In a recent "retread" over threads in the forum I mentioned a few posts below this one, I ran across a thread regarding Evangelicals doing missionary work in Greece. Some Orthodox were lamenting Evangelicals' proselytizing people who, culturally and historically (and, very often -- though much, much less often these days -- by conviction) were already Christian. Others were scratching their heads wondering what the appeal would be regarding some of these groups. Y'all know where I come from theologically (or, if you're new here, you can click on my conversion story in the sidebar), and those of you who've read the blog long enough or thoroughly enough will know that I know when to take my lumps; though I truly believe that the Orthodox FAITH and the corporate Church that confesses it is the fullness of Him that fills all in all, all is not always rosy in practical, concrete matters. Cf. St. Paul's letters to Corinth. The following then, is my response to the question of why people (not throngs, but noticeable numbers of people) were joining Evangelical groups (edited in brackets for context):
"I think the intellectual input and stimulation [of regular, faithful Bible Study], as well as the realization that they're actually DOING something with their faith outside of church services provides a thrill that they weren't getting with just 'spectator sport' Orthodoxy/Catholicism, where the priest/choir/chanters sang the Divine Liturgy/said Mass and they went through the motions without any purposeful explanation and education of what was going on.
"When you take the stated doctrine of having all your sins completely and permanently wiped out, forever, of never having to deal with any kind of ascetic effort in order to arrive at purification and sanctification, and are 'free' to rejoice in a perceived spiritual perfection that God has granted you apart from any obedience you may or may not have actually walked in -- well, as virtual and artificial as it may sound when I put it that way, it does make for a VERY grateful reaction on the part of the believer. 'He who has been forgiven much, loves much,' and all that. The Evangelical perceives that his sins have been declared null and void through the legal transaction of the blood of Christ before the Father, and so they are free simply to rejoice in an already finished righteousness, an already guaranteed place in heaven. Couple this grateful state with AGRESSIVE memorization of proof-texts that seem to bolster this teaching, and you have the added rush of thinking that God's biblical stamp of approval supports the idea, adding confidence to enthusiastic gratitude.
"It is difficult, then, to put Orthodoxy next to that and say, 'Christ has died and risen again; through baptism we are brought into His Kingdom so that we would have the POTENTIAL of working out our salvation with fear and trembling, making every effort to enter into the rest He prepared for us through His Passion and Resurrection. The enemy, however, still prowls around as the wolf of souls, seeking to make us his prey, so we must be ever mindful of sinful habits that remain in our lives, as they could be occasion for the enemy to gain a foothold. Our life in Christ consists of constant vigilance, constant repentance, constant participation in the sacramental life of the Church, and constant sorrow and (should God grant) true tears of repentance over our state as 'chief of sinners' so that we might gain times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord which is the comfort for those who have mourned.'
"Evangelicals will say that this gospel has been tried and found wanting, pointing to the Orthodox hierarchs' and clergy's moral failure, as well as the laity's laxity and lack of fervor in studying about and participating in their faith outside of services. I would say that the faith is not so much tried and found wanting as it has been found difficult and left untried. This is not so much an excuse as it is an explanation. What is needed? A culture shift, I think. Increased emphasis on personal sin and the need for repentance, forgiveness and grace. Priorities on parish education regarding biblical, patristic support for Orthodox positions. Clear opportunities to LIVE the gospel (service projects like [soup kitchens, clothing pantries, prison visitation], for example). Fellowship and increased accountability among the faithful, pushing each other on to greater piety and holiness of life, seeking out ways to rid ourselves of sin and live to Christ. I say that, if these things are considered solely Evangelical territory, we as Orthodox have sold our birthright, so to speak, and Evangelicals' coming in and gaining the souls the Church has neglected should come as no surprise."