“I really wish there was a perfect world up there, that would send someone down here and teach us to live well together,” said my friend, Freya. Her comment was not stirred up by any church service or Christian course. This human heart cry (and cue for me to talk Jesus) came from Freya as we were dissecting the Marvel film, Black Panther.

Freya, like most of my friends, is part of a growing group of people who choose to tick the box none of the above’ when asked to describe their religious identity. While this group don’t feel they belong to any of the main religions, they do not understand themselves as agnostic or atheist. Holding on to a spirituality, but not religion, they belong to none of the above’ – referred to as spiritual nones’.

A growing group – who?

This is a group to watch, and to understand better, because Talking Jesus research shows this group of spiritual nones has grown from 11 per cent of the UK population in 2015 to 26 per cent in 2022. This 26 per cent of the UK adult population reflects an important shift in faith identity and behaviour across society, not just a younger generation.

So, what is behind this cultural rise of the spiritual nones and how can we Talk Jesus meaningfully with them?

A searching group – why

Spiritual nones tend to be disillusioned with religion, as they understand it. Many of my friends do not deny the resurrection of Jesus or heaven and hell, but ask: what difference does it make in this life? Also, disappointed with religious hypocrisy and self-righteousness, spiritual nones seek out an authentic and better way of life on their own terms, but often without hard truth or obligations.

Spiritual nones tend to inhabit a world bombarded by instant gratification, materialism, consumerism, digitalisation and individualism. As they come up for breath, they feel open to something more, something transcendent, something real.

Finding the promises of secularism and liberalism empty, spiritual nones yearn for an experience of life beyond being brains on sticks” or bodies for sex”. They want a framework for life that integrates their spiritual, emotional, social and moral being to their human experiences.

I have worked in Christian mission across cultures and contexts, and I’ve seen in different shapes and sizes the human heart cry that reflects, God has set eternity in the human heart.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) As I ponder what this growing 26 per cent who select none of the above’ tells us, I can hear a cultural heart cry, but we need to find a new way to talk Jesus as the only fulfilling answer.

A watching group – how

When I was a student Christian, we talked Jesus through low level apologetics, rational arguments about the Christian faith, the authority of the Bible, and the person of Christ. Now, for this growing group of spiritual nones, we need to learn a new way to talk Jesus.

No longer is the cultural heart-cry, Is the Christian faith true? Prove it!” I cannot argue my spiritual none friends towards Jesus by giving them answers to questions they aren’t asking. Rather, I talk Jesus right into that human heart cry that says there must be a better, more beautiful way to live this life – what is it – show me!”

Walk with Jesus to talk Jesus

This growing group are wary of empty religion and warm to authentic Christian lives, shaped by the crucified Christ and His kingdom come, and coming. Talking Jesus with spiritual nones happens best when they see us walking with Jesus, and ask us to give a reason for the future-oriented lives we live.

Are we walking with Jesus closely enough in friendship with spiritual nones, so that they see the good and beautiful life of the King and His kingdom in our lives?

Are we walking with Jesus slowly enough with spiritual nones to listen well and discern their heart cry for which the only answer is the person, work and community of Jesus?

Are we walking after Jesus deeply enough for our lives to stand out, to provoke questions, to show them the good and beautiful life of the kingdom?

Here are some questions or comments from my spiritual none friends that I’ve used as a cue to talk Jesus. Can you listen for the heart cry? How would you walk Jesus and talk Jesus to this growing, searching, watching group of people?

  • Why do you have so many asylum seekers coming to your house to hang out? I’d love to meet them and my kids to know their kids.”
  • What do you think about our pre-teen girls getting phones? It makes me really anxious!”
  • Who are you going to vote for? I’ve lost hope in any kind of change for the better.”
  • I kind of want my Christmas to look more like yours – but tell me again, why you don’t do Santa?”
  • I started doing meditation and mindfulness, it’s really helping me – we should do some together.”

Dive into the Talking Jesus report and our blog series:

We want to share and explore with you some of the recent findings from the Talking Jesus report. We teamed up with four amazing organisations to undertake this ground-breaking research, which presents an updated understanding of what people in the UK think about Christians, Christianity and the church. This blog series explores the really encouraging and challenging results for us in this post-pandemic season.

Talking Jesus:  Four things we can do to help more people become Christians

Talking Jesus: Four things we can do to help more people become Christians

Phil Knox explores four of the most powerful and effective ways to reach out with the gospel, backed by Talking Jesus research – which will you try today?
Phil Knox Phil Knox
Mission
Talking Jesus: The increase of ethnic minority Christians

Talking Jesus: The increase of ethnic minority Christians

The recent Talking Jesus research reveals that 25 per cent of practising Christians are from ethnic minority backgrounds – how should this shape our evangelism?
Rev Dr Israel Oluwole Olofinjana Rev Dr Israel Oluwole Olofinjana
Mission