The Celts had an interesting strategy for outreach. They built apostle centers! Catholic historians call them monasteries, but they were not what we usually think of when we hear that word. In a Celtic monastery, for example, the monks and priest were allowed to get married and have children.
In the Catholic Church, monasteries were places of seclusion to escape the world. Celtic “monasteries,” on the other hand, were designed to penetrate the world. The Celts moved into a pagan territory and established a Celtic monastery as a beachhead.
Celtic “monasteries” were apostolic training centers. They taught the Bible, ministered in power, and sent out teams to transform the territory.
One of the teams send out from Ire]and was led by an apostle named Columba. Columba was a Christian, born of noble parents, in Donegal, Ireland. In 563, Columba left Ireland with 12 followers (an apostolic team). They sailed to Scotland and established an apostolic center on the small rocky island of Iona. At the apostolic center on Iona, new converts were taught to read and study the Bible, and minister in supernatural power. They practiced intense intercession, they observed Sabbath and Passover, and they maintained continual 24/7 praise.
Columba was much like Patrick in his mission work and his contests with the Druids. He is reported to have changed water into wine, stilled a storm, purified wells, brought down rain, changed winds, driven out demons, and raised the dead to life. Iona served as a base for the evangelization of page Scots and Picks. Through a ministry of preaching, demon expulsion, and miracles, Columba and his followers won all of Northern Scotland to the Lord in a very short time.
From Iona apostolic centers were founded all over Scotland and England. They established one center on the Island of Lindisfarne just off the northeast coast of England. It is still called “Holy Island” today. From there they travelled south to Whitby and established an apostolic center designed to reach all of England.
How did the Celtic Church die? The death of the Celtic Church took place at Whitby in England. At the Council of Whitby in 664, the Celtic Church submitted to political pressure to come under the authority of the paganize Roman Church. The key issue at Whitby was whether the Church should observe Roman Easter or Christian Passover.
Whitby was a third generation apostolic center. It had great potential. Its apostolic leader was a godly woman named Hilda. It was also the home of the prophetic psalmist, Caedmon. But as the Celtic Church was entering England from the north, the first Roman Catholic missionaries were coming in from the east. The problem was the the King’s wife had become a Catholic.
The King Brough together representatives from the Celtic Church and the Catholic Church to meet with him at the Council of Whitby. The Catholic Church sent skilled debaters who argued that the whole church worldwide had given up Passover in favour of Easter. They asked, “Who do these Celts think they are to oppose the whole Body of Christ on earth!” The King was swayed by their arguments and ordered the Celtic Church to give up Passover and become a part of the Catholic Church. When they did this the Celtic Church died.
Some of the Celtic leaders refused to give in. A few retreated to Ireland. Some went back to Iona and continued the apostolic center there for another 50 years. In the year 717 King Nechtan drove the Celtic leaders out of Iona and turned it into a Catholic monastery.
But most of the Celtic Church submitted to the king. They gave up Passover. They gave up Shabbat. They gave up fivefold ministry and their biblical heritage. The result was that the Spirit of God departed.
If you want to know where and when the early church died, it died in the year 664 in Whitby, England. The site of Whitby today is occupied by the ruins of a 12th Century Catholic monastery.
Whitby should have been a place filled with life, but if you go there today, you find it inundated by darkness. Whitby is one of the darkest places in England. Whitby was designed to be an apostolic centre where the power of God could radiate throughout the land. Instead it has become a centre for evil. Whitby today is a major hub of Goth culture, the celebration of vampires, witchcraft, Satanism, and death.
God wants us to remember that for hundreds of years the Celtic Church equipped the saints to minister, winning the lost through signs, wonders, and miracles. It was the last place on earth to operate in the power of the Early Church.
God wants to restore all of this to us today as He establishes regional apostolic centers in every nation.
Patrick had a passion for the Kingdom … not just a passion for lost
A passion for the lost can lead to getting notches on your Bible. You may get some “decisions,” but there is often little change, but a passion for the Kingdom is an apostolic vision to transform a territory.
A passion for the lost is pastoral and often driven by guilt, but passion for the Kingdom is apostolic and is driven by vision.
A passion for the lost sends people to isolated places to lay down their lives with little fruit, but a passion for the Kingdom sends out apostolic teams, with the authority to change nations.
A passion for the lost holds meetings and invited people to attend, but a passion for the Kingdom builds communities where the power and the glory of God is manifested in the earth.
A passion for the lost wins converts and then goes to the next city to win more, but a passion for the Kingdom builds apostolic centers to equip the converts, so that can be sent out to take new cities.
A passion for the lost is good but it often does not produce lasting fruit, but a passion for the Kingdom is God’s strategy and results in many lost being saved.
We live in a day of restoration. In the early years of the 20th Century, God restored the gift of tongues and healing. In later decades, He restored prophecy and apostleship. Today He is restoring the ministry of regional apostolic centers and the fullness of the fivefold ministry.