Online access most helpful for evangelistic 1-to-1, small group and course engagement

With small group Bible studies, evangelistic courses and 1-to-1 Bible study, offering an online option may significantly increase uptake. However, with church services the benefit is much less clear.

Further reading:

Approaching half public would be comfortable attending a regular church service

45% of the non-Christian general public (i.e. the UK adult population minus active Protestant church goers) say they would be comfortable attending a normal Sunday service in a Protestant/evangelical church.

Savanta

This is partly accounted for by the phenomenon of “the ‘church’ that doesn’t go to church.” As might be expected, this demographic – those who identify as Christian though are not active Protestant churchgoers – are most likely to say that they feel comfortable attending a regular (Protestant) church service. However, as the following chart shows, even among atheists/agnostics almost a third would feel comfortable in this environment and among those of other religions the result is almost the same as the national average (45/46%).

Savanta-ComRes NMS data

For more statistics and analysis of the UK mission context see:

Relationships are key to evangelism, coming to faith and continuing

There is widespread wariness of ‘attempts to convert’ but over half the non-Christian general public are comfortable having a conversation about Jesus with family and friends and almost 2 in 5 with work colleagues.

A sobering statistic is that 71% of the general public can’t remember any conversation with a Christian about Jesus in the last 10 years. Where those conversations did happen they were very largely with people with whom there was some existing relationship.

Church community and family are key in conversion stories.

McCrindle presentation, Savanta data

And relationships (especially church family) are also key in determining whether people continue identifying as Christian and regularly attending church.


Further reading:

Seeing more clearly

The National Ministry Survey is a new initiative to help us get a clear-sighted view of the national landscape in relation to evangelism, training and gospel ministry.
Driven by data not dates?

In many ways, when it comes to mission, ‘data-driven’ is not at all what we want to be:

  • We want to be driven by a passion for the Lord Jesus and his glory.
  • We want to be driven by a passion for those around us who don’t know him.
  • We want to be driven by the Bible – in both our message and our methods.
  • We want to be driven, to a certain extent, by dates – having an Easter 2022 mission in the diary is great for focusing the mind and gets us planning and praying and working towards that (always allowing for God to change our plans).
  • We want to preach the gospel ‘in season or out of season’ – regardless of whether the ‘data’ shows it is popular or unpopular.
  • We want to be prayerfully depending on God to work – knowing that there are spiritual realities – the Spirit and the Enemy – that are unseen and unpredictable.

However… we don’t want to ignore data. God has created a reality which is observable and is actually there. Creation is not an illusion. If you close your eyes and walk forward you will bump into it. If the windscreen is fogged up we’re in danger of missing something and having a nasty accident. In the same way, if we’re not seeing clearly the social reality and church reality around us we will get in trouble on gospel mission.

Eyes open

While the Bible exhorts us to do many things regardless of what is going on around us (e.g. 1 Thess. 5:16-18), there are plenty of cases where we are supposed to be aware of who we’re speaking to (e.g. 1 Thess. 5:14). We see Jesus and the Apostles constantly adapting their tone and approach to the particular individuals or groups in front of them and having genuine conversations which react to the reactions.

And there is a regular concern for numbers. Fishermen count fish. Shepherds count sheep. Farmers don’t work hard for fun – they work for a harvest, fruit. Through the Book of Acts we see regular ‘reports’ of the differing reactions to the gospel, the different experiences of the church and how many (or how few) were saved in each place.

In a similar way, at the beginning of 2022, it will be hugely valuable to have data on our mission context in the UK, to see how the church in the UK is doing and what the Lord is doing amongst us.

A new research project

October 2021 saw the roll out of a National Ministry Survey seeking to help us see more clearly for mission. A Passion for Life, FIEC, ReNew, Co-Mission and others worked together to formulate the hypotheses and questions that would be tested in this research. Two highly experienced research companies – Savanta-ComRes and McCrindle – were commissioned to pursue three strands of enquiry:

  • A survey of non-Christian members of the general public – particularly exploring openness to evangelism.
  • A survey of ‘active Protestants’ i.e. regular attendees of Protestant churches – particularly exploring confidence in evangelism.
  • A survey of evangelical church leaders – particularly exploring perceptions, needs, and approaches in mission, leadership and training.

We wanted to have up-to-date, post-Covid data on:

  • How open different groups might be to having a conversation about Jesus or to particular sorts of invitations.
  • Why people say they would not be interested.
  • Reasons people give for coming to Christ.
  • Reasons people give for leaving the church in teenage years.
  • How equipped or confident Christians feel about sharing the gospel.
  • What is holding believers back from sharing the gospel more.
  • The extent to which our churches are reaching diverse cultures.
  • Factors that may be inhibiting or accelerating church planting.
  • Congregational and leadership training gaps.
And now it’s here

Of course it doesn’t give us the whole picture. But it does help us see more clearly some trends and realities that will really help us in mission.

Why not click on the links to read these reports now and see your context and opportunities more clearly?

Let’s not be data-driven but let’s be data-aware, context-aware, reality-aware, people-aware.


[An earlier version of this article appeared on the A Passion For Life blog.]