Those who are leading churches that are growing, frequently report that they have noticed a change in the spiritual atmosphere over the last few years.
Generally, they report that there is a new openness to conversations about spiritual issues. That does not mean that people are beating down the doors of our churches wanting to become Christians. (Although there are some in the Iranian diaspora who are doing just that).
Research published by the Evangelical Alliance helps to reinforce the changes that those on the ground are noticing. (See some of the findings below). Some lessons stand out:
Churches that are deeply invested in their communities have more opportunities for conversations about faith.
Churches which actually talk to people about faith rather than just hoping that people will come to them are seeing encouraging fruit.
Church planting encourages a framework in which faith sharing is likely to take place.
Church planting is no longer a matter of launching with a large number of existing Christians and a huge budget. Many church plants are starting much more simply with small numbers of Christians sharing faith with friends, neighbours and those they intentionally meet.
Larger gatherings can be helpful but these can happen occasionally when smaller church plants (new communities of faith) gather together from time to time.
Here are some helpful summary insights from the EA research:
This ground-breaking report by Alpha, the Evangelical Alliance, HOPE Together, Luis Palau Association and Kingsgate Community Church shows the state of faith in the UK, how people come to faith in Jesus and how we, as the church, can talk about Jesus more effectively with our friends and in our community.
Since the special launch event, evangelists and Christian media have already been widely sharing the encouraging findings that 45% of the UK population believe in the resurrection, 20% of the UK population believe that Jesus is God, but also that only 6% of UK adults are practising Christians. The partners hope this wave of encouragement and challenge will spur the church on to greater confidence and boldness in sharing the gospel.
So much more to be explored
Yet there are so many further fascinating findings still to be explored, putting a wealth of insights in the hands of the UK church to empower evangelism and inform strategy, for example:
26% of non-Christians would go to Google search as the place to find out about the Christian faith closely followed by reading the Bible or speaking to a friend that they know is a Christian.
Growing up in Christian family was the most common route to faith (34%), followed by reading the Bible (24%), and attending a church service (19%).
Non-white ethnic minorities make up 25% of practising Christians.
40% of Christians found the biggest obstacle to sharing faith was fearing difficult questions, whilst 42% reported that a barrier was not knowing non-Christians well enough to share Jesus with them.
While many non-Christians perceive the church as hypocritical and narrow-minded, many perceive their Christian friends as caring and friendly, good-humoured and generous.
How have things changed since 2015?
This research, that was first undertaken in 2015 commissioned by the Denominational Leaders’ Summit, enables us to look over seven years and see trends that will help us strategically with church growth, for example:
Practising Christians make up 6% of UK adults; this is a similar percentage to 2015.
One in three non-Christians, after a conversation with a Christian, want to know more about Jesus Christ – up from one in five in 2015.
53% of non-Christians know a Christian of whom 35% said this is a friend, 33% a family member. This 53% is down from 68% in 2015 but where 4% of people in 2015 said the Christian they knew was a neighbour this has risen to 8% post-pandemic.
4% of Christians came to faith through seeing Christian content on social media, a higher percentage than in 2015.