Intimacy or Marketing–What Do You Want In Your Church?

27 06 2008

This morning I read an article in the June 13th edition of The Wall Street Journal entitled: Inspired By Starbucks by Alexandra Alter.  The content of the article talked about how the pastors of Mega churches are now using satellites, DVDs, and franchise marketing to promote their churches all over the world. 

The idea came from the marketing stategies of Starbucks.   Evidently Starbucks  opens four new franchises a day.  The mega churches feel like they should have a similar plan.  The marketing strategies of the mega churches are working.  People are attracted to the more modern approach to going to church.  They seem to like the coffee house atmosphere of worship. 

I am aghast to such an approach.  I don’t go to church to have fun.  I go to church to worship God.  In the Holy Orthodox Church–we worship God through our Divine Liturgy. Our priest chants the  prayers and we follow with our “Lord have mercy” or our “Grant this o Lord.”  We affirm our faith by reciting the Nicene Creed. We say the Lord’s Prayer.  We make sure our hearts are clean by saying pre- communion prayers.  Lastly, we take the Holy Eucharist –which is the true body and blood of Christ.  This is our medicine for daily living.  In closing our service–we sing songs of thanksgiving for having partaken of the Holy Eucharist and the Priest closes by giving veneration to the saints who have gone on before us.

My point is that the Holy Orthodox faith is full of intimacy.  Nothing could be more intimate than having one’s priest spoon the Holy Eucharist into one’s mouth.  And when we finish our service– we line up again to kiss the cross which our priest is holding.  We also kiss the priest’s hand.  We have two very direct face to face encounters with a our priest.  And if one attends the Holy Matins service prior to the Divine Liturgy–then one gets another encounter with a priest by lining up to kiss the Holy Gospels and the pries’ts hand.  That make three wonderful face to face encounters with a priest.

It is a tradition in the Holy Orthodox Faith to enjoy eating a small meal with each other before going to our homes.  We have coffee, juices, tea and snacks or sometimes a full meal.  It is a wonderful time to get to know each other better.  I know I used to feel so empty just walking out of church in my protestant days.  In the Holy Orthodox Faith- one does not have to leave the church feeling alone.  This intimacy of sharing a meal has bonded our hearts further with our fellow parishioners and our priest. It is a beautiful tradition.

These mega churches that are marketing their faith rely on dvds, literature, or satellites.  The new franchises are full of people who have no flesh and blood priest or pastor.  So what do they do when a crisis hits?  Do they listen to a dvd on how to deal with death ,  a financial loss or marital stress?  Or does a slick brochure sooth the wounds?   What about weddings, funerals or baptisms?  How can they be truly special?  I know when Jim was near death almost three years agao–we wouldn’t have made it without the intimacy of the Orthodox faith.  A priest came up to the hospital twice to pray with us.  On the last visit–the priest annointed Jim with Holy Oil.  Likewise, when I found out I has breast cancer–I couldn’t have made it without the support of our priest.  We had quite a few talks prior to my surgery.  I also had two confessions because I didn’t want to face surgery with any dark clouds in my heart.  And finally, when I had my surgery during Christmas week of 2007- – my very special Fr. Peter from Ft. Campbell came and prayed with me.  My own priest from Murfreesboro was not able to come 100 miles because he had a house full of company.  Fr. Peter not only prayed for me –but on the final leg of my journey– when I was just about to be put under anesthesia–he came and talked to me once again.  He stayed with my family and talked with them.  It was such an intimate time for all of us. 

In the Holy Orhtodox Faith–we have confession with our priests.  Our priest get to know the strengths and weaknesses of each parishoner.  Our weddings are second to none.  They are very ornate and detailed and last a long time.  Then the receptions are usually full of whatever tradition a particular parish follows.  I know the Greeks enjoy having a great deal of dancing at their weddings.  Our baptisms are long and detailed with great celebrations afterwards. And for converts who are chrismated –the service is very special and intimate.  We have sponsors.  The sponsors provide our candles, icons and baptismal crosses.  The sponsors make a commitment to be a part of the lives of the newly chrismated.  This is another beautiful example of intimacy.

Thus,  I choose the more intimate path for my faith.  I want to first and foremost worship our Lord.  I have a Trinitarian faith.  That is why we make the sign of the cross.  That is why we pray The Trisagion Prayers. 

The Trisagion Prayers are a set of ancient prayers that begin each service of the Daily Cycle. They are also commonly used to begin one’s private prayers. ( (the + means to make the sign of the cross)

+Glory to Thee, our God, Glory to Thee.

O Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, the Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come, and abide in us, and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O Good One.

+Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal: have mercy on us. (3 times)

+Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

All-Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, cleanse us from our sins. Master, pardon our iniquities. Holy God, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name’s sake.

Lord, have mercy. (3 times)

+Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

So what do you choose?  I personally want a deep intimate faith with my Lord.  I also want to know my priest in a personal way.  I want to participate in each step of the Divine Liturgy of our faith.  I don’t want a dvd or a booklet in place of a priest.  I don’t want to be bribed to attend a service by being offered tickets to the movies or a a free cup of coffee.  That is my personal choice.  What is yours?

God bless each  of you!




5 responses

27 06 2008
David Web


I appreciate your righteous indignation at the slick marketing ploys of the mega church movement. Even with my Baptist background, I find a lot of this American style modern “Christianity”,to be over the top and insincere.

It seems they have ready answers for any questions, but little one on one interaction, and different cliques seem to evolve out of these types of settings.
Its just too polished and self assured, like that dining room set I’ll probably never afford or purchase.

I’m really struggling with my spirituality lately, and long for genuine
communion with the Almighty. Some days, I think I should just abandon my journey altogether and go with the hedonistic flow of our age. That would be a great tragedy, to have struggled so long inwardly, and succumb to resignation of the quest, perhaps quietly joining the ranks of the thoroughly disengaged.

However, from my limited observations of Orthodoxy thus far, I feel that perhaps You and Jim are more committed than many who grew up with Orthodoxy. I sincerely hope this is not really the case. It is very difficult for me to be approachable sometimes, having acquired a zone defense over the years with the various heartaches that have found their way into my experience.

Also, my knowledge of History is a factor as well. It is easy to rationalize the factions of Christianity as being just that, another faction, another expression, another religious argument, etc. I’m truly happy for you though Sister, and for Jim.

Catherine and I attended the Greek Festival at Assumption of the Theotokos last weekend. The food was great and the Cathedral was open to visitors as well as the Community Center, with the remodeled bookstore.

Little Brother

27 06 2008

Little brother,
I’ve never been involved in such a large Orthodox church as you have been going to. We’ve only been involved in mission churches that are made up mostly of folks like us who have converted to the Orthodox faith. Don’t give up–please. If the church you are going to is to large–find a smaller one. But the bottom line is this–people will always fail–but the tenets of the Holy Orthodox Church is pre-denominational. The Divine Liturgy is the same for all the different Orthodox churches whether they be Greek, Russian, Serbian, etc. There might be a few different little traditions throughout the service but essentially the most important parts of the service are the same.

I’m glad you both enjoyed the Greek festival. Please, again, don’t give up.


5 07 2008
David Web


I do enjoy the services but find it a little frustrating since it is so obviusly Greek oriented and Catherine isn’t interested in attending with me. I can’t blame them if they are also a little suspicious. I seem to have a knack for intimidating people with my demeanor although it isn’t my intent. Also,, a 240 pound man in fairly decent shape with bulging muscles tends to put people on defense. I’ll keep you posted.

Little Brother

20 07 2008

I definitely hear what you’re saying here. It’s amazing how personally known I feel in the Orthodox Church. I’m a relative newcomer…still a catechumen. But I love how I am constantly challenged by meeting God in the prayers of the Church.

21 07 2008

Dear Catechuman,
My prayers are with you as you continue your journey into the Christian Orthodox faith.


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