Making disciples of Jesus in western Ireland by living life in community on mission. Our aim is to plant gospel-centered churches, not the mere brick and mortar building, but the family of God worshiping Jesus in community on mission for his glory. The Irish people are a soulful, relational, community-driven people. They are rich in culture, arts and have celebratory spirits. Many of the Irish have been hurt by and have lost trust in religious institutions, and have sworn off God all-together.
We currently live in Minnesota with our three kids, Aidan (4), Norah (3), and baby Lucy. I, Will, work as a mail carrier for the USPS, and Sarah is a stay at home mom. Sarah was born in Minnesota and in middle school moved to St Croix Falls Wisconsin, the town where I was born and raised. Sarah and I began dating in High School, and got married in 2009. We both attended the University of Northwestern St Paul, where Sarah got her Bible certificate and I got my bachelor's in Biblical and Theological Studies.
Ever since we began to trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we have both been open to the idea of global missions, but never to the point of actually taking a step. The story of our obedience to God's call began in 2016, with a car accident that took the lives of our friends Jamison and Kathryne Pals and their 3 children. The Pals were headed to Japan to be missionaries through WorldVenture, and were headed to Colorado for their final training before flying to Japan. With the news of their death, and the funeral service in particular, Sarah and I were both moved to begin praying about and be open to the idea of global missions again.
Through WorldVenture's website we found an opportunity to serve in the country with the lowest percentage of born-again Christians in the English speaking world. That country is Ireland. Most of us probably think of a vacation destination when we think of Ireland, or even its rich Christian history. But behind that natural beauty is a people who have been deeply hurt by religious institutions, held captive by guilt and shame, are fleeing from cathedrals in droves, and are swearing off the idea of God all-together.
Our call is to bring the life-giving hope that is only found in the good news of Jesus Christ. That through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God provided all the righteousness that he requires, so that for anyone who will trust in him alone for the forgiveness of their sins, God gives the right to become children of God, and that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! We will do this by building genuine relationships with the people in our community, discipling people into relationships with Jesus, and by studying and preaching the Word.
Just like the Godhead did missions as a community - the Father sending, the Son going, and the Spirit empowering - we are made to do missions in the same image. God uses senders, go-ers and empower-ers to reach the nations for joy. If you have any interest to partner with us in God's mission to Ireland, please contact us! We would love to have a deeper conversation on what God is doing in Ireland through us and through you!
Our personal challenge will be uprooting our family from the community we love and learning to do life in a new culture. The missional challenge is that the Irish people are rapidly losing more and more trust with organized religion and few consider Jesus as anything more than a cultural icon.
Please pray that God's Spirit would be at work in the hearts of the Irish people that he is calling us to serve. Pray that God's Spirit would continue to work in Sarah and I as we prepare for full-time ministry. Please pray that our time building prayer and financial partners here in the States would be life-giving and worshipful for everyone involved.
The Irish people have a rich, Christian history, but it’s one filled with spiritual abuse, done in the name of Jesus. One need not look far into Ireland’s history to see a time when, in the name of Jesus, England cruelly ruled over Ireland and specifically abused the Roman Catholics there. So, when Ireland won its independence, it won it in defiance of its powerful neighbor England, and in the name of Protestant Christianity that it boasted. The Irish people became at the very core of their identity, not just Irish, but Irish Catholic.
But their next spiritual abuse didn’t come from an outside enemy, it came from within. Over the last 50 years, sexual abuse scandals from within the Catholic church have devastated Ireland. Thousands of allegations have been brought against clergy, priests and nuns, but the actual prosecution rate is next to nothing, only 6%. This is one of the biggest factors, along with many others, that have led Ireland to the spiritual state it is in now. Once again, people in powerful positions, using the name of Jesus, have abused, shamed and hurt them. And so now, people are fleeing the Catholic church.
Over the last 40 years ago, weekly mass attendance in Ireland has dropped more than 70%, and shows no sign of slowing. In the late 1970's, over 90% of the population attended mass on a weekly basis. Last year, that number was down to 17%! The people of Ireland are in a spiritual identity crisis. Because of their history, the majority of Ireland still claim to be Roman Catholic, but the majority of those people want nothing to do with participating in that institution. And because there haven’t really been any other churches in Ireland outside of the Catholic institution (only 1% of Ireland’s population would identify as Evangelical Christians), there is no healthy, gospel-filled alternative for them to go to. Which is why Atheism is skyrocketing in Ireland. If gospel-preaching, Spirit-filled churches don't fill the void, something will. Over 80% of the towns in Ireland don't have a gospel-preaching church in them, making church planting the biggest need there.
I am 100% for frontier missions among people groups who have never heard the name of Jesus, but I believe we limit God’s zeal for his name when we exclusively prioritize certain kinds of global missions. As John Piper says, “Mission exists because worship doesn’t”. Worship doesn’t exist among peoples who have never heard the name Jesus because, well, how can they if they’ve never heard? Yes and amen! But worship ALSO doesn’t exist among peoples who have heard the name of Jesus and couldn’t care less about him. That’s not worship! That's profaning his name, and God cares a great deal about that.
Yes, the name ‘Jesus’ is known in Ireland. In fact, it’s a common curse word. God’s name doesn’t need to be merely proclaimed in Ireland – it needs to be rescued and redeemed. It needs to be vindicated. For many Irish, Jesus is merely a cultural token. To them he is not worth living their lives for, let alone laying down their lives for. He’s not worthy of their whole-hearted worship. In that sense, they are very similar to Israel in Jesus day, and I am VERY thankful that Jesus, the ultimate missionary, didn't give up on them.