The UK Church in Action
When people ask me what it’s like to work at Barna, I can’t help gushing about how amazing it is to see – at a 30,000-foot level – the ways in which God is moving all across the world and the great work that churches, ministries and non-profits are doing in his name. So I was excited when World Vision asked us to research exactly this amongst Christian audiences and the general population of the UK. Our latest study, The UK Church in Action, gives us a rich picture of Christian mission in the context of post-Christian UK society.
Lest you think this research is only relevant to our British readers, let me assure you that the findings are remarkably aligned with trends and dynamics Barna has observed in the U.S. Having lived in London about a decade ago, I believe American churches have much to learn from our brothers and sisters across the pond about what it is like to be committed to God amidst a culture that largely considers church irrelevant. Our nation is swiftly changing in the same way, and we would be wise to look to, and learn from, those who have navigated a post-Christian context for many years.
Our study set out to understand the current state of mission in the UK – whether the emphasis is more on social justice or evangelism. But what we found took our conclusions in a different direction. It turns out that churches are doing all kinds of good for society and local communities, and yet the public is hardly aware of it nor believes the church should be doing this work.
Churches in the UK are actively involved in all kinds of services and assistance to their community and those in need – the elderly, homeless, youth and many more – yet most of the public does not see a role for churches in providing such help. However, there were a few issues for which the proportion of UK adults who did see a role for the church outweighed reported church involvement: refugees, child rights, environmental issues, racial reconciliation and gender inequality. As in the U.S., these are “hot button” issues in the UK – ones that many shy away from for fear of getting sucked into political mire.
Yet how encouraging that Christians may be welcomed into these conversations! What an incredible opportunity the Church has to bring real help and hope to the vulnerable. I was reminded of legendary Christians like William Wilberforce and George Whitefield, who became change agents in their time by boldly taking on tough issues and pursuing the renewal of their society, motivated their faith.
I encourage you to look through the findings of this study and consider what role you (or your church or a non-profit you serve) might have in bringing renewal in your own community, or around the world. To all of you who are faithfully serving and working for God’s kingdom, whether professionally or as a volunteer, or even just praying for these efforts, thank you!
Senior Vice President of Research
PS: May I ask you a favor? If you enjoy reading about Barna’s research, would you invite someone you know who might also benefit from these insights to sign up for our Barna Updates? We have had a very busy spring, with a host of new studies published this year, and our great desire is that anyone working for God’s kingdom, or who just wants to see how God is moving, would be able to benefit from these findings. I suspect you might know one or two people who would appreciate learning more. Thank you for sharing!