26 November 2015
General Synod discusses ‘game-changing’ research on evangelism
‘Facts are friends!’ That was the message from Rt Rev Mike Hill, Bishop of Bristol, when presenting the Talking Jesus report to the Church of England’s General Synod yesterday (Wednesday, 25 November 2015).
He said we need to change the flow. Instead of asking how to get people to come to church, ‘we need to go out sensitively and willingly talking about our faith’.
The report, which explores people’s perceptions of Jesus, Christians and evangelism in England, showed that 40% of people do not realise that Jesus was a real person. However, more than half of non-Christians have had a conversation with a practicing Christian about faith in Jesus (57%). Having had that conversation, of those who had not become a Christian, one in five (19%) still wants to know more about Jesus Christ.
Bishop Mike said, ‘ The best kind of communication that we do person to person is with those people with whom are in relationship. We are not talking about insensitive approaches. We are talking about the right time and in the right way. The antidote to poor witness it not no witness, but good witnessing.
‘Facts are friends. Even if we don’t like the facts, what we need to do is to define reality before we can make any impact on that reality. There is evidence here that we can go going out, sensitively and willingly to live and speak our faith, and that this might be a game-changer for some people.’
The report, commissioned by the Church of England, HOPE and the Evangelical Alliance, has surprised church leaders. It showed that most non-Christians know a practising Christian (67%); a friend (40%) or family member (34%) who they would describe with words like: friendly, caring, good humoured, generous, encouraging and hopeful.
When people do become Christians 41% say they were influenced by growing up in a Christian family, 36% by a conversation with a Christian, 28% by attending a church service, and 27% by reading the Bible.
Commenting on the report, Dr Rachel Jordan, national adviser for mission and evangelism for the Church of England, said ‘We did this research because we thought Christians were not talking to others about their faith. And we found that more people are interested than I ever imagined. The survey shows that followers of Jesus are good friends and they are fun. We can take confidence from this.’
She drew Synod’s attention to the statistics which show that only one per cent of the population knows a church leader. ‘The task of evangelism has to be enabling all the people in our congregations – who are in touch with 67% of the population – to talk about Jesus.’
And she added that more under-34-year-old non-Christians know a practising Christian (who is their peer, not their grandma) than any other age group. Also 18-34 year olds are more active in sharing their faith.
Dr Jordan is part of the team that commissioned the research on behalf of churches across the spectrum of Christian denominations. Roy Crowne, executive director of HOPE, Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, and Yemi Adedeji, associate director for HOPE and director of the Evangelical Alliance’s One People Commission, also attended the Synod presentation.
Roy Crowne said: ‘The results are a game-changer for churches wanting to share the good news of Jesus. We often hear reports of declining church numbers, but this survey shows that Christianity in England is full of life, and many people are passionate about sharing their faith. Yes, there are some big challenges for churches to face, but the report has given us insights which we can use to help Christians to talk about Jesus relevantly and effectively.’
Steve Clifford said: ‘There are challenges for our schools as well as for our churches. There is overwhelming evidence in the New Testament and from independent, non-biblical sources indicating Jesus was a historical figure. That nearly 40% of people in this country are unsure of this or think Jesus was a mythical character paints a worrying picture of our education system. While it’s great to see that non-Christians think positively of Jesus, it would be even better if they realised the significance of his life, death and resurrection for their own lives today.”
Yemi Adedeji said: “This invaluable research will give confidence to churches from across denominations, regions and ethnicities and the insight it provides will enable us to answer the questions people are asking of us, not the ones we think they are.”
Roy Crowne, HOPE’s director, is available for interview – contact the HOPE office 01788 542782 or HOPE Communications Director Catherine Butcher 07850 083414.
Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, is available for interview – contact Esther Kuku on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07734 194 445
Dr Rachel Jordan, national mission and evangelism adviser for the Church of England, is available for interview – contact Martha Linden at the Church of England communications office on 0207 898 1326
Yemi Adedeji, associate director for HOPE and director of the Evangelical Alliance’s One People Commission, is available for interview - contact the HOPE office 01788 542782 or HOPE Communications Director Catherine Butcher 07850 083414
Notes to editors
A video of the General Synod presentation is online at http://www.hopetogether.org.uk/Groups/265243/Talking_Jesus.aspx
The Church of England
The Church of England plays a vital role in the life of the nation, proclaiming the Christian gospel in words and actions and providing services of Christian worship and praise. Its network of parishes cover the country, bringing a vital Christian dimension to the nation as well as strengthening community life in numerous urban, suburban and rural settings. Its cathedrals are centres of spirituality and service, and its network of chaplaincies across continental Europe meet important local needs. The Church of England plays an active role in national life with its members involved in a wide range of public bodies. Twenty-six bishops are members of the House of Lords and are engaged in debates about legislation and national and international affairs. The Church of England is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
HOPE brings churches together in mission – doing more, doing it together and doing it in words and action. The goal is to see individuals and communities in villages, towns and cities throughout the UK transformed by Jesus’ love. Churches linked to HOPE come from across the spectrum of denominations and are working together in their communities to introduce people to Jesus, through their actions and words. HOPE is working with the denominations towards a united year of mission in 2018.
The Evangelical Alliance is the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, it has been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. The Alliance connects people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, the Alliance works across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. It’s not just uniting Christians within the UK – it’s a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians.
Perceptions of Jesus, Christians and Evangelism – study by Barna/ComRes
A bespoke online survey among a nationally representative sample of 3,014 UK adults, plus an over sampling of 1,621 UK practising Christians.
The data was collected between 12-29 July 2015 by ComRes
The national data were weighted to be representative of all UK adults aged 18+ by age, gender, region and socio-economic grade
The sample error on the national data is plus or minus 1.8 per cent points at the
95 per cent confidence level.
The over sample data were weighted to be representative of all UK practising Christians by age, gender and denomination per the Church Census 2005.
The sample error on the over sample data is plus or minus 2.4 per cent points at the 95 per cent confidence level.