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15 April 2016

Liverpool leaders seek to make Jesus known

Liverpool leaders seek to make Jesus known

A recent gathering in Liverpool saw 120 leaders come together to discuss how churches in the region could collaborate in responding to the challenge of making Jesus known.

Discussions centred around recent landmark research of the UK population, Talking Jesus, which shows that an increasing number of people have little understanding of who Jesus is – with four in ten not even being sure that Jesus was a real person who lived on earth.

Within days of registration opening, almost 100 leaders had booked to attend the event hosted by Liverpool City region's church unity movement Together for the Harvest (TFH) and the Evangelical Alliance.

Steve Clifford, the Evangelical Alliance's general director, and Yemi Adedeji, director of the Evangelical Alliance's One People Commission, unpacked the good, challenging and shocking news from the research. Encouraging news includes two-thirds of practising Christians having talked about Jesus with a non-Christian in the last month, and one in five non-Christians saying they are "open to an experience or encounter with Jesus" after speaking with a Christian about him.

But there's also more sobering news, with six in 10 of all English non-Christians having never had a conversation with a Christian about Jesus, and the same proportion of non-Christians not wanting to know more about Jesus following a conversation with a Christian about him.

"Our Talking Jesus event provoked vitally important conversations in our region, bringing churches together to think about how we might make Jesus known," shared Pastor Tani Omideyi, the Evangelical Alliance's new chair of board, who is also leader of Temple of Praise church and a member of the TFH steering group.

"The appetite for this event was huge, with church leaders eager to take the opportunity to talk together about how we can share Jesus."

The Talking Jesus research, commissioned by the Evangelical Alliance, Church of England and HOPE, is the biggest research of its kind into perceptions of Jesus, Christians and evangelism in England, and has been provoked meaningful discussions in denominations throughout the UK Church.

In Liverpool, leaders reflected on the implications of the research for their churches and unity network, discussing together questions including: How do we inspire whole-life discipleship that encourages Christians to be talking about Jesus? Are we too busy with church to have time to speak to non-Christians? How well do we ourselves know Jesus? Are we providing opportunities for Christians to see the value of telling their story; sharing their testimonies?

Suggestions were also made for how practical collaboration can develop, including churches sharing their skills and expertise with other churches that may desperately need them, organising joint equipping programmes and prayer events, and leaders coming together to build genuine friendships, pray and strategise together about how to reach people in the region.

Participants described the event as "uplifting", "productively interactive", "a developing environment", "profound and interesting" and "illuminating".

"Rather than being overwhelmed by the challenges, discussing the groundbreaking Talking Jesus research together has allowed us to look collectively at the opportunities before us,"  explained Tani.

"Significant momentum has been created, with leaders calling for follow up events to discuss in more detail the practical next steps and what we can do together to share the good news across the Liverpool City region."

Reflecting on the event, Steve Clifford shared: "We were thrilled to join leaders in the Liverpool City region to discuss together how we can encourage and equip our churches, and each Christian within them, to effectively talk about Jesus with the people around them."

"The Talking Jesus research provides an excellent springboard for these conversations, and a catalyst for us as the Church to talk together about how we can be truly united in mission and see more and more people across the UK come to know Jesus as their Lord and saviour."

As the TFH team presses ahead with plans for a follow up event, Tani reflected: "This event has significantly strengthened TFH's relationship with churches across our region, and working in collaboration with the Evangelical Alliance to host this event was very significant for us – drawing in different strands of the Church and enabling us to enlarge our sphere of service with churches in our area.

"This is a great opportunity which shouldn't be missed, and I would strongly encourage other unity groups to get in touch with the Evangelical Alliance and find out more about hosting a similar event in their area."

If your unity movement would like to host a similar evangelism forum event, info@eauk.org.

GATHER is a national network of vibrant unity movements in villages, towns, cities and boroughs across England. Find out more about what God is doing through these local expressions of unity on the GATHER website.