Spiritual Age Poses Fresh Challenge for Church Evangelism

|PIC1|An increasing interest in the spiritual, particularly among young members of society, is one of the latest challenges in a difficult period for churches in Britain, revealed a new tour event organised by the Group for Evangelisation titled, “Equipping your Church in a Spiritual Age”.

The tour has come about as one of a number of the GfE’s new initiatives to revive Church growth and evangelism in the country, and is in response to the increasing interest among people in the UK in spiritual activities.

Steve Hollinghurst, Church Army’s Researcher in Evangelism to Post-Christian Culture said to Christian Today, “We have now been through an age where science and rationalism was driving out the whole understanding of the spiritual, and so the Church found itself engaging in the world that wanted scientific reasoning and arguments. To an extent the Church did adopt this way of speaking about Christianity, and so many of the mystical sides of the faith were driven out. I don’t mean to say that this is true about everything in the Church as there are still sources to draw from, but I think the church did drive it out to engage more, now only to find it all coming back in again.”

The tour explained that 70 per cent of the population say they pray and 76 per cent say they have had a religious experience compared with just 48 per cent in 1987. Meanwhile the worrying trend of church attendances continuing to decline has also been revealed alongside this. ‘Mind, Body and Spirit’ books have also replaced religious books in High Street book stores, with The Times recently stating that “Angels are in for 2005”.

|PIC2|Yvonne Richmond, the Chaplain for Evangelism at Coventry Cathedral addressed delegates in a talk entitled, ‘Observing a Spiritual Age’, where she told that “people outside the Church are increasing in spiritual interest”.

She continued: “This provides the Church with an enormous opportunity for Evangelism.” Ms. Richmond added that the Church has been in a state of doom and gloom as the UK has seen a rise in interest in holistic spirituality, natural remedies and ‘DIY spirituality’.

Richmond recommended the Church attempt “Experience Evangelism”, in which members of the Church engage with a deeper conversation with non-Christians into their own spiritual beliefs and experiences before bringing them to the specifics of the Christian faith.

Steve Hollinghurst, of the Church Army, also delivered a talk, “Mission in a Spiritual Age”, in which he said: “We are moving to a situation in our countries in which we are becoming more and more effectively foreign missionaries.”

He explained how the Church needed to overcome the “come to us” mode and move on from the salesman approach. He said to Christian Today, “I would advocate taking the Church to the people...As Christians, we tend to lay on our events and say come to this and say it will be good, but we have to actually get out and be with people.

|TOP|“We need to find ways to worship and use language that really engages with people. It is a learning process, unless it comes with real engagement to the people we preach to then it will only be our idea of what is effective, and it will not really connect.”

The one day conference, was organised by the Group for Evangelisation (GfE), a coordinating group of Churches Together in England, and is currently on tour across Britain.

A resource website to accompany the course, which is in the process of being set up fully, can be accessed by clicking here. A complementary workbook, “Equipping Your Church in a Spiritual Age” by Steve Hollinghurst, has also been published on the subject of the Church and spirituality. For more information on Church Army please click here.