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The Way of Evangelism: Lessons from History

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As I Was Saying
One of the ways that ministry was lived out in St. Patrick’s time was to accept the people for who they were.

As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.


Sometimes I find myself going down memory lane. It happens as I look at old photos. I find something lying in the midst of that miscellaneous box or drawer. Sometimes I smile, other times I cringe, and other times I simply realize that life is short—which brings me back to the present. Yet what does the past have to show me for the here and now as I work with my fellow Indigenous people, who are mostly the Plains Cree of the Prairies, as well as many non-Indigenous friends and family?  

I recently read The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West … Again, by George G. Hunter III. It contains parallels with how Indigenous people view life. It’s a book about how St. Patrick had an extremely effective ministry with the Celts back in the early 400s (1,600 years ago). 

St. Patrick, according to Hunter, was captured as a slave by Celtic pirates and was sold to an affluent Druid chief. St. Patrick wasn’t Irish himself—he was British—but had an overwhelming six-year experience living with these two groups of people. Like King David, he became a shepherd before he entered into a more official role in ministry as a priest. After having a dream, similar to the Apostle Paul’s call to Macedonia, he left England where his training took place and went to live with the Celtic people of Ireland. 

What the Celtic people believed had a lot to do with a secret traditional knowledge that came from their Druid leaders. Then St. Patrick came along and had an openness about Christianity, saying it was for all people and was for the benefit of the whole community. St. Patrick spent most of his time with the unreached. He often had conflict with the people who oversaw his ministry because of the amount of time he spent with them instead of more administrative and priestly duties.  

One of the ways that ministry was lived out in St. Patrick’s time was to accept the people for who they were, without trying to change everything about them. Storytelling, while engaging in all the emotions and senses through dance, drama, music, and poetry, was a common approach used. Why? Because this was who the Celtic people were.   

Indigenous People, who consist of many people groups, not just my fellow Nehiyaw (Cree) people, also think about important things and process that information in this way too. In fact, I would guess that many non-Indigenous People think and process in this way as well. Why? Because we all love a great story, with all the details, nuances, surprises, and emotions that come with it. This is also the way Jesus approached ministry. He loved to tell stories, and he used nature in many of those stories. Why? Because nature is all around all of us all the time. No matter where you live. 

To me, ministry is a lifestyle, not just something I do on certain days or times. Doing something for my wife and children on a certain day and time has equal value as preaching at a church on Sunday. It’s all about living out this all-encompassing story of the gospel in many ways with whoever is in front of me at any given time. 

This summer I have started what is called a “Sharing Circle” at my home. It’s storytelling that doesn’t involve any crosstalk or feedback and allows everyone in the circle to tell their story that day. Participants share whatever it is that is on their heart and mind that day.

As we are all involved in ministry, through the local church, let’s step out of our comfort zones and step into the way that the people around us live and think. Pushing a square into a round hole doesn’t work. We all know that. So let’s incorporate some storytelling in different ways as we tell the gospel story to those in our own circle of influence. History is speaking to me, not only from the photos I come across in my photo album, but it’s also speaking to me from the life of Jesus 2,000 years ago. Then those divine screams made a loud noise 1,600 years ago, from the life of St. Patrick, as he had an effective ministry to the Celtic people.

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