I have never had a shamrock shake from McDonalds. I have never drank a single pint of green beer. And I do not observe any Saints days. But I do love St Patrick’s Day!
I love it because I am a church planter. And Patrick is perhaps the greatest of our tribe since the apostolic age ended. His record of church planted has never been equaled. His life is an inspiration to many even a thousand years after his death. What he accomplished for God is remarkable. And if you care about planting churches, you should love St Patrick’s day as well!
Here are a few of the many lessons we can learn from his life.
1. God most often calls us to minister among people that you know
Patrick knew the Irish. he lived as a slave amongst them for many years prior to his escape. His calling was based on his knowledge of these people. Their needs, weaknesses, virtues, culture, language were already known to him. And out of this knowledge came his passionate desire to share Christ with these people. Some people do receive Macedonian calls. And the Holy Spirit has transported one man into the desert to share Christ with someone. But these are for the most part the exception.
So while God may call you to move to another country for his work it is more likely that he wants you to share the Gospel with the other parents of your child’s hockey team. Reach out to those closest to you and that you already know. After all you already speak their language and understand their context.
2. Train the Called
Patrick did not begin as a trained pastor, church planter or missionary. He began as a man with a passion for the Gospel needs of a specific people. And a willingness to obtain the tools and education necessary to fulfill this calling. He spent years in preparation and was sustained in this season by his knowledge of how great the need was.
Our modern practice seems to be to recruit future church planters for a specific city from among seminary students or recent graduates. Nothing wrong with this, but the lesson from Patrick is that sometimes the man best suited to the particular ministry is already called, but not yet trained.
3. Go under the authority of the Church
Patrick had a burning passion to reach the Irish people. And he was knowledgeable about the local context. He knew the people & he was confident in his call, but he still waited for proper ecclesiastical sanction before he began his mission.
Some of the worst church planting shipwrecks are men that are supremely confident and knowledgable. But they rush ahead of the process of discernment and ordination that their church has established. By waiting Patrick went with the confidence that can only come from the confirmation of your call. This doesn’t probably seem like a big deal when you are eager to get started. But when it is time to face down the pagan kings of your culture, it makes all the difference in the world to know that you have brothers at your back.
4. Never go alone
Some estimate that Patrick headed to ireland with as many as seventy on his ministry team. He had ordained priests, seminary students, widows, and deacons. His team had the full set of ministry skills necessary to serve as a fully functioning church. And although having team equipped to that degree is not feasible in most contexts, the principle is valid.
Your team should include those on the ground with you committed to the ministry vision. Both men and women serving locally. And a virtual team of prayer supporters, donors, and fellow presbyters, and coaches that are assisting from afar.
5. Give your life to your call
There was no going back for Patrick. He was all in. The mission to the Irish was his life. It wasn’t just a stage in his ministry career plan. His retirement plan was to continue ministry as long as he had strength to do so.
I know that God sometimes calls us to a specific work for a season. but we should approach every call as if we intend to be there for life.
6. Build a gospel multiplication movement.
The Irish model was to plant a new congregation in a village or town. And out of each congregation new leaders were identified to be trained for future church plants. In this way each congregation joined in the long term mission of sharing the gospel with all of Ireland.
Planting a local congregation is not the ultimate goal of a church planting ministry. It is a step in the overall mission of the Church. And taking the gospel to world requires every congregation to take part in God’s mission.
So when St Patrick’s day rolls around each year, by all means enjoy your corned beef and your green beer. But be sure to remember what his life was really about. Preaching the gospel to those that need to hear it, and launching the greatest church planting movement in history.