Go among Them

What did Columbanus know that we don't?

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the L
ORD’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And peoples shall flow to it.
Many nations shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the L
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”

  - Micah 4.1, 2

Here then the excellent man began to build a monastery. At the news of this people streamed in from all directions in order to consecrate themselves to the practice of religion, so that the large number of monks scarcely had sufficient room. The children of nobles strove to come thither; despising the spurned trappings of the world and the pomp of present wealth, they sought eternal rewards.

  - Jonas, Life of St. Columban, Italian, 7th century[1]

Columbanus’ reputation for boldness, fairness, brilliance, wit, courage, and uncompromised conviction spread rapidly throughout Gaul (modern France).

That was because he and his twelve companions went regularly among the people of Gaul, showing them a quality of Christian life they’d never seen before, and proclaiming a Gospel that demanded everything of them – all their lives, all the time – and promised eternal joy and glory, beginning now.

By the time they finished building their first monastery at Anegray, there was need of a second, which they constructed at Luxeuil – and it was over-occupied before it was finished. People literally, as Jonas explained, “streamed in” to these centers of spiritual vitality, forsaking worldly priorities and privileges to know the “eternal rewards” of the life of faith.

People are drawn to holiness, earnest spirituality, reverence, courageous adventuring for Christ, considerateness and love, and a lifestyle of humble service and unpretentious obedience. People will respond to the Gospel of the Kingdom when it’s explained to them personally, meaningfully, and in terms both of its promises and its demands, by people they see and know and have come to trust.

That such is not our preferred means of evangelizing the lost today is evident from the fact that we try to attract people to our churches, rather than go among them, living and proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom. We expect them to stream in to our churches because we have a fun worship with lively pop singing and clever preaching and wholesome diversions of all sorts. We as much as tell them we offer all the best and cleanest stuff of the world, with eternal life tacked on.

It seems never to occur to us that people today might be looking for something other than what this world offers.

The people of Columbanus’ day fled the corrupt and self-indulgent culture which they knew was destroying them, to find life and meaning amid the austere but loving and devoted environs of a Celtic monastery.

They came to the monasteries because they had saw a different way of life, and heard the promise of the Kingdom by those from the monasteries who came among them.

In other words, Personal Mission Field, Celtic style.

Today we dress our churches up in cultural forms borrowed from the corrupt and dying world, in the hope that those folks out there who seem to love everything hip and pop and casual and entertaining and focused-on-me will feel right at home in our churches.

And, not surprisingly many do – for now.

But while the jury is still out on the contemporary church and its eager embrace of all things sizzling and secular, the evidence indicates that this experiment in ecclesiastical relevance is not what people are looking for today, and not what the Lord intends to use in building His churches as signs and outposts of the Kingdom.

Micah foresaw a day when people would stream into the church from all quarters. Why? “For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Mic. 4.2).

“The words that I speak unto you are Spirit, and they are life” (Jn. 6.63). Live the Word, proclaim the Word, bring the Word to bear on every aspect of your relationships, roles, and responsibilities, until the corruption and decrepitude of our day stand out in all their embarrassing ugliness. Do so every day, making the most of every opportunity, then see if earnest, seeking people don’t flock to the Lord’s house once again.

Go among them living and proclaiming the Kingdom, and the Lord will add daily to His churches such as are being saved.

Psalm 72.7, 8, 16, 17 (Martyrdom: Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed?)
Let righteousness abundant be where Jesus’ reign endures;
Let peace increase from sea to sea ‘til moonlight shall be no more.

And let the earth abound with grain, let fields His fame proclaim;
And may our King forever reign and nations bless His great Name.

Lord, what does this mean? I don’t see people streaming in to the churches of the land. Are we – am I – missing something?

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As you pray…
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T. M. Moore, Principal
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1]Jonas, p. 32.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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