Opinion: UK has ‘little or no appetite’ for evangelism

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Bishop Leslie Hunter of Sheffield (and a friend) in the 1940s was shocked by low church attendances in the cities.

He wrote: “Every member of the church must have evangelism burnt into his mind.

“The church is set in the world to redeem it. Never a pious clique, keeping itself to itself but be a serving, saving apostolic society.

“The church itself is not the Gospel. The task of re-evangelisation is beyond the clergy alone.”

Churches are used for various big occasions (civic and state occasions and memorial services etc). The church I was inducted to in 1971 had 300 for my induction – and 26 the Sunday after. When I left in 1986, there were 55. Now 20. In the UK, there is little or no appetite for evangelism.

The system of one full-time priest taking three or four churches has taken away the intimacy of a priest with a congregation he can really know. The system of volunteer priests perpetuates the myth that all is well.

In the Middle Ages, they were called Mass Priests and that is the purpose of their ordination. Sundays and a bit more. The sacrifice and energy of full-timers has all but gone. Who wants full-time ministry? I make no criticism on a personal level.

But a two-day a week volunteer priest is not a curate.

HQ might call them curates to give the impression they are full-time but other worshippers know different.

Most people accord the church a high place in their affections while having little to do with the faith itself.

Massive immigration has altered the UK landscape with people from other religions far outstripping Christian birth rates.

And there is no enthusiasm to look beyond the church builings we all love.

My grandchildren will be adults in the changed landscape and I wish them well.

The remainder of our ministry will proclaim the truth and primacy of Jesus Christ and tell those who wish to listen of the vital need of the world for his Gospel.

The blood-soaked obliteration of His followers in many parts of the world shows the indifference of civilized societies who watch the destruction of of Iraq’s and Middle Eastern and Africa’s Christianity with only the martyrs’ blood to shame them.

In Luke’s Gospel ch.16;13 we get good advice. Jesus has told the story of the estate manager who was corrupt. Jesus says no-one can serve two masters. Today, of course, we can work for two empoyers. If you were a slave, you belonged lock, stock and barrel to your master.

Serving God is not a part-time job and does not consist of popping into your church now and then. All our time and energy are to be used in His service.

We belong to God entirely. Or not at all. Bishop Leslie was an incumbent in a tough part of Liverpool’s outer reaches (Bootle). We used to say the fleas wore clogs in that parish and he lamented the fact that he had not visited every home in the long road where he lived before he moved on.