A study has been commissioned by the UK arm of an international charity to help churches set out clear mission goals and methods to address social justice.

The UK Church in Action research, which was commissioned by World Vision UK and conducted by Barna Global, surveyed a little over 3,500 individuals to ascertain Christians’ and non-Christians’ perception and understanding of the UK church, particularly when it comes to social justice and mission.

The respondents, to what has been described as one of the most comprehensive examinations of the general public’s attitudes towards the church, include 2,054 British adults, 1,170 active Christians and 302 church leaders from various denominations. Responses from the non-Christian sample have indicated that the general perception of the church among the wider population is that it’s a force for good, but many people don’t get’ its purpose or the work that it does.

The survey found, for instance, that around one third (31 per cent) of the UK population (based on the sample of British adults) find it difficult to identity the specific needs that the UK church should meet. A little over a quarter (26 per cent), meanwhile, said they believe that while the church is good for the community”, they are unaware of, or unconcerned with, the church’s local and global endeavours.

However, for those who did see a role for the UK church, many identified working with the elderly and supporting those who are homeless as areas in which faith communities could provide a useful contribution.

Barna Global’s co-founder, David Kinnaman, said, We have noted a growing trend to define the mission of the church less exclusively about evangelism, but increasingly to include social justice and working for and with the poor and the marginalised. This study has highlighted that, while churches are prioritising social action and often delivering on those priorities, their efforts are not always widely recognised by the wider population.“

The report, which was launched at Lambeth Palace on 24 May to an audience of church leaders and charities, also provided insight into faith leaders’, and active Christians’, attitudes towards mission and social justice, and the role of mission within the church context. The study found that UK church leaders mainly associate social justice with advocacy or working for the common good of others”. Additionally, over 60 per cent of the Christians polled said they would like to know more about global mission.

World Vision UK’s CEO, Tim Pilkington, commented, The launch of the UK Church in Action marks an important moment for the church in this country. At World Vision, we believe in God’s unconditional love, and we want to reflect this love in all that we do. We are encouraged that churches are keen to engage in social justice and World Vision welcomes the opportunity to partner with the church in the UK so that together we can equip Christians and inspire non-Christians around the social justice agenda they care about.“

Visit www​.bar​na​glob​al​.com for the published study.