As we reflect on the events of the past twelve months, ‘hopeful’ may not be the first word we’d choose to describe how we’re feeling this New Year. But God is on the move, says evangelist Martin Erwin. Here’s why the good news of the gospel can still bring hope amid the chaos



So many changes have taken place in our world in an incredibly short span of time.

Covid-19 reshaped the social landscape, changing work, education, mental health and so much more. The recent cost-of-living crisis, sparked largely by the war in Ukraine, has added increasingly financial pressures for many, and we continue to watch the unfolding situation in Israel and Gaza with bated breath. In the midst of all that, the UK lost a Queen who wore her faith on her sleeve and set a tone of service for many generations.

Through all this, the Church in our nation has shrunk in size, with many denominations wrestling with societal changes and seeming uncertain of which way to turn.

So, are there any reasons for Christians to be hopeful as we face this new, emerging and ever-changing world?

I believe that there are. Here’s my five reasons to be hopeful as we enter 2024:

1. The Gospel is still the power of God to save those who believe (Romans 1:16)

The apostle Paul nailed his colours to the mast time and again. His confidence was not in himself or his methods, which changed according to circumstance and opportunity. Instead, his confidence was in the gospel of Jesus.

Where once the story was of decline and closure, people are finding Jesus and new congregations are being born

Almost every day, I hear stories of lives being transformed by the good news of Jesus. Recently, a young couple from Devon shared how they have both seen personal friends give their lives to Christ after inviting them along to Alpha courses.

There are great stories around and among us of God at work but, too often, we are overwhelmed by the negativity of our culture with its background soundtrack of despair. Let’s discover those stories of God at work, sharing them openly, and be encouraged by the power of the gospel.

2. Crises create opportunities

It is often said, with some justification, that people are more open to the gospel at times of significant life change, challenge or loss. Times of bereavement, house moves, illness, major changes in occupation or relationships can lead to people to search for truth, hope, meaning and purpose. The mega-crises of recent years has led to an upturn in online searches for spiritual, religious and faith answers. Your friends and mine are the people asking those questions.

Two online surveys during 2020 showed that around 25 per cent of the UK population were seeking community and purpose through online Christian services. While the acute circumstances of 2020 are behind us, that yearning should encourage us. The desire for hope and purpose, for answers to the spiritual hunger in our hearts, is close to the surface. Let’s be open and ready to share the good news with our friends.

3. Brokenness drives us to our knees 

Let’s not pretend that everything is OK with the Church in these islands. We know that we are facing an existential crisis. Statisticians tell us that, at the current rate of decline, the established Church may disappear by around 2050. The state of our nation and decline of the Church should drive us to our knees. Do we really want to see people turning again to God, or are we content to see the slide into oblivion and lostness continue?

One of my great biblical heroes is Nehemiah. In Nehemiah 1, he receives bad news of a crisis in Jerusalem. I don’t know if the news of his homeland is actually new - after all, the walls in Jerusalem had been broken for decades - but he hears it with a spiritual sensitivity that causes him to fall to his knees and cry out to God on behalf of his people.

Sometimes things have to be really bad for us to notice. They are bad now. People are lost and losing hope. Families are beyond breaking point, and the answers being offered by society often only serve to make things worse.

The old hymn ‘Facing a task unfinished,’ written by Frank Houghton, begins with this couplet: “Facing a task unfinished / That drives us to our knees”.

This gives me hope. As we too seem overwhelmed by the loss and despair around us, may it drive us in prayer to our loving heavenly Father, who hears and answers us.

4. Fresh shoots in stony ground

This was the title of a book about the challenges of church planting, edited by Stephen McQuoid and Neil Summerton (Partnership Publications) in 2012. Then, there were just a few stories of church plants. Many of them were struggling and some have not survived. However today, an army of people are rising who are committed to planting living communities of Jesus followers in towns, villages and housing estates up and down the land.

Almost every day, I hear stories of lives being transformed by the good news of Jesus

Many of these are replants. These are places where the doors had closed in a chapel or church building, after predecessor congregations declined and died. But today, new life has sprung up in these places. From Ross-on-Wye to Cardiff, in Stourbridge and Wolverhampton, Essex and London, God is on the move. Where once the story was of decline and closure, people are finding Jesus and new congregations are being born. This is a story of hope triumphing over the grave!

5. Taking evangelism seriously

Our new book Making Jesus Known Today and Tomorrow (Counties) was published because we sensed that not only is a call back to mission and the gospel necessary in our land, but there is an openness and willingness to engage in mission once again. Mission, often defined by social outreach programmes such as food banks, are good and necessary. Programmes like parent and toddler groups or Messy Church-style events have tilled the soil, but believers are desperate to see breakthrough. We don’t simply want to feed or clothe our friends and neighbours – we want to lead them to Jesus!

The gift of the evangelist, as listed in Ephesians 4, is one of those given to equip God’s people for works of service. This gift, perhaps so long dormant or ignored, is now being desired and sought after. “Help us, teach us, train us,” many are asking.

I believe that we may once again see an outpouring of salvation in our nation. There are signs of hope, but God calls us to partner with him in this his passion, that none may perish.