GUEST COLUMN
Eating My Words: From Campus Crusade for Christ to Eastern Orthodoxy

May 1987By Peter E. Gillquist

The Rev. Peter E. Gillquist, who for more than a decade was Senior Editor at Thomas Nelson Publishers, led the evangelical denomination (the Evangelical Orthodox Church [EOC]) into Eastern Orthodoxy this year, which is the first time in history such an event has occurred. Formerly Presiding Bishop of the EOC, he is now a priest of the Antiochian Orthodox Church (heir to the ancient church of Antioch, still based in Syria). Copyright 1987 Peter E. Gillquist.

By the summer of 1966, our bubble was bursting. As staff members of Campus Crusade for Christ in key roles of leadership, we were intent on bringing America's college students to faith in Christ. And we were further committed to Christ's Great Commission: bringing the Gospel to the whole world. But that summer, at our Arrowhead Springs headquarters in California, we realized we would have to change.

We had become convinced from Scripture that the Church is the means to fulfilling that Great Commission. We had claimed to be "an arm of the Church," but we were an amputated arm. We were not connected, not accountable, nor correctable.

Students I had led to Christ would ask, "Would you baptize me?" I would say no, because we're not a church. They would ask, "Why not?" Or at the close of a particularly warm evening of living room Bible study, someone would ask, "Why can't we have communion together tonight?" The answer was the same: we're not a church. And their retort was again, "Why not?"

We knew that for every hundred kids who prayed a commitment prayer with us, only a handful would go on to Christian maturity. We would try to get them into a church, but it was difficult. Most of them wanted to stay with us as their spiritual shepherds, but we were not shepherds. We were not supposed to be. By default we were but "hit men for Jesus."

Mark it well. We are aggressive witnesses for Christ to this day. We are still fully evangelical. But we are no longer pop-Protestant. By the grace of God, we have become Orthodox.

Our conviction was that all genuine evangelism must emerge from the Church. We believed that the only "organization" Jesus ever formed to do His work was the Church. We had no choice but to leave Campus Crusade and pursue evangelism through the Church. But the big question was: what is the Church?

We did not want to build and maintain yet another new structure, at least not right away. Most of us struck out on our own, building house-churches in different parts of the country fashioned after what we saw as the New Testament model. We kept in touch with each other, and exchanged ideas about our successes and failures. Many of us had taken outside jobs to support ourselves and our families.


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