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OCMC News - Book Review of Mission in Christ’s Way: An Orthodox Understanding of Mission

by Fr. Luke Veronis (Posted 3/9/2011)

His Beatitutde Archbishop Anastasios (Yannoulatos) of Albania is the preeminent missionary and missiologist in the contemporary Orthodox world. For more than 50 years, he has acted as the standard bearer for our call to mission within the worldwide Orthodox Church. Five decades ago, not only was little done in missions, but many within the Church even questioned its validity and importance for Orthodox Christians. Certain circles even viewed any mention of "mission" as a sign of Protestant or Western influences infiltrating contemporary Orthodoxy.

Thus, back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the young theologian Anastasios Yannoulatos began writing both theological treatises and lay articles explaining the scriptural, theological, historical, liturgical, and ecclesiological foundation of missions. His writings began to reveal to the Church at large how mission is essential to our Orthodox Faith. He would write, “Spirituality that is devoid of the element of the universality, of the struggle and agony for the salvation of “all the world” is a crippled spirituality.”

“Church without mission is a contradiction in terms. Mission is a part of the DNA of the Church’s genetic makeup. Indifference to mission is a denial of Orthodoxy. Mission is an inner necessity for the faithful and for the Church. If we refuse it, we do not merely omit a duty, we deny our true nature.”

“We cannot live a genuine spiritual life “in Christ” and worship Him truly if the desire for the salvation of “the entire world” to unite all things in him, the gathering together in one of “all things in Christ” (Eph 1:10), is not burning constantly within us, and if this desire is not daily activated in an effort to spread the Kingdom of God upon earth.”

“A static church which lacks a vision and a constant endeavor to proclaim the Gospel to the world could hardly be recognized as the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church to whom the Lord entrusted the continuation of His work.”

These words are only a taste of what you will find in the Archbishop’s latest book Mission in Christ’s Way: An Orthodox Understanding of Mission. This book is a compilation of articles that the Archbishop has written and given from 1964-2003.

The opening article, Thy Will Be Done: Mission in Christ’s Way, was a keynote address the Archbishop gave when he was the moderator of the World Council of Church’s Conference on World Missions and Evangelism in San Antonio, Texas, in 1989.This article lays the foundation of how we should understand mission as a central aspect of God’s will. Other articles, like The Purpose and Motive of Mission spell out to the reader the "why" of missions.

Sometimes in the Church there is confusion about what exactly missions is all about, and some try to equate any and every kind of ministry to missions. The Archbishop, however, clearly differentiates between missions and typical pastoral care ministries in his article Theology, Mission and Pastoral Care.

Other articles, like Orthodox Missions: Past, Present and Future, touch on the historical reality and activity of the Orthodox Church in mission throughout the centuries, while Rediscovering our Apostolic Identity in the 21st Century acts as a challenging call to the contemporary church to wake and fulfill an essential part of her identity.

Overall, if anyone is serious about understanding Orthodox missions and looking for both critical theological and missiological work, together with inspiring and thought-provoking articles, then this book is for you. We do not have many significant books related to missions in the Orthodox Church, and this undoubtedly will become one of the foundational works in English.

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Prayer for Missions

God of truth and love: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Hear our prayer for those who do not know You. That they may come to a saving knowledge of the truth, and that Your Name may be praised among all peoples of the world. Sustain, inspire, and enlighten Your servants who bring them the Gospel. Bring fresh vigor to wavering faith; sustain our faith when it is still fragile. Continually renew missionary zeal in ourselves and in the Church, and raise up new missionaries who will follow You to the ends of the world. Make us witnesses to Your goodness full of love, full of strength, and full of faith for Your glory and the salvation of the entire world. Through the prayers of all the missionary saints, Have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
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