My friend Fr Alexander Webster has a very powerful and provocatively titled essay (“Transfigure or Die Trying“) in which he argues that
Orthodox Christians, much like our traditional Roman Catholic and Evangelical Protestant compatriots, affirm a universal and irrevocable duty to maximize our efforts toward the evangelization of America, both spiritually and morally. That evangelistic imperative is also a moral one—namely, for us vigorously and without apology to present Christianity in its revealed fullness, firmly rooted in the “transfigurative morality” of the New Testament and in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
What brings his essay to mind is a series of videos posted by Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City as part of their public faith series. By “public faith” they mean that as a community they “want to identify [them]selves as Christian in [their] public relationships so that [they] can be better witnesses to what Jesus has done for [them] and the hope he offers to everyone.” The touchstone for this is 1 Peter 3:15, “sanctify the Lord God
in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (NKJV).
Redeemer’s public faith program makes a good complement to Fr Alexander’s essay. The evangelization of America by Orthodox Christians and traditionally Roman Catholics and Evangelical Protestants, requires that we be transfigured by the Gospel. Or to put it another way, the evangelistic work of the Church is only possible if we are really and truly personal and intentional disciples of Jesus Christ.
We must be transfigured if we are to be successful evangelists. The personal transfiguration of the Christian is both the foundation and the fruit of evangelism. This doesn’t mean we must wait for some type of spiritual experience before we can offer the vigorous and unapologetic presentation of the Gospel. While I can’t present a faith that isn’t mine presenting that faith will help make it min and help me grow in the faith.
What matter though is that we start to offer the Gospel. Not everyone is called to enter the Public Square in the same way. But all are called. Let me recommend the second video series, “Why Public Faith?” as one way of offering the “transfigurative morality” of the Gospel to an increasingly secular culture. You can find that video here.
h/t Sherry Weddell, International Co-Director, Catherine of Siena Institute