For those who pursue missions through prayer, support, or going, the United Kingdom and Ireland may not seem, at first glance, like potential mission fields. They are affluent, there are no wars, and there are (at least in the UK) many churches. However, while UK churches are currently reaching traditional, white, British communities, a range of diaspora communities (such as Muslim and Chinese people groups) are not being reached with the Gospel. In Ireland, there are not even enough Evangelical churches to reach traditional Irish people, let alone new diaspora communities.
For missional go-ers and senders, the UK and Ireland may seem second best, compared to more remote, dangerous, and traditional places. However, we know that God loves people wherever they are, and that He is committed to all nations hearing the Gospel. The Lord says, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”(Psalm 46:10). If potential missionaries sense that God is drawing them to the British Isles or if they are drawn to a people group represented here, we want to affirm that the UK and Ireland are valid countries to consider.
We have unreached people groups
In Ireland there are a number of areas with insufficient Christians to reach post-Catholic people, as well as growing numbers of Muslim migrants. In the UK, churches have not engaged sufficiently with Muslims and other migrant communities, leaving millions of people without a credible Gospel witness.
The UK and Ireland provide freedom for migrants coming from countries closed to the Gospel. Missionaries also have great freedom to preach the Gospel. One can freely access an incredible amount of Gospel materials in a large variety of languages and distribute them without any risk of arrest.
It is relatively easy to access the UK and Ireland through various long-term visas. The security situation in both countries is stable and access to affordable health care and education is also excellent. Because both nations are accessible, a range of different people can serve here. For example, reaching Afghanis in Afghanistan might well require someone with a particular apostolic calling and strong physical health, but people without those particular giftings can still reach Afghanis in the UK. Many UK churches in Muslim-majority neighborhoods and church plants in Ireland would be greatly blessed by mature believers, who might not be able to serve in other parts of the world.
English speakers can minister in Ireland and to many migrants in the UK without needing to learn an additional language. Ministering effectively to refugees and other recently arrived migrants might require learning an additional language, which can be done here.
Partnership with local churches
Missionaries have opportunities to partner with local churches, which provides additional resources for evangelism and discipleship to unreached people groups, as well as the joy of local fellowship. Since the local church is present and vibrant in many areas, a wide variety of models of team and ministry can exist in the UK and Ireland, unlike in places where the missionary team needs to be the primary source of fellowship, partnership, and worship. Involvement in the local church and community supplements the team’s role in providing a feeling of connectedness and the offering of pastoral care and spiritual support.
Identifying with migrants
For those ministering to migrants in the UK, it is often an advantage to be a foreigner. As a fellow foreigner, missionaries have an understanding of what it feels like to be a migrant and the challenges it presents in the UK.
Variety of ministry opportunities
It is possible to engage in a range of different ministry opportunities, including street evangelism, preaching, English teaching, discipleship, service projects, hospitality, interfaith dialogue, and much more. Given the variety of ministry opportunities, the UK and Ireland are also excellent places to come and learn for a season, even if missionaries eventually heading to a different location.
Reaching two countries in one
Given that many migrants in the UK still have significant links to their country of origin, reaching diaspora people here will often also provide an opportunity to influence people back in their home country, thereby reaching two places at once.
A great multitude from all “tribes and peoples and languages” will stand before the throne and before the Lamb (Revelation 7:9) and they will cry out, “’Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:10). Perhaps the Lord is calling you to play a role in gathering the multitude from across the globe to Him in the UK and Ireland.