Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Thanks St Pat

Perhaps two of Ireland's most loved Brits are Jack Charlton and St Patrick ( For those who don't know Jack Charlton was a very Englishman who was manager of the most successful Republic Of Ireland Soccer team).

Every St Pat's day I normally either put on St Pat's confession, which is brilliant, or his famous hymn. Today however I am posting an article written by Dan Kimball in which he quotes from George Hunter's 'The Celtic Way of Evangelism' which was written some years ago. Like many of the books on Celtic Christianity they sold well because of the wave of popularity of anything 'Celtic' at the time, even though many of them lacked historical accuracy.

Nevertheless books such as the one mentioned above are particulary inspiring as far as they have a biblical basis and encourage Christians to go out into the world with the great message we have been given. AK

Two of my missionary heroes are Hudson Taylor (China) and St. Patrick (Ireland). The reason is that they understood the need to contextualize how you go about church and mission in different cultures. I also am reminded that they both were criticized by their "home" base of Britain (in both these cases in totally different time periods). But they got criticism for changing how they went about "church", how they adapted their ministry even their dress and look if needed, to proclaim and teach the gospel catered to a specific culture.

I was just re-reading tonight the book "The Celtic Way of Evangelism" by George Hunter, which was a very influential book in my life several years ago. There are some who have disagreements with the author's take on the Celt's (as there is a variety of time periods and complexities in their history, so it is hard to say in a generic form "The Celts"). But never-the-less, it is a great and inspiring book. I will simply put a few quotes here from the book in memory and honor of the ministry of St. Patrick.

Patrick was kidnapped by the Irish at age 16 and became a slave for many years. He eventually escaped and went back to Britain. But then he ended up going back to the very people in Ireland he escaped from to share Jesus and proclaim the gospel. But he didn't do in normal ways. He did set up formal biblical training and education but so much was done relationally and creatively.

We can get fearful of being rejected or that people won't like us when they know we are Christians. But look at this description of the people Patrick went back to:

".... stripped before battle and rushed their enemy naked, carrying sword and shield but wearing only sandals and torc... while howling." (page 19)

Patrick got to understand those he was trying to reach:

"..Patrick understood the people and their language, their issues, and their ways...When you understand the people, you will often know what to say and do, and how. When the people know the Christians understand them, they infer that maybe the High God understands them too." (pages 19-20)

"After years of reflection on how the Irish might be reached, he moved into mission....employing parable, story, poetry, song, visual symbols, visual arts and perhaps drama to engage the Celtic people's remarkable imaginations. Often, we think, Patrick would receive the people's questions and then speak to those questions collectively." (page 21)

"They did not rely upon preaching alone to communicate the fullness of Christianity." (page 74)

The results:

"They baptized many thousands, probably tens of thousands. Patrick's mission planted about 700 churches. Within his lifetime, 30 to 40 (or more) of Ireland's 150 tribes became substantially Christian." (page 23)

The criticism that followed from the British and Roman church leaders (sounds like some similar criticism of today):

"One would naturally assume that the British Church which ordained Patrick and sent him to Ireland, would continue to affirm his mission and celebrate its achievements. This was far from the case. The British leaders had expectations that he was to be administer to local churches and care for faithful Christians. The British leaders were offended and angered that Patrick was spending priority time with "pagans", "sinners" and "barbarians". (pages 23-24)

"The Roman church leaders repeatedly criticized the Celtic wing for not doing church the "Roman way".....the hairstyle of the Celtics contrasted with the "tonsure" of the Romans. In hairstyle matter, and many others, Celtic Christianity had adapted to the people's culture; the Romans wanted Roman cultural forms imposed on all churches and people's - a policy that was alien to the Celtic movement's genius. The driving issues was control. That is why it was so important to the Romans for everyone to do church the "Roman way." (pages 40-41).

Despite the criticism, the type of people this missionary venture produced:

"They were devoted, compassionate, sold-out citizens of Heaven. They relied, through "prayer without ceasing" upon the Triune God's providence and power. They would do anything they could to help other people find The Way." (page 76)

I pray that as a church, we become devoted, compassionate.... and we would also do anything we can to help others find The Way, The Truth, and the Life." .............Amen

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Patrick was an authentic missionary for sure. May there be many more like him. Have a great holiday.