March 17, 2021

St. Patrick's Day

It's St. Patrick's day!  Most may think of wearing green and consuming green food (and beer) on this day but, for those of interested in church planting and Christian mission, there is a lot to be learned from St. Patrick and those early Christians among the Celts. Here are a few things worth considering:

"Civilizing" and "evangelizing" do not have to be synonymous
Patrick and others respected the traditions and culture of those they ministered with and did their best to communicate the good news of God in a manner that related to their context. Rome considered his methods unorthodox, if not heretical. Why? Patrick did not believe that "civilizing" a culture and "evangelizing" a culture were synonymous. He believed that the good news of the Gospel could be discovered within the indigenous culture–the Celts didn't need to become "Roman" in order to follow Jesus. In contrast to the violence of religious colonialism, Patrick's hybridity embodies the process of seeing the gospel take root in a particular culture, contextualized. George G. Hunter III demonstrates this approach in is book, The Celtic Way of Evangelism. Explaining the hybridity that Patrick innovated when working in Ireland and resisted Rome's colonizing methodology, he notes that a visitor from Rome at the time would have noted "a new kind of church, one which broke the Roman imperial mold and was both catholic and barbarian."

Love of enemies and advocacy for them
Patrick was enslaved by the Irish Celtics. After escaping and fleeing the country, he returned to live amidst and evangelize his former captors. Rather than dehumanize, hate or engender fear of those he had a right to dislike, Patrick followed the Jesus tradition of loving those that had dehumanized him.

Start from within the existing community
Rather than start monastic communities secluded, outside of town early Celtic communities started within villages, mixing monks and families together in one community. In other words, their own well-being was wrapped up in well-being of the community they were serving.

Caring for the environment and evangelism can go hand-in-hand
The early Christians in Ireland tended towards seeing God's presence everywhere, not just in church buildings. They articulated a high appreciation for the natural world and the Creators hand within it. In the tradition of Jesus, the ways of God were often explained by using the environment around them as metaphor.

It's never too late
He returned to Ireland in what was considered at that time old age. What dream do you have that you've counted yourself out of? It's never too late. Maybe it's your turn. Right now.

I recommend anyone interested to pick up Hunter's, The Celtic Way of Evangelism for a short overview of the early Christian influence in Ireland.

NOTE: This post is a revised version of a few earlier posts.

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