Evangelism after Christendom
Click on these images to take you to the different areas.
Steve Hollinghurst heads up this part of our work. To read more about Steve, click on his name.
A conference for Christians ministering within the New Spiritualities: Friday 20 to Sunday 22 April 2012. Click on the title for more info or click here to download the flyer: ROMBS 2012
Why Evangelism After Christendom?
It is easy to think that evangelism is a straightforward telling of the good news about Jesus. And that whilst language and style of presentation may change, at its root evangelism remains the same as it always has been. Cultural changes over the past decades are exposing something rather different.
For the past 1,000 years in Britain, whilst at no time could one count on the church attendance of most of the adult population, children by and large had an upbringing in which experience of church and Christian faith would have been a part. During the 20th Century however all this changed. At the start of the century about 80% of those under 15 had at least monthly contact through Sunday school, church attendance or some form of Christian youth work. By the end of the century this had fallen to 12%. Research by John Finney - finding faith today, Bible Society 1992 - highlighted the significance of this for evangelism by showing that 76% of people who became Christians as adults had a church background. Furthermore the 24% who became Christians yet did not have church backgrounds rarely came to faith through evangelistic events but instead did so gradually over time due to friendships with Christians. Evangelism was largely only connecting with those with a church upbringing. Whilst 65% of those born in the 1920s and 30s had such an upbringing only 18% of those born in the 1980s and 90s do. In the light of this it is not surprising that church populations are ageing far faster than the population at large and many churches have almost no members under 40. If we carry on doing evangelism the same way this situation only looks likely to get worse. We need to find a new way to do evangelism as Christendom fades.
In his significant book Transforming Mission - Orbis 1991 - David Bosch draws the distinction between mission, which in Christendom happened abroad, and evangelism, which happened at home in Christian countries, as between mission to the not yet Christian and evangelism to the no longer Christian. The reality, as he points out, is that this division is breaking down as developing nations find they often have ex-Christians in their populations often alongside very high Christian affiliation, and the traditionally Christian nations of the west have increasing populations of those who have never been Christian. Britain after Christendom is becoming a foreign mission field. It is this realization that led the Mission-Shaped Church report to advocate fresh expressions of church planted within the emerging post-Christendom cultures of Britain, following the pattern of cross-cultural church planting developed on the foreign mission field. My own book mission-shaped evangelism - Canterbury Press 2010 - seeks to follow this through to create a model for a cross-cultural evangelism able to connect with the growing majority who have no church background after Christendom. The research, training and publications listed on these pages are geared to equipping the church for this task.