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.
Where there is no vision, the people perish. (KJV) Proverbs 29:18
Many of us are familiar with Simon Sinek’s “Ted Talk” entitled “It Starts with the Why.” If you’ve heard this talk before, it lasts about 20 minutes. I encourage you to read this, not only because it has application to many jobs, but because it has an application to the Church and our Christian Faith.
What is our “WHY?” The answer is very simple: Jesus Christ. He is our Why. He is why we were blessed with life to begin with. He is our purpose, as well as our goal. Take Christ out of Christianity, and there is no Christianity. He is the WHY of Christianity. We are Christians because of Him. We do the things of our Church because of Him.
Take Christ out of the Church and the Church quickly collapses. Because without Christ, the Church is just a group of people, who have no specific focus.
In John 14:6, Jesus tells His disciples “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.” The WHY is Christ. Because the way to eternal life is only through Christ. And eternal life, heaven, salvation, this is the purpose to life, to reach this destination. The purpose of life is to again be in Paradise, the way that Adam and Eve were before the Fall. Christ shows us the way to Paradise. And so our Why is Christ—to know Him, to follow Him, and to let Him lead us back to Paradise.
After His Resurrection and before His Ascension, He told His Disciples to share what that had seen Him do (die and be resurrected), and what they had heard Him teach (the way to Paradise) with all nations. The Great Commission, as we have discussed, was given not only to them, but to EVERYONE who has come after them—not only the clergy, but everyone who has ever been baptized has received the same commission—to go and spread the Gospel to all nations. Jesus set out to change the world, not just the world of His time, but the world for all times, and in all times.
We know the Great Commission. So what is next? How do we put this commission into practice?
Proverbs 29:18 warns us “Without a vision the people perish.” While the Christian Church has it’s “Why” in the person of Jesus Christ, Christ’s commission for us to change the world and spread the Gospel to all nations will not go far if there isn’t vision and values that shape the mission. Most successful secular organizations have specific mission statements, vision statements and core values. They identify why they exist, how the will affect the marketplace and exactly what products they are selling (or giving away). It is only after the “why” and the “how” are answered that the specific “whats” of the organization are developed. Proverbs 29:18 rings very true, without a vision, indeed the people (and their organizations) perish. Perhaps this is the reason why so many churches are failing, because either that can’t agree on a vision, they lack the correct vision, or they lack a plan to execute the vision.
Vision is directed by mission. And even though we’ve discussion the mission of the church already, it bears repeating in the simplest of terms. The mission of the church is the Great ComMISSION, to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Mathew 28:19) Our WHY is this. Our Church exists to do THIS—Go, make disciples, baptize and teach. The “success” of our Church is based on the results of our efforts to do this. So, if we are not going and spreading the Gospel, if we are not making disciples, if we are not baptizing people and if we are not teaching what Christ taught us, if we are watering down or changing the message, and if the Church is not growing in Christ, then it is failing. Because THE purpose of the Church is to do this—to go, make disciples, baptize and teach them.
Many people, especially in the Greek Orthodox Church, mix culture in with faith. Nowhere in the Great Commission is there a mention of culture. Culture is a fun by-product in many churches, but it is not the center. It can’t be. The center of Christ. The central activity is worship of Christ. The most important priority has to be Christ. He is our WHY, and spreading Him is our mission.
I will sing of Thy steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim Thy faithfulness to all generations. For Thy steadfast love was established forever, Thy faithfulness is firm as the heavens. . .Let the heavens praise Thy wonders, O Lord, Thy faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!. . .Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Thy throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before Thee. Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance, who exult in Thy name all the day, and extol Thy righteousness. For Thou art the glory of their strength; by Thy favor our horn is exalted. For our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel. Of old Thou didst speak in a vision to Thy faithful one, and say: “I have set the crown upon one who is mighty, I have exalted one chosen from the people.” I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him; so that my hand shall ever abide with him, my arm also shall strengthen him. . .Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen and Amen. Psalm 89:1-2, 5, 14-21, 52
The next several reflections will speak of the vision Christ has for His Church, as well as some core values to help us make that vision come to fruition.
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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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