In his youth, Patrick was kidnapped into Ireland and forced to work for 6 years as a shepherd before escaping back to Britain. However, God called Patrick to return to Ireland to spread the good news to his former captors. His ministry led to a large network of monasteries being setup to send out Irish missionary monks. It is fascinating to examine his mission strategy in Ireland:
1. Patrick went to places with no Christians.
This may sound really obvious today but it wasn’t at that time. Catholic churches stopped sending workers into places with no Christians and instead waited for Christian communities to invite their presence. Missions was pretty dead – till Patrick turned the tide of history. Instead of going to south Ireland which already had a Christian community, Patrick went to the north where no Christians had existed. Patrick’s boldness echoes Paul’s desire “to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that [he] would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” (Rom 15:20)
Unfortunately, many missionaries today go to places where there already exists a Christian presence. It requires less tilling of the “heart” ground and removes the pressure of being the sole Christian person in a heathen community. Let’s face it! Some places are saturated to the brim with Christian missionaries, organisations and agencies. Why not go to areas as yet unpenetrated by the Gospel?
2. Patrick set up monasteries to teach Latin.
Going against the grain, Patrick didn’t translate the Bible into Celtic language for the Irish. Rather, he established monasteries for students to learn Latin and read the Latin Vulgate Bible.
This would be likened to setting up Christian-based schools to teach students English so they could read our Bible. This strategy has its strengths and weaknesses. It saves time and effort in translating the Celtic language and also educates the people in common Latin. However, it westernizes the Bible by not using the heart language of the people. Additionally, people normally revert to their mother tongue in terms of thought processes. I’m still iffy on this strategy.
3. Patrick set up a network of monasteries to send out missionaries.
After setting up monasteries to teach Latin in an area and making sure students were learning the Scriptures, Patrick then went on to found new monasteries. Once sufficient students had been trained, missionaries were sent out to plant more monasteries and help the community. Imagine what an exponential increase in workers it would have been! This monastic idea propagated to other parts of Europe, leading to widespread evangelisation.
A movement that somewhat replicates this model is “T4T” or “Training for Trainers“. T4T is a *free* church planting model that empowers home churches to train and send out trainers to plant more churches. No home church remains as a holy huddle but always keeps an outward focus.
I hope this short sharing on St. Patrick’s success in Ireland has given you more ideas on how to execute your mission strategy. One crucial lesson about Patrick is his willingness to return to Ireland, the land that captured him. Would you return to ISIS and give them the gospel after they had captured/tortured you for 6 years? Sheer madness you would say. But Patrick obeyed the call of God and went in faith. May God give us all the courage to do the same.