The Eastern Christian Churches

Jesus Christ Savior | Eastern Christians share many cultural traditions but not the same religious traditions, Christianity divided itself in the East during its early centuries both within and outside of the Roman Empire in disputes about Christology and fundamental theology, as well as national divisions (Roman, Persian, etc.). (Images of the Holy Sepulchre, detail of the dome over the Katholikon, Jerusalem by Berthold Werner).

Christianity spread throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa. The Eastern Christian Churches are characterized by a rich heritage with Apostolic origin, and are treasured by the universal Church, for the East was the home of Jesus Christ our Redeemer!

Jerusalem is the birthplace to all of Christianity throughout the world. The Levant, the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, served as the cradle of Christianity. Antioch, Syria became an early center for Christianity, especially following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Indeed, followers of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26). They also became known as Nazarenes (Acts 24:5), particularly in the East. St. Mark the Evangelist founded the Church of Alexandria, Egypt. Philip the Deacon introduced Christianity to a minister of Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians, on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza in Acts 8:27.

Detailed Jerusalem Holy Sepulchre

Detailed Jerusalem Holy Sepulchre

One of the earliest centers of Christianity was Edessa in the Kingdom of Osroene, located in Northern Syria and Mesopotamia across the Euphrates River. Eusebius of Caesarea in his Ecclesiastical History reported that King Abgar of Edessa was afflicted with illness and contacted Jesus in the hope of a cure. Upon his healing by St. Jude Thaddeus, King Abgar converted to Christianity.

Edessa became home to such writers as St. Ephrem of Syria (306-373 AD), a Father and Doctor of the Church. St. Ephrem wrote his beautiful hymns and religious poetry in Syriac, a dialect of the Semitic language of Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Syriac became the biblical and liturgical language of early Christian Churches in the East. The theology of Eastern Churches often developed independently, outside the sway of Roman and Byzantine thought. Syriac Christianity would expand throughout Asia, extending to Chaldea and Persia along the Silk Road all the way to India and the Far East, reaching China, Tibet, and Mongolia. The first nation to adopt Christianity as its state religion was Armenia under King Tiridates III in 301.

Eastern Christian Churches allow clerical marriage, for they accept the gift of human sexuality given by God, who said, “It is not good for the man to be alone”(Genesis 2:18). Those Eastern Churches that are in communion with Rome are known as the Eastern Catholic Churches. 8-16

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



How to Build Strong Multi-Cultural Churches

by Rev. Sunday Bwanhot | Pastor, ECWA Church, Chicago | We must have policies that allow “none indigents” to be engaged in ministry at all levels and be elected into different offices within the ECWA Structure

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Rev. 7:9-12

The chief end of man and all creation is to worship God thereby bringing glory to God.

The Great Commission is about making disciples of all nations (ethnos- people groups).

The Church is God’s instrument to make this happen. So, building strong multi-cultural churches is not man’s idea, it is God’s express will.

WHAT IS A MULTI-CULTURAL CHURCH?

Simply put: Believers of different cultural backgrounds worshiping together in one place. These different cultures may be of the same ethnicity or of different ethnicities. This is God’s plan that will culminate in the Revelation 7 experience.

Naturally people of the same race or tribe hang out together and systematically exclude others who are not like them. But the church of God is called to pull down all barriers that separate and differentiate us. This has always been a challenge which each generation must face and overcome.

Although all of Jesus’ disciples were of Jewish cultural background, the Holy spirit launched the Church in a spectacular way by bringing people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds together as recorded in Acts 2. The Church that was birthed represented the community around it.

The Jews were very reluctant to integrate other cultures and ethnicities, they wanted to maintain their mono-cultural identity. God had to get to work to change that mindset. He was not going to allow His church to be limited to or be defined by one cultural group or ethnicity. He created all cultures and ethnic groups and He wants all to worship Him together as part of the one family of God.

Acts 10 expose how God finally dealt with the ethnocentric posture of the Jewish believers. “Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” Acts 10:34-35. Later on, Paul declared in Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It is clear then that God’s plan for His church is to accommodate all people of all cultures and backgrounds.

It is to be noted that there will be mono-cultural churches is some situations like rural communities where all the community members are of the same culture.

There will be need for a mono-cultural church in cities also where immigrants into the city cannot communicate in the main spoken language. First generation immigrants benefit from the mono-cultural church. However, such churches must work toward being multi-cultural, else they will not grow much and they will lose their young ones who may not be interested in learning the language of their parents.

HOW WE CAN MAKE THE TRANSITION AND BUILD STRONG MULTI-CULTURAL CHURCHES

  1. Be convinced that this is God’s plan and work toward it.
  2. Pray for God’s revelation of how your church can make the transition
  3. Prepare your congregation for the change which could take a long time and could be painful
  4. Study, preach and teach the Bible always rather than talking much about your culture or church denomination.
  5. Language is a strong tool that connects people – use the main language everyone speaks.
  6. Have a parish mindset for your church. Reach out to everyone in the community where your church is, rather than just inviting people of your cultural background.
  7. Adapt to the community where you are – become all things to all people… Some aspects to consider are: dressing, language, time orientation, style of worship, etc.
  8. Be involved in the community in other ways and not just on spiritual things
  9. Show that you are for everyone and not just for some.

CHALLENGES OF MULTI-CULTURAL CHURCHES

  1. Acts 6 reveal how it can get messy when different cultural groups worship together. A proper balancing act is needed.
  2. Cultural pressure can be very strong. Peter shied away from the Gentiles to please his fellow Jewish believers; Paul had to rebuke him Galatians 2:11-13
  3. Acts 15. The Jerusalem Council had to come up with new policies that addressed the concerns of believers from other cultural backgrounds.
  • Churches need to have right policies that welcome people of different backgrounds
  • Majority culture should always be ready to make sacrifices to accommodate the minorities
  • It is important to not only integrate but also treat everyone fairly and equally.
  • Give leadership responsibilities to minority cultures also.

CONCLUSION

Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) – if we are going to be the kind of church God wants us to be, which we also want to be, we must follow the 9 steps given above and in addition: update our constitution, manuals, and handbooks to be a true reflection of a church that is global and welcomes all cultures. We must have policies that allow “none indigents” to be engaged in ministry at all levels and be elected into different offices within the ECWA Structure. Church planters need to be trained and equipped to start churches with the mindset of growing multi-cultural churches and not mono-cultural churches. It is easier to start a multi-cultural church than to convert a mono-cultural church into a multi-cultural church.

May ECWA be a church that anybody from any ethnicity, or cultural background can walk in and feel at home because we are all about Jesus and not so much about culture or denomination. Amen!

Rev. Sunday Bwanhotby Rev. Sunday Bwanhot is EMS/SIM Missionary. He serves as Team leader of SIM Culture Connexions; Pastors of ECWA Chicago.



Why are Millennials Sick of Church?

Ministers should know that millennials don't need a lot of frills in a church service. (ECWA Archive)

There are literally thousands of articles online about why the millennial generation is disillusioned with church, church culture and church politics. And while I applaud the attempt to wrap one's head around the issue, I've noticed that most of the articles seem to be written by people who know nothing about the millennial generation. Weird.

I've talked with thousands of young people over the years who have told me, "I'm just sick of church." I've heard everything under the sun when it comes to one's reasoning for leaving, and I believe many of them carry a lot of heavy truth. Here are some of them …

1. "It's not authentic."
2. "It's too corporate." 
3. "I don't like the political side."
4. "I feel like I can't be open about my struggles."
5. "I hate the cliques."
6. "It's too judgmental." 
7. "Their attempt at being relevant comes off as cheesy."
8. "They don't spend enough time outside of their building."
9. "They aren't really welcoming of people who are different from them." 
10. "They focus too much on what they know instead of whom they are showing love to."

 

And while I believe not all churches deal with the complaints I mentioned above, it's safe to say there are many who probably do. That's why I'm writing this. This needs to be discussed.

Authenticity Is Key

If churches want to see more millennials walk through their doors, they need to stop trying to entice them with free stuff, and instead allow their spaces to be filled with authentic relationships and transparent conversations. The Acts 2 church was a perfect example of this.

"They continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers. Fear came to every soul. And many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common. They sold their property and goods and distributed them to all, according to their need. And continuing daily with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart" (Acts 2:42-46).

Some people say there is a decline in millennial church attendance, while others say they don't see much of a change at all. We must realize that just because millennials aren't showing up to church buildings doesn't mean they aren't part of a thriving community of believers, or are without a biblical relationship with God.

Millennials aren't looking for brighter lights. Millennials aren't looking for more free coffee. They want Jesus-founded authenticity, a safe-place to share burdens, real answers to real questions and a community of action.

Jarrid Wilson is a husband to Juli, dad to Finch, pastor, author, blogger, founder of Cause Roast. He's helping people live a better story. For the original article, visit jarridwilson.com.

 



Why All Churches Should Address Depression & Anxiety

Awareness must be created among Church members to deal with depression and anxiety (The Express Tribune with the International New York Times) by Jarrid Wilsonjarridwilson.com.

 

It's no secret my past was riddled with mental health issues—ones that kept me from wanting to live for much of my teenage life. I'm very vocal about this truth, and I will continue to be as along as my story may have an impact on others who need to hear it.

And while I do believe today's church is doing better at addressing the issue that is mental health, I believe there can be so much more done than what is currently taking place in regards to depression and anxiety. Let me explain.

I never tried to take my own life in my younger years, but I frequently found myself googling painless ways to commit suicide, and really had no remorse once finding what I was looking for. It was a sad state to hold myself. The reality is that my life was infected with the burden of depression and anxiety, and the only places I could find reliable information from were not churches in my local area.

Why? It's because mental illness wasn't really talked about much.

I felt as if all the "Christian" resources were outdated, and really didn't address the fact that taking medication was okay in the eyes of God. There really wasn't much information at all. It was as if all the answers I was finding were suggesting that I just needed more faith.

Seriously? The last thing someone contemplating suicide wants to hear is, "Just have faith." I understand that Jesus has the power to conquer anything that comes in my way, but please don't throw Christians clichés at me. I wanted real, authentic and practical information, and I assume there are millions in this world who would want the same. It's what Jesus would have done.

I really wanted to find help in the church, but there were no ministries or non-profits working within the walls of local congregations that I could reach. All the counseling and help I received came years after I actually needed it, and it was found in the secrecy of a local medical facility, not a church—where it should have been all along.

Mind you, the church has come a long way since my teen years in regards to helping those with mental illness, but I believe we can still do a lot more.

Some Statistics
1. It is reported that 1 in 10 Americans are affected by depression. 
2. Over 80 percent of people who are clinically depressed are not receiving treatment. 
3. The number of people diagnosed with depression increases by 30 percent every year. 
4. An estimated 121 million people around the world suffer from depression. 
5. In 2013 41,149 suicides were reported, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans.
6. In 2013, someone died by suicide every 12.8 minutes.

 

We Need The Church

"Cast all your care on Him, because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7, MEV).

Here's the thing. I understand that there is importance to seeing what many would call a "professional" in the field of mental health issues, but this doesn't mean that the local church shouldn't be prioritizing leadership roles and ministry efforts to help those who deal with these issues. I understand that not all churches lack in this area, but I bet there are more who do than don't.

My wife and I have met with and counseled dozens of young people over the past year. All shared with us the brutal battle that is taking place within their souls. Suicide attempts, cutting, depression, and anxiety are just the beginning of what these young people were facing.

We NEED the church to step up in its efforts to be more vocal in regards to mental illness. Whether that is through a sermon series, free resources, creating non-profits or even a cultivating a designated year-long ministry. Regardless, the church should be on the front lines of this battle. People need a safe place where they can be honest and transparent with what they are going through.

There is nothing wrong with admitting you are depressed, cutting, have attempted suicide or are even contemplating it. There is nothing wrong with seeking medical attention and being prescribed medication to help you along the journey. And, there is nothing wrong with admitting you need help. 

A Few Resources

1. Heart Support.

2. My Broken Palace. 

3. To Write Love On Her Arms.

4. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, anxiety or has even thought of suicide, please give them the resources above and do not wait another minute.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below.

Jarrid Wilson is a husband to Juli, dad to Finch, pastor, author, blogger, and founder of Cause Roast. He's helping people live a better story. For the original article, visit jarridwilson.com.