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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Fulfilling His Ministry

As we all should.

Colum Cille (28)

At the time when St. Columba [Colum Cille] passed some days in the province of the Picts, a certain layman with his whole household heard and believed the word of life, through an interpreter, and the preaching of the holy man; and believing, was baptized, the husband, with his wife and children, and his servants.

  - Adomnán, Life of Columba[1]

But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

 - 2 Timothy 4.5

We have seen that on Iona, when it came to preparing men to proclaim the Good News of Jesus, the emphasis was more on character than on method. If the men Colum Cille trained were true followers and lovers of Jesus, He would increase in them and give them the words they needed in any situation.

And a good bit of proclaiming the Gospel went forth from Iona in the form of missions and evangelism. Colum himself understood this to be important to his own ministry, and he often made a point of passing “some days” among the pagan peoples in Scotland and Ireland. We don’t know much about how he and his monks conducted their work of evangelism. It must have taken some preparation and had a particular format.

We can see this in various ways in the episode Adomnán related here. First, to leave the monastery and go for a season among pagan peoples took some planning. Often a team would be assembled, perhaps of two or three evangelists. Depending on where the team was going, an interpreter might be required, as we see here. Then, provisions had to be readied for all members of the team, since, typically, evangelists refused to be a burden on those to whom they proclaimed the Gospel.

We have a brief vignette from a 17th century life of Colmán mac Béognai, Colum’s friend and colleague, which may flesh out what Colum and his team did when they went on peregrinatio pro Cristo among the Picts and others. Colmán and his team were brought before a local king, who desired to hear what they were preaching. On this occasion, Colum was part of the team, but apparently not the leader. Charles Plummer translated the account:

“And they met together, and Columcille said that he would act as Colmán’s crozier-deacon (i.e., carry his pastoral staff) that day. And Mancan said that he would sprinkle holy water on the hosts, to bring them into friendliness with Colmán. And these clerks [clerics] began their preaching, and they had fair Latin books with them, and they recited the reading clearly, and praised the Creator fervently. And it was recreation to the hearts and minds of the hosts to listen to them. And those who had never thought of God before, turned their thoughts to him now.”[2]

Evangelizing was a team effort in which team members alternated the roles necessary to conduct a Gospel meeting. Reading Scripture with a translator, interspersed with brief comments of praise, seems to have been the primary content. More than one would read, it seems, and all the team would chime in with words of praise, thanks, and affirmation as appropriate. In the case mentioned here, the team used holy water, water that had been prepared and blessed for use as a symbolic gesture to emphasize the importance of what was being proclaimed. The water was sprinkled on the king and his court—the hosts. We can imagine that helped prepare them to listen well.

As in the case of the Pictish man and his family, the Word of God was heard, and God used it to open their minds and affect their hearts. Many would have been convicted of their sins and converted to faith in Jesus, just as in the story of Colum’s mission to the Picts. Baptism would follow, and some arrangement would be made to continue ministry to the new believers, even to start a church. This step might involve one of the team members staying on to help the new converts get organized for life in the Kingdom of God.

Colum understood that reaching lost people involved going to them, not waiting for them to show up at church. It meant preparation, courageous witness, and being ready to follow-up as necessary to help ensure the Gospel would take root where it was heard and believed. And it was an important work for fulfilling the ministry God had appointed to him.

Jesus did not command the world to go to church. For a generation now, many church leaders have believed they could change the divinely-given formula for evangelizing the lost by transforming their worship services to attract the lost and help them feel at ease in church. We’ve changed our style of worship, the kind of music we sing, how we preach and what we focus on in preaching, and even what day of the week we hold our service. All to coax the lost world to come to church and hear the Good News.

This project is a failure, not just because the world isn’t much interested in our liturgical and homiletical innovations, but because these fail to meet the format and standard Jesus Himself set. “As you are going” make disciples, Jesus said (Matt. 28.18-20). Go to the lost. Let them know you have a holy and important message. Use the Word freely and frequently. Call for response. Be ready to follow-up.

When we begin doing this again, we will fulfill our own ministries and will see more of the people in our communities coming to new life in Jesus and joining us in the family of God to worship and serve our Father and theirs.

For Reflection
1. What does “as you are going” require of you as a witness for Jesus?

2. What can your church do to more effectively reach lost people in your community?

Psalm 71.14-16, 3 (Solid Rock: My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less)
But as for me my voice I raise to sing in hope and constant praise!
With saving grace my voice will swell Your never-ending grace to tell.

Refrain v. 3
A Rock of habitation be; command Your Word to rescue me;
my Rock and Fortress ever be!

As I go into my Personal Mission Field today, Lord, help me to…

T. M. Moore

Bring some joy to your world
We are appointed, like Colum, to bring the joy of the Gospel to our world. Our book, Joy to Your World!, can help you understand how to fulfill this calling day by day. Order your copy by clicking here.

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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] Adomnán, p. 139.

[2] The Life of Colmán Ela in Charles Plummer, Lives of Irish Saints, Vol. II (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1922), p. 162.

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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