This is a guest post from Ben Rafail - a soon-to-be dentist from Houston in his final year of dental school here in Washington DC. Ben is also an avid basketball player who claims to be even better than me (that's what happens when you spend too much time around all that laughing gas - you become a little delusional). If you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
I believe our Orthodox church is not for everyone.
I know that sounds arrogant, intolerant and insensitive of me, but just hear me out. Believe it or not, I am actually making that statement for the purpose of bringing people TO the Church, not to push people away.
The Orthodox Church is not for everyone. It isn’t for people who are just looking for entertainment. It isn’t for people who are lonely and just looking for some soothing words to make them feel good again. It isn’t for people who are looking for an emotional high to just make them feel close to God.
It just isn’t.
So who is it for then?
When thinking of the Orthodox Church, two words come to mind: taste and depth. The Church is for those who are sincerely searching for depth and for the truth, not just an emotional high or bandaid to a bad day. With that said, no one will ever spontaneously desire that depth unless he has first taken a taste. I wouldn’t be in love with Ferrero Rocher Fine Hazelnut Chocolate unless someone convinced me to try one first. Now I can’t resist them and will probably suffer from diabetes one day... but that’s beside the point.
Let’s look at a Biblical example. When Philip came to Nathanael (see John 1:43-50) with excitement telling him that he has found Jesus of Nazareth, he was eager to share this unspeakable wonder with Nathanael. Although Nathanael doubted, the thought of the truth was too enticing to walk away from. He tasted through Philip, and that taste became sweeter than honey as it allowed him to find the Truth in Christ.
In another instance, our Lord asked a Samaritan woman for a drink from the well (see John 4). At that time, it was unheard of for Jews to associate with Samaritans; therefore she was confused and in awe that He was even speaking to her. Therefore she questioned Him saying:
“How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (John 4:9).
Christ offered her a small taste and left her desiring more:
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10).
The taste led to a deep desire for more.
“Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw” (John 4:15).
When inviting someone to Church, it can be pretty overwhelming for the person – especially if there’s a cultural and/or linguistic barrier. Place yourself in a room with 100 people of any other culture besides your own and you’ll find out exactly what I mean. It wouldn’t be long before you started thinking to yourself, “what in the world am I doing here?”
Instead of throwing someone into such an intimidating environment, we need to find better ways to introduce people to the Church. Why not invite him or her to hang out with a group of friends in a social context first? Or why not invite them to a Bible study or other non-liturgical church event to allow them to wade into the pool slowly? It doesn’t even need to be a church-sponsored event – it could be basketball, or bowling, or coffee, or a hobby that I know everyone shares... EATING!
Whatever it takes to break the ice and give the person a taste of what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ.
Our job as Orthodox Christians is to give that taste to others, to pray for them, and to be there when they’re searching for depth, for truth and for life.
“For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 8:35)