If someone asked how one becomes a member of the Greek Orthodox church, what would you tell them? Our first inclination may be to refer them to the priest, that sounds like his job. The truth is however, that you were asked and are now an important person in their process of joining the church. Our connections with individuals serve as bridges between those outside the church and those inside. These attachments are significant because they place us at the crossroads in a persons’ journey to Orthodoxy.

In the book, “The Rise of Christianity” we find that relationships formed the foundation of growth in the early church. Between 40 AD and 350 AD the church expanded at a phenomenal rate of 40% every ten years! These new Christians became witnesses to those with whom they shared a connection and the radically new faith of Christianity expanded exponentially. Saint Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary were cousins. Jesus called upon his cousin James (Iakovos) as one of his disciples. Three pairs of the disciples were brothers. Personal connections are the foundation of church growth.

We can see the same phenomena of church growth in our communities as well. It is primarily relationships which provide a necessary connection which makes the next step through the doors of one of our churches possible. Once someone comes and sees how they are made to be felt welcomed becomes one of the most influential determining factors in their decision to actually stay convert and join.

If you are the type of person who when they see an unfamiliar face or family and are inclined to introduce yourself and welcome them, you play a very important role in their final decision. The power that comes from extending a heartfelt welcome has proven over the years to be what keeps people from leaving. People with a heart for connecting with others take the next step with them and introduces them to other parishioners helping them make new connections.

What if you are introverted, is there no evangelism for you? On the contrary, if you are the type of person who attends liturgy consistently, is engaged in living your faith, spending time in prayer you are a different type of evangelist – you are a “Living Light” of faith. It is a living active faith which empowers the Grace of God to permeate worship. By simply worshipping faithfully in our gatherings together, we make Christ present on earth!

Creating a welcoming experience must also take into consideration how the services are conducted. Taking into consideration the demographics of each community; there is no reason why many should not be offering the liturgy primarily in English. Secondly, encouraging parishioners to engage in the singing of the responses create a participatory experience which is more engaging than being a spectator of worship. I cannot count the number of non-Orthodox spouses over the years who after having attended services for twenty, thirty or even forty years made the decision to join the Church because they felt part of the worship experience.

Finally, how do we speak about our church to people outside? When we speak good things about our church communities we create a connection for them. A man was getting his haircut and the barber (who was not the member of an Orthodox Church) was sharing his own experience of having visited an Orthodox Church. That was enough for the man to come and visit the local Orthodox Church only to embrace the faith and become an active member. Just speaking good things about the church is enough to connect and inspire someone to visit, think on the blessings you experience and share them with others and watch the church grow by the Grace of God.