Christians want to win souls for Christ. That’s great! But we need to remember that souls are connected to people.
People filter their life experiences not just in their soul, but through emotions, faulty beliefs, and limited viewpoints. People bring their personal history to every new scene. People assemble and create culture. People are ethnic. People have learning disabilities and unique gifts. People get tired, or excited, or hungry.
Some of the best leadership wisdom I’ve heard says, “Be efficient with projects, but be effective with people.”
St. Patrick was effective with people, and in so doing he won many souls for Christ. About 700 churches begin in Ireland because of his efforts to engage with people, caring for their soul by caring for them.
Rather than set up a church as the center of a mission outreach, Patrick would travel to various settlements, meet with the people and engage them in conversation. He would pray for sick people, counsel those who needed it and mediate conflicts.
He would speak in stories and parables that engaged the Celtic imagination and connection to nature. Legend has it that when Patrick wanted to preach about the Trinity he would pluck a shamrock—a three-leaf clover—and use it to describe how God is one and three at the same time.
Patrick encouraged the people to ask questions and express their hopes and fears. After a while, a community of faith emerged, and Patrick and his entourage would move on, leaving behind a priest to nurture the fledgling community.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. (Matthew 4:23)
Jesus saved not just your soul, but your body. Jesus cares about not just your soul, but your intellect, your emotions, your will power. Jesus knows how all that works—he became a real human being! So remember, the souls who need Jesus belong to people. Relate the gospel to people. Show them you care. Speak their language. Offer them hospitality. Be real, because you are!
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, the mission work of St. Patrick teaches me a lot. Sometimes I think relating to people is just a contemporary fad or a generational stereotype, but you considered it so important that you became one of us. And you ministered to people’s needs. Thank you for understanding me, for caring about me as a person, and for saving my body and soul and mind. Help me to better understand and care for others, as an effective witness. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: Take some time to think about 5 of your friends who need Jesus, whose faith is weak or you are uncertain whether they believe. Write down their names. Now pray for them, asking God to show you an opportunity to care for them and share the love of Jesus. Then be ready for God to answer that prayer!