The story of Patrick is one of the most dramatic in the history of the church. This single man was used of God to literally change a nation. While he did work with a team of fellow disciples and converts, it was Patrick himself who personally spearheaded a missions effort that is almost unparalleled in the annals of church history.
The story of Patrick has been embellished with many fanciful legends. The true story is dramatic and stirring enough that it truly needs no embellishment. We won’t go into all the details here. You can read his full story elsewhere. Suffice it to say that Patrick was a British Celt who God called to return to the land of his youthful enslavement and preach to the Irish Celts. One Celt proclaiming the Gospel to a neighboring Celtic tribe. This was a beautiful example of indigenous missions in action.
For many, the concept of indigenous or native missions is a novel concept. They can only think in terms that have become traditional in the West. Missions consist of Christians being trained in one country, usually in America or Europe, to carry the Gospel to the heathen in some other foreign, exotic land. It is an American or Englishman going to India or Ethiopia or Ecuador. And for many centuries this was the typical model of missions. Beginning with the Moravians in the early 18th century we see European missionaries traveling to foreign lands with the Gospel. Following them we see William Carey going to India. Then in the 19th century there was an explosion of missionary activity. We see the incredibly successful efforts of Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, Lottie Moon, David Livingstone, Amy Carmichael and so many others. God used this type of missionary work to great effect. Indeed, He still does.
But as effective a model for reaching the lost as this is, there is another model that is even more effective. It is indigenous missions, that is, Christian disciples reaching out within their own sphere of influence to reach their own people, or (as in Patrick’s case) a nearby people. This is not something new. It is as old as the church. It is Peter preaching to the Jews. It is Luke writing his Gospel for the Greeks. It is Patrick and Columba and Brigit blazing across Ireland and Scotland with the Gospel message. It is Luther discovering the Evangel for himself, and beginning an evangelistic movement among his own people. It is Sadhu Sundar Singh carrying the Gospel message across Asia. It is the incredible growth of the Chinese church in the Maoist era. Throughout history, God has raised up powerful witnesses to His truth—witnesses within their own peoples, tribes, languages.
Why do I say that this is a more effective model of mission work? Just think about. To send a missionary from the “West” to some other land requires a great deal of time, effort, training, and finance. It is labor-intensive, time-consuming, and expensive. However, with the indigenous missionary you have a person who lives among the very people who need to be reached. He already knows the language, the customs, the culture. He doesn’t have to spend years learning these things. He doesn’t have to adjust to a totally different lifestyle just to be understood, to be accepted by those he is evangelizing. Plus, he is accustomed to the standard of living. The finances required to support him and his family are radically less than those of the western missionary. And the results? Tremendous!
When you think about it… it all just makes sense. Thank God for the great missionary heroes of the past. God used them mightily. Thank the Lord for those missionaries who are now faithfully laboring in the harvest fields of the world. God is still using them mightily. Yet, we must offer profound and heartfelt thanks for those who God has raised up to reach their own people, to proclaim the Gospel within their own sphere of influence. These also are mighty heroes of the faith that God is using mightily.
By the way, that is what Advancing Native Missions (ANM) is all about. Truth Builders is a ministry resource of ANM that serves to support the work of native missions around this world. It is our joy to be part of God’s modern movement of reaching the unreached peoples of the earth through the ministry of indigenous missionaries around the globe.
So as we remember Patrick of Ireland, we also give thanks for his shining example of indigenous missions work in action. Kudos, Patrick. You deserve them.
Truth Builders is a ministry initiative of Advancing Native Missions. However, the content of this site is the personal opinion of Victor Morris, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions, views or conclusions of Advancing Native Missions, its leaders or staff