1. Making the most of opportunities to share the faith
This research highlights that church leaders and churchgoers both believe evangelism and outreach are important, as evidenced by their actions. This is
an encouraging story as this shows there is a body of believers ready to take up opportunities presented. These opportunities are right in front of the church
as we learn from the general public that they are open to faith conversations, and even conversations about Jesus. In fact, despite some churchgoers who lack confidence in sharing their faith being worried about others not being interested or fearing they won’t be heard, it’s encouraging to see that the public do want to engage.
2. The need for a new apologetic
In an increasingly post-Christian context, it is important to understand common defeater beliefs such as ‘Religion causes wars’ and ‘No-one has the right to claim they have the truth’. It’s additionally important to appreciate reasons why people may be uncomfortable about a Christian sharing their faith with them such as a feeling that they are being recruited.
It is also helpful to listen to those who have left the church, with almost half (45%) saying that science better answered their questions. Awareness of these could feed into preaching which better connects with these issues and training which equips church members to address these issues. Perhaps even more importantly, this research confirms the importance of relationships and the church itself as a powerful apologetic. Almost half the general public would be open to attending church. Over half of practicing Protestants (51%) attribute their becoming a Christian to attending church and the welcome, inclusivity and emotional support of the church community are most commonly cited as reasons why people continue as Christians.
3. Equipping the church for evangelism
There is also an opportunity to equip the church for evangelism. While two in five church leaders (41%) suggest their church runs evangelism training at least annually, just 16% of churchgoers believe their church has a training course. This shows there is a chance to provide further training to help support and give confidence to churchgoers as they reach out for faith conversations. In particular it, is noticeable that church attendees seem somewhat more positive towards and less scared about evangelism than church leaders think they are. One implication could be that church leaders are careful not to discourage church members by emphasising the terror and hardship of evangelism.
4. Equipping church leaders for evangelism
Overall church leaders are doing an excellent job of leading in evangelism. One opportunity for growth could be for the one in four church leaders surveyed who had not yet read a portion of the Bible with a non-Christian to have a go at that. Another potential area of growth could be with the 35% of leaders who cited ‘Evangelistic culture and strategy’ being an area of training need and the 46% who noted a need for more training in the area of ‘Reaching your cultural context’.
5. Online presents great opportunities
There seems to be a significant window of opportunity which has opened for evangelistic engagement – with a substantial proportion of non-Christians being more open to attending a small group or one-to-one Bible study or online course if it was online. This provides new opportunities for the future of the UK church to engage those outside the church in new and innovative ways.
6. Support church leaders in church planting and revitalisation
Church leaders commonly identified a training gap in the area of church planting readiness and in revitalisation. Furthermore, many church leaders believe there are barriers that hold them back from taking the steps to plant a church such as not having the right person to be the lead planter, not having enough people or being concerned about the impacts to the sending church and if it could weaken them. It will be important to address and even challenge some of these concerns to help enable future growth of the church. This could involve increasing the pipeline of potential church planters or looking at different funding models. The identified need for training in developing the next generation of leaders and generating a ministry training culture in the church may also be significant in providing a greater pool of potential planters and revitalisers.
7. Foster healthy church environments
The church leaders surveyed commonly noted division and disagreement as discouragements and identified ‘cultivating healthy church culture’ and ‘building healthy leadership teams and ministry teams’ as areas where more training would be appreciated. A focus on supporting leaders through these challenges such as division within their church, or disagreement between church leaders will likely help support them to flourish in their roles.
The future of UK ministry is bright with eager engagement in evangelism and interest in church planting. Filling training gaps and providing mentorship where required could be instrumental in strengthening leaders and building confidence in churches for evangelism and church planting.