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Opportunity amid uncertainty

Let's be ever bold in spreading the gospel, seizing opportunities, in these uncertain times

I don’t know about you, but for me the early months of 2018 have revealed a UK society living with extraordinary uncertainty and increasing fragmentation. The ongoing Brexit debate has exposed significant differences between young and old, metropolitan centres (particularly London) and the rest of the country, Scotland and Northern Ireland and Wales, and large sections of England. 

Last year’s general election was supposed to deliver a strong, stable government, but instead it resulted in a hung parliament and the Government dependent on an agreement with the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party). The impact of austerity rolls on, effecting particularly the most vulnerable, and terrorism continues to be a threat hanging over us. The inequalities of wealth distribution between the generations (baby boomers and the under 40s) could be a catalyst for social unrest for years to come. 

With such uncertainty, as a Christian community it is crucial we discover together what our response should be. I am convinced these are years of amazing opportunity for the church. Times of uncertainty provide an environment ripe for conversations around the big issues of life, and indeed, times of far greater openness to the gospel. 

At a recent evangelical council meeting, as we discussed the spiritual temperature of the UK, there was a shared sense of a new season’, of people coming to Christ from all kinds of backgrounds, and in a variety of ways. (If you’ve not as yet accessed the Great Commission website, great​com​mis​sion​.co​.uk, do take some time to check it out. It carries amazing short videos of people sharing their faith stories, often those of new converts.) 

Interestingly, alongside the opportunities, we are also aware of growing opposition. We live in a country which has been profoundly influenced by the Christian faith, shaping every aspect of our society. Yet increasingly, the Christian faith is being marginalised as a powerful, non-religious, secular worldview dominates so much of our public space. It’s in the very air that we breathe and it pervades our institutions and our sources of entertainment. 

I recently had the opportunity to address the all-party parliamentary group on religious education. As part of the discussion that followed, I raised with Mark Friend, a senior executive of the BBC, why the BBC seemed unable to portray Christians as anything other than weird’ in their drama series, or when reflecting on the abortion debate taking place in Northern Ireland, found itself unable to refer to the Both Lives Matter campaign (which we with our friends at Care have instigated) as pro-life’ rather than anti-abortion’, as the BBC invariably refers to it. For me, this is just the tip of an iceberg which reflects a worldview that is determined to undermine the Christian faith. 

So, what’s our response? Well, we must not miss the opportunities. This is not a time to retreat into our safe Christian spaces. I am asking God to give me greater boldness in sharing my faith in Jesus. The early church’s prayer, when faced with opposition, was simple. Acts 4:29 – 30: Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 

Let’s also recognise as we respond to the opportunities and challenges of making Jesus known, wonderfully, God has promised that we are not on our own. Isn’t it a great relief that it’s not entirely up to us? God did not leave us destitute; He has sent His Holy Spirit to us, inspiring our prayers, giving us wisdom, revealing to us the right things to do and say in whichever situations we might find ourselves in. So, in these uncertain times, let’s not be fearful of the opposition, but let’s find fresh faith to respond with boldness to the opportunities. 

About the author

Steve has been general director of the Evangelical Alliance since April 2009. He is chair of HOPE Together and has previously been international chair of March for Jesus and chair of the leadership team for Soul Survivor. Steve continues to give advice and support to churches and has worked in a variety of church roles, including many among the Pioneer network of churches. Currently, he is a member of the leadership team at his local church.

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