Monday, April 26, 2021

What is Happening to the Church?

What is Happening to the Church?
What is Happening to the Church (Photo credit*)

Recently, I’ve been observing two contrasting realities:

First, I’ve been reminded of Christian history of past centuries. 

My daughter has been watching Torchlighters Videos on Redeem TV. These animated videos tell the Saint and Missionary stories - many of which I grew up hearing. People like Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, who were martyred for their faith. People like Mary Slessor, Gladys Aylward and Adoniram Judson, who abandoned everything, risking life and limb, to share the Gospel with those who didn’t know Christ in foreign nations.

I’ve also been reading A Ready Defense by Josh McDowell, and hearing about those whose lives were changed by popular events of the late 20th century like the Jesus Movement, Campus Crusade for Christ, Billy Graham Crusades, and Evangelism Explosion. I’m reminded of concepts like “Personal Evangelism” and “Bring a friend to Church Day”

 I remember in my youth, hearing about heroic missionaries, and knowing many young people and adults who dreamed of influencing their world for Christ by traveling to a foreign country, and reaching those who had never heard of Him.

As an Orthodox Christian, I've been teaching my Sunday School students about those heroes who spread the Faith without regard for their own lives, people like St. Photini, Equal to the Apostles; St. Nicholas of Japan, St. Patrick Patron of Ireland; Sts. Cyrill and Methodius, Enlighteners of the Slavs & St. Nina Patroness of Georgia.

In contrast, I’ve also been witnessing a steady stream of disheartening news and commentary about our world, and the prevalence of Faith among Americans. The Gallup organization recently notified the world that American “Church Membership” has fallen below 50% for the first time in American history – for a current count of 47%

Even more alarming – the Gallup poll counts Synagogue and Mosque members as “Church Members” in their article (!) – so rather than 47% as reported, actual Church membership must be even lower. Not to mention, that even those counted at "Church Members" may not be devout.

When I travel around our country, and observe multiple states and religious denominations, I see things that concern me even more. I’m not talking here about one Parish or one town, or one denomination – I see this nationwide, across all denominations and Christian groups - even on the internet where people gather from all creeds and places.

In the Churches, I see fewer and fewer children or young adults. I see empty pews, and sparsely attended Bible Studies.

Clergy tell me that their members with advanced degrees in secular subjects don’t know even the most common Bible stories. If they wish to make a point in a sermon about the Parable of the Prodigal Son, for example, they have to tell the entire story, even to highly educated members. Even people with MDs, PhDs, and Masters Degrees don’t know the most frequently repeated Bible stories.  

I see more and more "nominal Christians" - people who use the label "Christian" but do not ascribe to the essential teachings of Christ and His Church.

When I hear Christians – even Clergy – discuss the current state of American Christianity, they often appear to be waving a white flag of surrender – using terms like “Post Christian,” and sharing gloomy predictions of future persecution. They talk about Churches closing, going bankrupt, or being forced by the government to violate their beliefs.All of these things are a definite possibility - IF we Christians do not pray, and obey God! But, they're not at all a foregone conclusion!

In the Early Church, when Christians were less than 10% of the Roman Empire, that small minority had a Faith in God that changed the world!

Now, we’re over 40 percent, and announcing His defeat!

Jesus said that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church , so this declaration of defeat is, of course, inaccurate.

But, there is a sad modern reality. 

Almost no one talks about how to love the more than 50 percent of Americans who are living lives without God and His Church. Those who could have a hope of Heaven and Eternity with God, but don’t. There is a lot of discussion about how bad this current trend reported by Gallup is for Christians, but very little discussion of its effect where it truly matters. What does this trend mean for those NON Christians and non-observant nominal Christians in our culture?

Meanwhile, our Churches have become experts in fundraisers & entertainment. Driving through town one day, I see an ad for a Church Barbecue. Another day I see an Easter Egg Hunt or movie night. On social media I see Baklava Sales, Festivals, Stage Plays, and Rummage Sales in various Churches all across the country. But, our actual attendance for services is getting smaller and smaller – and not just since the pandemic hit. Our fundraisers and entertainment events are full, but our pews are nearly empty!

Sadly, it has been years – maybe decades – since I heard anyone talk about reaching the lost outside their own congregation for Christ. And, I very rarely hear anyone discuss true Christian Education of Children – not entertainment or babysitting while Church is going on, or a little fun club for kids,  but a true teaching of the Faith.

I know almost no one who shares the Gospel with friend, neighbor, or colleague. Bringing a friend home to talk about the God Whom you love over coffee, or inviting a neighbor to experience a Church service with you is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

I know LOTS of people who pick fights with those same people over politics, economics, or parenting methods! So, it’s not that we don’t talk – we just don’t talk about the ONLY thing that really matters!

The fact is that human beings NEED God. Without Him, we are empty, hopeless and without a future. Without HIM, we are not living our only possible true purpose in life. As Blaise Pascal is quoted to have said,

 “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”

If we fail to let others know about the Love of Christ – we are not “being polite” and “respecting their opinions,” any more than we’re being polite to the homeless person when we don’t share our food or money with them.

 What if we stopped looking at our secular neighbors as “the enemy” and started thinking of them as our “mission field?” What if we reached out to them?

 We assume that Americans who are not Christians have rejected the Gospel message, but the reality is that many Americans, having grown up in a secular public school and in less religious families, have simply never truly heard the Gospel or truly encountered Jesus Christ & His Church. In too many cases, they have only rejected an inaccurate portrayal of Christianity in T.V. shows,  movies and news. Or perhaps they have rejected the witness of those people who loudly proclaim to be Christians, while not living a life pleasing to God.

We used to dream of “going to the mission field” Now, the “mission field” has come to us!


Christ’s Great Commission has not changed.


Matthew 28:19, 20

19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.


What are we going to do about it?


We don’t need to travel to some foreign country to tell people about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – the mission field has arrived in our home town.We just need to step out our front door!


Think about this for a minute: If every Church-going Christian in America befriended one secular or non-Christian neighbor, and drew that ONE other person into the fold of the Church – in ONE year, we could become a country that was almost 100% Christian!


 A few suggestions:

  •  Make sure YOU are in Church whenever the doors are open – or as close to it as you can. The Bible is very clear that a branch that is not connected to the Vine cannot bear fruit!
  • Invite a friend over for coffee or for lunch and have a pleasant conversation – and mention how knowing God has blessed your life.
  • Invite a friend who doesn’t go to ANY Church to come with you some time.

  • Offer to share a resource that might answer some of their questions about the Faith, and draw them closer to God. Here are some that I like:

If they’re not interested right now– don’t push- God has His perfect timing, and they have freedom. 

And, pray! 

God Bless!

 *Photograph Credit:"mar16" by amboo who? is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

 This is being shared on:

You're the Star

Inspire Me Monday 

Making a Home - Homemaking Linkup 

Encouraging Hearts & Homes

Tuesdays with a Twist 

Booknificent Thursday


Monday, April 19, 2021

Vegan Dump Dinner - Split Pea Soup

Vegan Dump Dinner - Split Pea Soup
Split Pea Soup is a great dinner - both comfort food AND healthy! 

This is prepared Dump Dinner style - simply put the ingredients in a Gallon Zipper Freezer bag or other freezer container and put in the freezer. The day before making it, put the container in the refrigerator to defrost. Then, the day you want to enjoy it, add it to the crock pot or slow cooker, and a few hours later, dinner is ready!

Here is the recipe:

Vegan Dump Dinner - Split Pea Soup
Place all ingredients in Gallon Zippered Freezer Bag or other suitable freezer container:
1 Pound Split Peas, rinsed and sorted
1 Bag Frozen Mirepoix Mix (or 1/2 cup each Chopped Onion, Celery, Carrot)
2 teaspoons Minced Garlic (from a jar is fine)
1 large cube Vegetable Bouillon, broken in pieces (such as Knorr or Maggi)
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons Celery Salt (or 1/2 teaspoon Celery Seed & 1 teaspoon Salt)

Seal bag. Label. Place in Freezer


Vegan Dump Dinner - Split Pea Soup

The day before cooking, place bag in refrigerator to thaw.

On cooking day, dump bag's contents into Slow Cooker or Crock Pot. 

6 Cups Water

Cook on High, 4 to 6 Hours

Serve with Crusty Bread or Crackers and Salad or Raw Veggies

I like to top my Split Pea Soup with Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle Seasoning Blend (that's not an affiliate link, just a suggestion : ) 

This post is being shared on:

Tasty Tuesdays

You're the Star 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Vegan Dump Dinners - Revythia (Greek Chickpea & Tomato Stew with Spinach)

Vegan Dump Dinner - Revythia - Greek Chickpea Stew
Making traditional Revythia is a time consuming process - starting from dried chickpeas, splitting them,
simmering them, adding sauce, simmering more, adding spinach, simmering even more. A delicious, satisfying dish - but not exactly a lazy day dish. Till now ; )

Of course, it is possible in Cyprus to buy chickpeas already split - but here in the US we decided to simply enjoy them whole. I think much of the reason for splitting them historically had to do with shortening cooking time and saving precious fuel - with modern methods that is less of a concern.

I modified my traditional recipe and turned it into a Dump Dinner this year. So - put all the ingredients in a zipper freezer bag, and toss in the freezer. Then thaw in fridge and dump in Crock Pot or slow cooker. Couldn't be easier. And, as it happens, it turns out to be quite tasty, but with a fraction of the work. 

I keep Yachni Sauce in my Fridge or freezer during Lent, so these Dump Dinners can be prepared in a jif. See below for instructions. This sauce can also be used to make all of these meals.

 Now, on busy Lenten days, when a meal needs to be consumed in a narrow window of time between work/school and Church - or after Church when everyone is tired and hungry - you're ready! 

Here's my recipe:

Revythia Dump Dinner (Greek Chickpea & Tomato Stew with Spinach)
Add to Gallon Freezer Bag or Container
5 (15 oz) cans Chickpeas, Drained
5 cups Yachni Sauce (see below)
1 (12 oz) bag Frozen Spinach
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, or preferred Lenten Oil (more or less to taste)
2 - 3 teaspoons Salt

Label & Seal Bag. Place in Freezer.

TWO days before preparing, put container in refrigerator to thaw. It thaws more slowly because the large volume - don't be worried if it's not perfectly thawed before preparing.

On the day you will consume it, add the contents of the container to the Slow Cooker or Crock Pot with 

2 Cups Water.

Cover & cook 6 to 7 hours, on high. 

Enjoy with Crusty Bread, Salad & Olives. 


Here are the instructions for making the sauce. Make sure to check this link for other recipes using this versatile sauce

Vat O' Yachni


1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive oil (or up to 1 cup, depending on your taste)*
2 12oz bags frozen chopped onions (or 6 cups fresh chopped onion)
2 Tablespoons Garlic

Then add:
2 #10 cans chopped tomatoes with juice (OR 14 (15oz) regular cans OR 8 (32oz) cans)
4 Bay Leaves
1/3 cup dry Parsley
6 Tablespoons (one small can) Tomato Paste
2 teaspoons Salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon Pepper

Bring to a simmer, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
Ready for use immediately, or may be frozen in 4 batches (5 or 6 cups per batch) for future use.

Double Batch Yachni
(for smaller freezers or smaller families)

3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or up to 1/2 cup, depending on your taste)*
1 12oz bag frozen chopped onions (or 3 cups fresh chopped onion)
1 Tablespoon Garlic
Then add:
1 #10 can chopped tomatoes with juice (OR 7 (15oz) cans OR 4 (32 oz) cans)

2 Bay Leaves
3 Tablespoons dry Parsley
3T Tomato Paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Bring to a simmer, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
Ready for use immediately, or may be frozen in batches (5 or 6 cups per batch) for future use.

This recipe is being shared on:

Tasty Tuesdays

Monday, April 5, 2021

Vegan Dump Dinners - Black Bean Soup

Vegan Dump Dinner - Black Bean Soup
This soup offers the best of several worlds. It is unbelievably easy to make, delicious and satisfying to
eat, and frugal. It also passes the kid-approval test in our house : ) 

I've been making it for years, but this year I simplified the method even more, and made it into a dump dinner - so it can be prepared with no hassles. 

You make it from dry beans, but it requires no soaking : )

I like to serve it with optional toppings: Rice to scoop on top, Sriracha for those who like a little heat, Fresh chopped tomatoes or Salsa, and Tortilla Chips. Avocado is also a delicious topping with this soup. 

For those who aren't vegan, or who aren't doing Lent, you can also offer Sour Cream and Mexican Style Shredded Cheese toppings, or even some Kielbasa slices.

Here's the super-easy recipe:

Vegan Dump Dinner - Black Bean Soup
In a Gallon Zipper Bag (or similarly sized Plastic Food Storage Box) Place:
1 Pound Black Beans, Rinsed and Sorted (2 1/2 cups)
1 (12 oz) bag Frozen Bell Peppers and Onions (or 1 cup Bell Peppers & 1 Cup Onions, in Crescents)
Scant Tablespoon Salt

In a Quart Zipper Bag (or similarly sized Plastic Food Storage Box) Place:
1 Can (15 oz) Chopped Tomatoes, with their liquid
1/4 Cup Dry Wine (any Color - may be omitted if you don't do wine)
Contents of 1 Packet Taco Seasoning, or 2 Tablespoons Homemade Taco Seasoning

Label Both Bags. 

Seal the small bag, place it inside the large bag, seal the large bag & put it in the freezer. (If using freezer boxes, put them next to each other in the freezer - possibly using a little tape so they don't get separated)


Vegan Dump Dinner, Black Bean Soup, in Progress



Vegan Dump Dinner, Black Bean Soup, Ready for Freezer


To make:

The day before, put the bags in the refrigerator to defrost. 

The day you want to enjoy the soup, remove the small bag, and leave it in the refrigerator. Put the contents of the large bag in your slow cooker or crock pot. 

Add 7 Cups water. 

Cook on high till beans are very tender - about 5 hours

Just before serving:

Add contents of small bag, and allow to warm (about 20 minutes - while you make the rice and set the table)

Then, Blend the soup with an immersion blender. I like to leave some of the soup chunky - with some whole beans, so I don't blend it until it's completely smooth, but I stop blending when it has reached my desired chunky-ness level : )

Serve in Bowls with above listed toppings to be added by each diner.


This is being shared on 

Tasty Tuesday