Should the Church do something to attract young people? Should it seek a special approach to them?
I believe that the search for real freedom is a worthy thing not only for young people but also for all those who are seeking the true life. The Church appreciates the aspiration of the young to freedom and independence, as Christians have never been the adherents of the submissiveness to the reality in which they live and which bears the apparent traces of sin.
At the same time, the search for freedom, unfortunately, do not always bring people to their cherished goals. Young people often take permissiveness and nihilism for freedom. As a result, after a natural dependence of their parents up to a certain age they become slaves of consumers’ worldview and brute instincts that the slavery exploits. Therefore the Church offers its experience of the search for freedom to the youth with the words of the Saviour: “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (Jn 8:32). While helping young people to seek real freedom, the Church is willing to speak with them in the language that they understand.
Young people who go to church are often ‘grounded’ in the history and life of the Church, but are lacking Christian spirit and Christian attitude to the neighbour. What advice would you give to these people? How can the Church solve this problem?
The belonging to the Church of not only a young person, but of any Orthodox believer, should find its expression not in the knowledge of the life of the Church, which is important, but first of all in the irreplaceable aspiration to the main thing, which the Church offers — the new life in Christ. The experience of the real communion with God that a believer receives in the church sacraments and prayer gives him strength to change, to transform himself and finally to become a true man. A true man in the Orthodox understanding is a person of full value who clearly comprehends the meaning of life and wishes to realize himself in the love of the neighbour and in creative work. It is not often that you can meet such people in the modern world struck by different ulcers, people who give example of the true sacrificial love that you wish to follow. Yet, there is always such example in the Church – our Lord Jesus Christ. He is a safe landmark for the young people at all times. The human person becomes permeated by the spirit of the Church if he tries to be like Him in his life. There are many places today where the youth can gain this experience, such as discussion clubs, youth camps, or different social projects. Young people should attend them, meet with one another, develop their experience of prayer, communion, and common work to the glory of God. Come and act!
Information plays the leading role in society today. The Protestants in the USA buy TV time, distribute leaflets, put advertisements in the streets, place their banners in the Internet, arrange shows and build entertainment centers to attract parishioners. In other words, they “pitch” the church through marketing technologies. How should the Orthodox Church announce herself in the information society? What is inadmissible to her?
The educational activity of the Russian Orthodox Church among different strata of population in the modern information society presupposes constant renewal of the form of missionary ministry and active use of the information space, including various modern technologies.
Today as never before the Church has to seek and find unconventional solutions. Even more important is an ability to present the experience of the apostolic and patristic tradition in the language that our contemporaries understand. In society, which has almost forgotten the commandment of love of the neighbour and in which indifference prevails, including indifference to religious questions, the Church is called to encourage the indifferent to turn to the Gospel and help them implement Christian values in their everyday life. A form of the sermon can change in accordance with modern challenges, but its content is intransient. Because only the conscious faith, rather than the imposed worldview or ideology, is effective in the cause of salvation, and any coercive pressure on the human being, be it marketing technologies or neurolinguistic programming, is unacceptable to the Orthodox Church. In the long run, these technologies produce a countereffect: they do not attract, but alienate people.
Doesn’t accessible information damage the Church? What one gets easily, is less valued.
It is easier to get knowledge of God and the Church now than it was in the Soviet time. Many people outside the Church who sought God, but did not know about Him, now have an opportunity to be introduced to the Gospel and find the fullness of Christian life in the Church.
The publication of the works of Church Fathers, liturgical literature, books on the history of the Church allow the believers to learn about the treasures of the Orthodox thought. Many who have read these publications received invaluable help in the solution of their spiritual problems. We can only thank God for this.
The abundance of information gives many new opportunities, but is fraught with dangers. For instance, there appeared many ‘near-church’ and pseudo-church publications which can exert harmful influence on those people who have just come to the faith and have not enough experience that would allow them to discern real information from the false one.
Another matter of concern is certain people who study religious literature in depth but forget about the main thing – the life in accordance with the commandments of Christ and prayer. It is this, rather than wide reading and erudition, that leads us to salvation.
Archbishop Hilarion: Be like Christ
October 7, 2009 2:34 PM