Walk along the streets in our towns and cities today and you will see first-hand the big issues facing our fellow citizens and all of us. Homeless people in doorways, groups of young people hanging around, sometimes open drug usage, occasional unexplained outbursts, older people alone and anxious. Welcome to Britain in 2019.

The stitching that has held the UK together since the end of World War Two has been snipped in many places, resulting in a garment that has become almost unrecognisable. Some of it looks as it once did with fabric and shape, but there are many holes, patches and buttons missing.

The big issue facing churches and Christians is what do we have to bring to a society riddled with anxiety, uncertain identity, inequalities, loneliness, mental illness and hopelessness? Sometimes people within church congregations are also facing these difficulties, but many churches are thankfully having people come to them for help, whether to main meetings or on the margins of ministries.

Statistics are about people and should be for people. Yet they get bandied about variously by politicians, media, statisticians and sometimes church leaders desperately seeking solutions. Here are some examples from the BBC:

  • 15 per cent rise in the number of admissions to hospital in England for assaults involving a sharp instrument.
  • Violent crime increased 19 per cent in one year as recorded by police in England and Wales, latest Home Office figures show.
  • The number of homicides, including murder and manslaughter, rose from 649 to 739 – an increase of 14 per cent – in the 12 months to the end of September 2018, the highest total for such crimes since 2007.
  • Robbery went up by 17 per cent, as did recorded sexual offences, according to the data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
  • Overall crimes recorded by police went up by 7 per cent, with a total of 5,723,182 offences recorded.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said the figures painted a pretty bleak picture” and there were a number of possible reasons for the increase in violent crime. He referred to drug prices, availability and drug gangs: These are some of the theories being put out there, but there’s no simple explanation.”

No simple explanation.” Christians might debate that and point us to the Fall’, but, in my view, that is too simplistic and uncaring. We need something that is engaging, motivating and empowering. Isaiah 61 refers to the revival garments we all long for: A garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (verse 3), for He has clothed me with garments of salvation” (verse 10). These are not just to be issued wholesale but come to one person at a time as broken-hearted people in poverty hear and see good news that leads to freedom.

The little town of Alton has been described as a backwater’, but it is actually where the River Wey rises and threads its way through to the mighty Thames. Churches here have seen increasing social needs and have been uniting together across denominations to make a real difference in the lives of individuals, families and the community. Thankfully, many other towns and cities will be doing the same things as churches become beacons of hope, refuge and light, to turn back the tide of despair. Here’s the river we’re flowing in’:

  • Christians Against Poverty (CAP) centre established – many helped out of debt and turned to Christ. Now beginning Fresh Start’ to help people with addictions.
  • One Way – a group formed to help people struggling with life skills, loneliness and mental health.
  • Lighthouse – a team now working with young adults who have special needs.
  • Foodbank – a depot has been set up which is integrated with the other services provided.
  • Anna Chaplaincy – a ministry started by Debbie Thrower and now nationwide that visits older people and tends to their spiritual needs.
  • Kings Arms – a youth ministry begun in Petersfield and now being launched in Alton in collaboration with churches.
  • Much more besides: New Horizons bringing meals and companionship for the elderly; Toy Library helping young families and single parents; Resurrection Furniture to help with affordable furnishings for housing; Freecycle to share resources online; a community building with a coffee shop in a restored
  • brewery (used by more than 3,000 people per month); and Street Pastors and a school’s chaplaincy.

All of these are seeking to bring a crown of beauty instead of ashes’ prophesied by Isaiah; this is a revival, one person at a time finding hope instead of despair. Whilst writing, recently reconnected Jacqui emailed for a reference for the Royal Voluntary Service: I’m looking to befriend a local elderly person, to visit them in their home, to help with loneliness.” Jacqui’s life is turned around and she now shares the good news.

Mushrooms pop up overnight and disappear in the heat of the day all too quickly – church projects that do this have little impact for they need to be established prayerfully, prophetically, persistently and are best done where church leaders will work together. It takes time, patience, grace and humility.

Always with a passion for the gospel and revival, my own approach has been like that of Nehemiah who had his workers well equipped with a trowel and a weapon to rebuild the wall. Connect4Life’s ministry began 10 years ago to stir and equip Christians through free online resources for outreach and discipleship. 

Churches can download and personalise giveaway calling cards’ that will signpost people to helpful practical articles addressing the big issues such as mental health, loneliness, anxiety, friendship, hope and of course revival. These are just a few of the topics addressed in contemporary articles by the new resource we’ve just launched in our tenth anniversary year.

Yes, these are times of a revival that is one person at a time – so the churches of the UK can both pray as well as restore the places long devastated’ and renew the ruined cities’ foreseen by Isaiah. Why? Because the good news has released a river of blessing that is flowing in and through God’s people.