According to a new survey, 43 per cent of UK Christians know nothing about Jesus’ Great Commission and only half think it is important to share their faith. That’s a huge missed opportunity for the Church, says Phil Knox


Source: Diva Plavalaguna:

What have Harry Kane, a Welsh IT worker and Blockbuster video all got in common?

It turns out they each missed huge opportunities.

I am still reeling from last Saturday night’s England World Cup exit. I have spent this week praying: “Forgive us our captain, as we forgive referees who sin against us.” If that penalty had gone in, I reckon we could have won the tournament.

In 2013, IT worker James Howells disposed of his old computer hard drive at a waste disposal site in Newport, Wales. It contained cryptocurrency which, at the time, was not worth very much. But since then it has increased dramatically in value, and would now be worth over £340m.

In 2000, Blockbuster Video turned down the chance to purchase a small streaming service called Netflix for a mere £50m. That streaming service is now worth $141bn. Blockbuster was liquidated in 2013.

As the UK Church, we could be making similar errors. Here’s why:

1. Most people who become Christians in the UK credit a friend or family member as the most significant influence on the journey. Our most effective witnesses are not those on platforms, they are those living and telling the story of Jesus to their closest companions.

2. But only half of adult UK Christians agree it is important to share their faith with their friends and more than two in five active Christians know nothing about the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) accordingly to new research from Operation Mobilisation.

3. And the Church could be doing more to help. Evangelist J.John surveyed 1,000 churches, asking them whether they had ever provided intentional training to help their members share their story. Just 36 had invested in their people in this area. The workers are not only few, they could be far better equipped!

4. And yet the harvest is plentiful. The encouragement is that there is an openness to faith in our not-yet-Christian friends. Young adults are more likely to have been to church than older generations in the last 12 months. A friend of mine recently surveyed almost 1,000 non-Christian students. They found that a staggering 78 per cent would come to church if invited by a friend.

5. At the same time, the UK is full of churches, organisations and individuals doing extraordinary things and regularly seeing people become Christians. As I tour the UK, preaching and equipping people to share their faith, I am deeply encouraged by the stories I hear. Where the church is biblically faithful, missionary in heart and welcoming and innovative in practice, there is almost always growth.

The greatest opportunity for growth in the Church is to equip and inspire each other with the good news of Jesus to share with our friends.

Holistic mission is not either/or, but a both/and. Jesus’ ministry was full of works and words

There are, of course, other factors at play. We know that one of the main reasons Christians don’t share their faith is a lack of meaningful friendships with not-yet-Christians.

Society is also becoming increasingly fractured as we barricade ourselves into our echo chambers, rarely discussing contentious issues with people of differing worldviews.

Invitation and action

When it comes to discipleship, the cultural winds blow in the direction of individualism, which can lead to a self-centred, therapeutic view of the Christian life, rather than an outward facing, sacrificial one.

When it comes to thinking about mission, we may be more inclined to actions over words, acts of compassion instead (rather than alongside) winsome invitation.

Perhaps we could be doing a better job of helping people understand the Great Commission as well as the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:36-37). Holistic mission is not either/or, but a both/and. Jesus’ ministry was full of works and words.

Opportunity knocks

I’m not old enough to remember the words uttered in 1966: “They think it’s all over…” but the great news for us as the Church is that it is far from over. When any discouraging statistics hit our news feed, we remember that we follow a saviour who knows his way out of the grave.

78 per cent of non-Christian students would come to church if invited by a friend

I’m profoundly optimistic about the future of the church. I know countless gifted, humble, passionate, sacrificial church leaders who are doing an astonishingly good job. My excitement is fuelled by this.

But what would it look like if we increased that percentage of churches training their members to confidently share their faith? What could happen if all of us were just a little more intentional about praying for friends, reaching out in love and inviting expectantly? What if we made the most of the opportunities before us?

My conviction is that many more people would come to faith, the Church would grow and Jesus would be glorified. Let’s not miss this. May we be the generation that takes hold of the opportunity God gives us.