The Archbishop of Canterbury's keenness to focus on evangelism has been highlighted this week as his Task Group met for the first time at Lambeth Palace on Monday.
In his first presidential address to Synod last July, Justin Welby labelled evangelism as one of his three main priorities in ministry. "We need new imagination in evangelism through prayer, and a fierce determination not to let evangelism be squeezed off our agendas," he urged.
"The Gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed the good news for our times. God is always good news; we are the ones who make ourselves irrelevant when we are not good news. And when we are good news, God's people see growing churches."
The Archbishop has set up an Evangelism Task Group made up of experts and practitioners in evangelism including the Reverend Annie Kirke, Pioneer of Missional Communities in the Diocese of London, the bishops of Hertford and Lancaster and Reverend Andy Croft of Soul Survivor. The group hope to encourage, empower and equip Christians across the UK to share the Gospel and be the good news within their communities.
Archbishop Welby's Advisor for Evangelism and Witness, the Reverend Canon Chris Russell, says the Task Group is not designed to be a "command and control centre telling churches what to do", but will consider good practices and share them with the wider Christian community. "It is about bringing all the influence we can to bear," he notes.
Church officials have praised the Archbishop's initiative, including the Archbishop of York John Sentamu who has declared that "making disciples is at the heart of our Christian faith and our Anglican tradition".
"Next to worship, witness is the primary and urgent task of the Church," he says. "Compared with evangelism everything else is like re-arranging furniture when the house is on fire."
Ahead of the meeting, Welby himself spoke of his desire to see the Church transformed through evangelism and his passion for people to come to know God. "It is the task of this group to see every church and every Christian embrace their calling to be those who proclaim the gospel in word and deed," he asserted.
"Nothing quite brings energy and renewal to a church than seeing people come to faith."
The meeting on Monday, the first of five to take place over the next 12 months, saw the group consider their role in influencing the wider Church in the short, medium and long term.
"I am excited about [the] vision to equip ordinary Christians to share their faith through words and action with those outside the Church," Mark Russell, Church Army's Chief Executive and member of the Task Group said.
"I hope this group can support the Archbishop on the third of his priorities – evangelism and witness – and help us bring about the cultural change in the church we need to see, and a real shift where the church becomes more outward looking, becomes more focused on serving the community.
"I hope this group can help put evangelism front and centre of the work of all areas of the Church of England."