02 May 2014
Getting technologically savvy with God
Time for Discipleship? is the latest report in the Alliance’s 21st Century Evangelicals series, providing the most up-to-date statistics on the practices of evangelical Christians in the UK today. It has found that while Christians face busyness, struggles and distractions, they are continuing to put their faith in God and His Word, and are seeing Him at work in their lives.
CHRISTIANS ON THE MOVE
Growing numbers of evangelicals are using Bible apps to connect with God on the move, according to the latest report from the Evangelical Alliance. More than a third say they regularly use Bible apps and many are praying on the move.
A busy rush-hour bus or train may not be the first place you think of for a quiet time, but it is increasingly a place used to connect with God. The Church of England are realising the need to make it easier for people to read the Word on the move and recently launched texts from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer onto an app to help worshippers with this.
With increasing numbers using Bible apps, the Alliance’s research backs up the importance for Christians of meditating on the Word regularly, with 90 per cent reading it at least several times a week and virtually all accepting the Bible as reliable and true.
Allowing busyness to distract us from spending time with God is nothing new – we see this in Martha’s story in Luke 10. And our research has found today’s disciples also struggle to set aside crucial time to be with God.
Martha was the biblical follower of Jesus that the highest number of people in the survey said they identified with.
FAITH THROUGH HARD TIMES
Our research has also shown that evangelicals face challenges and disappointments in their faith. But people’s faith is growing through the bad times as well as the good, with just three per cent saying the crisis had damaged their faith in the long-term.
One person said: “I did not know how I was going to react when I became disabled and house-bound. I cannot shout it out loud enough of how the Lord is taking me through this period in my life.” And another expressed: “God has never let me go, through mental health issues, physical ill health, bowel cancer and bereavements.”
TIME TO BE WITH OTHERS
As disciples of Jesus we are, thankfully, not alone. Chair of Keswick Ministries and Alliance council member John Risbridger said of the findings: “Almost all the people that we surveyed, (90 per cent) said that being involved in church, whether in its large gathering or its small groups, was very important in their Christian lives and discipleship. Following Jesus isn’t meant to be a kind of lonely hobby for individuals, it’s something we’re meant to do together.”
Our Alliance council meeting in February reminded us that disciples are first of all learners and that this life-long process of learning and growth is done with the help of others. The research has shown that the support of other Christians, through the Church, is vital. As one respondent said: “I couldn’t be a disciple without the help, love and encouragement of others”, with another adding: “Without a house group, I’d be a quivering wreck”.
Six in 10 said their church leader had inspired and influenced them, making church leaders by far the most frequently mentioned influence. Lucy Peppiatt, principal of Westminster Theological Centre, said: “People like to have someone to look to, to emulate. Someone who pushes you to go further than where you are at the time, who inspires you to be a bit like them.”
TIME FOR INTENTIONAL DISCIPLESHIP
But whilst the vast majority find church helpful, almost one in 10 said their church had not helped them grow as a Christian. And only 40 per cent felt their church did very well at discipling new Christians.
Respondents were more likely to agree that their church encourages them to use their gifts and talents within the church than in work, public life and the wider community. Churches have great opportunities to equip their busy congregations to live out their faith beyond church walls. Why don’t you encourage your church to do this creatively and intentionally, led by the holy spirit?
Every church can benefit from an intentional focus on discipleship, making sure that everyone is continually learning and growing in their faith, and sharing what they’ve learnt with others. We hope this research helps you and your church to reflect on your discipleship and spark ideas of how you can equip Christians to be lifelong learners.
Visit eauk.org/snapshot to access the full report and accompanying discussion questions, perfect for sparking conversations and ideas in small groups. Online you can also order paper copies of the report and join the research panel.
We’ve filmed some key leaders and Alliance council members reflecting on the Time for discipleship? findings. The short film clips are available online and perfect to show in your small group, leadership meeting or church service to stimulate discussion. Visit eauk.org/discipleship to access the clips, as well as longer talks on discipleship from our council meeting.
The clips include:
- Roger Forster (Ichthus Christian Fellowship): “To be alone or with others listening to God is a terrific discipline that we need to re-understand in the 21st century.”
- Jonathan Oloyede (National Day of Prayer): “Having a disciplined prayer life is so important because it helps you as an individual to have that proximity, closeness and connection with Jesus.”
- Ann Holt (Bible Society): “The Bible… represents a completely different story of the way the world is from the story that’s told around us.”
- John Risbridger (Keswick Ministries): “If we’re passionate about discipleship we’ve got to be passionate about church, and learn to love it just like Jesus did.”