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 Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore 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.” Matthew 28:18-20
I recently listened to a podcast where a priest told the story of a shoe factory. The purpose of a shoe factory is simple, to make shoes. Imagine that you build a beautiful factory, the latest technology, have the best materials, and even the friendliest people. But the factory doesn’t produce shoes. The factory would be viewed as a failure. The purpose of the shoe factory, as we mentioned, is singular, and simple: Make shoes.
The purpose of the church, stated in the Great Commission(Matthew 28:18-20) which Christ gave to His Apostles was simple: Make Disciples. Spread the message. If the Church does not make disciples, it is as much a failure as the shoe factory that doesn’t produce shoes. If the Church has a beautiful building, a full calendar, the latest technology, and even the nicest people, but doesn’t produce any new disciples, it can’t really be considered a successful church.
The Great Commission can be summed up in one word: Evangelism. The word comes from the Greek Word, “Evangelion” which can literally be translated as “The Good News.” To “evangelize” means to share the good news of the Gospel of Christ. Somehow, this very important word gets lost in church community vernacular. You might call is “The Forgotten Charge.”
Evangelism is crucial to not only growing the Church and spreading the Word of God but even to just maintaining the Church. People are dying all the time. If we are not bringing in people at the same rate that we are losing them, the Church will eventually die. Evangelism, at a minimum, is replacing the people we lost. Ideally, however, it is more than that. Church communities are not about counting people, or filling the calendar with programs, or coming up with gimmicks to get people in the pews. Evangelism is bringing the joy of Christ to as many people as possible. Even if the Church is filled, that doesn’t mean evangelism stops for that community. It might mean building a larger building, or ideally, branching off and starting a new parish.
We have been discussing in this unit, our personal participation in the life of the Church. If Churches are supposed to make disciples, then this charge has to filter down to the people in the pews. After all, it is not the priest alone who makes disciples or who should have a consciousness of growing. Every Orthodox Christian had the Gospel of the Great Commission read at their baptisms. Every Orthodox Christian has received the charge to go out and make disciples of all nations. Thus, in addition to worshipping, praying, reading Scripture, following the commandments, repentance, and charity, we add the important element of evangelism.
Here is a simple question to ask ourselves: Has anyone come to Christ because of something you have done? If the answer is yes, you are an evangelist, you have met the charge to spread the Gospel. On the other hand, we have to also ask ourselves: Has anyone gone away from Christ or the church because of something you have done? We have to be careful with the example we set because just as each of us has the ability to bring people to Christ, we also have the ability to move people away from Him when we witness our Christianity poorly.
Many people think it is the priests and the theologians who have the charge to be an evangelist. And many more think that only the priests and people with a degree or formal training are allowed to spread the message. Neither is true. We all have the charge to spread the message, and we all have the ability to do so as well.
O Lord my God, in Thee do I take refuge. . .My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart. . .I will give to the Lord the thanks due to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the Name of the Lord, the Most High. Psalm 7: 1, 10, 17
Don’t forget about the forgotten charge of being an evangelist—you received it at your baptism!
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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