It seems that the majority of active Protestants in the UK do not lack desire to talk to non-Christians about Jesus and are comfortable in doing so (64%); the blockages are more likely to be in the area of increasing fear of causing offence and a sense of being ill equipped to make the most of opportunities. Over half (56%) of active Protestants doubt their own competence in evangelism and believe others would do a better job.
These results suggest a felt need for capacity building (knowledge and ability) and particularly in the area of negotiating conversations in a context of possible offence. This is confirmed by the typical responses from church members found in the qualitative data from the NMS:
The confidence of Active Protestants may also be boosted by hearing that evangelism can be successful. Another typical request from church members found in the qualitative NMS data was:
“Give prime examples when they have spoken to non-Christians and how those examples turned out well.”Q5B. What could your church do to make you feel more confident to speak to non-Christians about your faith?
In this regard, the survey data suggests that, from the perspective of the Active Protestant, 63% of evangelistic conversations had a positive impact and more than 1 in 10 seem to have led to the person actually becoming a Christian.
And from the perspective of the non-Christian, 67% felt comfortable with the conversation with more than twice as many feeling more positive towards the person and towards Jesus as a result of the conversation compared to the number who went away feeling more negative towards the person and towards Jesus.
Sharing such statistics, alongside real examples, may go some way in increasing confidence among Christians in sharing their faith.
In terms of the amount of church-based evangelism training going on, there are varying messages in the data, but even with the most positive figure available (41% of church leaders reporting that their church conducts structured evangelism training at least annually) some 59% of churches are conducting evangelism training less than once a year.
Stepping up the frequency of training and particularly a) addressing the issue of practical conversation skills while b) providing encouraging as well as realistic data, may be a helpful in building evangelistic capacity, sensitivity and confidence.