Maori elders, as a result of their contact with Europeans, invited Christian missionaries to New Zealand, and the first to arrive was Rev. Samuel Marsden in 1814. Following the Musket Wars of the 1820’s, Maori quickly embraced Christianity, a faith in which they ‘found personal dignity, social discipline and political empowerment.’1 Maori also recognised the importance of literacy and soon learnt to read and write at the mission schools. As sections of the Bible were translated into te reo Maori, it wasn’t long before many Maori were able to memorise and recite whole passages. The first te reo Maori New Testament was published in 1837. By 1840, when New Zealand’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, most of the settlers and possibly a majority of Maori were Christians.
By 1843, 45,000 Maori were catholic,2 and by 1845 there were 60,000 te reo Maori Bibles in circulation.3 As the Maori population in 1845 was estimated to be between 70 -110,000, over 50% of Maori had their own te reo Bible.
- Head, Lindsay Christian Modernity and Culture: New Perspective on New Zealand History, AIF Press, Adelaide, 2005 p. 592
- New Zealand Government Website; Nga Korero Ipurangi o Aotearoa
- Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Maori converts, p.5
In the 2001 New Zealand Census, 98% of Maori identified themselves as belonging to some Christian denomination. For the general public it was 60.6%. In the 2006 Census the total number of people who identified as Christians fell to 55.6% and by 2013, the number had fallen to 48%. At this rate, when the results of the 2018 Census are released it would not be surprising if the number of people who identify as Christians is less than 40%.
Why has the numbers of Christians plummeted, not just in New Zealand, but all around the Western world – because the West has forgotten God? The West has denied its heritage, and rejected its faith and moral compass.