The vision of the Department of Missions and Evangelism is nothing other than helping His Eminence, Metropolitan JOSEPH to “save souls” by strengthening our parishes in “Praising, Preaching, and Presenting.”
The success of Church growth demands episcopal oversight. It is the Metropolitan, together with the local diocesan bishops who gives order, meaning and direction to Church growth, so that growth becomes neither an end in itself, nor ordered, or given meaning and direction simply by local interests and pursuits, but becomes an expression of the true nature of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
We may ask the question: “Why did Christ give some as evangelists?” The answer: “…for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” He did not say specifically “…for them to go start missions.”
To what end? “…until we all come to faith, and of the knowledge of the son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. That we would no longer be children tossed throw, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.”
If we look at the meaning of the word evangelist, we could say that it is one who brings the message of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And what is the fundamental message of the gospel? Both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ himself state it so succinctly: “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
Who needs to hear these words in the world we live in today? Do we take this message out into the highways and byways of life in this fallen world we live in? If we were honest with ourselves, I think we would have to say that this fallen world we live in, is dominating our own church membership. It is our own churches, our own parishes that need to repent because the kingdom of heaven is more at hand with them than it is with those on the outside.
We need to revitalize our own parishes, to use a tired often misunderstood term, we need a revival. I would like to suggest that the role of the evangelist in our current situation should be directed towards renewal in our own parishes for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
For how long? Until we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
And so the role evangelist, or we can call him the missionary if we like, could serve as a way of helping pastors to bring their communities to repentance, to teach them the faith and to be able to defend it against the onslaughts of our culture which is in a freefall into the abyss, and to observe how the liturgical life can be improved, both to inspire parishioners to loftier things, and to attract those who are seeking the true faith.
"You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." - Acts 1:8
What I am trying to set forth here briefly is more of a vision than the practical implementation. But we must have a vision before we have a plan. Even so, as a beginning point I could see establishing teams of pairs that might go into a parish over a weekend and do a series of teaching, practical workshops in music, chanting, reading the scriptures, greeting visitors, assessing the appearance of the church from the standpoint of a first-time visitor, and in general calling upon the membership to re-dedicate their lives to Christ and the Church.
We don’t have an “altar call” in our church, or do we? At every Divine Liturgy, we are called forward to the altar of God to receive the life and the light from above every Sunday morning. But are we just going through the motions, or are we really and truly presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, re-dedicating our lives to him, prepared to take the life and light we have received from God back into this world and to communicate it to the world which we live?
Father Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory describes the Mission of the Church as being twofold: 1) the first mission of the church is to ascend into the heavenly holy of holies, to worship the Almighty God, and to receive the eternal life and light from him, and the second mission of the Church is to be sent back into this world as witnesses of the light and the life we have received, and to communicate that to the world. Let us go forth in peace; in the Name of the Lord. This twofold mission of the church constitutes the rhythm of our whole life in which we go up and in, and then out to bear witness.
Conceivably, the Department of Missions and Evangelism could serve as a means of coordinating and sending out teams of evangelists, teachers, singers, etc. into the parishes that Your Eminence feels would benefit from such inspiration and challenge. Such a great task cannot be accomplished in a parish in one weekend, but we have to start somewhere, and we can follow up where there is a positive response.
God knows the people outside of the One, Holy Catholic, and Apostolic Church who are really seeking Him in a deeper way. He knows where they are, but we must let down our nets, i.e., we have to do our part. And if our nets, that are our parishes, are in good condition, if they are healthy spiritually, the Lord Jesus Christ will call these people into the net. But if our churches are not healthy, if our nets are torn by sin and disbelief, having been beaten up by the surrounding society, will He call them into those nets?
I would like to suggest that after basically 25 years of working the mission side of the missions and evangelism formula, that we turn now and focus on the evangelism side of the formula, but directed to our own parishes, equipping them with the help of God’s grace to in fact grow both spiritually and numerically in such a way that it gives birth to the establishment of missions across this great continent of North America.
Bulgokov once said, “You don’t force people into the kingdom, you charm them.” The only way to charm them is with worshipful music, good preaching, and an elegant presentation of what it means to be a Christian. This becomes a three-fold introduction to a non-threatening community experience, that is just “there’ waiting to be embraced.