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Ancient Landmarks

Observe them. Don't move them.

The Celtic Revival: Age of the Peregrini (17)

There is more need in this for tears than words, how the enemy of the Christian name has increased after the living words of the Son of God, after the fullness of the gospels, after the apostolic teaching, after the recent writing of orthodox authorities, who from the Old and New Testament have expounded in varied speech the mysteries of faith.

  - Columbanus, Letter to Pope Boniface, Irish, 7th century[1]

Do not remove the ancient landmark
Which your fathers have set.

  - Proverbs 22.28

The state of Christianity in Gaul, as Columbanus encountered it, was troubling. There were plenty of churches and pastors, and lots of people attending services and identifying themselves as Christians. This wasn’t what troubled Columbanus enough to write to the Pope in Rome. What troubled him was the lack of convincing evidence that the Gospel was being taken seriously. From what Columbanus observed – among the clergy and professing Christians – the enemy of the faith was gaining ground in the very midst of those who professed to believe in Jesus.

The Church in Gaul had declined from its illustrious beginnings. Under such “orthodox authorities” as Irenaeus (2nd century), Martin of Tours (4th century), and Caesarius of Arles (6th century), the churches, in what is today France, flourished. They were renowned for their disciplined lives and their witness for Christ. Even Patrick (5th century) expressed a longing to share in their fellowship.

But now, near the turn of the 7th century, spiritual torpor, moral degradation, and cultural decline had set in throughout Gaul. Priests were entangled in politics and materialism, and they had forsaken the work of making disciples. The pastors had lost sight of the landmarks set up by their forebears in the faith, and the churches were languishing.

This greatly troubled Columbanus. I wonder what he would say about the present state of Christianity in America?

On the one hand, evidence suggests the Christian movement is thriving. Churches, organizations, websites, schools and colleges, seminaries, publications, media outlets, and more continue to proliferate and prosper. On the other hand, the impact of all this on the larger culture and society seems almost negligible. On every hand, ungodliness and moral evil have increased, and the rate of population growth is greater than the rate of increase in believers. We have left off evangelizing the lost and making disciples of the saved, and we seem content to allow those who do believe to be Christians on their own terms.

The faith that most Christians profess and practice today has little power to bring the beauty, goodness, and truth of Christ into the great moral, ethical, cultural, and social issues of the day. In the generations leading up to America’s founding, the faith of Christ made its presence known in every area of life. In homes and families, communities, workplaces, schools, laws, the arts, and the halls of government, one was never very far from the influence of some Biblical testimony, guideline, precept, or law. The landmarks which defined the moral, social, and cultural foundations of pre-revolutionary colonial society were poured with the cement of Scripture and the Gospel.

Today, as is patently clear, all that has changed. While the percentage of Christians in our society remains about the same as during the colonial period, the character of the faith we profess has dramatically changed. We have substituted a gospel of personal peace for the Gospel of the Kingdom. And this gospel, which is another gospel from what our forebears knew and what the Scriptures teach, has little power for turning our nation rightside-up for the Lord.

“There is more need in this for tears than words.” In his letter to the Pope, Columbanus called on him to lead the Lord’s flocks back to health and faithful witness. He wept over the state of Christianity in Gaul, and worked diligently for revival, renewal, and awakening there.

Perhaps it’s time for us to follow his example?

Ours is a time for tears. We need tears of repentance and pleading with God for revival of God’s people, renewal in our churches, and awakening of our nation to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And we need people who, like Columbanus, will stand up to the sad status quo of the faith and work diligently and selflessly to realize more of the presence, promise, and power of God’s Kingdom.

For Reflection
1. Do you agree that this is a time for tears? Explain.

2. What can you do to help restore the ancient landmarks of faith?

Psalm 80.1-7, 19 (St. Theodulph: All Glory, Laud, and Honor)
O God of grace, restore us, and shine on us Your face!
O save us, Lord, work for us; renew us by Your grace!
Give ear, O gracious Savior, Who leads us as Your flock;
Stir up Your pow’r and favor, our King and Lord and Rock!

Lord, forgive every way I have failed to please You, and every good I have omitted to do in Your Name. Help me today to…

The face of revival

What does revival look like? What can we do to help bring revival to our churches and awakening to our land? Our book, Revived!, addresses those and other questions related to this time for tears. It provides helpful and practical guidelines for you to begin seeking the Lord for revival. Order your free copy by clicking here.

Thank you
Thanks so much to those of you who faithfully support the work of The Fellowship of Ailbe. God uses your gifts and prayers to reach thousands of people every day in over 160 countries. We praise the Lord for His having moved and enabled you to share with us in this ministry.

If you’re not a supporter of this ministry, won’t you please prayerfully consider making a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe? Only God can move you to do this, and we believe He intends to support this ministry from within the ranks of those who are served by it. If this includes you, please seek the Lord in this matter. You can click here to donate online with your credit card or through Anedot or PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

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] Walker, p. 51.

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 the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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