Celtic Way of Evangelism is
written by the Dean of the E. Stanley Jones School of World
Missions and Evangelism, and also Professor of Evangelism and Church
Growth at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, USA.
book is a small, seven-chapter book and is packed with perspective on a
branch of the Irish Christian church.
The author believes that the approach that St. Patrick took in
evangelizing Ireland is the same approach that is at work today's most
effective churches in the West.
is a mixed review. On the one hand we see the important and sensitive
manner in which Patrick successfully took note of cultural factors in his
missionary work. On the other hand we note that mention of the E. Stanley
Jonesís Chair commemorates the writer of The Christ of the
Indian Road, which follows a dangerous trend that tries to legitimize
what cannot be done, if we are to follow the Bible strictly. We admire the
zeal and bravery of the earliest Roman Catholic missionaries. Sadly, the
Gospel of Justification by Faith alone, not by works was not preached by
was taken into slavery at age 16 by a band of Celtic pirates, who took him
to Ireland where he was sold into slavery.
However, Patrick escaped six years later.
And while he was free from his captors, he found that he had grown
to love them and wanted to see the Irish Celtic people, who were complete
barbarians, reached by the love of God.
At age 48, he was given permission to return as a missionary force
from the Latin Church. And
while it was the Roman church that sent him back, it was Celtic culture
that dictated how Patrick introduced the Roman faith to the people.
Hunter traces Patrick's approach to evangelizing the Celtic people.
But what he wanted the readers to notice was that Patrick did not
try to build a Roman church to conform to the ways of the sending church
on Irish soil. Rather he
wanted an Irish church with a heart for Christ and the freedom to form a
Christian community. This is a
good parallel to what is going on today in the dissolving and demarcation
of denominations. Dr Hunter makes a difference between the IFE
(imported-from-Europe) churches and the MIA (made-in-America) churches.
He sees parallels between these two branches of the church in
modern times as he does in the Roman and Irish branches of the church in
more ancient times.
short, Patrick began to learn that a conversation about the gospel as it
applies to everyday life was far more effective than a confrontation over
truth in the abstract and religious forms set in Roman concrete.
He encouraged people to bring their questions about faith out in
the open. He searched for ways
to include people, not exclude them. He
allied the native culture where he could to make a connection between what
they knew to what they needed to know.
of the principles he discovered that certainly applies in the post-modern
world where we do ministry, is that as in ancient Ireland, people want to
belong before they believe. Patrick
opened up the Christian community to nonbelievers to allow them to come
and be a part of the community before they connected to Christ.
Interestingly enough, that is the very thing we see happening in
the emerging churches in the 21st century.
Present day (or made-in-America-MIA) churches could apply the
ancient principle by simply allowing the nonbelievers or pre-Christians to
come and carry on a dialogue and a conversation before they are asked to
make a commitment.
the imported-from-Europe (IFE) churches it is proclamation, decision,
assimilation. In the
made-in-America (MIA) churches, which are more like the Celtic way of
evangelism, it is conversation, sharing, teaching, questioning, doing life
together, and discovering what you have come to believe.
By that point, assimilation had already taken place as the
pre-Christian or non-believer has been exposed to the Christian community
before he comes to affirm his conversion or his commitment to Christ.
found "Chapter 5" to the most helpful in Dr Hunter's
book. It is the one on
proclamation and the importance (in the Celtic community) of the authentic
voice of the speaker. It is
entitled "How Celtic Christianity Communicated the Gospel"
(pp. 56-75). This applied to
the modern ministry because we see the very same thing happening as if
people were listening, not to preaching or proclaiming these days, as much
as they are to people who carry on a conversation from the pulpit with an
authentic, believable voice. The
authentic voice has empathy with those who are struggling to faith.
Patrick and those who followed him engaged in conversations, not
confrontation, and they sought to draw in, not shut out or exclude.
conclusion is that the Roman way was to have a religion-friendly policy,
which imposed the Latin rules and forms on all of its missions.
The Celtic way was to have a culture-friendly policy, which would
seek to find common ground in the best of the culture as a way to
introduce and engage people with the claims of the gospel of redemption
and the consequent content of Christianity.
book can be particularly helpful to pastors doing ministry in the new
post-modern culture where we are back in a pre-Christian world.
We know we need help in re-introducing the gospel to people who
have little-to-no basic foundation for understanding it.
The pastor who is seeking to build a made-in-America type church
that is more interested in connecting with the culture in order to get a
hearing for the gospel than they are to preserving old forms or
denominational traditions, will find this book refreshing and helpful.
For me, it became a description of what I have intuitively known,
discovered, and experienced over the years of starting and seeking to grow
one of the emerging churches of the 21st century.
While evangelism and the act of it have fallen into disrepair and confusion lately, Dr Hunter's book will help us see the common thread that runs from culture to culture, generation to generation, that where there is an authentic voice with the ability to communicate the authentic value of the church (i.e., the gospel) and where time is given for people to process truth not just through the spoken word but through the life of the community of faith, conversion and life change can be the results.
(Reviewed by Dr John Lim)
Chapel speaker last week was a BGST alumnus, Mr Hosea Lai. Hosea shared a
seven minute clip on Habitatís ministry in
Edith Quah 16/2
Eileen Teo 16/2
Kessler Soh 20/2
Christine Tey 21/2
Leow Theng Huat 21/2
Lim Ching Hock 22/2
Rosy Tan 22/2
Simon Wong 22/2
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This page is updated on 20 Feb 2004.