Evangelism in a Spiritual Age
“If paganism is the fastest growing religion in Britain (having grown 100% in just five years) and at current levels will be the largest religion in 25 years, we would do well to look at why. Its stress on ecology, community over individualism, gender equality, its offering of romance and ritual and a sheer sense of fun are major factors. We must find a new language and new expressions of church if our spiritual age is to find what they long for in Christ.”
There are some 150 New Age Fairs a year in England and they attract some 300,000 people. Spirituality is big business.
- We need to listen to people as they speak of their spiritual experiences.
- We need to ask people about their experiences of God; to tell us something about the God they believe in.
- The challenge is how to connect with those searching for ‘spirituality’ and yet think that church (Christianity) has nothing to offer.
- We need to be looking for God’s agenda rather than our own if there is to be a real spiritual awakening in our land.
- If there was one big question you would like answered, what would it be? In the “Beyond the Fringe” research (Coventry Diocese), these big questions fell into 6 areas:
- Destiny. What happens when we die? Where, if anywhere, are we going?
- Purpose. What is the point of life? What values should I live by? Whose life and values might I take as an example to inspire me?
- The universe. How did it start? Designed? Planned? Controlled in any way?
- God. Does God exist? If so, what is God like? Can there be any viable relationship between God and humans?
- Spiritual realm. Is there a spiritual realm? What form does it take? Does this have any relevance to me and my life?
- Suffering. Why so much suffering? What are the issues that particularly concern me? What can be done about them?
60 people interviewed from variety of background and ages. Committed believers and atheists were excluded. All had “big questions” but there was little sense that answers might be found in the Church or the Christian message; people generally felt that Christianity was irrelevant to the questions being asked.
For these people being interviewed, Christianity was synonymous with ‘Church’ and ‘Church’ was tarred with the brush of religion, a word with so many negative connotations that it was almost used as an insult.
The general opinion of Jesus was that he was a great teacher, a wise and charismatic person, a prophet, an influential man – but not God.
None regarded the Bible as Holy Scripture or as inspired.
Many elements of Christianity no longer connect with society today. “SIN” is a good example of this. Many outside the Church see the word as archaic, exclusive or simply meaningless. If it conveys anything, it is a sense of institutional bullying, self-righteous hectoring and irrelevant, long-dead, petty-minded interference into people’s lives. The solution is not to abandon “SIN” but to translate it so that it has meaning today. Most of those interviewed had a genuine sense of right and wrong and tended to use the word “abuse”.
LOCAL CHURCH RESPONSE
People have ‘big’ questions and they want answers. How can we show that Christianity has these answers?
If you and your congregation would like to explore these matters further, please contact The Revd Malcolm Raby, Diocesan Adviser for Mission & Evangelism.
To get you thinking, here are a few very simple ideas which have been tried in other places:
- Value of ‘prayer stations’:
- Map of the world – light a candle and place it on a country you want to pray for.
- Add to pile of stones to remember those carrying heavy burdens.
- Fishing net with opportunity to put name of someone you are praying for on a ‘’fish’ and adding it to the net.
- Tree where can tie a ribbon to pray for people to grow in their faith.
- How about a sign outside church: CHURCH OPEN – COME INSIDE
- How relevant is your church noticeboard? What about the following?
Find out what works for you …
- Explore wide perspectives on life and its challenges
- Values for your children
- Get involved with issues of concern
- Join a diverse and accepting community
- Call in for a warm welcome
- How about offering to offer God’s blessing on a new home? Could this be offered via a show home etc?
- Have you tried prayer walks/prayer visiting?
- rejesus.co.uk website is a good site to invite people to look at