One significant insight drawn out by McCrindle in the NMS report, is the distance between the perceptions of church leaders – e.g. regarding the amount evangelism they think their congregation members are doing and the extent of church members’ fears) and the actual experience of church members – the amount of evangelism they report and the level of confidence they express.
The NMS reports: “A quarter of Protestant churchgoers (25%) have had a conversation with a non-Christian about their faith in Jesus in the past week, while a further 29% have had such a conversation in the past month. Two thirds (67%) said they feel ‘very confident’ or ‘confident’ talking about their faith with non-Christian family members while a similar proportion (64%) feel confident sharing their faith with non-Christian friends. More than half are confident in sharing their faith with non-Christian acquaintances (53%), neighbours (52%) and workmates/colleagues (52%). Just less than half (45%) are confident sharing their faith with strangers.”
Some of the motivations and fears expressed by active Christians in relation to evangelism may be as church leaders expected but some may be unexpected or at different levels to expected. It does seem that over the last 6 years there has been an increase in the number of Christians afraid to cause offence but it is still only a fear for around half of active Protestants [data]. And when those who do not feel confident talking to non-Christians about Jesus, only 19% specifically mentioned ‘being considered a bigot’ as a reason for that lack of confidence [see below].
Another interesting mismatch is between the proportion of church leaders who say that their church provides evangelism training at least annually (41%) and the proportion of church members (active Protestants) who report that their church has organised evangelism training in the last 2 years (16%). This might in part be explained by the fact that the majority of the church leaders surveyed were evangelical / conservative evangelical while the active Protestants surveyed would have also included those not attending evangelical churches. However, when we checked the results by denomination we found that even selecting the highest performing denomination for each category, the scores are still well below what the church leaders survey reported. This suggests that there may be issues of communication and awareness.