In the course of time, Christianity has experienced many different points of growth. However, not all of that growth has been positive. There has been much negative growth in Christianity. Even more specifically in our own church, the Indian Orthodox Church, there has been a recent trend of negative growth. More and more people are leaving our churches and going to other denominations or non-denominational churches. As an orthodox community we should find out why. Many people say one thing that is more enjoyable at the non-denominational churches is the praise and worship, the singing of contemporary Christian songs, and the ease of worship. But the question still exists, “What makes orthodoxy or traditional Christianity so unattractive that people would leave?” In my opinion this whole situation is similar to a cup of coffee.
Ah the smell of coffee. It’s what gets us moving in the morning, it’s what keeps us awake when we’re writing last minute essays; it’s a simple beverage that so many people enjoy. However, what is coffee actually like. What we drink is coffee that is mixed with cream and sugar or, for some, Splenda™. However, pure coffee is not sweet it’s rather bitter and strong. Not many people like drinking coffee black because of its original qualities. However with the right mix of cream and sugar, to each his own, people will indulge themselves in this infusion. The use of cream and sugar arose because not all people like black coffee but they still want the benefits of coffee, such as alertness and the caffeine rush. So different flavors and creamers were added to experiment and make it more palatable for virtually everyone. Starbucks® started selling a product called the Frappucino™. This is an iced coffee with a greater amount of milk and a lot of flavor. People who do not like coffee still fall head over heels for this drink because it is very appealing and palatable. The taste of pure coffee is so minimal in these Frappucino’s that even people who despise coffee will still drink this. Christianity is somewhat similar to coffee. Original Christianity was not very palatable to many people long ago either, but it was what it was. Indian Orthodoxy is traditional Christianity because it was passed down from generation to generation through spoken and written tradition without suffering much change. Not much has changed liturgically since the 14 Century A.D. The evangelical and non-denominational churches today are very laid back and made to cater to the outside. They are like the Starbucks® Frappucinos™. People who do not like Christianity have been converted in these non-denominational churches for different reasons. Orthodoxy is the black coffee, strong and somewhat bitter to those not acquainted with its taste. Many people of the younger generation have left the Traditional Churches because it seems to be catering to the audience that is acquainted with it and not those who are just learning about the faith. This is however not true for all traditional churches. The Greek, Russian and American Orthodox churches have experienced much growth in the U.S. They have gained converts from everywhere including Southern Baptists. Our sister churches have had a longer and somewhat firmer footing in the U.S. and have been able to grow as a result. Our small immigrant church is still facing the dilemmas which arise in any immigration process. There is the cultural adjustment that needs to occur before any immigrant can prosper in a new land. For centuries our church has been immersed in politics and there have not been significant strides made in order to retain the population of our church. Even here in America for the past 30 some odd years we have been fighting and creating more churches where there is no need. We need to add some cream and sugar to our black coffee in order to cater to those who have left and those who are not fully involved in our church. “Evangelization in Action” needs to not only include those outside our church but also to those who have left our church. We will have to incorporate those things which are desirable from other churches, into our church without compromising our beliefs. One small aspect is the Praise and Worship, one of the most loved aspects of Evangelical churches. Our liturgy is full of beautiful and meaningful praise and worship, however not all of it is understandable for the younger generation of orthodox Christians and outsiders of our faith. Instead our church needs to incorporate English praise and worship songs into our worship and with our Sunday School. Mandating praise and worship in Sunday school will ensure that it is done and in addition to the existing evangelical praise and worship there should be some original praise and worship created by our church. Those who are musically talented should be encouraged to write some praise and worship music that is catered to the lost sheep. We have to let the outside churches know what our Indian Orthodox Church is about. They need to know that we have a solid investment in our faith. People are generally reluctant to indulge in something that is not solid or likable. So let’s add some Coffee Mate® and make our service and faith more enjoyable for EVERYONE.
St. Francis of Assisi writes “Make me a channel of your Peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring you love. Where there is injury, your pardon Lord. And where there is doubt, true faith in you.” We need to pray for the growth of our church and pray that God will make us a channel of his peace and give us his blessings so that we can glorify him. Although our small church in America lacks proper infrastructure due to politics and misplaced administrative focus, rather than emerging ourselves in the politics, I think we need to sit back and pray and work outside the political heap to evangelize and better our church’s mission. We need to bring peace without war. The purpose of war is often to bring peace, but there is the peace without war option. “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Let us show our Christian love to one another and better our church, not for us but for the Glory of God and the growth of His Church. May God shower his blessings upon us.
Vero Beach, Fl