evangelizing like St. Patrick

One of my favorite books and reads was from George G. Hunter III (I need to read it again), The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West…Again. In it is the wonderful story of St. Patrick of Ireland who (along with St. Francis of Assisi) Protestant Christians like to claim as their own (I am wearing a green shirt and orange socks today).

What emerged out of the gospel Patrick proclaimed, and the churches that came into being- and I must add in the midst of great danger as Patrick well understood when he returned to the land of his captivity- was a visual, expressive, creation-oriented Christianity which captured many of the minds and hearts of Ireland and held sway a good number of centuries there.

There was a freedom and rootedness in God’s working which (again, like St. Francis) made Rome (by then in place) uneasy. This is surely in significant part because when Patrick ventured back from his home of England to evangelize a pagan nation, he surely did so as one who not only had a heart for his former captors, but who understood, or at least respected their culture. He was surely led by the Spirit to let the gospel and the basics of the faith emerge into a community of faith which expressed the gospel in terms of their own culture. My guess is that Patrick himself not only let it happen, but was a part of it. He took the three leaf clover, the shamrock to teach the Holy Trinity: God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Our evangelism necessarily is answering to the fall, but it should be rooted in creation. And then from there, the fall, the covenant, redemption and new creation. God’s salvation in Christ is about reconciling all things to himself, about making all things new. So that is it not an other-worldly venture, some kind of mystical religion which is accessible only to the “saints” or super devout Christians. But it is a faith accessible to all, and to be lived out as creatures in creation. So that the arts are an important part of it. Painting, sculpturing, music, poetry. And simply an orientation which sees God metaphorically in his good creation. The sun, the beauty of this world, the eikons (meaning us) made in his image.

It is an evangelization which appeals to people not only on the basis of what God has done in Christ to reconcile the world to himself- not counting people’s sins against them, but it is also one that appeals to people to find the purpose for why humans were created in general, and what their special calling from that is, in particular. Of course it’s a combination of living in both a wonderful world made by God, and a fallen world which needs God’s salvation. So that, for example the arts should capture something of both, rather than one or the other. But expressions of faith should be buoyant in the expression of God’s new creation work in Jesus, making all things new. Restoring us to our calling through Jesus, as stewards and caretakers of God’s good earth which God has given us as our home. And which someday will become one with heaven, in the new heaven and new earth when all things are made one in Christ.

So it’s time to rethink our evangelizing. Yes, we need to help people understand their lostness and sin, but in terms of God’s creation. To get us back to our roots in creation as told to us in Genesis. And into the beginning of the realization of that vision through Christ.

What thoughts do you have on this? Have any of you read the book, and how did it impact you?