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26 August 2016

Evangelical about evangelicalism?

Evangelical about evangelicalism?

As we celebrate the 170th anniversary of the Alliance, we were keen to find out what evangelicals know about the history of evangelicalism in our country, how evangelicals are perceived publicly, as well as the history of the Alliance. So we recently surveyed almost 1,500 evangelicals and here are some of the key findings.

First, 80 per cent of participants said that they are comfortable with being described as an evangelical. The minority that didn't had some interesting views. One comment was: "Non-Christians think very negatively about 'evangelicals' or have no idea what it means." Another said: "I wouldn't. Non- hristians would associate me with the American right." While a small proportion confirmed that there are some negative connotations with the term, this finding illustrates that for the majority there is a strong and positive affinity with being identified as an evangelical. It also confirms that we all have a responsibility here in the UK to challenge negative public perceptions and promote positive ones.

One of the most encouraging statistics from the survey was that 96 per cent of those surveyed agreed that every Christian should tell people about Jesus. Similarly, 98 per cent agree that we should strive to share the love of Christ with others. As the Evangelical Alliance, we're passionate about seeing the UK Church united in mission, so we're really encouraged to see that evangelicals strongly believe in both word and deed mission – sharing the love of Jesus in what we say as well as how we act. 

Later this year, we look forward to launching the Great Commission website hub, which will inspire and equip each church and individual Christian to be talking about Jesus with those around them. With 87 per cent saying that they are actively committed to spreading the gospel among friends, colleagues, neighbours and the local community, we will also be sharing lots of stories of how Christians and churches up and down the country are talking about Jesus.

Another very encouraging statistic is that 93 per cent said that they are actively committed to passing on the gospel to the next generation. Our last survey on generational relationships highlighted the need for the older generations to share and tell their stories to the young. We should take heart from this consistent message in our surveys. It highlights a passion to leave a legacy for God's kingdom behind of those that are coming after us – who in turn will have the privilege of sharing the gospel in the future. As the founder of Methodism and one of the greatest evangelicals, John Wesley, once said: "You have one business on earth – to save souls." The survey shows that, in terms of evangelism, the future looks good.

We also questioned our survey participants on their views on the future of evangelicalism in the UK. An interesting statistic is that 62 per cent agreed that British evangelicalism will increasingly depend on the contribution of black and ethnic minority Christians. In the changing face or our landscape in the UK, where society is becoming very diverse, it is clear that our participants place great importance on these groups for mission, with 71 per cent saying they see increased immigration and the arrival of asylum seekers as a great opportunity to evangelise. Addressing some of these issues is the One People Commission – a body of the Evangelical Alliance made up of key national church leaders, committed to celebrating ethnicity, while promoting unity within the UK evangelical Church. You can find out more information on this at eauk.org/onepeople.

Alongside concerns expressed about freedoms in the UK, almost all participants, 99 per cent, agree that religious liberty and persecution of Christians overseas is an important issue that must be addressed. Indeed, when asked what should be the priorities going forward for the Alliance today, religious liberty was at the top. One of the first international issues that the Alliance ever campaigned on was that of religious liberty and it continues today. We have partnered with Open Doors, Release International and Christian Solidarity worldwide to form the Religious Liberty Commission. Again, you can find out more about this work on our website. Domestically, our public policy work is very much focused on protecting freedom of religion from secularism and government over-reactions to security concerns.

The results of this survey are encouraging in many ways. The fact that most participants recognise that we need to actively evangelise and bring the gospel to others is significant. For us at the Alliance, we also acknowledge an important statistic; that 97 per cent said that the Alliance's priority should be being a united voice for Christians who share the most important evangelical doctrines and practices. As we work towards unity for the Church in the UK, this will indeed spur us towards that goal.


Editor's note:
This is a snapshot of findings from our latest survey. Our surveys are produced quarterly and although primarily aimed at evangelical Christians, anyone can take part. Our current survey is open to participants and you are welcome to take part by clicking here.

We publish highlights of these findings in idea magazine. This will always be an overview and not a comprehensive list of all the findings.

From time to time, we also use the statistics elsewhere on our website and other publications; as such, not every statistic will be published at once.
Below is a more detailed view of some of the statistics quoted above:

  • 72 per cent saw lukewarm Christianity as threat to evangelical Christianity in the UK

1300 evangelicals answered the question and some of the options were:

It could be a great opportunity
It won't have much impact
I don't see this happening
Evangelicals will come to terms with this
It will be a serious threat
Don't know


The law that has redefined marriage

It could be a great opportunity - 10 per cent
It won't have much impact - 15 per cent
I don't see this happening - 1 per cent
Evangelicals will come to terms with this - 27 per cent
It will be a serious threat - 42 per cent
Don't know - 5 per cent

Luke-warm Christianity
It could be a great opportunity - 9 per cent
It won't have much impact - 8 per cent
I don't see this happening - 2 per cent
Evangelicals will come to terms with this - 6 per cent
It will be a serious threat - 72 per cent
Don't know 3 per cent


Growing legal restrictions on religious freedoms and state definition and control of religion
It could be a great opportunity - 11 per cent
It won't have much impact - 6 per cent
I don't see this happening - 4 per cent
Evangelicals will come to terms with this - 19 per cent
It will be a serious threat - 56 per cent 
Don't know - 4 per cent

Increased immigration and the arrival of asylum seekers and refugees
It could be a great opportunity - 71 per cent
It won't have much impact - 6 per cent
I don't see this happening - 0 per cent
Evangelicals will come to terms with this - 13 per cent
It will be a serious threat - 6 per cent
Don't know - 4 per cent

The extension of the multi-faith society
It could be a great opportunity - 29 per cent
It won't have much impact - 11 per cent
I don't see this happening - 1 per cent
Evangelicals will come to terms with this - 27 per cent
It will be a serious threat - 27 per cent
Don't know - 5 per cent

Biblical illiteracy among evangelicals
It could be a great opportunity - 10 per cent
It won't have much impact - 6 per cent
I don't see this happening - 6 per cent
Evangelicals will come to terms with this - 8 per cent
It will be a serious threat - 66 per cent
Don't know - 4 per cent

  • 98% believe the Bible is the word of God:

1439 evangelicals answered this question and the options were:

Agree
Disagree/have doubts

The Bible is the revealed word of God: 98 per cent vs 2 per cent
Every word of the Bible is literally true: 55 per cent vs 45 per cent
The Bible is a reliable and accurate historical document: 87 per cent vs 13 per cent
The Bible is the highest authority in matters of faith and doctrine: 97 per cent vs 3 per cent
We should obey the plain teaching of the Bible in every part of our lives: 91 per cent vs 8 per cent
The laws of our country should be based on the teachings of the Bible: 72 per cent vs 28 per cent
It's important for children to have a good knowledge of the Bible: 98 per cent vs 2 per cent
It's important to me to try to read the Bible every day: 95 per cent vs 5 per cent
The Bible is subject to new understandings and interpretations with each new generation: 47 per cent vs 53 per cent

  • 96% are committed to passing on the Christian faith to the next generation

1420 evangelicals answered the question asking: How far would you say you are actively committed to…?

Completely
To some extent
A little
Not at all

Passing on the Christian faith to the next generation:
Completely - 63 per cent
To some extent - 30 per cent
A little - 6 per cent
Not at all - 1 per cent

Spreading the gospel among you friends, colleagues, neighbours and local community:
Completely - 39 per cent
To some extent - 48 per cent
A little - 12 per cent
Not at all - 1 per cent

Praying and working for the growth of the Church throughout the world:
Completely - 56 per cent
To some extent - 37 per cent
A little - 6 per cent
Not at all - 1 per cent

Helping other people when you see they have a practical or emotional need:
Completely - 55 per cent
To some extent - 42 per cent
A little - 3 per cent
Not at all - 0 per cent

Being involved in at least one social action or social justice project:
Completely - 44 per cent
To some extent - 37 per cent
A little - 14 per cent
Not at all - 5 per cent

Working to achieve political change in line with Christian beliefs and values: 
Completely - 21 per cent
To some extent - 43 per cent
A little - 27 per cent
Not at all - 9 per cent

Since 2010 our surveys have covered a wide range of topics and canvassed a large group of evangelicals for their opinions. As we do not have an accurate picture of the whole population of evangelicals in the UK we are not able to weight the results, and as such they are not representative of all evangelicals. However, we consider them to provide a helpful illustration of what many evangelicals do think and provide a prompt for further thought, research, prayer and action.   


 

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