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Orthodox School Of The Seventy: Guiding Theme
By Clark Wilson

Evangelism is the theme guiding the Orthodox School of the Seventy.

Who were "The Seventy," anyhow?

"After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go." (Lk 10:1) "Then the seventy returned with joy..." (Lk 10:17) (Lk 10:1-24 is the full citation.) The Seventy were evangelists in addition to the Twelve. After Jesus' Ascension they also played a large part in planting the Church. Many of them became bishops but many of them contributed as plain old folks. There is a full-page article on the Seventy on page 165 of the Orthodox Study Bible. It tells the stories of some of the Seventy. Pages 818-819 of the Orthodox Study Bible list the Seventy by name and give each evangelist's commemoration date and Bible references. Many of the Bible references are from the Acts of the Apostles. For instance, July 28 is the commemoration date for several of the Seventy mentioned in Acts 6:5. All the Seventy together are commemorated on January 4.

So the Seventy were evangelists. Jesus prepared them and sent them out; they returned and He instructed them; and he sent them out again. They were from widely varied backgrounds and contributed via different skills and actions. And we are prepared, and sent out; and we return and are instructed; and we are sent out again. And we vary greatly in our backgrounds, skills, and activities. And so it seemed fitting to name the School after them, and to ask their prayers on behalf of the School and of those studying in it.

Evangelism as a process

The narrow picture of evangelism is direct witnessing: discussing the faith with the non-Orthodox, helping at Orthodox literature tables at college orientations, writing letters to the editor, leading an inquirers' class, and so on. St. Luke's uses a wider picture of evangelism. If we look at the job description of the leader of the Evangelism Team at St. Luke's we see it includes "(1) Outreach, (2) Internet, (3) The Evangelist, (4) Media, (5) Sanctity of Life, (6) September 11th, (7) Garden Center, (8) Lost Sheep, (9) Blood Donation and any other ministry that may be established for the maintenance and growth of the parish's overall evangelization program." For the purposes of the School I am going to widen it a different way.

I picture evangelism as the whole process during which a non-Christian or non-Orthodox becomes an Orthodox Christian. Let us for brevity and euphony call the evangelisee the "beloved." This process begins before beloved has encounted any person or any document or any web page from St. Luke's; and it continues well after the beloved has been received into Orthodox Christianity at St. Luke's. In the beginning is prayer -- prayer for the unknown beloveds, prayer for the parish, prayer for parish members engaged in evangelism (in the broad sense). There is also preparation of the St. Luke parish and of the individual St. Lukians. Preparation can be building the web site, studying Orthodoxy, learning about other faiths or non-faiths, designing and preparing a brochure, collecting books into the parish library, and so on, and so on. In the middle is prayer -- general prayer that there will be encounters between beloved and Orthodox, prayer for a particular beloved and Orthodox who are talking, prayer for strength or clarity or charity or whatever is needed by the Orthodox witness. Obviously the most visible activity at this point is that of the witness, interacting with the beloved. However, as the relationship develops towards the inquirers' class there will be need for increasingly detailed knowledge of Orthodox faith, history, and practice; and as the relationship develops towards memberhip in the parish there will be need for increasingly concrete thinking and action to integrate the new Orthodox into the ongoing life in Christ in the parish. Finally, in the end there is prayer -- prayer for the newly received Orthodox who is growing to maturity in the faith and who is becoming involved in one or more ministries. Integration continues well after reception, as does learning about Orthodoxy. And the newly received joins us in praying.

Process as a team

I picture this process in terms of small teams with shifting roles. Just as in medicine we have different specialties who work together on a case at different times -- a social worker, physician, in-patient nurse, and out-patient physical therapist as a treatment proceeds -- so I picture mutually supporting specialized roles being involved during the whole process of evangelism. It is certainly true that one person may play more than one role and one person may contribute in a different mix of roles at different times, but I will picture them here one person, one role. The four roles are prayer (or "ascetic"), witness (or "evangelist"), catechist (or "catechist"), and integrator (or "greeter").

Before encounter: People in the four roles will be preparing. The most visible preparation might be done by the witness and the catechist, who might be studying or attending conferences or practicing. Do we have people in the parish today praying each day for encounters with non-Christians and non-Orthodox? For new witnesses to come forward?

Encounter to reception: Immediately after the encounter, the witness has the most visible, continuing contact with the beloved, but calls upon the others as needed. He or she calls upon a prayer for continual, particular prayer support; upon a catechist to answer questions about Orthodoxy or to recommend materials for the beloved to read; and upon the integrator for information about particular activities or organizations within the parish or the wider church. Let me give real examples. Somehow it happened that I became a witness to two separate beloveds who had contacted St. Luke's people. I had thought I'd be a catechist but the Holy Spirit goes wherever He wants. (John 3:8) In the one case I was able to say things about Orthodoxy because I was working with a really good catechist available who was ensuring that what I said was accurate. The catechist was also acting as an effective witness. In the other case I called upon another parishoner to act in an integrator role by finding out whom to contact about iconography and iconography classes. In any event, as the beloved moves towards reception the catechist and integrator roles assume more importance.

After reception: The catechist and the integrator should continue to work with the new Orthodox Christian over the next year or so, just as a transplanted tree is given special sustenance and protection for a year or two.

The team: I like the picture of a team of cooperating specialists coalescing and working together on an evangelism case. I can't really argue for it on the basis of statistics, or first-hand reports, or biblical proof texts, or evangelism literature. I therefore will merely opine (yes, that really is a word, look it up): I opine that if a witness is talking with others (a pray-er, a catechist) about a particular case then the witness won't feel so isolated or overwhelmed (having to know everything and do everything). I opine that a pray-er will find it more rewarding and fun to pray regarding a particular beloved and witness than to pray for names on a list or to pray for some grand abstract formula concerning evangelism. I opine that it will make sense to the beloved that St. Luke's has multiple people involved -- that it is a mark of respect, that the parish takes this seriously, and so on. I opine that a witness plus a catechist is a more effective witness that a witness alone. I opine that contacts are more likely to continue over time if more than one St. Lukian is involved in the particular case. I opine that a transition from witness to catechist and integrator means that the new Orthodox Christian is less likely to be received and then taken for granted, dumped at the altar as the evangelists head out the door looking for someone new to convert. (I know we don't treat people like this. I'm exaggerating for effect, okay?)

Roles become areas and certificates

At last we return to the School. The Seventy and the theme of evangelism organize the School; and the roles organize the areas and certificates within the School. The credits on the board are tagged as being "ascetic" (pray-er), "evangelist" (witness), "catechist" (catechist), "greeter" (integrator), or "core" (generally applicable). When we define certificates we will define them in these four areas.

A thing you can do this week

Pick out one of the Seventy, or a saint like those who are in the Seventy (e.g., Priscilla, Lydia, Photini). Ask that saint to pray on your behalf or otherwise cooperate with you regarding some action in one of these general roles. Doesn't have to be official or formal or anything. Then undertake the action.

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