When I was in high school, street preachers told me: “The Bible is the word of God. Jesus is the Son of God. And if you accept him as your personal savior, your salvation is 100 percent assured.” It felt like an Amway pitch. I could get saved right on the sidewalk before sixth period—no long, boring catechumenate required.
This concept of an individual with a Bible who stands alone before God versus a person who needs a church and practices to help mediate God’s grace, represents a deep and real divide that has consequences for how evangelicals see themselves relative to more traditional groups …
Eighty percent of the congregation of Holy Theophany Orthodox Church, also in Colorado Springs, are converts from evangelical and Protestant backgrounds. Their priest, the Rev. Anthony Karbo, became a Christian through participation in Young Life, a national evangelical youth organization headquartered in Colorado Springs. He says, “As a Protestant I met Christ. In the Orthodox Church I met the rest of his family, including his mother.” Orthodoxy both challenges and appeals because its liturgy has not changed much since the fourth century and neither have its teachings. Unlike the Catholic Church, it has not tried to seem less pagan, less foreign, less strange. It has stayed weird.
Eric Jewett, a deacon in the Orthodox Church and a former Free Methodist youth pastor, says, “In the ancient church I encountered the fullness of the faith as it had been lived and preserved since the time of Christ and his apostles.”
Deacon Scionka, the former evangelical youth minister, describes falling in love with their style of worship: “My background is Bible-centered, which led me to think that liturgical worship was extra-biblical, but in reality it’s very biblical. The whole service is scriptural, and it centers on our unity in Christ. It floored me.” He tears up describing his first Christmas in the Orthodox Church.
“At the end of the Nativity Vigil, this long beautiful candlelight service, it hit me that this was the first time in my life that I had gone to church for Christmas and it was really celebrating the birth of Christ,” he said. “No big performances. No distractions. Just a dark, beautiful, candlelight service all about Christ.”
Anna Keating, Why Evangelical megachurches are embracing (some) Catholic traditions (emphasis added).
A few comments of my own.
First, the Orthodox Church is a minor part of Anna Keating’s medium-form article, but what she says is accurate and telling.
Second, although I consciously passed some specific doctrinal landmarks on my way from Protestant to Orthodoxy (rejecting the ironically extra-Biblical doctrine of sola scriptura and beginning to take seriously “one holy catholic and apostolic Church”), the further Protestantism fades into the rearview mirror, the more it’s Orthodoxy’s worship that I think really drew me, at the visceral level. I’d been a malcontent on Protestant worship in every church where I had a voice on the subject, pushing for more of the great Protestant hymns (there really are some) and eliminating (not just reducing) gospel songs in worship, since gospel songs are preachy or peppy adminitions to each other, not really worship at all.
I always lost. The trend was ever more vulgar, ever less exalted and Godworthy.
Third, Orthodoxy seems “pagan” only to modern and post-modern crypto-secularists, who have no idea what worship has meant through the Christian ages and are uncomfortable with actual acknowledgement of an actual triune deity who fully merits bows, kneelings and even prostrations, to name three “pagan” practices.
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