Monday, February 20, 2012

On Missions: Part 3

I wondered for a long time what Orthodox Missiology "looks like". As I explore my Faith, I encounter more accounts of the work of great Orthodox missionaries in the past, and have had opportunity to hear from and interact with several missionaries whose work is in progress. I have, little by little, begun (by God's grace!) to understand what I am seeing. I am sure I have much more development to experience in this area, and I am by no means "the expert". If anything, this post is like the baby in the crib finally assigning the words "Mama" and "Dada" to the specific faces his parents, and attempting to reproduce the two words himself. On that note: I beg your forgiveness, in advance, for where I am either incomplete or incorrect in the following meditation.

I have noted several things, all of which sort of "gelled" over this past weekend. This process began a couple of weeks ago, when I asked someone more advanced in the Faith, but from a similar background, why our Church only supports two missionaries. I will tell you the answer below, but the important note for this paragraph is that during the course of the ensuing conversation regarding missions, the fellow made a rather astute observation, which stuck with me. He said, "Orthodox missions is not like Protestant missions, where they just send a fellow down the Amazon with a Bible in his hand, who just tells the natives about Christ and has them say a prayer and start coming to hear him speak." He didn't really go into what Orthodox missions actually is about, though. But it got me thinking.

The very next week, the lead-up to the "gelling" process continued with the visit and report of one of our missionaries, working in Romania. Her presentation lasted over an hour, and covered every aspect of her work, which was quite enlightening. Also, I asked Fr. Silas, "I thought Romania is already an Orthodox country. Not that I have anything against her work, but I'm curious: why is she working there, and not, as Paul desired, 'where Christ has not been preached'?" His answer was that the Orthodox culture and life of Romania has been almost destroyed by the communism of the Soviet Union, and this is a new generation. She is working with the remaining Church to "raise up the ancient landmarks", that is, to re-evangelize the country.

The third moment in this process was when the light turned on, and I realized: Orthodox missions is so vastly different, because a) it's based in a radically different theology, soteriology and ecclesiology, and b) it's several orders of magnitude larger in scope and depth than any vision I've heard from any Protestant group thus far. It's playing on a wholly different plane.

The goal of Orthodox Missions is to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) in it's absolute fullest capacity, to bring the salvation and reconciliation that Christ provided and accomplished on the Cross to the whole world. This is the "ministry of reconciliation that St. Paul refers to. This vision is deeply rooted in both the Old and New Testaments, in the purpose of God for Israel, in the vision of the Prophets, and in the work of God in Christ, and His Apostles.

In my next post, I will give some of my meager observations of the contours of Orthodox Missionary work, and show how this echoes, continues, and enters into God's own missionary work (Christ is, after all, called "the Apostle"), co-laboring together with Him. I will attempt to detail the task, and show various ways each of us might be an active participant in the work, to the glory of God—the Father Almighty, together with His Son, our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, and the All-Holy and Good and Life-creating Spirit—to Whom be all glory, honor, worship, and praise, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

(Here's part 4:

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