One of my pet peeves is the ignorance and parochialism that characterizes Western Christian–particularly American Protestant–understandings of church history and mission.  Recently this came up in the oft-repeated refrain that the Eastern Orthodox Churches have somehow failed at missionary work.  While it’s true that the Orthodox churches have been hamstrung in regards to missionary efforts because of political situations in their homelands, and that some minority communities of Orthodox have become (with reason) more focused on simple survival than evangelism, it is an unfair criticism to say that they are somehow innately bad at missionary efforts, or that there is something in Eastern Orthodox theology that works against such efforts.

There are several books that would be helpful to the Western Christian attempting to gain a bit more insight into the history of our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters.  One is Scott Sunquist’s History of the World Christian Movement: Earliest Christianity to 1453 and Samuel Moffat’s two volume set (A History of Christianity in Asia: Beginnings to 1500 and A History of Christianity in Asia, Vol. II: 1500-1900).

But, without picking these up, you can get some information about Orthodox missions and the challenges they faced in the following text available on Google Books:


It is perhaps ironic that Protestants would often be among the harshest critics of Orthodox missionary efforts given the fact that a single shared commitment, perhaps more than any other, resulted in the success of the mission of both Orthodox and Protestant Christians: a commitment to using the vernacular tongue of the people evangelized.