I did very little studying in high school and backed into a history minor in college. I took the two required courses and discovered I loved the teachers in that department. So I signed up for more.  By the time I started to acquire study skills I was halfway to a minor. As a result, I know just enough history to make me dangerous.  Deep dives in some areas, pretty sketchy in others.

My knowledge of St. Patrick and/or the Irish is pretty  limited.  I know enough to understand that our culture wears green on March 17.  I have a Celtic prayer book that I sometimes use.   And I know that the Irish club soccer team from Lexington, KY I often played against in the 80s and early 90s tended to play in the air instead of the ground, even thought they were not particularly tall.

Beyond that, I have been intrigued by Thomas Cahill’s book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, but not enough to read it cover to cover.  And I have really appreciated Dr. George Hunter’s book, The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Win the West…Again.   This one I have read several times.

To oversimplify Hunter’s thesis, he suggests that we live in a culture closer to the Celtic world (spiritual, but without knowledge or awareness of Christ) rather than Rome.  As a result, St. Patrick’s community-based, relationally driven discipleship along the way to evangelism will be more effective than the proclamational evangelism that precedes discipleship that developed due to persecution in the Roman world. 

Let me quote from the preface of his book…and tell me what you think about what he is saying and how it might impact youth ministry in 2012.

The Church, in the western world, faces populations who are increasingly “secular” — people with no Christian memory, who don’t know what we Christians are talking about.  These populations are increasingly “urban” — and out of touch with God’s natural revelation.”  These populations are increasingly “post-modern”; they have graduated from Enlightenment ideology and are more peer-driven, feeling driven, and right-brained than their forebears.

These populations are increasingly “neo-barbarian”; they lack “refinement” or “class” and their lives are often out of control.  These populations are increasingly receptive–exploring worldview options from Astrology to Zen–and are often looking “in all the wrong places” to make sense of their lives and find their soul’s true home.  

Many Western church leaders are in denial; they plan and do church as though next year will be 1957.  Furthermore, most of the Western church leaders who are not in denial do not know how to engage the epidemic numbeers of secular, post-modern, neo-barbarians outside (and inside) their churches.  Moreover, the very few who do know what to do are intuitive geniuses who cannot teach others what they know (or charismatic leaders who cannot yet be cloned).”

Any thoughts?  Is he on the right track? I really respect this blog’s audience…what thoughts, questions or insights are you willing to share?

  1. Jim Hannigan says:

    We spend a lot of time talking about culture in our society, as well as how the church should or shouldn’t reach various cultures. I think it’s worth looking into, to a degree. However, perhaps we spend too much time thinking about whether a method practically applies to our culture and less time trusting the Scriptures to teach us how to evangelize.

    No doubt, many, if not all of Hunter’s premises are true. The urbanization of our society seems to correlate with our secularism. We’re clearly more interested in Eastern religions and other ways of thinking than our parents’ or grandparents’ generations. I’m less inclined to agree with his conclusion though. Did Paul and other followers of Jesus proclaim the truth to unbelieving people with whom they had no relationship? Absolutely. Peter’s sermon at Pentecost is the first example of many that comes to mind. Acts is full of such examples, and God brought many to salvation through that type of preaching. Today, that type of evangelism often meets resistance, but it did then too. Steven’s sermon in Acts 7 comes to mind. How many Christians today have fallen in love with the Lord Jesus Christ due to the faithful proclamation of God’s Word to them though? I did. People scoff at door to door evangelism today as well, but the first time I ever heard the Gospel was from two faithful witnesses knocking on doors and handing out tracks. I thank God for them.

    Hunter is also right to say that our culture will require relational evangelism as well. I don’t think that his contrast with Rome is accurate, but do agree with his identified need. Paul made tents. I bet he met a lot of people in that business and doubt he missed the opportunity to love them and share the Gospel with them. He certainly developed relationships with believers in the churches. He’s always greeting a few friends in the close of his epistles. Were they all believers before Paul befriended them? I don’t know. I suggest maybe not.

    I believe both methods are culturally and biblically applicable. The Lord Jesus is our best example of this. He loved people well, developed deep relationships, but did not withhold truth from individuals He spent time with or from crowds He preached to. He did both, the apostles did both, and so should we. After all, John tells us, “whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.”

    Thanks for the post. It’s got me thinking.

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