...we are obliged to spread our nets so that we can catch a great shoal and multitude for God. And there should be clergy everywhere to baptise and preach to a population which is in need and longs for what it lacks, as the Lord says in the Gospel...
- Patrick, Confession (Irish, 5th century)
And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
- Acts 14.23
Irish pastors during the period of the Celtic revival were a powerful force for social and cultural change. They preached the Gospel, of course, and baptized new believers. But they also organized believers into effective communities of co-laborers in Christ, sharing resources and skills, and working together to bring literacy, law, culture, and civilization - as well as the Gospel - to pagan peoples wherever they went.
It was high on the agenda of men like Patrick, Columba, and Columbanus to train other men for pastoral ministry. They did not cut corners - every candidate for the priesthood was thoroughly trained in Scripture, Christian doctrine, and the disciplines of the spiritual life. Their training was practical, visionary, and demanding, and they produced generations of martyr/priests whose efforts on behalf of the Kingdom of God transformed the pagan cultures of Celtic lands and restored the moribund Christian culture of Europe.
Why aren't pastors and church leaders today more of a force for social and cultural change? Is it that we don't have the vision for it? That our view of the Gospel is so simplistic, narrow, and man-centered that we think the highest achievement of church leadership is to fill our pews with happy people?
Perhaps we have judged that our culture and society aren't particularly in need of transformation? Or agreeable to it? Or maybe that's just not the business of the Kingdom?
Jesus and His followers turned their world upside-down; Patrick and his heirs did the same. If we're not turning our world upside-down for Jesus Christ, and if the progress of the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit is not dramatic and transformative in our day, then we should at least, it seems to me, confront our church leaders with whether or not this is the way things ought to be.
We should also consider what it means for each of us, as followers of Jesus Christ, to be more of a force for change in our own spheres.
Today at The Fellowship of Ailbe
The tragic events of last Saturday in Tucson should be a summons to all Christians to seek the Lord for revival. Don't miss today's Revision.