Evangelism or witnessing or bearing witness to Orthodox Christianity is the process of bringing Orthodox teachings to people who are outside of the Church, in hopes that they will accept these teachings and decide to become a part of the Church. In Greek, the word witness is μαρτυρια, martyria, from which English derives the word martyr. Martyrs gave their lives as a witness for the Gospel of Christ. In Othodox Christianity, then, witness is primarily a character of one's life more than a program of proselytism. Still, individual acts of evangelism can result from deliberate missionary work or evolve from a casual discussion about faith between an Orthodox Christian and a person (or people) outside the Orthodox Church.
A witness for Orthodoxy can be any member of the Church, clergy or lay; in any case, they should be worshipping with the Church regularly, and observing all normal practices of the Church as practiced locally and with the guidance of their spiritual father. During discussions about the Orthodox faith, a prepared witness will know Orthodox doctrine and be versed in Orthodox apologetics in order to best answer questions. It can also be helpful if the witness is familiar with various non-Orthodox ideologies.
A witness for Orthodoxy can and should pray for God's help in his or her task. Evangelism should be conducted out of love, and should be personal.
Orthodoxy teaches that a person must accept faith freely; faith cannot be coerced in any way. Such a conversion would be insincere and invalid.
For non believers: O Master, Lord our God, call to Thy holy Illumination Thy children who see Thee not and who believe Thee not, and grant them great grace to be renewed unto life everlasting.
Thoughts on Orthodox Witnessing
"...we have to understand that faith is God's gift. Just as a person can be born blind, or with very good vision and good hearing, so it is with faith, it's a gift of God. If this gift is given to you then value it, so you may not loose it. If a person doesn't have that gift, we are most likely left to pray for such people, so that the Lord may bestow upon them that gift. You cannot convince a person that God exists, it's not some theorem that can logically be proven. And so, brothers and sisters, we have to pray and God will open people's eyes and they will see."
"People want to find God, but sometimes we push them away from the Holy Church with our false conservatism. When we say that 'Well if God wanted, these people would come to Church on their own' and try to relax ourselves with that, this is wrong. We need to go around the world and spread the good news.
The Church's sermon goes in two directions: to one group of people for salvation, to the others in witness. It goes for salvation to those who accept this and become good Christians. In witness it goes for those who do not accept it, so that during the last judgement they are told: you saw and heard, but did not accept. Therefore our sermon is never in vain. It's either for salvation or in witness."
Fr. Oleg Stenayev, Head of the A.V. Khomiakov Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Non-Traditional Religions and Help to Drug Abusers (Moscow). Radio Radonezh, "On God's Vision"
"...If a person has left the faith and Church, then one can truly help them through prayer more than through anything else. Concerning the actual prayer itself, one can more accurately suggest: a heartful prayer, a prayer that doesn't weaken, which doesn't loose hope in a week, month, or years, when we are not leaving the person one on one with their inner weaknesses and problems. If we continue to stand for him in this way before God, then this will resonate in his soul sooner or later."
Fr. Maxim Kozlov, Church of the Holy Martyr Tatiana, Moscow State University.
- Green, Michael. Evangelism In The Early Church. (ISBN 0802827683)
- Oleksa, Michael J. Orthodox Alaska: A Theology of Mission. (ISBN 0881410926)
Resources for Orthodox evangelism
- Orthodox Witness, an online e-group devoted to the discussion of witnessing Orthodoxy
- An Orthodox homily on the Gospel of John and belief
- Mission and Evangelism by Metropolitan Makarios
- Wiki-editable webpage on witnessing Orthodoxy, including prayer lists.
- Wiki How to Bring Someone to the Orthodox Christian Faith
- Eastern Orthodox Christian Evangelism is Different by Fr. David Moser
- Proselytism (broadly defined) at Wikipedia