About Confidence in the Gospel
After a wide-ranging consultation over the last 12 months speaking to leaders and thinkers from across the UK, we have discovered that although mission is clearly at the heart of what many churches are doing, talking about our faith as Christians is proving increasingly difficult.
It has been exciting to find so many churches with a passion for reaching their community. In fact it is getting harder to find a church that is just running Sunday services and house groups. Mission is clearly high on the agenda of most churches as we see many plugging into national initiatives like Foodbank, Street Pastors, and Christians Against Poverty as well as providing bespoke services for their communities. But despite the increased amount of community engagement, there is also an apparent decrease in our confidence and competence to verbally explain the good news.
At its best evangelicalism historically has managed to combine both a passion for sharing the truth of the gospel and demonstrating the consequences of the gospel on the whole of life. William Wilberforce and the early abolitionists were keen to combine their passion for social justice with what they described as "a reformation of manners", by which was meant a commitment to see the gospel bring personal and spiritual transformation to a person's life. Sadly over the centuries we have seen pendulum swings that have emphasised one or the other of these two outreach strategies. The social gospel at the beginning of the 20th century emphasised social justice at the expense of evangelism and so many churches reacted by focussing on evangelism alone. Thanks to the monumental work of Billy Graham and John Stott at the first and most significant Lausanne Conference, these two aspects of mission were firmly joined together when John Stott famously described mission as consisting of the twin blades of missionary scissors, or the two wings of a bird: evangelism and social action. In current times the evangelical church has divided into a number of tribes who tend to promote one or the other and disconnect with those who do things differently because of disconnection over other issues, such as the role of women.
It is the hope of the Alliance's new Confidence in the Gospel initiative that we would see a joining together of that which is most perfectly integrated in Jesus – a mission to our world that comprises of words and actions in perfect synergy. Jesus did not just deliver the word of God: he is the word of God, and it is through both the life and words of Jesus that God is most clearly revealed.
More than this, we hope that by rejoining words and actions, evangelism and social action, that we will draw our fragmenting churches back together over the most central facet of our faith – the gospel itself. The Confidence in the Gospel initiative will seek to help Christians find words to express the never-changing gospel in our ever changing culture in ways that complement and underline the exciting work the Church is doing in its compassionate service in the community.
There are three aspects to this project:
Telling great stories
Over the next two years idea magazine will highlight a regular feature telling stories of churches and individuals who are experimenting with different ways of communicating the gospel. Our intrepid reporters will be out and about across the country seeing what God is doing and how Christians are finding their voice. If you know of good stories please let us know so that others can learn from what you have seen.
Gathering creative and faithful evangelists
The Alliance will be gathering thinkers and practioners to talk together and reflect on what they see God doing across the nation. We'll be looking to see what we can learn together from across the different tribes of evangelicalism and from our brothers and sisters in other countries. If you are an evangelist who has the ability to reflect critically on the gospel and its relationship with our culture, we would love to hear from you.
You can see the first fruits of our thinking on our website where there are excellent videos from Tim Keller, Lawrence Singlehurst, Nicky Gumbel and many others.
Experimenting with local churches
In order to see churches full of Christians who are confident in the gospel we believe there needs to be systemic change. Working together with LEAD academy, we are on a two-year journey with a group of 13 churches, of all shapes and sizes. Together we are exploring what small changes can be made that will create a culture that is more gospel-confident. In the coming months we'll begin to report their progress, so that you can learn from their experiences.