By Father Peter Farrington
It is that God has become man in the incarnation so that we might share in the life of the Holy Spirit in union with God. Go Bear Good News | Evangelism As A Lifestyle
How then do we also become those who bear Good News naturally and as an aspect of our life?
Undoubtedly there are benefits in following a course if we are serious about sharing our faith. There are lessons we can learn from apologetics and from a proper understanding of the teaching of the Church. Ignorance and a casual attitude towards the Tradition of the Church are not the best basis for sharing truth in love. Gaining a better understanding of the teaching of the Church is useful for us all.
But I am convinced of this, the proper basis for becoming those who bear Good News as a natural aspect of our lives is union with God in Christ by the grace of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is only as we become those who are united more and more closely to God that we are able to be used by God as bearers of Good News. This is indeed the substance of our Orthodox Gospel. It is not essentially that we may avoid punishment in Hell. It is not that we may be rewarded by God if we do things that please him.
It is that God has become man in the incarnation so that we might share in the life of the Holy Spirit in union with God.
All of this is indispensable to one who would become Good News. Go Bear Good News | Evangelism As A Lifestyle
What does this require of us in the first place? It is that we must be and become more committed to Christ and to seeking the Kingdom. We must be those who value the sacraments, those who are often in Church to offer prayer and praise according to our Orthodox Spiritual Tradition. We must be those who pray much in our daily life, using the Agpeya and the Jesus Prayer – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. We must be those who love the Scriptures and who read spiritual works by the approved and proven spiritual fathers of the Church.
All of this is indispensable to one who would become Good News.
Of course we begin where we are, and often this means that we have a long journey ahead of us. But it begins with the first step, and if that step is taken with God and in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit then we already have some experience of God to share with others. What has become clear to me is that the Gospel is not an intellectual argument that we can present without any real commitment, or can use to defeat various objections as if it were an academic competition.
It is essentially an experience of the life of God and must be an experience which we have ourselves received if we are to be able to share it authentically.
The truth and the whole truth is that love is everything. This is the Gospel. Go Bear Good News | Evangelism As A Lifestyle
God has made a way for this to be so in our own lives. The Orthodox Spiritual Tradition is not an accident of history that we can dismiss in the interests of something more relevant. On the contrary it is the way that God has provided for us to experience this unity of life in grace and mercy by the Holy Spirit, and in committing ourselves more thoroughly to it we discover in the structure and substance is provides that God is present with us and in us, and transforms us as we allow ourselves to be transfigured by the encounter with him in this Orthodox Life.
When I was with Bishop Kyrillos in Milan he would often say that love was everything. At first I took this as the sort of thing a kind and holy Bishop might say. But very quickly I realized that he was entirely correct. There was no other more complicated message or instruction for me to receive, as an advanced level Christian. The truth and the whole truth is that love is everything. This is the Gospel. That being so, it is as we seek to be filled with the life and love of God, and as this life and love transforms us, that we become bearers of the divine life and love in the world.
We must ask ourselves how much we love, and what experience we have of the life of the Holy Spirit. Go Bear Good News | Evangelism As A Lifestyle
Before we worry about how we do evangelism in any formal sense as a teaching of the Christian message, we must ask ourselves how much we love, and what experience we have of the life of the Holy Spirit. As the Scriptures show us, we cannot share what we have not received, and what we have received above all is love and mercy.
We have an old man who attends our services in Stoke. He is not Orthodox. Unable to walk very well, he arrives in his motorized wheelchair, stays for the liturgy and then shares some food and fellowship with us. He is a simple, honest man. I am not sure that the details of Greek philosophical and theological terminology would mean a great deal to him. But I think he knows he is loved and he returns because we unconditionally love him in the name of Christ.
I know that we also want to consider how we do share our faith, and although I am convinced our faith is life and not words, it is necessary also for it to be preached, so that there is an explanation of how we live. Go Bear Good News | Evangelism As A Lifestyle
On Christmas Day one of the people in the community in Stoke, a convert from an English background, cooked a plate of Christmas Dinner for him, and walked over to his house with her sons, and sat with him a while, so that he might not be alone on Christmas Day.
It seems to me that this is what is means to be Good News. Of course he hears my sermons, and we talk about our faith, but if Orthodoxy does not mean sitting with a lonely man on Christmas Day then it is not the life of the Holy Spirit.
What I am resisting is the idea that without an experience of life in Christ we can share the life of the Holy Spirit as Good News. Go Bear Good News | Evangelism As A Lifestyle
I know that we also want to consider how we do share our faith, and although I am convinced our faith is life and not words, it is necessary also for it to be preached, so that there is an explanation of how we live. What I am resisting is the idea that without an experience of life in Christ we can share the life of the Holy Spirit as Good News. I don’t believe we can. I really do believe that this personal encounter in increasing message is absolutely fundamental to all evangelism.
In part four, we will speak a little about how we are also able to live as those who wish to share this life as a deliberate commitment.
By: Father Peter Farrington | A priest of St Mary and Saint Cyril Coptic Orthodox Church in Liverpool. United Kingdom ~ Diocese of the Midlands.
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