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16 February 2016

Church of England commits to largest evangelism project this millennium

The Archbishop of Canterbury told the Church of England today that evangelism is not an "optional extra", but instead a Christian duty.

The Rt Rev Justin Welby was speaking to the General Synod as a new report on evangelism was launched.

The Archbishop questioned the view of some that evangelism is the reserve of those with specific gifts or who don't mind being outside their comfort zone.

Speaking this morning he said: "This is our duty, our privilege and our joy. There is nothing like it.

"For too long the ministry of evangelism in the Church has been viewed as an app on the system."

While admitting his favourite app was the Financial Times – which his family tells him isn't very "avant garde" – he said this ministry should be seen as the operating system itself rather than just an add-on.

Falling attendance figures and forecasts of the Church's future are for some the motivation behind a passion for evangelism, but the Archbishop said this "comes out of love, not out of fear".

The new report launched by his task group today instead "comes out of obedience to Christ", he said.

"There is nothing as wonderful as seeing God at work, leading people from darkness to light."

The report puts forward three recommendations.

First, to invest in more paid children and youth work posts; and second, that Church of England deaneries should be encouraged to develop mission action plans for work with younger people.

The third recommendation set out in the report is to encourage dioceses to prioritise evangelism and witness with younger people.

This report follows the announcement last week that two Archbishops are writing to the Church of England's 11,300 clergy inviting them to "engage" with the biggest evangelism project so far this millennium.

The clergy are being asked to organise prayer meetings and gatherings to help towards the evangelisation effort in the run-up to Pentecost. 

The Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, speaking today on behalf of the evangelism task group, reiterated that evangelism is not a department or an option – "it's all we do".

"Evangelism comes to earth in a moment of sharing – a moment that can be grasped or missed.

"We need to ask ourselves if we're training ourselves and our leaders to grasp the moment."

The Evangelical Alliance are working on a new resource to equip Christians to "grasp this moment".

Launching later this year, the project will be spearheaded by a website pointing people towards resources suitable for evangelising in their contexts. 

Gavin Calver, the Alliance's director of mission, said he's excited about the Church of England's recent commitment to evangelism.

"Prayer is crucial as we seek to reach out to our friends and neighbours with the good news of Jesus. That's why I am excited about this new initiative," he said.  

"The more we pray for people who don't yet know Jesus, the more we share in God's heart for them giving us greater confidence and passion to share our faith.

"In Acts 1 Jesus tells the disciples to wait for power to come on them to be his witnesses.

"I want to encourage Church of England members, in fact Christians across the UK, to join in with praying for boldness, courage and love to share the message of Jesus with the people around them in the week running up to Pentecost 2016."

More information about the Evangelical Alliance's evangelism project will be announced later this year.

The Alliance's mission team is looking for stories about how you came to faith. Who was the most significant person in you coming to faith? How your life has changed since meeting Jesus? Are there times when you or your church have stepped out and shared your faith, like Archbishop is urging Anglicans to do?

The Alliance has a new, dedicated email address to hear your stories: faithstories@eauk.org. Please do send in your stories, a maximum of 300 words, along with your contact details. We want to tell these stories in the public domain so please only get in touch if you're happy for them to be shared.

All Christians have a story to share, so let's change the narrative around us and remind each other that still Jesus transforms lives in the UK today.