Avoiding Rookie Mistakes


Sharing Orthodoxy With Others

2010 © Robert K. Arakaki

Orthodox converts in their eagerness to tell others about Orthodoxy often make rookie mistakes.  In this article I will discuss four principles that will help us become better communicators of the Orthodox Faith.

Major in the Majors, Not in the Minors

When a group of Anglicans in Great Britain interested in becoming Orthodox met with Russian Orthodox Christians, the first thing they were told was, “You will have to remove the pews”!  A better approach was the one taken by Bishop Dmitri who told Peter Gillquist and his fellow Evangelicals, “Let’s start with our faith in Christ.  We must be sure we’re in agreement on the question asked by the Lord Himself: Who do men say I am?” (in Becoming Orthodox, p. 130)

Commonality Before Differences

When he spoke to the Jews (Acts 13) Paul started off with the Old Testament, when he spoke to the Athenians (Acts 17) Paul started off with pagan Greek philosophy.  Eventually, he would introduce his listeners to Jesus the Messiah promised by the Old Testament prophets and the Logos discussed by the philosophers.  Oftentimes when he proclaimed the heart of the Christian message he encountered resistance and rejection.  Similarly, the starting point of our discussions with Evangelicals will be different from our conversations with Roman Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims, or agnostics.

Positives Before Negatives

Bishop Kallistos Ware notes of St. Paul in his speech at the Aeropagus: “He doesn’t start by telling the Athenians that they were all wrong, but he says: ‘You are on the right path, yet you need to go further.’  Starting off a conversation by criticizing people for failing to be Orthodox is a sure fire way to quench an interest in Orthodoxy and a good way to drive people away from Orthodoxy.” In Gifts from the Desert, p. 153.

You Can’t Argue People Into Orthodoxy, But You Can Help Them

It’s good to defend what you believe in with logic and facts, but you cannot debate people into the Kingdom of God.  Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit.  People will change when they’re ready for change.  Orthodoxy strongly believes in free will.  We read in the first century Letter to Diognetus: “He (the Father) was saving and persuading when he sent him (the Son), not compelling, for compulsion is not an attribute of God.”

On Our Way Home

Ultimately, Orthodoxy is not about a superior system of doctrine, or about a Church superior to other churches or religions, but about coming home to God.  Everyone -- regardless of their religious background -- has been made in the image of God to know and love God.  Our job is to help others in whatever ways, big or small, to know and love God.  Our job is to help others in whatever ways, big or small, to learn more about Jesus Christ.  As D.T. Niles put it so well: “Christianity is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” 

2010 © Robert K. Arakaki 

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