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Spiritual Leadership, Part VI: Next Steps

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[Read the previous section, part V, here.]

Next Steps

In the end, then, we see the various realms of what it is to extend our spiritual leadership, beginning with the recognition that we must not impose a single vision of the “right saint” or the “right spiritual gift” on everyone. We start with ourselves, addressing the clearest examples of our weakness and seeking to bring our own lives under some kind of clear spiritual leadership. We move from there to our families and the intimate web of connections that require us to adjust constantly to the needs therein in order that our wives and our children remain firm in the Christian life. Then on to the parish, and the establishment of trust as the basis for spiritual leadership. Finally, we reach the broader community, that our spiritual leadership bring forth fruit in abundance. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

December 29th, 2011 at 11:00 am

Spiritual Leadership, Part V: The Community

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[Read the previous section, part IV, here.]


There’s that last circle of influence: community, the realm of people for whom we desire salvation. It is the place where we really should desire our spiritual leadership to obtain the greatest reach. It is frequently overlooked among our Orthodox people. It is quite intertwined with mission and evangelism, for proclaiming the Gospel to the heterodox and the unbeliever and bringing souls under the protective wing of Christ’s Church is the ultimate extension of spiritual leadership.

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, less the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:17-18) St. Paul is not arguing against Holy Baptism here, but to say that his primary work was the proclamation of the Gospel in the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

December 28th, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Reflections on the Church Website

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The church website. That a church should have one is all but axiomatic in our current context. This, of course, has happened in a fairly short span of time. As recently as a dozen years ago, most parishes didn’t have one. Now, it is considered far more important than the pages-formerly-known-as-yellow, and a cornerstone of parish outreach activities. As a leadership matter, however, the church website does present a number of challenges that merit consideration. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

September 27th, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Posted in Evangelism,Technology

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I Will Not Speak of Thy Mysteries

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“For I will not speak of thy Mysteries to thine enemies…”
–From the Communion hymn for the liturgy for Holy Thursday,
and one of the prayers before communion

Christ is risen! Indeed he is risen!

This past Holy Week has given me many points to consider in a topic I’ve been ruminating on for some time: the issue of photos and videos of Orthodox sacramental rites being placed on the internet in an unrestricted fashion. I am encouraged by the growing use of media technology by Orthodox parishes for the sake of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. Technological advances in the past decade have made this possible, with good-quality digital still and video cameras available at bargain prices. For those eager to share the Orthodox Faith (which should be all of us), this has been turned into a real opportunity to make Orthodox worship more visible to all.

However, I admit to some unease with the way this is being done in practice. I have benefited greatly from the ready availability of photos and videos (particularly on YouTube, to help a young choir learn new settings by hearing others sing them), but I am not sure this justifies the unrestricted disclosure of “family affairs” to the world. Consider some photos easily found online (all open in a new window/tab), available for anyone to view:

Of Holy Communion
Of Baptisms
Of Ordinations

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

April 25th, 2011 at 12:17 am

The Business of the Church – Part 2

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To continue the previous post on the “business” of the Church, I begin by saying that the emphasis of this particular reflection is not on tithing. Rather, the interest is on the perils of distractions within the Church corporate, at the parish, diocesan, and jurisdictional levels.  It is a distraction when we, with the complicity of our leaders (clergy and lay), have a Church life dominated by festivals, building programs, hall rentals, and semi-annual golf tournaments.

These things are distractions because they are all inward-looking. They set up a virtual mirror where we preen and think about our infrastructure and our “stuff” rather than caring for those in our midst and proclaiming the Gospel. (NB: Oftentimes, caring is proclaiming, only with a whisper. Whom do you know that could use a helping hand?) God repeatedly rebukes such introspection. The entire Old Testament account of God’s refusal to sanction the building of a permanent Temple prior to Solomon suggests that the Israelites were to live first as God’s faithful, as the seed of Abraham in which “shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3). In short, if we are spending all of our thinking time on something other than being lights to the world, we’re not shining very brightly.

Mark Phinney has noted, in comments on a previous post, that he feels personal spiritual development and formation are the number one leadership issue facing the Orthodox Church in North America. I agree. We would make significant headway against our ills with real spiritual development. The difficulty is that there are a lot of things that masquerade as spiritual development, these distractions being chief among them. It is terribly easy to spend all our time thinking about and working on these side projects while telling ourselves that these efforts are spiritual labors and, worse, beating up those who challenge that thinking. Salvation will not be found in a balance sheet.

True spiritual development, and a fundamental aspect of the business of the Church, not only begins but continues with a real look inward, with repentance. It is time to stop berating those prophets who remind us that our distractions are not the same thing as the Gospel and instead heed them. Repentance is the looking inward that leads outward, for it is with the eyes of repentance that we truly live and share the life in Christ. Such sharing is the true business of the Church.

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

December 14th, 2009 at 10:08 am

The Business of the Church – Part 1

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And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. John 2:13-17

The money changers and sellers of livestock (for sacrifices) started out with perfectly good and helpful intentions, helping those who were sometimes coming from great distances to visit the Temple to make sacrifice, and, in the process, paying the Temple tax.

The benign enterprise, however, grew into something that no longer existed for the sake of God’s people. It came to exist for its own sake. What started as what could be termed, loosely, as a ministry to people became a profit and loss equation. At that point, the Temple served only as a “house of merchandise.” Such a transformation is perverse, a form of idolatry where the object of interest isn’t God but something else.

I submit that a similar affliction exists among the Orthodox of North America. Fundraisers for specific needs, building programs, church ministries are established, but then things change over time. The fundraiser comes to be used for general needs and even exists as an ongoing venture. (How big is the fundraiser line item in the church budget?) The building program is established for the sake of a beautiful edifice, but, then, how much of the parish’s time, money, and energy is then diverted away from mission as a result? How often are visitors viewed, not as souls, but as contributors to our debt service?  Concerning our ministries, how many of them exist because we dare not cease funding a program, even one that distracts us from what we are supposed to be doing as Church?

For the sake of mission, it’s time to stop looking inward, to end the focus on the profit/loss equation in whatever form, and to start (or restart) looking outward. To depend on fundraisers for parish support is to transfer our personal financial responsibility to other people. These “other people” are often the very ones who should be recipients of our evangelism rather than our secular marketing. To establish a building program (concomitantly incurring large amounts of debt) or an athletic league because doing so “will attract people” or for any reason other than building up the faithful is to see people as numbers rather than individuals made in the image of God.

I realize that, in saying these things, some of my own clergy brethren will take exception to them. What I ask is that some Scriptures be considered: Exodus 3:22, Exodus 25:1-9, Romans 15:22-32, 1 Corinthians 16:1-3. Are these inward- or outward-looking? What is the difference between Exodus 3 and the others? How do we differentiate what we do from what the money changers did?

With that, I’ll end this first installment. I also make a quiet apology for the lack of polish of this installment, which was written in haste. I did, however, wish to have a new post up for the weekend. There will be more early in the week.

In any event, please post your comments, especially if you have more Scriptures to point out. (Approvals may be slow until Saturday afternoon.)

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

December 11th, 2009 at 4:55 pm

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