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.
And He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore that the Lord of harvest send out laborers into His harvest.”Luke 10:2
Have you ever thought about being a missionary? For most of us the answer is no, because we associate missionaries with people who go to third world countries to spread the Gospel. Most of us don’t want to leave our homes, our families or our towns, to go to places without water, electricity and creature comforts, or worse yet, to a country that is openly hostile to Christians, as is still happening in parts of our world today.
The truth is that we don’t have to go to Africa or Asia to be spread the Gospel. A few churches that I have seen have a sign at the exit door which reads “You are now entering the missions field.” Whether one goes overseas and works full time as a missionary or not, the “missions” mentality is something that we should all have. We should all have something in our consciousness that reminds us that spread the Gospel is an obligation that all Christians have, and it is also an opportunity that presents itself frequently.
In I John 4:16, we read, “God is love and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” Since God is love, and the role of the missionary is to spread the Word of God, the primary job of the missionary is to show God’s love. In Africa, where there is a presence of Orthodox missionary work, the missionaries do not just set up churches and catechetical schools. They set up soup kitchens and food pantries. Because they know that their role isn’t just to offer worship and education. Together with these things, they provide humanitarian aid. In fact, it is the humanitarian efforts that many times lead people to God. People come to the churches first to receive help and then they become open to receiving God in their hearts.
The primary message of the Gospel is love. The primary work of the Church is to share God’s love. And thus the primary work of the missionary, which includes each of us, is to love. Certainly, some will decide and thankfully do decide to dedicate their life to missions work by going to foreign countries. The rest of us, however, need to embrace the concept of entering the missions field every time we leave our churches, indeed, every time we leave our houses. Humanitarian aid is needed everywhere, in the form of basic necessities like food, as well as emotional necessities like empathy, compassion, and a sensitive ear.
Most people think of missionaries working with the poor and with strangers. There is certainly a necessarily element when it comes to that in our own towns. We should be supporting local food banks and opening food pantries in our churches. There is also plenty of missionary work that is needed with people we know. It may be on the humanitarian side or on the emotional side.
Love is positive. Love is attractive. Loving gestures attract people. When we demonstrate love, we show God. When we demonstrate love, we will attract people to God. When we attract people to God, we are doing the work of evangelism. So, in our charge to be evangelists, mission work is an important component. And it doesn’t necessarily mean we need to pack up and set out for a third world country. It can happen right outside the doors of our homes and churches. To be a missionary is to understand the mission—to spread the Gospel—and to understand we each play a role in that mission.
In Thy strength the king rejoices, O Lord; and in Thy help how greatly He exults! Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, and hast not withheld the request of his lips. For Thou dost met him with goodly blessings; Thou dost set a crown of fine gold upon his head. He asked life of Thee; thou gavest it to him, length of days forever and ever. His glory is great through Thy help; splendor and majesty Thou dost bestow upon him. Yea, Thou dost make him most blessed forever; Thou dost make him glad with the joy of Thy presence. For the king trusts in the Lord; and through the steadfast love of the Most high he shall not be moved. Your hand will find out all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you. You will make them as a blazing oven when You appear. The Lord will swallow them up in His wrath; and fire will consume them. You will destroy their offspring from the earth, and their children from among the sons of men. If they plan evil against You, if they devise mischief, they will not succeed. For You will put them to flight; You will aim at their faces with Your bows. Be exalted, O Lord, in Thy strength! We will sing and praise Thy power. Psalm 21
Think about “missions” when you leave the house today. Look for an opportunity to show God-like love to as many people as possible, be they people you know or total strangers.
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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