Contemporary Christians can draw inspiration from many sources. Church history provides us with a rich heritage that is filled with people facing the same challenges as modern-day evangelists.
St. Patrick was born to a Christian family in Roman Britain toward the end of the fourth century. As he was nearing the age of sixteen, he was seized by Irish pirates and sold into slavery. He was made to work as a herdsman, and learns to rely on his faith, as he explains in Chapter 16 (Part 2) of The Confession of Bishop Patrick:
But after I had come to Ireland,
it was then that I was made to shepherd the flocks day after day,
and, as I did so, I would pray
all the time, right through the day.
More and more the love of God and fear of him grew strong within me,
and as my faith grew, so the Spirit
became more and more active,
so that in a single day I would say
as many as a hundred prayers,
and at night only slightly less.
The Confession of Saint Patrick, translated by John Skinner (New York: Doubleday) 1998. page 38.
This presents us with a powerful picture of a man growing in his faith despite (or because of) hardship.
Patrick eventually becomes free and determines that he should return to Ireland as a missionary. He ran into obstacles with his superiors:
For there were many who stood in the way of my mission.
There was always someone talking behind my back
and whispering, "why does he want to put himself in such danger
among his enemies who do not know God?"
No doubt many modern missionaries have heard the same objection and faced the same resistance!
There is an interesting reference to "rebirth" when Patrick discusses his missionary efforts:
For he gave me such great grace,
that many people through me were reborn to God,
and afterward confirmed and brought to perfection. (page 57 Chapter 38).
The importance of pastoral care seems also to be discussed:
And so then a clergy was ordained for them everywhere,
to care for this people freshly brought alive in their faith. (Chapter 38, page 57).
In summary, the challenges of evangelism and pastoral care have always been with us. Certain phrases resound through history. In Isaiah 49:6 we read:
I will make you as a light for the nations
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. (ESV).
This passage is echoed in Acts 13:47 and is quoted by Patrick. It is a good verse to ponder. We should feel good about our efforts to be a light to the nations, however modest our efforts sometimes seem.
Patrick (McKitrick, that is)