In spite of its legacy as the bastion of ‘saints and scholars’ and its many contributions to the Kingdom of God, Ireland today is anything but committed to the gospel. It is sadly true that the source of so much spiritual blessing to the world now sits in spiritual ruins.
The situation of the indigenous church reflects this. With a few exceptions, old church buildings are empty. Evangelical churches are mostly small and on the fringes of society. The highly politicized past between Roman Catholics and Protestants has left its mark. Many would still agree that to be Irish is to be Roman Catholic. But it is more the residue of a culture than a deep conviction as many Irish are abandoning mainstream religion. Latest census figures reveal that the fastest growing ‘religion’ amongst the new generation of Irish is ‘no religion’ at all.
On the ground, less than 1% of the 4.58 million population of the Republic of Ireland regard themselves as Christians in the Biblical sense. This is the lowest percentage of any country in the English speaking world, effectively making Ireland the most unreached country in the English speaking world.
Ireland is changing more rapidly today than at any other time of its history. Around 10% of the population are now ‘new Irish’, immigrants from overseas. This rises to 13% in the capital city. The result is much enrichment in culture, labour and ideas – and challenges to evangelism. To reach Ireland in the 21st Century is to reach the world.
The need for new intiatives and new church plants has perhaps never been greater or more urgent