Which brings me to a question many of us are asking, “Why aren’t we living more like that?” [Why aren’t more Christians living like that?]
- It’s hard – It is much easier for me to tell old stories than to live out new ones.
- It’s risky – Every invitation is an opportunity for rejection.
- It’s inconvenient – Contextualizing is hard. Trying to understand someone else’s culture will cause me to wrestle with why I believe and do certain things. And sometimes I just don’t want to.
- It’s time consuming – I can be selfish with my time. True discipleship takes a long time…far more than a 12 week class or a few sermon series.
Patrick is one of my heros because he didn’t stick around to play that game. He didn’t stay in the civilized world so his parish could have a greater market share of the already convinced. He knew there were too many that had been written off and therefore not yet heard that God loves and pursues them. And because he went, he welcomed, he conversed, he ate…Ireland went from the most barbaric arm of the far reaching Roman church to the most Christian. All during some of the darkest days for the civilized church back in Rome. God used Patrick’s mission and method to save Christianity in the west.
I hope you share my conviction and urgency. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it?” (Romans 10:14-15 MSG) We’ve been commissioned to “go and make,” not “hope they come and see.”
Commit with me to doing the hard work, taking the risk, being inconvenienced, investing the time, and partying like it’s 461AD.
Back in 1998, I had an opportunity to hear George Hunter III speak. That day he futher unpacked the story I posted on Monday. Hunter had just written a book called, The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West…Again. That book is the most formative work on ministry I’ve ever read.
Hunter recaped the strategy of the church in Patrick’s day. Simply stated the Roman way of evangelism was as follows:
- Provide people with information so they may believe
- Offer them an opportunity to respond and become a Christian
- If they respond correctly, they are welcomed into the community of faith.
Does that sound familiar? If you grew up in church you saw, experienced, or maybe were trained in this way. You had to believe the right stuff before you really became a Christian and then if you talked like us – looked like us – acted like us – you could belong. This strategy does not work. Patrick used a much more relational way. He and his group would find a village and ask for permission to set up their camp on the outskirts. They would then build relationships inviting the Celts to know them, eat with them, and participate in each other’s lives. Through the relationship they shared their faith in Jesus and helped those where receptive to understand intellectually what was going on in their hearts. He reversed the Roman way to: Belong > Become > Believe.
Let’s face it, we are inundated with information today. And while I don’t discount the individuals who are stimulated by spirited debate I do not think the believe – become – belong model will make much of a cultural impact for the Kingdom. Patrick’s understanding of context and sensitivity to culture are lessons Christians in the 21 Century need to embrace.
If you are a person of faith I would suggest you do three things:
- Make some new friends. In your day to day activity, pay attention to wherever the spark of friendship flashes and fan it.
- Invite them into your home and into your life. Yes, literally eat with them. Do as Patrick did. Invite them to participate with you in the adventure of life.
- Listen to them. That means stop trying to download the right information on them and listen to what they say, in their words and beneath their words.
We will see impact being made, both on the small and large scale, when we stop assuming we have all the answers before we listen to the questions being asked.
* Posted on Darrel Harvey's everyday-pilgrim.com