For several of my restless years in the Protestant church, there was a song I identified with strongly by Jason Upton. The song is called The Lion of Judah, and the last half of the chorus goes,
There’s a new generation rising,
a nameless, faceless, placeless tribe,
all they fear is the fear of the Lord,
and all they hear is the Lion of Judah.
To those who are in this tribe: I know your pain.
I know the hours of pouring over the scriptures for truth and comfort; I know the confusion from all of the philosophers, pseudo-theologians, and false prophets; I know the competing voices of culture who threaten to suffocate our godly desires with the cares of this world and their false messages regarding truth; I understand your frustration with a form of Christianity that belittles the faith to little more than a set of mental beliefs which one either acknowledges or rejects; I know the restlessness that enters your heart after attending a church for a little while; I remember the years of wandering from church to church looking for something deep; I know the feeling of being spiritually homeless; I know your frustrations with the American church system: the exorbitant salaries of pastors and staff, the sky-high building funds, the marketing gimmicks, the toying of our emotions, and even the difficulty in connecting in deep fellowship.
While each experience is unique, I know much of your pain. I have felt your yearning for something much deeper. However, there is light ahead on this dark road. You are on a journey with Christ.
For many years I felt I was part of this rising generation of “nameless, faceless, placeless” and not to mention restless ones. I grew frustrated wandering from one gathering place to another. But, if you are here on my blog than you know where God has guided me: the Eastern Orthodox Church.
I now take the Apostle Paul’s words to heart,
“You are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone…” (Eph 2:19-20)
I no longer feel spiritually homeless, or that I am wandering about with this vague “nameless, faceless, placeless” tribe. I have a home, and it is in the Church founded by the apostles nearly 2,000 years ago, a church that has been practicing and teaching the same faith all that time. I join “my fellow citizens with the saints” every Sunday for an ancient liturgy, parts of which date back to the time of the apostles. The feelings of restlessness and striving with which I used to struggle are gone and have been replaced by a deep peace.
History and myth
If you know anything about the kind of worship leaders who listen to Jason Upton (I was one of them), then you have a decent idea of my Christian background with spontaneous and energetic worship sets. That being the case, I never expected myself to land in a liturgical, ancient Christian Church. And you may feel you are light years away from that as well. Many of us have been raised with such anti-Roman Catholic sentiments that we become almost fearful of anything that is ritualistic and may look Catholic on the surface.
After all, many of us have heard how Christian worship in the early church was spontaneous; there was no central authority figure; and there were no church buildings. All that came about due to Emperor Constantine. In fact, I learned a neat little trick: if there is anything you don’t like about what you see today in church, all you have to do is attach Constantine’s name to it (regardless of historical accuracy) and people will generally agree with you.
However, I learned that the myths which I mentioned above do not exist outside of American pop-Christianity and badly written history. So, I stopped reading most history books and began reading the source documents* that (good) historians use. They’re pretty dry and boring at times, but most of them are accessible and there is a wealth of beauty in them. They played a large part in confirming to me that the Orthodox Church is the early church.
God-speed on your journey
I mention all of that not to start a debate over the practices of the early church, but to ask you to be open-minded on your journey. I landed in a church that I never would have imagined myself attending a few years ago. It took me a few months to adapt to the Orthodox liturgy. At first I found it to be lyrically deep but dreadfully boring. Now I love it.
I also want to encourage you that you do not have to be part of this vague nameless, placeless, faceless tribe. God calls us each by name, and Christians across history have belonged to a definitive local community. You do not have to be spiritually homeless much longer. I found my home in the Eastern Orthodox faith, and you can too.
May Christ our God bless you and guide you on your journey. Feel free to post any questions or comments.
*I am now hosting several of the writings of the ancient Christian Church here on my blog. You can find them by clicking here or on the Ancient Christian Voices link above.
7 thoughts on “To the Nameless Faceless Placeless Tribe”
Thank you for this post. I am an Orthodox inquirer coming from an evangelical background. Please pray for me and for my family as we take this wonderful journey.
I will pray for you and your family, Stephen. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions. God bless.
I am also an Orthodox inquirer coming out of Evangelical Christianity. This pain and restlessness you describe was a constant issue for 25 years. Everything you describe I have felt or experienced many times. This was such a part of my life that I had a bumper sticker with “Not All Who Wander Are Lost.”, and my theme song was U2’s “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” I have fallen in love with Orthodox Christianity in just two months and hope beyond hope that this is home. Do I dare?
That bumper sticker is popular here in the Asheville area, and I think you did well to tie it to U2’s song.
Do you dare hope? Certainly. Just take your time. When I started my journey into Orthodoxy I decided that it would be good to take about a year to check it out and make up my mind. I joined after nine months, but having that mental expectancy of taking my time helped me not to rush things, and also gave me freedom to chew on difficulties. For most of my journey, I doubted that I would actually become Orthodox. I was just wrestling with too many things. That thought left me a bit depressed because I didn’t know where else I would turn. Through prayer, though, I entered the Church and it has been exceptionally freeing and life-giving.
I am so happy that you no longer feel that old unrest…I can sense the newfound peace in your life, now that you have found the Orthodox church.
Hi, I am quite new to Orthodoxy. I was wondering if you could give those lists of books again since the link doesn’t bring you them set of books anymore. Also any others books that are along those lines you found more recently would be appreciated. Thank you and God bless!
Unfortunately, Ansel, that series of books went out of print shortly after I posted this blog. It’s in the public domain and you can read it here:
The books I referred to are under the heading that states: “Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325”
Clement, Ignatius, and Justin Martyr are all quite helpful in that series. Their work can also be found here on my website: https://www.orthodoxroad.com/voices-from-the-past/