Tag Archive for: Evangelism

St. Patrick of Ireland by Philip Freeman.  New York:  Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, 2005.

St. Patrick looms vaguely in our cultural consciousness, mostly because his commemoration became secularized.  He has become an icon of Irish nationalism, even though he himself was not Irish, and many myths attached themselves to his work, making it difficult to separate fact from fiction.  Patrick, however, provides an example of missionary fervor worthy of imitation in our day, especially when considering his hardships, the dangers he faced, and the life he left behind in order to be a worthy servant of Christ.

Philip Freeman sketches an easy to read picture of Patrick’s life, especially since Patrick himself left only two writings that have survived to the present day.  Most of Freeman’s book details the background necessary to understand Patrick’s work.  Freeman directs interested readers to further resources on early Britain and Ireland at the end, though his own treatment is wholly sufficient for even the most casual reader, and he includes a translation of Patrick’s two letters as well.  Freeman occasionally colors his presentation in ways I cannot endorse, but even his personal foibles do not detract from an otherwise informative book.

Patrick was born in a wealthy Roman and Christian family in late fourth century Britain.  He struggled with faith in his youth, committing some unnamed sin which would haunt him for the rest of his life.  While he was still young, however, slavers caught Patrick and carried him away to Ireland, where he labored as a slave for six years.  This enslavement had two effects:  it deprived him of a formal education, which meant that his command of the Latin language remained halting throughout his life; but it also drove him to rely on the Lord.  In the fires of tribulation, God shaped Patrick into a servant who would suffer much on behalf of His name.

After six years, he managed to escape and returned to Britain to be reunited with his family.  However, Patrick knew that he could not stay.  Contrary to all expectations, he knew that he had to return to the place of his slavery in order to be a servant of God.  Leaving behind his family’s wealth and the security of Britain, Patrick became a priest and returned to Ireland around the year 432.  There, amid the squabbling of the clan kings of Ireland and the opposition of the native druids, Patrick labored for many years.  He was not the first Christian on the island, but few before or after him affected that land so profoundly.

Late in his life, a nominally Christian British chieftain named Coroticus captured and enslaved some of Patrick’s flock, some of whom had just been baptized at Easter.  Deeply grieved, Patrick boldly wrote a letter to Coroticus, rebuking him harshly for his unchristian action (calling he and his men “citizens of hell”) and calling on him to repent.  This letter is one of the two which has survived.  Patrick’s concern for his people resonates throughout the letter, as well as his fearlessness in the face of adversity.

His action, however, enraged the British church.  Who was Patrick, this rustic bishop of backwards Ireland, to encroach upon matters outside his authority?  He should have left the matter to Coroticus’ own bishop, in their minds.  They therefore called Patrick to stand judgment, and his famous Confession, the other work which has survived, served as his legal defense.  In it, he described his own life and the work he had done in Ireland.  Patrick is not apologetic for what he has done; rather, he defends his ministry through his broken Latin.  His own words sum it up best:  “I would write these words of my defense again and again if I could.  I declare in truth and with joy in my heart–before God and his holy angels–that I have never had any motive in my work except preaching the good news and its promises.  That is the only reason I returned here to Ireland–a place I barely escaped from alive.”

Patrick, therefore, serves as a fantastic example for our own day.  Instead of fleeing Ireland forever, which he might have reasonably done after being a slave there, he returned with the aim of proclaiming the Gospel.  Instead of looking for fame and renown, he labored long among the Irish despite opposition from pagan and sometimes fellow Christians alike.  Instead of fearing men and harm to his own body or position, he feared the living God, proclaiming what is right as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed.


Jesus says that the fields are ripe for the harvest. How should we work in his harvest fields as good laborers? Join us as we discuss some difficulties in evangelism and how to overcome them in order to extend God’s reign.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide
Guest: Rev. Adam Koontz
Episode: 11

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Is evangelism an optional activity for Christians, or is it at the heart of serving Christ? We discuss why the gospel is urgent and how to spread this life-changing message.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide
Guest: Rev. Adam Koontz
Episode: 10

Follow us on Twitter: @wordfitly
Send us a message: [email protected]
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What is the mission of the Church? What does it mean to be sent to proclaim the Gospel? Rev. Grills and Rev. Heide, both domestic missionaries, discuss the mission of the Church by looking at Matthew 28:16-20. While there is a difference between being a witness and being an evangelist, the Lord comforts His Church by reminding her that it is His work and the fruit of His gracious election.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide
Episode: 3

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Technology is the high god of our age. You know who someone’s god is by what he sacrifices. Money, hours of one’s life, the joy of other human faces and voices are all sacrificed to technology, and the sacrifices we make change us in turn. We become what our phones have made of us: impatient consumers.

Consumption is an attitude we lament in parishioners and potential converts. They demand things from us that we are either unwilling or unable to give them. They come only to take and not to give back. They appear and disappear as the whim suits them, as if the church were a Halloween or Christmas store you stop by once a year for something really specific.

But consumption is our way, too, consuming ways and means to bring in more people to our churches. Maybe that’s why you’re here, as if we were experts on how Christ’s Word can spread best in your part of the vineyard. Consumers are impatient. It is their way. They cannot be otherwise because their lives are defined by their needs, and we as pastors, preachers, evangelists have needs the same as anyone else.

Impatience cannot live next-door to hope. Hope waits, is patient, hope bears the strain and stress of what today has brought because it believes tomorrow can be better. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. (James 5:7). Hope and patience can receive because hope and patience are under no illusion that tomorrow depends on their doing, their needs, their demands, whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow (James 4:14).

Patience is possible because the flourishing of the Gospel and the growth of Christ’s Church are His gift for every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights…of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth (James 1:17, 18). Everything we have, life and life abundantly in Christ, that we believe in him at all, is all his gift. We have nothing we have not received, and our future will be no different than our past. James counsels patience precisely because the future is in Christ’s hands, You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand (James 5:8). You, who are just getting a church start off the ground, be patient. You, who don’t know how to go about this whole thing, be patient. You, who are struggling to hold a congregation together, be patient.

Put away your phone and whatever you’re reading this on. Put away your habits of instant satisfaction and pressing demands. Put away everything that is impatient and suspicious, cramped and distorted in your soul. Put on patience and hope in Christ, and using the oldest and simplest of tools, the Word of God, sharper than any two-edged sword, now calmly and steadily and joyfully reap the harvest the Lord has prepared!

It was a truth universally acknowledged that a parish pastor in a free church should “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). Providentially guided to flourishing in America, the early Missouri Synod was ardent in spreading the gospel and planting new congregations. A synod that began with a dozen congregations and scarcely fewer clergymen reached its fiftieth anniversary with many, many times that number of churches and ministers. Without the in-depth demographic research and financial backing that is our contemporary good fortune, they spread the kingdom of God the Lord widely and deeply. They had been freed from the unbelieving strictures of the state church. They were now free to preach the Word in season and out of season.

We cannot recall their fervency without a mixture of confusion and of shame, confusion due to the sea-change in our common life and shame due to our lukewarm efforts by comparison to our fathers who were threadbare in the things of this life and rich in the things of the life to come. Everywhere we look, congregations are struggling mightily, and pastors are drowned in busyness, when they do have the means to be supported by the church. When they do not, the church’s work suffers so that the minister can put some food on his family’s table. Everywhere we look, we hear that the Faith is receding from our shores and going elsewhere, that the “passing shower of the gospel” has passed us by. What has become of us? Where has all our fathers’ resolve and confidence and joy gone? Yet we cannot recall their fervency only to bemoan our degeneration. The saints are our examples for imitation, not the occasions of our piously mournful recollection. This cloud of witnesses spurs us on to look afresh at how we might yet in our own time fulfill our calling and do the work of an evangelist.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll look closely at the evangelistic nature of the office of the ministry as the New Testament teaches it. We’ll do that in the firm conviction that if the Lord has placed us in a difficult field, yet it is here that he has given us the work that is his to bless. We do not find Saint Paul bewailing the difficulty of his task or being at all daunted by the ideological and political forces arrayed against him. In the firm conviction that “now it is the opportune time, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2) for all mankind, we preach in season and out of season the Word of reconciliation also here and now in America, also here and now to the actual neighbor next door.

Here and now God has put our free church, our confessional church, our church of the pure Gospel, to proclaim that Gospel and to fulfill our calling to teach and to baptize all nations, including this one, including the spiritual-but-not-religious, including the less-than-exotic auto mechanics and coal miners and sugar beet farmers. We know that God works by calling something out of nothing and not by the wisdom of the world. We know that Christ died for us while we were yet his enemies and committed to us the Word that in Christ God was reconciling the world, even present-day Americans, to himself (2 Cor. 5:19).