This book was recommended to me several years ago as a motivational resource to help reach "postmoderns" with the Gospel. George Hunter digs back into the early centuries of church history, namely the early Middle Ages when the Christian message began to spread to the barbaric peoples of what we now call the British Isles. He does a masterful job retelling the story of Patrick, as well as men like Columba and Aidan whose hearts and labors for reaching the unreached need to be remembered. The author sets up a clear contrast between the informal (dare we say "spontaneous") form of Celtic mission with the more sedate and structured form of Roman evangelism. In addition, he cites how Francis of Assisi and John Wesley later employed the Celtic method of evangelism. Many valid points are made in reaching the otherwise-unreached in every age...those whom we might today call "the outcasts of society." Many of his statements are quite convicting when we consider how many (most) churches and believers neglect the practical application of the Great Commission in our time, especially through indigenous means. While I found a number of the remarks of this Methodist professor offending my Reformed sensibilities, my missional heart was also stirred. As I reflected upon this tension, I was challenged to evaluate myself in light of the Celtic way of sharing the Gospel. Hunter extracts and systematizes many of the principles of this early evangelistic movement, shows how it helped "save civilization" (cf. Thomas Cahill), and makes application to the church today. Although I could not entirely agree with some of his basic theological premises (such as what I perceived to be a "soft" view of depravity and a "weak" view of divine sovereignty) and some of the examples he shares for reaching today's most outcast "seekers," this book is well worth the investment of purchase price and time.
The author makes a point of emphasizing a third method of evangelism, neither Roman Catholic nor protestant. He makes clear sense of his hypothesis in the first chapter. He describes Patrick out among the sinners, thieves, and drunkards rahter than cloistered among his churched friends. (Sound familiar?; think Jesus.) Patrick knew the Celtic culture and language. He did not try to impose his own on them. The author describes the Patrick method of church planting and then leaving a trusted protege behind in charge. Then Patrick would head out and plant another church. He just kept repeating the process for 28 years and converted a large portion of rank barbarians to Christianity. Excellent recount of two miracles in Patrick's life that turned him from a slave to a bishop. Well worth a read if you are serious about sharing the gospel effectively with humility. If you are a protestant, do not be put off by the modern association of Patrick with Roman Catholism. Celtic evangelism predates anything like this and also the protestant reformation by a millinium.