Ireland can be a confusing place: one island, but two jurisdictions (with an invisible border); Irish (Gaelic) is the first official language yet almost no-one speaks it regularly; we are fiercely proud of our native sports (Gaelic football and hurling) but you may see more teenagers wearing Premier League football shirts.

It is a country where almost 80% identify as Roman Catholic yet over 60% vote in favour of abortion and same-sex marriage, against the wishes of that church. On the western seaboard you can still find green fields, rugged hills, and deserted beaches, yet Dublin city is the buzzing multicultural base of almost every tech company you can think of.

A rich heritage yet untouched by the gospel

The gospel took root here at least as early as St. Patrick (probably 5th century AD), and Irish monks played a key role in preserving the Bible during the Dark Ages. The 18th and 19th centuries saw pockets of evangelistic success as mission workers spread the truth in the Irish language spoken by ordinary people.

Yet despite this rich heritage, the Republic of Ireland remains a country largely untouched by the gospel. 19th century leaders described it as a country where the Reformation never happened: that widespread rediscovery of Biblical truth passed Ireland by. While Northern Ireland is heavily evangelical, political and cultural barriers have hindered the gospel spreading southwards. The evangelical church remains small (some estimates put it at less than one per cent) and dependent on imported leadership. Many towns remain without a gospel church.

The evangelical church remains small … and dependent on imported leadership. Many towns remain without a gospel church.

But there are signs of hope: the past four decades have seen many new churches spring up. There are church planting initiatives in every corner of the country. Young Irish Christians are increasingly taking up leadership roles previously held by mission workers. The abandonment of traditional religion has made some open to exploring the biblical gospel. Widespread immigration has brought Christians from around the world to swell evangelical churches. Community and family ties remain stronger here than in many European countries, and one conversion can have an impact on a large network of people.

Please pray …

  • for the older generation to exchange non-biblical religion for biblical truth about salvation;
  • for young people looking for answers to turn to the Bible;
  • for local Christians to be trained and supported for leadership roles;
  • for theological maturity and biblical unity within churches;
  • for Irish Christians to engage a changing society with biblical wisdom;
  • for healthy biblical churches reflecting the ethnic diversity of modern Ireland.

 

Stephen Childs works in evangelism and church planting in Castlebar, Co. Mayo