I am not one to compare my particular Church (or denomination if you will) with any of the others. I believe that one should simply speak about what he believes and the reasons why he believes it and not compare one faith against another . Until now.
A few years back, a survey was conducted regarding the churches in America and the attendance. With one exception, Orthodoxy, most of the other “Christian” churches have been and continue to be on a decline. Now I am not a sociologist, nor do I play one on TV, but I can think of a few reasons why this might be. In my opinion, it is hard to recognize the historic Church of Jesus Christ in any other Church, save perhaps the Church of Rome and Orthodoxy has disagreements with her as well.
The problem is, so called Christian Churches, today is they tend to stray towards what is popular rather than what is right. If a certain group of people want their particular lifestyle recognized, regardless of what the historic church has thought about that particular lifestyle, then we simply vote on it and move on. Turning one’s back on thousands of years of theological understanding and tradition to see things the way 21st century man wants the church to be run. You see, it is easier to say “I’m okay and you’re okay” than it is to say, “we love you and cherish you as a person, but your behavior is unacceptable and it needs to change.” That takes courage and I am afraid courage is something that is lacking in the American Church today.
I think we sometimes forget that the Church exists so that fallen humanity can turn away from the fallen word and come to the realization that we are sinners, rather than we need to shape the Church in the image of our sinful lifestyle and make it believe what we believe. That is not what Christ died for, and it is certainly not what countless people have been martyred and continued to be martyred for.
Many of the once great American Christian Churches are barely recognizable as Christian anymore. Between the “make it up as you go along theology” and “anything goes” morality sometimes it is hard to recognize them as they once were. I believe that Orthodox has grown and will continue to grow because we do not change. I would rather be right than popular, I would rather worship the way the Church was left to us rather than change one dot or iota of her Liturgy to suit the short attention span of today’s American Christian. I would rather have worship that is meaningful and traditional, than worship that makes you feel good about yourself or where there is a rock band and a puppet show! Worship is not entertainment that is what the movie theater is for; worship is just that, worship. We come into the presence of the Almighty and we bow down in awe of Him as Moses did when he approached to burning bush.
Yes, worship should be engaging but if worship is celebrated with all reverence and awe then props are not needed, one will simply feel the presence of the Almighty in their midst and worship Him as did our first parents in the Garden of Eden. Our Church should be temples set aside for worship of that which is Holy, not concerts of the latest band that happens to be passing through town. Our worship space is sanctified and holy as was the Holy of Holies in the Temple of our spiritual ancestors. If you want to have concerts at your Church build an auditorium and leave the sanctified space for that which is sanctified.
Historically speaking, every church that has changed its worship or its theology has undergone some sort of reformation, there is no coincidence that in the more than 2,000 years history of Holy Orthodoxy there has never been a reformation. Sure people have changed, but the worship and the theology remains the same.
As Christians we are called to a higher lifestyle than those around us, we are called out of this word and to set our sights on the world to come. We are not called to conform ourselves to the world but ourselves to Christ. Jesus Christ did not come and say “hey, whatever you guys doing is great keep it up.” No Jesus came to call us out of that broken, blind, self-loving world, and towards greatness.
It is time to turn away from man’s rules and man’s ability to make you feel okay with your life, and turn towards that Man who came to change the entire world.