets them come in willingly?
 

jah777

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It is not common, but it does happen in Orthodoxy.  Here is some information on the Willard Preacher, a former Evangelical street preacher at Penn State University who converted to Orthodoxy and remained a street preacher:

http://thewillardpreacher.com/

http://journeytoorthodoxy.com/2010/12/02/the-willard-preacher/

In the case of the Willard Preacher, he remains at the same location (Penn State University) and the same students may pass by him on a daily basis.  So, there is plenty of opportunity for the same people to challenge him, ask questions, inquire, etc.  If a person becomes interested in Orthodoxy after speaking with him, there is an active Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) on campus and a very good Orthodox parish that students can be direct to.  In other words, in that context there is a very good Orthodox community and support network in place which can make this kind of ministry very fruitful. 

There are a number of reasons why Orthodox generally don’t do this kind of activity as much as Evangelicals.  For many Evangelicals, salvation consists of a person admitting that they are a sinner and saying a prayer that Christ will come into their heart.  For many Evangelicals, once a person asks the Lord to come into their heart, that person is eternally saved, is guaranteed a place in the kingdom of heaven, and cannot lose this salvation.  So, the Evangelical street preacher can rejoice that he is “saving souls” by his street preaching regardless of what the audience does with their life after making a “decision for Christ”.

In Orthodoxy, salvation is a process, a way of life, a serious commitment; and a decision to follow Christ is only the beginning.  Such a decision, if not acted upon, is of little value.  To become Orthodox, one must be willing to truly live for Christ, to fast, to pray, to believe the doctrines that have been revealed to the Church through Christ and the Apostles.  While in Evangelicalism, great value is placed on merely “getting the word out” and “making a decision for Christ”; in Orthodoxy great care is taken to properly catechize, instruct, and form people to live in communion with Christ through obedience to Him and participation in the sacraments of the Church.  To make a crude analogy, while Evangelicals are primarily looking to get a person to agree to come out on one date, Orthodox are seeking to lead people into a committed marriage which is a much greater challenge.   

It is also difficult to go out onto the streets to preach Christ because Orthodox Christians and Orthodox churches are a very small minority in the U.S.  This country is saturated with false Christianities and heretical teachings.  An Orthodox Christian street preacher in the U.S. has an incredible task to not only preach the Gospel, but to clear up a ton of misinformation and falsehood that has been widely accepted throughout the country as “Christianity”.  Whereas street preaching is very conducive to one line statements, quick messages, etc., in Orthodoxy things must be spoken of very carefully and in detail so as to lead a person to the truth through the thick fog of falsehood.   
 

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Arachne said:
Look at it like door-to-door selling vs. setting up a shop. Which one do you think sells more? The one who accosts people unsolicited, or the one who lets them come in willingly?
Indeed.

That said, I do think that we could do a better job of simply letting people know we are here and we welcome visitors! ;D
 

LizaSymonenko

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We might actually do a better job, WELCOMING the visitors that we do get.  :angel:

I love the babushkas and yiayias....but, if they see a new face who does something wrong, they ought not correct them publicly, or give them dirty looks.  At least save that for their second visit.
 
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Thank you all for your answers.

Would you all agree that the West today is less religious than Asian countries?

 

katherineofdixie

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Studying_Orthodoxy said:
Thank you all for your answers.

Would you all agree that the West today is less religious than Asian countries?
I wouldn't. For one thing, it's too sweeping a generalization. What do you mean by "religious"? Do you mean specifically Christian, or are you including non-Christian religions? Also how are you defining "West" or "Asian countries," for that matter?
 

Marc1152

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i was on campus ( U of MD) a couple of months ago. There was a group of about 15 evangelicals lined up in front of the Student Union you had to pass them to get by. The leader was shouting out some sort of unintelligible sermon like a maniac.

As I walked past the kids would come up and get in my way and ask if knew Jesus or some such.

I scolded them.
 
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Studying_Orthodoxy said:
Something I have wondered about is why the Orthodox Church does not actively seek converts. On the streets I have mostly seen Evangelicals or Protestants but rarely do I see Catholics or Orthodox people. I know that the church does do missionary work but it seems to mostly be in non-Western countries. Why therefore do the Orthodox not seem so active in converting people?

Is it because of the perception that in the West people over the centuries became less comitted to religious observance and therefore converts from Asian or African countries would be more devout and loyal? Or perhaps they also feel that along with this reason there is also the issue of many Westerners not wanting to be religious at all.
The kind of street evangelism and big tent revival preaching you have in mind is, I think, more of an historical aberration.  The mass field meetings such as Wesley conducted and which were perfected by the likes of Charles Finney & co. In the late 19th century had their roots in religious practices along the Scottish-British border going back to the 16th century or so.  They worked in a certain time and place and with a certain kind of theology.  Billy Graham was probably one of the last to successfully use that method.  Look around, no one can quite do things the way he did them.  He was welcomed as a revival preacher in a Protestant culture.  Those days are largely past. 

Now some will challenge this and say, what about Paul on Mars Hill?  What about Pentecost and Peters preaching?  But if you look closely They weren't just on some street corner yelling around or handing out tracts.  Paul came to a philosophic forum and engaged them in debate.  He grappled with their existing ideas and showed Christ as the end of their searching.  This is the tack that we should take today, in my opinion.  Peter was preaching in the midst of an established religious festival in the midst of a miracle. 

After the apostolic and Before the modern era most evangelizing seemed to be directed at rulers.  If they accepted Christianity their realm would follow.  Not so much anymore and probably for the best.  Orthodoxy existed for centuries in lands that needed little evangelization, ie Russia, or in lands where effective evangelization was impossible, ie the Ottoman Empire.  When the Orthodox started to immigrate to the west, except for a few visionaries, they were foreigners in diaspora and their churches were more diplomatic chapels than anything else, in a strange land for a foreign people.  Thank God this is no longer. 

If we are to do evangelization I don't think the dying or dead practice of field preaching or it's cousins is the answer.  We have to be like Paul and engage the people where they are, and open their eyes to the fact that what their heart longs for can be found in Christ and His Church.  One person who did this very very effectively was Saint Innocent of Alaska.  He lived among the natives, taught them, learned their language, and showed them the light of Christ.  And note that he didn't have to revise the Liturgy or make it more appealing to do so.  We need to follow his example and be visible lights in our culture and not be afraid to engage it like Paul.  And after all that's what Christ said, Ye are the light of the world.  We shouldn't hide it under a bushel, as it were. 
 

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jah777 said:
It is not common, but it does happen in Orthodoxy.  Here is some information on the Willard Preacher, a former Evangelical street preacher at Penn State University who converted to Orthodoxy and remained a street preacher:

http://thewillardpreacher.com/

http://journeytoorthodoxy.com/2010/12/02/the-willard-preacher/

In the case of the Willard Preacher, he remains at the same location (Penn State University) and the same students may pass by him on a daily basis.  So, there is plenty of opportunity for the same people to challenge him, ask questions, inquire, etc.  If a person becomes interested in Orthodoxy after speaking with him, there is an active Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) on campus and a very good Orthodox parish that students can be direct to.  In other words, in that context there is a very good Orthodox community and support network in place which can make this kind of ministry very fruitful. 

There are a number of reasons why Orthodox generally don’t do this kind of activity as much as Evangelicals.  For many Evangelicals, salvation consists of a person admitting that they are a sinner and saying a prayer that Christ will come into their heart.  For many Evangelicals, once a person asks the Lord to come into their heart, that person is eternally saved, is guaranteed a place in the kingdom of heaven, and cannot lose this salvation.  So, the Evangelical street preacher can rejoice that he is “saving souls” by his street preaching regardless of what the audience does with their life after making a “decision for Christ”.

In Orthodoxy, salvation is a process, a way of life, a serious commitment; and a decision to follow Christ is only the beginning.  Such a decision, if not acted upon, is of little value.  To become Orthodox, one must be willing to truly live for Christ, to fast, to pray, to believe the doctrines that have been revealed to the Church through Christ and the Apostles.  While in Evangelicalism, great value is placed on merely “getting the word out” and “making a decision for Christ”; in Orthodoxy great care is taken to properly catechize, instruct, and form people to live in communion with Christ through obedience to Him and participation in the sacraments of the Church.  To make a crude analogy, while Evangelicals are primarily looking to get a person to agree to come out on one date, Orthodox are seeking to lead people into a committed marriage which is a much greater challenge.   

It is also difficult to go out onto the streets to preach Christ because Orthodox Christians and Orthodox churches are a very small minority in the U.S.  This country is saturated with false Christianities and heretical teachings.  An Orthodox Christian street preacher in the U.S. has an incredible task to not only preach the Gospel, but to clear up a ton of misinformation and falsehood that has been widely accepted throughout the country as “Christianity”.  Whereas street preaching is very conducive to one line statements, quick messages, etc., in Orthodoxy things must be spoken of very carefully and in detail so as to lead a person to the truth through the thick fog of falsehood.   
The Willard Preacher is the Man! But it takes a specially gifted person to do what he does. 
I have seen other people try and fail miserably.  He is also someone who calls out to students to think for themselves and not be led by the nose by liberal godless professors. 
 

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Generally we are taught to teach by example rather than to go out and try to "gather" in people by marketing techniques.  Only a few can do it in ways like the Willard Preacher.  Most can do it by being an example of trying to live the Gospels and inviting friends to church to see what you are passionate about and why.
 

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Marc1152 said:
i was on campus ( U of MD) a couple of months ago. There was a group of about 15 evangelicals lined up in front of the Student Union you had to pass them to get by. The leader was shouting out some sort of unintelligible sermon like a maniac.

As I walked past the kids would come up and get in my way and ask if knew Jesus or some such.

I scolded them.
I was having lunch at a college once, and someone interrupted me to ask if I knew Jesus.  I didn't scold them, though.  I asked if they knew his lovely Mother. 

They left. 
 

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The Orthodox Church has always sought out the lost.  I think your question should be reworded to say "Why do Orthodox not actively seek converts like the Evangelicals do?"  Evangelicalism is built upon emotion; is it any wonder why a lot of evangelicals leave the church or go to the next big fad once the emotional high wears down.  Orthodoxy is not rooted in emotionalism.  Of course, we may become emotional but such is not the grounding for our theology, our worship, our prayer, our doctrine, etc.  And that is the key.  Our way of seeking converts is to invite people to see what the Gospel is in Jesus Christ our Lord and for them to accept it, not to give emotional highs which do not and cannot last.
 

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This thread is predictably clueless as the Orthodox display their mystifying aversion to evangelism.

I thought you believed that having faith in Christ meant the difference in a person's fate in the next life.

Oh wait, no one really believes that here. And I don't think some psychotic street preacher really believes it either, the show notwithstanding.

Shiny said:
We expect the withered hands to show up.
 

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Michał Kalina said:
Because it does not work?

Remember seeing some Evangelical missionare carrying a 2-metre cross (actually he was pulling it, the cross had wheels) and shouting something in English about Jesus. People just were laughing and taking photos. I'm sure his success rate was 0%.
Remember that there's exactly two ways to evangelize:

1) drag a big cross around and ramble like an idiot

2) sit there in church and wait for people to come sashaying in off the street and get blown away by the chanting and architecture so they convert like Vlad's emissaries in that made-up story.

Then complain that the world is so godless these days.
 

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Rufus said:
Michał Kalina said:
Because it does not work?

Remember seeing some Evangelical missionare carrying a 2-metre cross (actually he was pulling it, the cross had wheels) and shouting something in English about Jesus. People just were laughing and taking photos. I'm sure his success rate was 0%.
Remember that there's exactly two ways to evangelize:

1) drag a big cross around and ramble like an idiot

2) sit there in church and wait for people to come sashaying in off the street and get blown away by the chanting and architecture so they convert like Vlad's emissaries in that made-up story.

Then complain that the world is so godless these days.
LOL! sashaying . . .
 

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Religious conversion is a big deal if it's to be done at all. And becoming Orthodox takes a lot of effort on the part of the convert. There may be something that might come of street preaching, but there's more than just preaching the Gospel to those who have never heard. Depending on where you are, there's the matter of preaching to those who have heard lies or have been disserved or hardened. That calls for a different tactic. I don't think the Orthodox Church has come close to employing all effective or available tactics of evangelism, but it's also to be considered that evangelism is a calling requiring certain gifts and certain learning. Few have what it takes to bring one person to faith--and there are as many ways of evangelizing as there are persons, because what works for one may be disastrous for another.
 

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Rufus said:
This thread is predictably clueless as the Orthodox display their mystifying aversion to evangelism.

I thought you believed that having faith in Christ meant the difference in a person's fate in the next life.

Oh wait, no one really believes that here. And I don't think some psychotic street preacher really believes it either, the show notwithstanding.

Shiny said:
We expect the withered hands to show up.
I regret not paying closer attention to your posts from before.
 

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Answer: Because we don't want to be tacky like the evangelicals!

The real question should be why is it that more people aren't actively seeking out the real faith, that being Eastern Orthodoxy.
 

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Rufus said:
Michał Kalina said:
Because it does not work?

Remember seeing some Evangelical missionare carrying a 2-metre cross (actually he was pulling it, the cross had wheels) and shouting something in English about Jesus. People just were laughing and taking photos. I'm sure his success rate was 0%.
Remember that there's exactly two ways to evangelize:

1) drag a big cross around and ramble like an idiot

2) sit there in church and wait for people to come sashaying in off the street and get blown away by the chanting and architecture so they convert like Vlad's emissaries in that made-up story.

Then complain that the world is so godless these days.
Dang, Orthonorm much?

In Christ,
Andrew
 

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Shlomlokh said:
Dang, Orthonorm much?
Whether or not you care for the way Rufus expressed himself, he made an important point.  Evangelism is not restricted to our caricatures of it--there are other ways to do it.  But we hide behind those caricatures to escape having to obey the gospel.  Just because we hear it sung to us on Sundays doesn't mean we're listening, much less doing...in real life, even Jesus had to wile out sometimes in order to make a point. 
 

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Rufus said:
Michał Kalina said:
Because it does not work?

Remember seeing some Evangelical missionare carrying a 2-metre cross (actually he was pulling it, the cross had wheels) and shouting something in English about Jesus. People just were laughing and taking photos. I'm sure his success rate was 0%.
Remember that there's exactly two ways to evangelize:

1) drag a big cross around and ramble like an idiot

2) sit there in church and wait for people to come sashaying in off the street and get blown away by the chanting and architecture so they convert like Vlad's emissaries in that made-up story.

Then complain that the world is so godless these days.
:D :D :D

I literally LOLed.
 

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When I first converted I wondered the same thing about actively seeking Protestants. I've learned that our Faith isn't something to be marketed, rather its something that we live. To live the Faith is the greatest evangelism statement. In my past experience as a protestant, their evangelism would get people in the church and proclaim their faith but nothing would ever stick. Their membership roles are like revolving doors(my experience). That type of evangelism is very superficial. In contrast, when I converted to Orthodoxy, there were people who mentored me and guided me in the Faith. They didn't just pray a sinners prayer with me and send me on my way.

Not meaning to be offensive to anyone, that's mostly my experience.
 

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Rufus said:
Michał Kalina said:
Because it does not work?

Remember seeing some Evangelical missionare carrying a 2-metre cross (actually he was pulling it, the cross had wheels) and shouting something in English about Jesus. People just were laughing and taking photos. I'm sure his success rate was 0%.
Remember that there's exactly two ways to evangelize:

1) drag a big cross around and ramble like an idiot

2) sit there in church and wait for people to come sashaying in off the street and get blown away by the chanting and architecture so they convert like Vlad's emissaries in that made-up story.

Then complain that the world is so godless these days.
So what would be some examples of active evangelisation?
 

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orthodox4life said:
When I first converted I wondered the same thing about actively seeking Protestants. I've learned that our Faith isn't something to be marketed, rather its something that we live. To live the Faith is the greatest evangelism statement. In my past experience as a protestant, their evangelism would get people in the church and proclaim their faith but nothing would ever stick. Their membership roles are like revolving doors(my experience). That type of evangelism is very superficial. In contrast, when I converted to Orthodoxy, there were people who mentored me and guided me in the Faith. They didn't just pray a sinners prayer with me and send me on my way.

Not meaning to be offensive to anyone, that's mostly my experience.
That's the other thing I don't get. Why is converting Protestants some sort of super top priority. Is converting other people somehow less important.

I gather that Southern Evangelicals must just be that much more annoying.
 

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Michał Kalina said:
Rufus said:
Michał Kalina said:
Because it does not work?

Remember seeing some Evangelical missionare carrying a 2-metre cross (actually he was pulling it, the cross had wheels) and shouting something in English about Jesus. People just were laughing and taking photos. I'm sure his success rate was 0%.
Remember that there's exactly two ways to evangelize:

1) drag a big cross around and ramble like an idiot

2) sit there in church and wait for people to come sashaying in off the street and get blown away by the chanting and architecture so they convert like Vlad's emissaries in that made-up story.

Then complain that the world is so godless these days.
So what would be some examples of active evangelisation?
If you know people, you will probably get chances to talk about religion with them. There are a lot of people out there who would actually like to do that.

I have held many such productive talks with people, and I am anything but bold in social matters.

Most of the annoyingness of Evangelicals who try to do this comes from their bearing down on the other person completely tactlessly. I used to think it was some kind of psychological thing, but now I think they just genuinely have no clue how much most people outside their own bubble hate being talked at.

Also, being a genius helps.

Having a racist church definitely does not help, though it's not an insurmountable problem.
 

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Michał Kalina said:
Rufus said:
I gather that Southern Evangelicals must just be that much more annoying.
Aren't they Protestants?
Yes. I meant, posters from other parts of the US must want to convert Protestants so bad because they're much more annoying where they live.

It's a regional thing.
 

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Michał Kalina said:
Rufus said:
Michał Kalina said:
Because it does not work?

Remember seeing some Evangelical missionare carrying a 2-metre cross (actually he was pulling it, the cross had wheels) and shouting something in English about Jesus. People just were laughing and taking photos. I'm sure his success rate was 0%.
Remember that there's exactly two ways to evangelize:

1) drag a big cross around and ramble like an idiot

2) sit there in church and wait for people to come sashaying in off the street and get blown away by the chanting and architecture so they convert like Vlad's emissaries in that made-up story.

Then complain that the world is so godless these days.
So what would be some examples of active evangelisation?
Are you referring to Protestants, Orthodox, or both? Some Churches, especially the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, knock on doors and visit with people at their residences.
 

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Michał Kalina said:
Because it does not work?

Remember seeing some Evangelical missionare carrying a 2-metre cross (actually he was pulling it, the cross had wheels) and shouting something in English about Jesus. People just were laughing and taking photos. I'm sure his success rate was 0%.
Was he yelling in English in Poland? Now that would be stupid.
 

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Arachne said:
Look at it like door-to-door selling vs. setting up a shop. Which one do you think sells more? The one who accosts people unsolicited, or the one who lets them come in willingly?
Door-to-door salespeople typically come around uninvited, but do you think companies would employee that tactic if it didn't work? I'm pretty sure the same goes for door-to-door evangelists
 

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sprtslvr1973 said:
Arachne said:
Look at it like door-to-door selling vs. setting up a shop. Which one do you think sells more? The one who accosts people unsolicited, or the one who lets them come in willingly?
Door-to-door salespeople typically come around uninvited, but do you think companies would employee that tactic if it didn't work? I'm pretty sure the same goes for door-to-door evangelists
Cold calling and spamming must work as well, at least on some of the most vulnerable people. That doesn't make it any less obnoxious, or unethical.
 

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I think due to our history since the middle of the 15th century, Orthodoxy has been preoccupied with introspection, establishment of its churches or reestablishment of what it once had.

There are great missionary endeavors in the history of the Orthodox Church; the conversion of the Slavs by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople beginning in the 9th century; and the Church of Russia's Far East Missions in Japan and Korea, and of course its holy missionary work in Alaska.

But the scourge of captivity under the Moslem Ottoman Turks forced the church to be introspective, focused on preservation.  The Ottoman Empire oppressed all the Ancient Patriarchates, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, and the Churches of Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Albania and Greece--which were part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; likewise, administratively, essentially for the others too.  This oppression existed largely from the middle of the 15th century until the early 20th century.

Without elaborating herein, the Ecumenical Patriarchate remains subjugated today in the Republic of Turkey.

Around the time the church was riding itself of the oppression of the Ottoman's, beginning in 1917 Russia and in Georgia, and after WWII, spreading throughout the Eastern European Patriarchates of Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, and the Church of Albania, these of the largest of the Orthodox Christian populous, were suppressed by the evil of Communism; again, rendering us focused on preservation. And since the fall of Communism (1990 more or less), these churches are focused on rebuilding.

Other than the missionary support provided by the Church of Russia before 1917, thereafter, the administration of the Archdiocese of the Aleutians and North America essentially fell apart. Since the early 1920's, the churches in the Western Hemisphere have been concerned with establishing churches and institutions for themselves.

Although controversial, since the Orthodox Churches involvement in the ecumenical movement in the middle of the 20th century, the church consciously decided not to preach to Trinitarian Christians.  It was under this principle that caused the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCCC) to criticize the Evangelical Christian Churches that were proselytizing in Eastern Europe, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation after the fall of Communism, upon reports of its investigatory commissions, which had included Orthodox representatives.

I recently heard Fr. Thomas Hopko comment that the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America's acceptance of the Evangelical Orthodox Churches in 1988 was the spark that awakened the Churches of North America to our missionary calling.  Only in recent times do we have national offices for church missions.

But, let's remember too, we do have the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) doing exemplary work, largely in Africa, but elsewhere too, if I'm not mistaken.

Again, much of our history kept us introspective, but our theology calls us to mission.  And that may become more of a prominent aspect of our church as time goes by.
 
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