Revolutionary Mission and an Irish Invitationby Alain Emerson
In October this year we will welcome hundreds to the 24-7 gathering in Dublin, Ireland. It's the first time in three years we've gotten together internationally and it's going to be wild! The gathering will run from October 17-20 and tickets are now available to purchase from the 24-7 Shop. We expect the event to sell out, so make sure you get yours now.
The theme of the gathering is "Encounter Culture." It expresses how excited we are about the opportunities God is opening for 24-7 to engage with the culture shaping the world around us and our passion to see His kingdom come in every sphere of our society. It is maybe no coincidence that as we explore this theme of "Encounter Culture," we do so in the nation of Ireland. Ireland has a wonderful and inspiring heritage of missional engagement with culture, through the Celtic Church and in particular through the life of St. Patrick.
Originally trafficked into Ireland as a slave boy, Patrick experienced the presence of God powerfully as he tended sheep on the hills of Ireland. In his Confessions he would write, ‘Every day I had to tend to sheep and many times a day I prayed – the love of God and His fear came to me more and more and my faith was strengthened." Patrick eventually escaped back to Britain but years later heard these life-defining words in a vision from a man called Victorious, who with an Irish accent called out these words, "We appeal to you holy servant boy to come and walk among us."
Patrick's approach to carrying the gospel to the Irish is one of the most profound examples of pioneering mission since the early church and still has strong prophetic impulses for our present day contexts. One of the most striking examples of his determined and credulous approach to engaging with Irish culture is the legend of his encounter with the High King of Ireland.
The Hill of Tara was the ceremonial centre of the High Kings of Ireland. Each year, as part of the summer feast, a fire would be lit by the High King. No man lit his fire before the king and the king's fire would then be used to light everyone else's. Patrick’s passion and confidence to engage with culture compelled him to climb the hill opposite Tarar. At the top of the hill in full view of the King of Ireland, Patrick lights his own fire.
The enraged king sent his druids to find out what had happened and they reported back that they were unable to put Patrick’s fire out. Almost inconceivably, the king is both intrigued and dumbfounded by Patrick’s "magic" fire and defiant action and endorses his mission to the Irish.
While the details of this story can't be fully accounted for, we certainly would not put such an act past our Patrick. His strong belief that the feral Irish were not out of reach of the Gospel called him to embrace the culture with "a kind of intuitive profundity that this is usually only possibly from the ‘underside.'" (Hunter) Stirred by the passion, wildness and strong tribal communities of the Irish culture, Patrick gave his life to loving it and seeing it redeemed for the purposes of Christ.
Engaging and redeeming culture, rather than suppressing and colonising it, was (and still is) a revolutionary approach to mission. Instead of imposing civilisation, Patrick had a conviction to see the gospel root deeply in all spheres of Irish culture, which is an inspiration to us centuries later. St. Patrick incarnated the call of the kingdom and walked among us Irish and the result was the transformation of a nation, a renewed national reputation (the land of saints and scholars) and an overflow of blessing to the nations with the good news of the kingdom
We are praying that in Dublin in October this year you will join us and together we might hear the voice of Jesus who walks amongst every sphere of 21st century society, calling us like He did with a young slave boy 1500 years ago. "Come and walk among us." If we do, anything could happen.