Orthodox Evangelism: Using Words Only If Necessary

orthodox evangelism

Orthodox evangelism is something I believe will become more common in America as more people seek out the ancient church. More converts will take the lessons they have learned elsewhere and apply them to Orthodoxy, for better or worse.

So let me tell you about something that happened to me recently.

I had just begun eating lunch in a mall food court when two young men approached me. The first thing I noticed was the LSU cap one of them was wearing. We spoke briefly about college football, before I cut to the chase.

“Are you guys trying to sell me magazines or something?”

They weren’t, but it was obvious that college football was only an excuse to strike up a conversation. They asked to sit down, and said they were with a college Christian organization, and wanted to talk about Jesus Christ.

Boy did they pick the wrong guy.

Orthodox evangelism in words

I said I’m an Orthodox Christian, and they asked me to explain what that was. My explanation led to more questions from the young men, and for the next hour or so, I laid out the case for the ancient faith.

One of the young men asked me about Orthodox evangelism, and how we spread the word. I replied that Orthodox Christians really didn’t evangelize the way Protestants do. We try to live our faith, and let that be our witness, as opposed to having soul quotas and mission trips.

I can be such a jerk sometimes.

As we spoke, I heard myself working to close the sale just as I did as an eager Evangelical Christian. I quoted scripture, and even sprinkled in a few Greek words. I discussed icons, the Theotokos, the Real Presence – all the biggies for Protestants.

It was awful, if you ask me.

I’m probably being a little hard on myself. These young men were sharing their faith with strangers, and that gave me opportunity to do the same.  I gave them plenty of openings to end the conversation and escape, but they continued to ask questions. I’d like to think this was because they genuinely interested in what I had to say.

I directed them to this website, where they could read the story of my conversion to Orthodoxy. I also said they could contact me with any other questions they might have.

Haven’t heard from them. I don’t expect to, either.

But that wasn’t really the point. I got to share my faith with someone in a very direct and personal way. Maybe I made a connection and planted a seed, and maybe I didn’t.

Orthodox evangelism in deeds

Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying: “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”

If I take an honest look at myself, my Orthodox faith is often more in word than in deed. I can write an article or a Facebook post making the case for Orthodoxy, then go out into the word and act like any other sinful man. How do I break this cycle?

More confession. True repentance. Serving others more than myself. Prayer and fasting.

I know the recipe. Why don’t I get cooking?

As my conversation with the young men wrapped up, one of them did his own version of closing the sale.

“Is there anything you want us to pray for with you?” It was a sweet, very practiced line. I responded with a general request for their prayers. I hope I wasn’t too dismissive.

If those young men have indeed visited this site, and still are, I do ask for your prayers. I ask for your forgiveness for my prideful boasting. And I ask that you pray that my deeds will outshine my words.

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Comments 3

  1. If we are going to have conversation, we have to use words. We sometimes have only a brief time to shoot the breeze with others that wander into our lives. It is only logical for us to help others to learn about the Eastern Orthodox Church, isn’t it?

    When we discuss faith with Protestants, there are issues with vocabulary, their relatively incomplete understanding or lack of appreciation of Church history and historical theology and so on. They might think that we are just a more rococo version of Roman Catholicism. What do we do with the time that we have, especially if we have been targeted by them?

    I’d say encourage them to visit an Orthodox church and see what we do. If it is difficult for them to attend Sunday liturgy, we can suggest other services. If it’s Lent, ask them to come to Pre-sanctified on Wednesday night so they can hear and join us in “Let My Prayer Arise in Thy Sight as Incense” and invite them to Pascha. Suggest another meeting with them at the same place, if they make a habit of going there regularly. We can be friendly and non-competitive.

    I also like to talk with folks that don’t know us. It’s hard to restrain myself because I want them to leave with something they hadn’t considered before. We can be friendly and respond graciously. We can also ask questions. I like to bring up the Ancient Church’s belief in the Eucharist because this was an important thing for me when I went from being an Evangelical to being Orthodox.

    What do you think of this?

    1. Post

      I think that this post may have confused the issue for several readers. I did not mean to suggest that we should strive not to use words, or that there is some way to share the Gospel without them. My intent was to show that preaching while failing to live out our words can make our witness seem hypocritical.

      It’s self-evident that we should be ready and willing to speak to others about Christ, and about his Church, when given the opportunity. But I find that living the Christian life presents us with more opportunities to do so than simply grabbing a Bible and a soapbox and letting ‘er rip.

  2. I believe that Christianity is basically not something to compete about, and secondly evangelism is necessary to win over practically those who have never considered going to church in their lifetime (they are very many out there).
    Therefore it is necessary to talk to these latter group in order to win them over to the Christendom!

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