There is much for us to shout about in terms of the difference the Church is making both here in the UK and abroad. I hope you’ll find The UK Church in Action incredibly helpful in this regard, as it highlights some of the amazing things that churches report actually doing. We may need to turn the volume up though, as this study also reveals that many outside of the Church remain relatively unaware of such an impact, either in their community or the world. In fact, perceptions about and even within the Church vary significantly. The insights from these pages will, I trust, serve as a valuable reference point for you, wherever you are engaged in mission.
At World Vision, our distinctive calling is to bring hope to vulnerable children as a sign of God’s unconditional love. They are living in some of the most difficult places in the world, experiencing poverty, conflict, violence and exploitation. We believe every child matters. We also believe we’re called, as part of the Church, to be God’s agents for change in this world. To achieve this, we partner with people of all faiths or no faith, providing help to all, regardless of faith. Right now, in thousands of communities, our local staff live and work alongside children and families to help change the world they live in for good.
Communities up and down the UK are full of Christ’s followers who also have a heart for those living in abject poverty and other heartbreaking circumstances at home and around the world. Church leaders are actively finding ways to meet the needs they see in their communities. The fact is that UK Christians are feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and providing much-needed companionship and friendship to the lonely. They are making a difference, locally and globally. Many see this mission as an integral part of Christian witness and discipleship.
But are their communities taking any notice? How are local churches and the UK Church as a whole perceived by non-churchgoers? How are these opinions influenced by the shifting make-up of religious belief in our society?
You will find some of the answers to these questions in the pages that follow. We commissioned this research to create a resource that will equip the Church to be more effective, transforming lives for the sake of the gospel. We are especially thankful for the ministry of Barna Global, whose work enables the Church to reflect on itself, as well as the context in which we find ourselves.
We’re also grateful to the key Christian leaders from across a range of denominations and church movements who have contributed to this report, and to those who have helped to shape the qualitative and quantitative research, ensuring it addresses the most pertinent and relevant questions and challenges the Church is facing today.
This report will help you as church leaders to understand how mission and the Church’s role in social justice, advocacy and charity are defined today. You’ll also learn how effective we’re perceived to be in these areas, according to those who lead, attend or do not attend church.
Our prayer is that you will be inspired and challenged by what you read, that the findings will prove useful to you in your ministry and that, together, we might be better able to shine God’s light in the darkest places of our communities, turning people toward him. We stand with you and would love to join further with you in that mission, journeying onward together.
Chief Executive of World Vision UK
Pilkington is chief executive of World Vision UK, overseeing strategy, direction and performance toward the organisation’s mission ‘to inspire the UK to take action that transforms the lives of the world’s poorest children’. Pilkington joined World Vision UK in 2013 as director of finance & risk and as company secretary, bringing together his skills, his Christian faith and his passion for making a difference in the lives of children. He lives near Cambridge with his wife, Gail, and two teenage children. He’s an active member of his local church and serves on the committee of his local youth initiative.
At a Glance
MANY IN THE UK ARE UNAWARE OF THE GOOD WORK OF THE CHURCH
Non-Christians are just as likely to not know about the UK Church’s impact in the world (40%) as they are to have a negative opinion of it (41%).
…OR OFFER MIXED REVIEWS.
Thought one in four (26%) still calls the Church ‘good for the community’, most of the general public’s assumptions about the Church are unflattering.
ABOUT ONE-THIRD OF UK ADULTS (31%) STRUGGLES TO IDENTIFY NEEDS THE CHURCH SHOULD MEET.
Services for the elderly and the homeless are areas in which the public is most open to the Church’s involvement.
ACTIVE CHRISTIANS COULD HELP ADDRESS THE CHURCH’S IMAGE PROBLEM.
This group is highly engaged with and optimistic about the Church and envisions it playing a broad role in the community.