In a recent post on his Orthodox blog Roads from Emmaus, Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick tells of a marketing call from a distributor of Christian-themed media content. The caller made no allowance for the distinct difference in Orthodox Christianity and other branches of mainstream American evangelicalism. For this marketer, Christianity is a product to be moved, not a Gospel to be shared.
Before I began to enquire about Orthodoxy, I rarely came across websites or books discussing the faith. As I began my journey to Orthodoxy and started researching, I quickly found Ancient Faith Ministries, a leading producer of Orthodox blogs, podcasts, books and other aids to the study and practice of the faith. People outside of Orthodoxy may never have heard of this ministry, but inside the faith they are a content juggernaut.
(Full disclosure: in the early days of this site I corresponded with Fr. Damick as to whether my work fit with their blog network; as of this post, it does not. I’m still a daily consumer of their content and highly recommend it.)
It is encouraging to see the efforts to reach our media-saturated country with the message of the Orthodox Church. But I also worry about the slippery slope that comes with increased attention from content consumers.
Orthodox Christianity has only a tiny presence in America. We are dwarfed by both the Catholic Church and the broad range of Evangelical denominations in terms of total membership. If Orthodoxy in America is to reach new people, a faith not traditionally known for its outreach must become more media savvy and more, shall we say, evangelistic.
Orthodox blogs for the Left Behind crowd
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. – James 3:1
This verse hits me between the eyes. Since beginning this Orthodox blog I have tried to examine my heart and my motives for pride and vainglory. I know that both are there, and I struggle with the desire for praise and attention from my writing. How much greater must the struggle be for a priest with a parish full of spiritual children, as well as a worldwide audience for a podcast or radio show or video series.
Christian media is already at a disadvantage. One segment of the audience sees Christian evangelists as hypocrites and charlatans. Another segment contains Evangelicals consuming a steady diet of watered-down, Hallmark card Christianity with little resemblance to the early Church.
We are fighting an uphill battle to reach not only those antagonistic to any Christian message, but also the audience for the Left Behind movies and other religious schlock. Our first witness must be our lives, not our words, or we become just another denomination to so-called “seekers.”
I certainly cannot speak for the Orthodox blog writers and clergy that are reaching those seeking the true faith of the first Christians. My hope is to tell my story to the tiny audience that reads this. I continue to pray that I do so in a way that reflects Christ’s message, without my own pride and vanity spoiling it.
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