A New Way to Celebrate St Patrick’s Day

A New Way to Celebrate St Patrick’s Day

It’s that time of year where we’re about to celebrate St Patrick’s Day! For most of us, our understanding about St Patrick and his life is seen through the filter of modern St Patrick’s day parties - drinking green beverages and wearing green clothes - or we may even be vaguely aware of the myth about him driving snakes from Ireland or using the clover as a theological metaphor.

But what he actually did in life was leave his home country to go to people with no Christian witness and share the gospel with the people of Ireland. St Patrick was first and foremost a missionary. Or, to use a newer term for missionary, St Patrick was a goer.

First and foremost, St Patrick was a missionary. Or, to use a newer term for missionary, he was a goer. Ironically, the global celebrations on his holiday have nothing to do with who he really was, and 99% of those celebrating have no idea that he wasn't Irish!

And since that’s what his life was about, wouldn’t it be great if his holiday, St Patrick’s day, was connected more closely to what actually mattered to him.   

Without a doubt, St Patrick is the most famous goer this side of the 1st century. But ironically, the vast majority of us who celebrate his holiday every year assume he was born in Ireland. And we have no idea about how he lived his life and just how unlikely it is that he would become a missionary to Ireland.

St Patrick was born in England, and the stories he was told as a child taught him that people from Ireland were savages. Worse, he was told, they were cannibals. Because of these stories and rumors, nobody outside of Ireland wanted to go to Ireland. Not even missionaries. Ireland was an unreached nation. 

There were no churches in Ireland. In order to hear the gospel, Ireland needed a goer. It needed someone to change their address and move into their neighborhood, and tell them about life in Christ. But because they were known as a neighborhood of savages, nobody would go.

Eventually, Patrick would be that goer. He’d follow God to Ireland and live the rest of his days as a missionary among the Irish. And Ireland, and the world, would never be the same.

Patrick was born in 389 A.D.  Here’s the basic timeline of his life:

17 years old – Kidnapped by Irish pirates, brought to Ireland and sold as a slave. Prays to God.  Gives life to Christ. Prays constantly as he works as a shepherd for next 6 years. 

23 years old – While praying, Patrick has a vision of a ship.  Escapes his captivity and sails on this ship.  Returns to England.

28 years old – Goes to France to study theology

40 years old – Decides to move to Ireland as a missionary, but church decides to send someone else.

42 years old – Church leadership change, and Patrick sees opening to go.  He moves to Ireland where he lives for the rest of his life.

72 years old – Patrick dies on March 17, 461 A.D.

God used St Patrick’s obedience as a goer to bring the gospel to Ireland, and over the next thirty years, more than 120,000 people were baptized and 300 churches built. Every Irish believer can trace their spiritual DNA to St Patrick’s life. His love for and longevity in Ireland led him to achieve the status of a revered and beloved insider in his adopted country. In the years after his death, the Irish began to celebrate March 17 as a religious day.

In the 1700s, immigrants in the US began celebrating March 17 as a Catholic holy day. But somehow, in the last 100 years, St Patrick’s day has become an excuse for people to party like pagans.

Let’s make March 17 Encourage-a-Goer Day!

The definition of a goer is someone who moves in to share Christ’s love and good news in another culture. Goers leave their home and move into the neighborhood of a culture not their own. It is something that goers do with love and joy, but it’s not always easy.

Goers are ordinary people. They have good days and bad days, they have ups and downs. But a big difference is that they don’t live in proximity to their friends and family, so that makes some of the hard times that much harder. Goers need to be encouraged. They need to be remembered. They need to be celebrated. They need you and me!

This year, instead of simply wearing green and eating green buffalo wings after work, what if we did something more meaningful on St Patrick’s Day? What if we made it a point to say a prayer and reach out to encourage the goer we know?

On March 17, let’s celebrate in a way that would honor St Patrick’s life and legacy… let’s encourage other Goers who are pouring their life into people and places unreached by the gospel today!

Ways to make March 17 Encourage-a-Goer Day:

  1. If you know a missionary, pray a special prayer for that missionary and then send an email and share a verse or personal thought to encourage them. Let them know you are thinking of them, love them and are praying for them.

  2. If you don’t know any missionaries personally, how about saying a prayer or word of encouragement to one of the GoCorps Goers?!  You can submit a short written prayer or encouragement using this form, and we’re going to compile all of the submissions and share them with our 70+ Goers who are on the field right now!

  3. Or go to our Goer Blogs, read a blog and then write a comment in the blog to encourage that Goer. (Note:  It’s our 2019 or 2020 Goers who are currently overseas).

St Patrick’s Day is a great day to celebrate! But this year, let’s celebrate in a way that would honor St Patrick’s life and legacy… let’s encourage other goers who are pouring their life into people and places unreached by the gospel today!

Paul Van Der Werf

Paul Van Der Werf is the founder and executive director of GoCorps. Lime green is one of his favorite colors, so he's always liked St Patrick's day. So he was totally mind-blown when he learned that St Patrick was actually a missionary, and ever since learning that nugget, St Patrick's day has been his third favorite holiday!