November 30, 2012 § Leave a comment
Evangelism as Personal and Relational
A Sermon on St. Andrew the First Called (11/30)
Reading from Wednesday of Bright Week (John 1:35-51)
We have an opportunity today to talk about evangelism. The story of St. Andrew the First-Called, as given in the Gospel according to St. John, provides us with a model of how to approach evangelism.
What happens in our story? Andrew and another are introduced to Jesus Christ. Christ invites them to “come and see” and spend the remainder of the day with him.
As a result of this encounter, the first thing Andrew does is:
- Finds his brother Peter
- Tells Peter that Jesus is the anticipated Messiah
- Brings Peter to meet Jesus for himself
What follows is Peter’s own conversion to become a follower of Christ.
We see in the remainder of the Gospels that Andrew does not play any other outstanding role in the accounts of the apostles’ ministry with Christ during His public ministry. Peter is made “first” among the Apostles. Peter, along with James and John, are counted as the “inner circle” of the 12 Apostles.
To be sure, Andrew is counted among the 12 Apostles, but we don’t hear anything distinct about him from this point on. He does have the distinction of being the “first called” and as the one who introduced Peter to Jesus as the Messiah.
Often, the mistake is made to think that evangelism consists primarily of particular techniques, approaches, or methods. We can get caught up in discussions of how we do or don’t advertize, what kind of pamphlets we have for visitors/inquirers, how or who follows up with visitors, what we say, what we don’t say, etc., etc., etc.
There can also be the mistaken notion that the priest possesses some specific formula or technique for successful evangelism, i.e., that there is some specific evangelism “switch” that the priest can flip and get masses of people to come to church. This is simply not true.
To be sure, the elements of methods and approaches are needed and important. Those who are looking for the faith need to know that we are here and how to find us. Those who are looking for us need to have the means to access us from where they currently are at.
The priest is important in the work of evangelism. He is the one who follows up with guests and can nurture their interests and involvement in the parish. He is the one who can do a significant portion of the administrative “leg work” on the methods and approaches. The priest is one of the ones who can keep the parish community focused and on-task with the parish ministry of evangelism.
But the priest, ultimately, is not the primary evangelist of the parish. The primary evangelists of the parish are the members of the parish.
How is this possible? Look at the story we have of St. Andrew. He is the evangelist in the story. He introduces Peter to Jesus. Andrew shares with Peter that Jesus is the Messiah. Next, Andrew brings Peter to meet Jesus as the Messiah. Finally, Andrew steps back and allows Jesus to take over the work of forming Peter as an Apostle.
Andrew does this work in three steps: (1) he finds Peter, (2) he tells Peter about Christ, and (3) he brings Peter to meet Christ.
This highlights Andrews approach, but a more important element needs to be emphasized: Andrew’s work as an evangelist was personal and involved someone he had an existing relationship with. Peter is his brother. Andrew had a face-to-face discussion with his brother, then brought him to meet Christ. There was no brochure, flier, or newspaper ad involved.
As such our work as evangelists needs to be personal and relational. It is personal in that we speak with people directly about the faith and it is relational in that it involves people that we have an existing relationship with:
- our friends and neighbors
- our family members/relatives
- our coworkers or classmates
As you can see, we shouldn’t think of this in terms of “beating the bushes” to find strangers that we have to make a “sales pitch” to. Instead, we should approach our faith as a cherished gift that we have and desire to share with those we know, but don’t have that gift:
- we find those we already have some relationship with
- we tell them about the gift that we have received
- we bring them to “come and see” the gift as expressed in our Sunday Divine Liturgy.
October 10, 2012 § Leave a comment
Probably the most common response people initially have to reading the Bible for themselves is being overwhelmed with where to start. This is a natural response when presented with a book that’s over an inch thick, printed on very thin pages, and with a page count of over 1,800 pages long.
Part of being overwhelmed can also be the assumption that one needs to start by picking up the Bible and reading it from cover to cover like any other book. Instead, it should be thought of as a companion who will be a constant part of your life from here on out. As with any new “friend,” your initial steps should be introductory, becoming acquainted with the Bible and its contents.
- Purchase your own copy of the complete Orthodox Study Bible. It’s not enough for your household to have a family copy; you should have your own personal copy.
- Pick a quiet time when you have no distractions and 15-30 minutes uninterrupted time. Sit down with your Orthodox Study Bible and browse through the contents. Don’t worry about jumping in and reading. Simply skim through to familiarize yourself with the various contents and features.
- After this initial session, pick another quiet time with the Orthodox Study Bible. Read Bishop KALLISTOS’ article “How to Read Your Bible” (pgs. 1757-1766) for a treatment of the Orthodox approach to studying the Bible.
- After this second session, pick another quiet time with the Orthodox Study Bible. Read Bishop BASIL’s article “Overview of the Books of the Bible” (pgs. xv-xx). This article will give you an overview of each specific book and the entire scope of the Bible.
- Each week, use your church calendar and spend the week reading and re-reading the two lessons prescribed for the upcoming Sunday’s Liturgy. Read the study notes associated with the reading. This will prepare you for hearing Sunday’s homily.
- Once you’ve started, speak with the priest for advice on a next step in reading and studying the Bible.
September 29, 2012 § Leave a comment
This blog has been fallow since this past January. I’ve been chewing on getting it started again in the near future, but re-casting it in a slightly different direction. More to come in the next few days…
January 14, 2012 § Leave a comment
THE EPISTLE (For the Twenty-Ninth Sunday after Pentecost)
The Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians. (3:4-11)
Brethren, when Christ, Who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you once walked, when you lived in them. But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices, and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all.
THE GOSPEL (For the Twelfth Sunday of Luke)
The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (17:12-19)
At that time, as Jesus entered a village, He was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And He said to Him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
January 5, 2012 § Leave a comment
THE EPISTLE (For the Sunday after Theophany of Christ)
The Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians. (4:7-13)
Brethren, grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said, “When He ascended on high He led a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that He had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is He who also ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And His gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
THE GOSPEL (For the Sunday after Theophany of Christ)
The reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (4:12-17)
At that time, when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulon and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
December 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
THE EPISTLE (The Nativity of Christ)
The reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians. (4:4-7)
Brethren, when the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
THE GOSPEL (The Nativity of Christ)
The reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (2:1-12)
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, are by no means least among the rulers of Judea; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern My people Israel.’” Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found Him bring me word, that I too may come and worship Him.” When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
December 12, 2011 § Leave a comment
THE EPISTLE (For the Sunday before the Nativity)
The Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews. (11:9-10, 32-40)
Brethren, by faith Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, and put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
THE GOSPEL (For the Sunday before the Nativity: “The Genealogy”)
The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (1:1-25)
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa, and Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, Who is called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ were fourteen generations. Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call His Name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and His Name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called His Name Jesus.