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New Research Released on the State of Faith in the UK

A coalition of Christian organizations released a new research on the state of faith and perceptions of Jesus in the UK. The Talking Jesus report is a two-part study, the first was published in 2015, that shows trends and changes in the church over a seven-year period. It was carried out by the UK Evangelical Alliance (EAUK), Alpha, HOPE Together, Luis Palau Association and Kingsgate Community Church, reports Keep the Faith. The research answers what people in general think of Jesus, how non-Christians view the Christians they know, and the evangelism landscape in the UK. It gives church leaders information on how Christians, the church, and Jesus are perceived by those who are non-Christians. Researchers hope that the findings of the report will help the church on how to evangelize effectively and reach more people.
This research tells us that there are people who want to find out more about Jesus Christ and encounter him for themselves. —Dr. Rachel Jordan-Wolf, Executive Director at HOPE Together
Some of the key findings of The Talking Jesus include:
  • 45% of the UK population believe in resurrection,
  • 20% of Britons believe that Jesus is God, and
  • 1-in-3 non-Christians want to know more about Jesus after talking with a believer.
“This research, that was first done in 2015, enables us to look over 7 years and see trends that will help us strategically with church growth,” explained Dr. Rachel Jordan-Wolf, Executive Director at HOPE Together. “It has significant things to say about the church’s investment in the younger generations, gives us real hope for the future of the Church, and encouragement that now is the moment for evangelism and mission. It reaffirms that post-pandemic, there has never been a better time, or more need, for us as Christians to invest in making Jesus known.” Perceptions It’s interesting to know that non-Christians find about the Christian faith by searching through Google (26%), followed by reading the Bible (22%) and going to a local church (22%), reports Evangelical Focus. Those aged 18-24, “are the ones most likely to say they would talk to a friend or a family member who they knew to be a Christian (21%).” Researchers asked non-Christian participants on their views of Christians. More than half, 62%, said they see Christians as friendly and 50% said believers are caring. These perceptions are similar to the 2015 report. But, they have negative perceptions of the church, with 26% saying the church is hypocritical and narrow-minded. “It presents good news both for the church across the UK and for us as individual Christian witnesses,” said Rachael Heffer, Head of Mission at the Evangelical Alliance. “It goes to reaffirm that our non-Christian friends think well of us and like us, that there is an ever-greater openness to hear our stories of faith.” Conversations about Jesus “Non-Christians under the age of 44 are more likely to have a conversation with the Christian that they know about their faith in Jesus Christ, than those aged 45 or above,” said the researchers. Non-Christians revealed that when they had conversations about faith, 33% were asked what they believed and 30% said the person shared about their personal faith. They also remembered that during their conversation, 19% were invited to a church service and 15% were offered to another discussion about faith. The majority of practicing Christians, 77%, believe that it is every Christian’s responsibility to share faith and they feel confident talking about their faith to non-Christians. However, 40% of practicing Christians say they don’t speak about their faith because they feel they won’t be able to answer difficult questions about their belief. Coming to faith According to The Talking Jesus Report 2022, the top factors that help believers come to faith are growing in a Christian family (34%), reading the Bible (24%), and attending at a local church or Sunday school (19%). Joining a youth club (8%) and Christian printed media (7%) are not much of an influence. “When we look at the age at which practicing Christians came to faith, it is at first obvious that the younger years are the most significant,” said the report. Dr. Jordan-Wolf concluded that, “This research tells us that there are people who want to find out more about Jesus Christ and encounter him for themselves. Now is a great moment for personal evangelism and invitation.” She added, “We can see that there is good news to share with the church to give us confidence and a challenge to keep going and not lose heart at this time of opportunity.”

Black and Asian Christians Hold Solidarity Walk in NY

Scores of Christians, religious leaders, activists and community members came together in Chinatown, New York on May 14 and joined “Walk of Faith,” a march of support to Asian communities amid heightened anti-Asian violence. The Black Christian leaders in Brooklyn organized the solidarity walk for peace and unity to support the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. About 22 organizations joined the event and participants stopped by key landmarks along Chinatown to reflect and pray. Black and Asian Christians banded together following several high-profile attacks on Asian New Yorkers.
The Asian American community is very vulnerable. —Pastor Edward-Richard Hinds
New York University student Eden Min led the prayer and was overtaken with emotions while speaking about “the death of our brothers and sisters in the city,” reports Gothamist.com. Rev. Bernadette Lewis of the Zion House of Prayer in Brooklyn comforted Min during her speech. In an interview, Lewis pointed out that, “we may look differently, our skin may differ, our looks may differ, but we all hurt.” Early this year, Michelle Alyssa Go, 40, was killed after being pushed in front of an oncoming train at the Times Square subway station. GuiYing Ma, 61, was attacked with a rock outside her home in Queens, and Christina Yuna Lee, 35, was stabbed to death in her apartment. Several hate crimes involved Black suspects, leading to speculations of tensions between the two communities. Irresponsible comments from personalities and racist language on mainstream and social media didn’t quell these claims. The “Walk of Faith” countered this narrative and showed solidarity between Asian Americans and Black people. NYPD data revealed that hate crimes against Asian New Yorkers spiked by 361% in 2021. Advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate confirmed the upward trend, stating that a total of 10,905 hate incidents were reported between March 19, 2020, and the end of December 2021, reports Nikkei Asia. Chinese Americans were more likely to be targeted with nearly 43% of incidents reported. The pandemic worsened anti-Asian American hate crimes. With the coronavirus originating from China, some people turned their frustrations to attacking Asian Americans. Rev. Lewis said many are dealing with mental health issues caused by the pandemic. “So they’re lashing out and attacking the nearest person for no reason whatsoever. So we now need to have resources available for them.” A Pew research found that a majority of Asian Americans, about 63% or six-in-ten adults, say violence against them is increasing. Amid reports of racially motivated attacks, a third of Asian Americans changed their daily routines because of these concerns. “The Asian American community is very vulnerable,” said Pastor Edward-Richard Hinds, who is with the 67th Precinct Clergy Council, one of the partner organizations for the event. “And so this helps to spread this message of love and solidarity, and that we are a part of the solution as well. And we will stand with them.”

Kel Mitchell’s Journey From Actor to Pastor

Former Nickelodeon star Kel Mitchell shares his journey from being one of the most successful actors in Hollywood to becoming a youth pastor in California. Mitchell was a household name in the 90s with TV comedies “All That” and “Kenan & Kel.” Despite the fame, he found a different calling away from the limelight. In an interview with CBN News, he opened up about how his struggles in his personal life inspired him to become a pastor. The comedian came from a religious family, with his grandfather a pastor, but he said that knowing God is different from having a relationship with Him. Like all of us, he dealt with a lot of problems in his personal and professional life. During every storm, he felt God’s presence and realized he wanted God to be the head of his life.
We are ambassadors of Christ. We are his billboards. We influence people to come to Christ, come to God. —Kel Mitchell
“In my times of going through depression, suicidal thoughts, all these different things, and working on shows at the same time, God was there,” he said in an interview with TODAY. Circumstances removed all of the things in his life—people, activities, that was not of God’s. Like Jonah, Mitchell dismissed God’s calling. Despite his rejections, fate brought him in situations that eventually led him to say yes to God. From short talks to the youth to nonreligious community dance competitions, he realized that God was leading him to ministry. In 2019, he became a licensed pastor and now serves in the Spirit Food Christian Center in Winnetka, California. He may have answered God’s calling, but he still was active in Hollywood and that prompted him to pray, “Lord, how am I going to do this while I’m also still a celebrity?” His wife told him to be both an actor and a pastor. “My wife said, ‘Hey, you be the first, and you do it,’ and that’s what I did,” he said. “It’s not an easy task; I’ve been doing it for years.” Mitchell is now promoting his debut book, Blessed Mode, to inspire others and encourage them, reports Christian Post. He explained that he wrote the devotional “because a lot of people are going through anxiety, depression, emotional walls from their past [and they’re] worried about the future, and I wanted them to know that if you connect with God, there’s always a blessed breakthrough in every emotional wall.” The actor has been in the show business for decades and now he’s impacting several generations of audiences. “We are ambassadors of Christ. We are his billboards. We are influencers. We influence people to come to Christ, come to God.” In addition to promoting his book, he partnered with World Vision for a fund-raising event to help children get clean water. Mitchell revealed that children and young women in some countries walk 6 kilometers just to get clean water. World Vision organized Global 6K for Water, a global movement where communities will walk or run in different parts of the world for 6 kilometers to bring clean water to those in need. Those interested could register online for $50 and the money raised will help build wells for kids.

After 800 years, Church of England Apologizes for Anti-Jewish Laws

A church service in London on May 8, 2022 marked the 800 years of the Synod of Oxford. The synod was the passing of anti-Jewish laws that eventually led to the expulsions of Jews from the UK. Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and representatives of Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby attended the special service held at Christ Church in Oxford. The Church of England apologized for its “shameful actions” for the Synod of Oxford, reports The Times of Israel.
Let us pray it inspires Christians today to reject contemporary forms of anti-Judaism and antisemitism and to appreciate and receive the gift of our Jewish neighbors. —Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
Passed in 1222, the synod banned social interactions between Jews and Christians, forced Jews to wear identifying badges, and imposed specific tithe on Jews. Jews were also outlawed to work in certain professions and build new synagogues. More anti-Jews laws followed, including prohibitions on land ownership and passing on inheritance to children. The laws became more draconian that 3,000 Jews were expelled from England in 1290. King Edward’s edict forbade them to return for more than 360 years. Archbishop Welby tweeted: “Today’s service is an opportunity to remember, repent and rebuild. Let us pray it inspires Christians today to reject contemporary forms of anti-Judaism and antisemitism and to appreciate and receive the gift of our Jewish neighbors.” The Diocese of Oxford issued a statement saying, “Our intention is for this commemoration to be a strong signal of such rich potential, reflected in the depth of interfaith encounter and service that increasingly exists in Oxford and across our society.” The Church of England (C of E) was not created until the 1530s, but Jonathan Chaffey, archdeacon of Oxford, said it’s now time for Christians to repent their “shameful actions” and to “reframe positively” relations with the Jewish community. The church has made efforts to renew ties and improve relationships with British Jews in the past years. In 2019, the C of E issued a document in the hopes of promoting Christian-Jewish ties. The document, God’s Unfailing Word, urges Christians to atone for its participation in antisemitism acts in the past, reports The Guardian. It revealed that centuries of stereotyping and persecution of Jews became a “fertile seed-bed for murderous antisemitism.” “Christians have been guilty of promoting and fostering negative stereotypes of Jewish people that have contributed to grave suffering and injustice. They therefore have a duty to be alert to the continuation of such stereotyping and to resist it,” according to the document. It also acknowledged that two C of E cathedrals, Norwich and Lincoln, were associated with the spread of the “blood libel” in the late Middle Ages. Tony Kushner, professor of Jewish/non-Jewish relations at Southampton University, said, the C of E’s apology for the synod is the “hardest step.” He added, “Accepting that blood libels, massacres and expulsions were wrong is straightforward…accepting that Jews have a validity of religion is more challenging.” Kushner explained that the C of E didn’t exist during the synod, yet it still apologized for something that it was not responsible for. “But if it regards itself as the leading voice of Christianity in Britain today, then the apology has some merit in recognizing injustices that were done.”

Less Than Half of Christians See Missions as Mandate from Christ —Barna

Research found that pastors and laypeople have different views when it comes to missionary work. Barna, together with Mission India, published its findings on the perceptions and behavior of Christians in one of Christ’s greatest commands. The Great Disconnect: Reclaiming the Heart of the Greatest Commission in Your Church revealed that 85 percent of pastors, but 46 percent of Christians believe “missions is a mandate for all Christians.” Barna said the 39-point gap is a profound difference. “Pastors could lean in to better understand and shape how congregants interpret missions. Does their participation mean donating money, praying, educating, evangelizing, relocating or something else?” Matthew 28:18–20, or commonly referred to as “the Great Commission” describes Jesus’ instructions to His disciples.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This passage is the foundation of evangelism and mission works. Among Christians who know the Great Commission, 61% of them view missions as a mandate. It’s interesting to note that pastors and Christians don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to missions. Pastors and Christians also have differing views on what’s most important in mission works. Data showed that 86% of pastors say it’s more important for missions to train local leaders to spread the Gospel as opposed to missions to be short-term at 6%. Meanwhile, only 46% of Christians believe that equipping indigenous leaders is more important, and 18% for short-term missions. Christians see addressing the needs of communities to be more important (40%) while pastors, not so much at 17%. Pastors prefer building relationships with communities at 50%, for Christians only 33%. In addition, the study found that pastors prioritize spreading the gospel over promoting justice (77% vs. 15%). To Christians, both aspects are nearly equal in mission works (43% vs. 37). Barna noted that Christians are more likely than pastors to be neutral on several points:
  • 35% of Christians, but 9% of pastors, are neutral on which is more important between equipping indigenous leaders and short-term missions;
  • 24% of Christians, but 17% of pastors, on transforming the health of communities in need and transforming communities in need of Christianity; and
  • 20% of Christians, but 8% of pastors, on spreading the Gospel and promoting justice.
“Some disconnects exist, but many opportunities are also present—for the Christian, the pastor and the Church,” said Barna. In conclusion, church leaders and members differ in mission values. Barna said Christians’ neutrality on different points suggests that they lack the information and guidance needed on the subject.

Chinese Open Theological Seminary in Italy

The first Chinese theological seminary was opened in Italy on April 2022. A group of 55 Chinese churches founded the Italian Chinese Theological Seminary in Rome, reports Evangelical Focus. About 300 guests attended the inauguration of the seminary, with representatives of Chinese churches in Italy and other parts of Europe. The new institution is located within the Tor Vergata University. The seminary aims to train new generations of pastors for the Chinese churches in Italy and Europe. It hopes that graduates will empower the evangelical work in the country. The ceremony was filled with songs, prayers and inspiring messages. Pastor Lin Ri Feng pointed out the importance of the formation of the whole person and it must explain the Word of God according to the truth. He said the seminary will train its students to focus missions on reaching all peoples. Leonardo De Chirico of the Italian Evangelical Alliance welcomed the new institution that is both Italian and Chinese. He is elated that efforts are being made to integrate the Gospel with local evangelical churches. Since Italy is a foreign country, he urged the Chinese Christian leaders to “understand Italy, its cultural and religious challenges.” The Chinese Christian Church is part of the group that founded the seminary. It has already been offering theological courses and four of its graduates are now serving local Chinese churches, reports Christian Network Europe. With the official opening of the Italian Chinese Theological Seminary, interested students from different countries in Europe can receive theological training in Rome.

US Congress Calls for the Protection of Jerusalem’s Christians

A bipartisan group of congresspeople sent a letter to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on April 29 to raise concerns over the rise in attacks against Christians in Jerusalem. The letter called on Blinken to ensure the safety not only of Christians, but Jews and Muslims as well. They asked the secretary to work with his Israeli counterparts to protect the rights of these religious communities to live and express their faith freely, reports The Jerusalem Post. Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) led the letter which was co-signed by representatives James P. McGovern (MA-02), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), French Hill (AR-02), Andy Harris (MD-01), Nicole Malliotakis (NY-11) and Jackie Speier (CA-14).
We ask the State Department to work with the Israeli government to uphold its stated commitment to the freedom of religion and worship for all religions.
Leaders of Christian churches in Jerusalem have warned about the mounting tension between religious minorities and radical groups in the city. The Israeli government maintained that they are committed to protecting the rights of all religious groups in the country, but the increase in attacks against communities tells another story. In December 2021, heads of local churches in Jerusalem issued a statement accusing radical groups of targeting Christian communities. They claimed there have been countless incidents of verbal and physical assaults against priests and church leaders, desecration of holy sites and intimidation of local Christians. While they acknowledge the government’s commitment in safeguarding Christians, they urge the government to face the challenges brought by the unprovoked attacks. They ask for a dialogue on the creation of a special Christian cultural and heritage zone to ensure the preservation and protection of religious sites in Old City Jerusalem. The letter to Blinken mentioned a few of the atrocities endured by Christians in Jerusalem. In December 2020, the Church of All Nations on the Mount of Olives was set on fire. After a month, the Monastery of the Romanian Church was vandalized. Even church leaders were not spared from the attacks. “We ask the State Department to work with the Israeli government to uphold its stated commitment to the freedom of religion and worship for all religions and to hold accountable the radical groups who are engaging in sustained attacks against Christian clergy and destruction of church properties.” The congresspeople cautioned that a decline in the Christian presence in Jerusalem would endanger humanitarian efforts in Israel. They warned that if the radical groups were successful in driving out the Christian community, the marginalized population would also be affected. Currently, there are several ministry programs that help people regardless of faith in Israel, Palestinian territories and Jordan. The medical, educational and humanitarian efforts serving disadvantaged groups would stop its operation should Christians be forced to leave. Also, Christian tourism to the Holy Land generates $3 billion, a hefty contribution to Israel’s economy. They quoted His Beatitude Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, who said, “By working to exclude one community, the Christians, these radicals pose an existential threat not only to the Christian family, but to Jerusalem itself, a point upheld by so many of our Jewish cohabitants of the Holy Land.” The letter welcomes the State Department’s efforts in advancing international religious freedom. The congresspeople hopes Blinken will work with Israel to continue the protection of Christians, Muslims and Jews.

Christian hip-hop is a ‘bridge’ between the church and the world, Lecrae says

The music by Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae and his label Reach Records may not yet be in your church hymnal, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t heard it — especially if you have youngsters in the house. Reach Records’ music was featured in the 2021 Netflix hit family movie Blue Miracle, and then in the 2022 science fiction series Raising Dion (Season 2). It also was included in the NBA-centric video game 2K20, which is one of the most popular titles for PlayStation and Xbox platforms.
Some songs will have unambiguous faith content. Others won’t. But all of them will “paint a better picture of who God is.
Lecrae, who has seven Grammy nominations and two wins to his name, has been the driving force behind Reach’s success, guiding the label he co-founded to mainstream success while ensuring it stays true to its Christian mission. Reach’s music is for hip-hop fans who want their music filled with hope and inspiration — who long for it to be free from the coarse content found in so much mainstream hip-hop. Reach’s content, Lecrae told me, is a “bridge” between the church and the culture. “There’s some artists who make music just for the church. And that’s great. There’s some artists who make music from the church to the world. And that’s great,” he said. “[But] we make music for the church and the world. So there’s something for everybody when they listen.”
If we double down and continue to support each other then it’ll grow.
With eight artists, Reach’s release schedule stays busy. In the past year alone, the label has put out new music by Andy Mineo (Never Land II), Hulvey (Coma and Christopher) and 1K Phew (No Church in a While). Some songs will have unambiguous faith content. Others won’t. But all of them will “paint a better picture of who God is,” Lecrae said. Lecrae, 42, says he spent the first part of his career focused on his own success. Now, though, he wants to focus more on raising up the next generation of Christian hip-hip. “I want to encourage these young Christian hip-hop artists to be okay with digging deeper [in Scripture],” he said. For Christian hip-hip to continue growing, Lecrae said, it needs to be embraced more by the Christian community. “If we double down and continue to support each other then it’ll grow,” Lecrae said. “… The Christian music industry got behind Christian hip-hop for a season and it propelled it. We have to lock that down and support ourselves first — support one another as a Christian community before the outside world can acknowledge what we have to offer.” Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and entertainment for more than 15 years. He is the husband to Julie and the father of four young children.

Christian Worship on Flight Viral Video Drew Mixed Reactions

A video of a group of Christians singing in the middle of a flight went viral and got mixed reactions from the public. The video showed a musician playing an acoustic guitar in the aisle of an Easyjet flight bound to Germany, reports The New Zealand Herald. He was joined by other singers and sang “How Great is our God.” Within 48 hours, the TikTok clip got more than 30 million views. The uploader, Jack Jensz Jr. captioned the post: “We are taking this flight over for Jesus!” Some of the passengers of the flight joined the group while others watched or took photos and videos of the performance. Many praised the flashmob on social media. “So bold! Blessings!!” said one user on Instagram and another said, “Dream team!” Many loved the video when posted on Facebook, with comments such as “Praise God!” “Love this.” and “Love you bro! This is fire.” With the video going viral, expect that not everybody appreciated the impromptu performance. One viewer said the choir was disruptive to passengers who just wanted to take the time off before arriving at their destination. “I don’t care what someone’s faith is. Just don’t be obnoxious about it.” Another user said it was unacceptable and the group should have respected everyone on the plane. User @cmclymer tweeted, “As a Christian, I despise this. It’s inappropriate, selfish, and deeply insulting to other communities. This is the kind of arrogant behavior that repulses people away from the church while enabling those who shamelessly discriminate against religious minorities.” Politicians even joined the narrative. Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota reacted on Twitter: “I think my family and I should have a prayer session next time I am on a plane. How do you think it will end?” Omar, who is Muslim, called out a double standard since many wouldn’t be that tolerant of Muslims worshipping on a plane. One user claimed Muslims would be on a no-fly list should they do something similar. The congresswoman’s tweet was criticized, with some accusing Omar of hating Christianity. Cicely Davis, a candidate running against Omar, responded: “Qatar — a country you’re very familiar with — plays Islamic prayers on the intercom before takeoff on their planes. The issue is you hate Christians & Jews & lots of Muslims.”   The viral video brought up issues of anti-Semitism and discrimination. The videomaker, Jensz Jr., responded to the backlash and issued a statement on Instagram. He revealed that he and his team came from helping Ukrainian refugees. They have been at the Ukrainian border in Poland providing food, humanitarian aid, and prayers. He said there were many Ukrainians on the same flight and the team just wanted to show their thanksgiving and praise to God for using them in helping those affected by the conflict. “We were filled with thanksgiving of what God did in our time there. Our heart was to bring joy and hope as there is so much pain with what’s going on in this world.” The Christian influencer said they asked permission from the flight hosts and the pilot. “If they said no, we would have honored that. They even made an announcement to all passengers letting them know who we are and what we did in Ukraine and introduced us and allowed us to get the guitar out! People then clapped and welcomed us.” Jensz said the group sang for three to four minutes. He claimed that everyone onboard welcomed the performance. The statement ended with, “We are so thankful for the full permission we received to bring joy to this flight with a song!”