I’ve been thinking a lot about evangelism from an Orthodox or even Roman/Old/Anglo-Catholic point of view lately, particularly for young people and children as this week I purchased a book of Bible stories for a toddler and a ‘Youth Bible’ for a thirteen year-old.
As traditionalists, it’s very tempting to shy away from evangelism as to not become associated with the Bible-thumping baptists, the ‘in your face (and on your doorstep!) Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons or indeed the ‘happy-clapper’ protestants with their tambourines and guitars. I believe each of these groups have done more damage to the true Church of Christ than good, at least in the West.
Christianity is often seen as a joke, particularly to young people who haven’t had religion in their households growing up and have so many interpersonal issues that are a priority; being popular, or at least not standing out being a major issue for most children and young people.
As someone who grew up in a secular household within a Presbyterian parish, I was a black sheep as a child in that I had an unhealthy attraction to churches, cemeteries, and ‘thin’ or Holy places. I thoroughly enjoyed singing hymns in school, one favourite I recall being John Rutter’s Jesus Child. It was a time to play and joke around to most others in my class, but when we sung the sun would shine brightly through the window on us and it felt special. We were singing praises to God – and He was listening.
Somewhere along the path, I lost my way. I felt embarrassed to visit Church myself, but sometimes I would sneak in and sit at the back. Eventually I rebelled and became interested in spirits, the paranormal and eventually paganism. I was searching for something, the truth? But this path led me to such trouble. Years of spiritual torment, through these mistakes I made. I was well and truly “off the derech (path)” as the Jewish would say.
But I digress; peculiar, perhaps slightly eccentric people like myself are drawn to ritual and the spiritual. Something there that knows what to look for but needs help finding the path, and when ready – I believe we are all brought back to God, returning from the road to spiritual death, and (hopefully!) back to Orthodoxy when the time is right.
For us, personal witness and spiritual events may be all that is required to nudge us back, but some people need to be made aware that there is something beyond having the latest trainers, phones and all the Pokémon!
For those, it is our duty – just as it was the duty of the Apostles – to make the Gospels known to those who do not know Christ. Find ways to make it accessible without butchering the Tradition of the Church and Word of God to something that is unrecognisable.
Walking with Christ doesn’t need to conjure images of old women with knitted tea cosies, nor New Age style hippies singing about peace and love; God’s love and His teachings through the Son are eternal – we must make it accessible to everyone without adding or subtracting from it.
I am of the opinion that the sooner someone participates in one of the Holy Mysteries, the sooner everything else falls into place; it’s getting to that point which is the most difficult stage – and if we truly love God, His creations, our neighbours… we must help others to find salvation through His Church.
May God bless you all – and your neighbours.