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No, Northern Ireland Isn’t A Christian Country

July 2, 2009

Quite regularly I hear people say that “Northern Ireland is a Christian country.”  But even if you accept the premise (is there really such a thing as a ‘Christian country?’) one would surely have to say that Northern Ireland is less Christian than it used to be. Consider the results of a survey carried out in 2007 on behalf of the Evangelical Alliance of Northern Ireland:

Only 42% of NI respondents can say there are four Gospels
Only 54% of respondents can name the Holy Trinity
Just 60% of respondents can name the first book of the Bible
Only 31% of respondents could say the First Commandment
Only 31% of respondents could identify Martin Luther as the man who started the Reformation
Just 21% of NI respondents aged 16-24 could say there are four Gospels versus 54% of the over 65s

Then in 2008, a BBC online survey found the following results concerning Northern Ireland:

• 73% believe in a god/deity/higher power
• 64% believe there is a link between declining church attendance and declining morals in today’s society
• 81% believe that society is moving away from religion
• 71% feel that churches could offer more for young people
• About half (51%) say religions are out of touch with society and need to change with the times
• 21% agree that shops shouldn’t be open on a Sunday
• 61% say sport should be played on a Sunday
• 50% would like churches to develop more online resources

These surveys indicate what few seem to realise: secularism is on the rise in Northern Ireland.

Like the rest of the Europe it has become a mission-field once more.

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7 comments

  1. Not to mention Colin the fact that the gap between the church and the outside culture is getting wider all the time. The church in N Ireland has a “evangelical Culture” but sometimes i wonder if it really believes what is says it does. Very often people like to be “sound” but don’t like to have to do anything with this “soundness” just sit in a holy huddle and forget about the outside world.


  2. “Like the rest of the Europe it has become a mission-field once more.”

    Same goes for the United States. We are a bigger mission field now than Africa (by far); and it’s not only the unchurched but the dechurched. Worldliness is the name of the game here. We have to start all over with the Gospel – even evangelizing those inside churches to rescue them from their own biblical illiteracy and man-centered theology/religion.

    – Jr


  3. Perhaps part of the perception that NI is a Christian nation springs from the long standing Catholic VS Protestant entrenchment with the rest of the island? I don’t live there, but have some close and dear friends in NI, and I too made the mistake of assuming too much because of that long history of division. While the labels are religious in nature and make the people sounds awfully pious, it is my understanding that those battle lines are far more political than spiritual in nature, and to hear my pal Jonny tell it, most don’t care much about spiritual things, let alone reformed Christianity.

    Keep up the good work Colin. Your site is a great blessing to me and my ministry.


  4. While I won’t argue that it IS a Christian nation (I know absolutely zero on this subject), I will say this, for argument’s sake…

    These stats don’t really tell me ANYTHING about what percentage (or % change) of NI is indeed Christian. It DOES tell me a lot about what % is tragically and grossly uninformed, but that doesn’t disqualify anyone from saving faith. About the only stat that bears on that question is this one:

    “73% believe in a god/deity/higher power”

    Which could potentially make it fully 73% born again. That would put “The Great Awakening” to shame.

    I’m not saying it DOES say that, I’m just saying these particular stats are not particularly helpful in making a “real” determination.


  5. Colin,

    You are spot on. Scotland would be the same. I am stoked that you are serving in the Emerald Isle. My wife and I lived and served in Scotland for a few years and holidayed in NI. I preached in two PCI churches (one at Moneydig and the other at Portrush Pressie.
    Stand Firm Col! Preach the Gospel! (Col 1:28-29)

    Blessings
    Joshua
    p.s I am back in my own country (Australia) but my Mother is from Glasgow, so have a soft spot for the place, but my wife and I both love Ireland and I nearly accepted a job there.


  6. Northern Ireland is spiritually 20 years behind the rest of the UK, but catching up fast. Money is the new deity, just like everywhere else. Sad, but the churches have too often sat back and entrenched. Bryan is right, sadly this will mean that the next generation will be right for emergent theology.


  7. Hi Colin….that is a great name for sure! Just came across this blog of yours. I see you are a preacher in “Cow Town”..Ballymoney! I live near Portglenone myself. I don’t believe N. Ireland is a Christian country if you take the fact that being a Christian is being born again. Sadly the majority of people are not that. There is too much religion here with one side thinking that God is with them and that the other side are dammed not realising that we are all sinners and are all in need of God’s forgiveness.
    God bless you in your ministry here.



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