Nearly half of UK adults believe in the resurrection - study

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A major new study has found widespread belief in Jesus and the resurrection, and an openness to conversations about the Christian faith.

The study was carried out by Alpha, the Evangelical Alliance, HOPE Together, the Luis Palau Association and Kingsgate Community Church as part of Talking Jesus 2022.

Of the 3,115 UK adults surveyed, nearly half (48%) described themselves as Christian. This was highest in the 65+ age bracket (63%), falling to 29% among 18 to 24 year olds.

Of those who identified as Christian, 42% said they were non-practising, while 6% were practising.

The number of non-practising Christians has fallen by 10% since 2015, the last time the study was carried out, while the percentage of practising Christians has remained stable.

"A lot of it is to do with cultural identification," said Dr Rachel Jordan-Wolf, of HOPE Together, who presented the findings on Thursday.

"More people in the older age brackets identify as Christian and as they leave or die, that's why we see that change."

Asked how they would describe Jesus, a fifth of all respondents said he was "God in human form who lived among people in the 1st century". A third said he was a prophet or spiritual leader but "not God", while a quarter said he was "a normal human being".

Nearly half of those surveyed said they believed in the resurrection (45%), with 16% saying they believed it happened exactly as described in the Bible, and 29% saying that some aspects of the biblical account "should not be taken literally".

Dr Jordan-Wolf said the findings were a "great opportunity for the Church".

"It's such good news that in an age where science and other things should have disproved that, so many people still say they believe in the resurrection," she said.

Asking practising Christians how they came to faith, the most common answer was "growing up in a Christian family" (34%), followed by reading the Bible (24%) and attending Sunday school or a physical church service other than a wedding or funeral (19% each).

Others said it was after a spiritual experience (16%) or a conversation with a Christian they knew well (15%).

Over three-quarters (76%) had made the decision to become a Christian by the age of 18. Of these, a third said they had been Christian "from birth".

"That really mirrors the fact of the family influence and it should put a really big emphasis on what we do in our children's, young people and family work," said Dr Jordan-Wolf.

"What we do in those early years and in our youth groups is so important for churches. This is where a lot of people are making those decisions to come to the faith."

The study also delved into perspectives that could help shape church evangelism and outreach.

Asking non-Christians where they would go to find out about the Christian faith, the most popular answer was Google (26%), followed by going to a local church and reading the Bible at 22% each.

"Going to a normal church service is actually a really evangelistic opportunity. At your normal church services, you should be expecting people to be there who aren't yet Christian," said Dr Jordan-Wolf.

She added, "The Word of God is powerful - powerful for our lives and powerful for the lives of people who aren't Christians, and we need to get that into their hands in a form that they can understand and engage with."

Of the 53% of non-Christians who said they knew a practising Christian, around a third said this was a family member (31%) or friend (35%). Asked how they would describe the Christian they know, the most common answers were "friendly" (62%) and caring (50%).

"Actually so much of the relational work for evangelism happens with the people who are really close to us," said Dr Jordan-Wolf.

The study also found that Christians are confident about sharing their faith, with over three quarters of practising Christians (77%) saying they felt comfortable talking to non-Christians about Jesus Christ.

Three quarters agreed that it was "every Christian's responsibility to talk to non-Christians about Jesus", and most (81%) said that their church was offering courses, events and services that would be suitable for a non-Christian to attend.

The findings revealed opportunities for further engagement, with nearly half of non-Christians (44%) saying that the Christian they knew had never had a conversation with them about their faith.

This was despite most of those who did have a faith conversation with a Christian saying they were "comfortable" with it (75%).

The study also revealed the impact of these conversations, with over a third of non-Christians (35%) saying they felt more positive towards Jesus afterwards, while a third wanted to know more about Jesus, and over a third (36%) were "open to an experience or encounter with Jesus Christ".

Asked what they remembered about the conversation, a third said it was being asked what they believe, while a similar proportion (30%) said the Christian had shared a personal story about their faith.

"This research, that was first done in 2015, enables us to look over seven years and see trends that will help us strategically with church growth," said Dr Jordan-Wolf.

"It has significant things to say about the church's investment in the younger generations, gives us real hope for the future of the Church, and encouragement that now is the moment for evangelism and mission.

"It reaffirms that, post-pandemic, there has never been a better time, or more need, for us as Christians to invest in making Jesus known."

Rachael Heffer, Head of Mission at the Evangelical Alliance, said the study "presents good news both for the Church across the UK and for us as individual Christian witnesses".

"It goes to reaffirm that our non-Christian friends think well of us and like us, that there is an ever-greater openness to hear our stories of faith," she said.