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More Than Shamrocks

by Josh Stilwell | Published March 17, 2021

My great-grandmother was a full blooded Irishwoman. And I have a head of red hair to authenticate my Irish heritage. So I’ve always had an affection for St. Patrick’s Day. The problem, of course, is that the holiday has turned into something that has little to do with Ireland and even less to do with St. Patrick. Which raises the question: how exactly does a Baptist celebrate a holiday that is traditionally Catholic and centered around the inordinate consumption of green beer?  

But what if St. Patrick’s Day could be something more than parades and shamrocks? Here’s a crazy thought – what if St. Patrick’s Day were a celebration of disciple making? 

There’s some debate about what exactly the “historic St. Patrick” did and didn’t do (he probably didn’t banish all the snakes from Ireland, sorry). But according to his own autobiography, he was just sixteen when Irish pirates kidnapped him from his home in Britain. They took him to Ireland and forced him to work as a slave. Patrick lived like that for six years before escaping and returning to his family. 

But instead of kicking back and enjoying life in his homeland, Patrick developed a burden for the people who had mistreated him. At the time, the people from whom I descend were noted for their cruelty and barbarism. They were polytheistic idol worshippers with perverted cult practices not unlike that of ancient Canaan. But Patrick saw them, not as the enemy, but as sinners in need of Christ. 

So, he left what was safe and familiar to him, and returned to Ireland to preach the gospel. And the rest is (literally) history. God used Patrick’s disciple making efforts to transform the Emerald Isle forever. When Patrick was taken to Ireland as a slave, Ireland was a pagan, polytheistic culture. When he died in Ireland as a missionary, Ireland was a Christian, monotheistic culture. 

To me, that’s what St. Patrick’s Day represents. It’s a tribute to a man who took real risks to reach people who hated him. It’s a celebration of the success of the Great Commission and the power of God to save sinners and transform communities. It’s a reminder that just as Christ used Patrick to build His church in Fifth Century Ireland, He can use us to build His church in Twenty-first Century America.

So, as you put on your green sweater this St. Patrick’s Day, take a moment to celebrate disciple making. 

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