Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
Evangelism, as we are discussing, is sharing the message of Christ with others. The “others” includes everyone that isn’t us. We must share this news with our fellow parishioners, our neighbors outside of our church community, and even total strangers. The message is delivered in one of two ways. First, it is delivered through preaching and teaching. That means that there is a deliberate and purposeful delivering of the Gospel. We talk about Christ. We are all in positions to do this, in our own neighborhoods, in our own cities, in our individual and unique lives.
There also needs to be a purposeful support of those who desire to preach the Gospel outside of our community. Someone has to go take the Gospel to Africa, to Asia, to South America. Someone has to preach the Good News “to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) I personally am not going to do that. I live currently in Tampa, Florida. I have a home, a job, a child in school, and many other reasons why the person who is going to go to the end of the earth is not going to be me. But someone has to go. And thankfully, someone (many people) want to go. What can I/we do to support them?
I remember years ago that a parishioner wanted to go on a mission trip. In his case, he was going to go to a very rural area of Alaska. He needed some financial support to go. I remember giving him $100. And I remember telling my congregation “We can’t all go with Kenny to Alaska, but if I give him $100 to buy the heavy boots he will wear there, it’s as if I will be walking with him.” We may not be able to go be a missionary overseas, but we certainly can support those who can. This is why we support causes like the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) in St. Augustine, Florida. We encourage people to go on short-term missions each year, and we offer support to those who want to spend years overseas sharing the Gospel “to the end of the earth” by offering financial support to OCMC.
Another important, and overlooked, aspect of evangelism is not only introducing Christianity where has not been preached but helping to sustain it in areas where it has a foundation. There are many countries in the world where Christianity has taken root, where its existence is threatened by persecution. There are places in the world today where it is not safe to be a Christian. There are places where people are being killed for their Christian faith, just as they were in the early centuries of the Church. What can be done to help them? Most certainly we pray for Christians throughout the world, those who thrive under conditions of freedom as well as those who suffer under conditions of persecution. There are causes to be supported, as well as leaders to be convinced that the plight of Christians living under conditions of oppression is something worthy of intervention.
There is a documentary called “Christians in the Mirror,” which is about the plight of Christians in third world countries, especially in places where Christians are being persecuted. You can read more about this documentary at www.christiansinthemirror.com. There is a three minute trailer about the documentary, some of which is noteworthy., which I would like to quote here:
“I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is ‘hungry Jesus,’ I must feed Him. This is ‘sick Jesus.’ This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash Him and tend to Him. I serve because I love Jesus.” —Mother Theresa
Over 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016. That’s one every six minutes. (Center for study of global Christianity)
As American Christians, we enjoy freedom of religion, prosperity, and opportunity while out brothers and sisters in Christ around the world face marginalization, persecution and genocide, from Syria, Iraq and Egypt to Sudan and India. Since the time of Christ, His followers in every corner of the earth have taken up the cross, bravely persevering and boldly proclaiming the good news of the Gospel, and why they endure, we living in freedom and affluence have been given a responsibility.
The Bible says “we are one body.” If there is any part of us that is hurt, the whole body will feel the problems and challenges, but in these days, we forget each other. We are not praying for each other. We are not standing with each other.
Beyond denominations, across ethnicities, races and nationalities, Christ unites us through the power of faith. The same faith that should help inspire us to help those suffering from persecution.
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King. Within her citadels God has shown Himself a sure defense. For lo, the kings assembled, they came on together. As soon as they saw it, they were astounded, they were in panic, they took to flight; trembling took hold of them there, anguish as of a woman in travail. By the east wind thou didst shatter the ships of Tarshish. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God, which God establishes forever. We have thought on Thy steadfast love, O God, in the midst of Thy temple. As Thy name, O God, so Thy praise reaches to the ends of the earth. Thy right hand is filled with victory; let Mount Zion be glad! Let the daughters of Judah rejoice because of Thy judgements! Walk about Zion, go round with her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels; that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will be our guide forever. Psalm 48
Whether we ever set foot in a third world country or not, we each have a role to play in spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth!
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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