Rachael Heffer from the Evangelical Alliance shares five encouraging signs that God is opening hearts to the gospel in the UK

Standing on the side of a freezing cold football pitch, watching one of my two teenage sons giving their all in a Cup match against the opposition, I became all too aware of the great need that we all have for radical hope! The score is 1-1. The exhausted players know very soon the whistle will blow. Then, thirty seconds from the end, the opposing team score. I recognise that for my dejected fifteen-year-old, Jacob, the only thing that will pull him through his bitter disappointment is the rallying of the team and the fact that next Saturday there is always hope. They must not allow setbacks to dampen their fervour.

Radical hope, based on God’s faithfulness through the ages, is essential in challenging times. Against the backdrop of our challenging cultural landscape and an increasingly divided Church, we too, as Christian believers, need to discern signs of hope and encourage each other around where we see God powerfully at work today. In my work at the Evangelical Alliance, I have the privilege of listening to many Church leaders from across the UK. I hear story after story of people’s openness to the gospel. About people, young and old, searching for truth, encountering Jesus and having their lives transformed by His spirit.

Allow me to share five enouraging signs that I believe show God is at work across our nation today.

1. Openness to the gospel

One of the headline findings from our recent Talking Jesus research told us that the question that most people across the UK are asking at the current time is ‘Will everything be ok?’ Against a backdrop of the ‘perma-crisis’ of the last few years – facing a pandemic, the landscape of anxiety, threat of war, cost of living crisis etc – this question is hardly surprising. However, in the midst of this unsettled culture more people across the UK are keen to seek out light and truth and hope. The research findings revealed that 1-in-3 non-Christians said that, where they’ve had a conversation with a practising Christian that they know, they would be willing and eager to go again and find out more. This, as opposed to 1-in 5-people in the 2015 research, suggests that this unsettled reality is drawing people to seek out light, truth, and hope – for many in the person of Jesus.

2. Encounters with Jesus in the digital space

In the last twelve months over a dozen Church leaders have told me personally that they are seeing an increase of non-believers attending their Church services as a direct result of having engaged with Christian content in the digital space. How encouraging! For many, bible-based material on TikTok, or engaging with Christian content on YouTube, has led them to either become a Christian or to seek out a local Church to find out more about Jesus. We see God’s spirit at work in encountering people in the anonymity of the digital space, in prompting Christian creatives to produce excellent content, and the Spirit drawing people to a local Church community to find out more about Jesus.

3. The Church embracing the messiness of life

Against the backdrop of pain, trauma, hurt and anxiety for so many, God’s spirit is revealing to many UK Church leaders that we need to live truly authentic and honest Christian lives, able to align with people in the mess and not cover up our own failures and struggles even within the Church walls. So many stories of people having come to faith in recent years track back to a few Christian individuals who have significantly influenced their exploration of faith journey towards Jesus by being honest about their own walk with the Lord and digging into His word together, working out life and faith as they go. God’s spirit is increasingly revealing to leaders that the Church needs to be ready to embrace the mess and do life and faith hand in hand in all authenticity.

4. A bolder, braver approach to reach people in our communities

What a beautiful thing the local Church can be, to connect with the lives of so many through the variety of ministries. God’s spirit is increasingly awakening leaders to the fact that our Christian groups and outreach needs to not just be warm, welcoming, friendly and accepting, but to intentionally bring through the Christian message into all that they are and do. As an example of this, in our Talking Toddlers research, it showed that where parents or carers of toddlers attended a distinctively Christian church-based toddler group then 55% said their own faith had been challenged and changed as a result! God’s spirit is powerfully at work transforming lives where His people are being a little bolder and braver and making Jesus known.

5. An increased heart for collaboration and unity in motion

Encouragingly, since Covid I have had more conversations with leaders and organisations than ever before who want to work together in unity and collaboration, pushing aside any historic divides. God’s spirit is at work in revealing to His Church that this is ‘Kingdom’ as in John 17 – unity across all social, ethnic, and economic divides. Where unity reigns there is transformation power and many are drawn to Him.

In recognising the tumultuous backdrop against which we stand, we acknowledge the fact that life this side of heaven is indeed broken. However, together we stand firm, acknowledging that God, the steadfast one and our rock of ages, is always with us and leads us on. May we allow this unswerving focus to encourage us and alert us to where He is powerfully at work and to give us radical hope, renewed vigour and focus, to see lives changed by the good news of the gospel this year.

Rachael Heffer

Rachael serves as Head of Mission for the Evangelical Alliance. She seeks to resource and equip EA’s member churches and partner organisations around the UK in all forms of mission. Her passion is to see the UK Church develop a more wide-spread culture of evangelism. Her previous roles include thirteen years at British Youth for Christ, including five on the leadership team, followed by four years as Youth Adviser within the Diocese of Ely.

Rachael is married to Darren and lives in Ely, Cambs, with her two sons. She is very involved in her local church youth ministry particularly in outreach to teenage girls. Rachael is a trained coach and mentor, loves fitness, travel, and languages, and is a fully-fledged footie-mum!

Twitter:        @rachael_heffer
Instagram:   rachaelmheffer

Talking Jesus Resources

The Talking Jesus website – www.talkingjesus.org – hosts a plethora of resources to encourage Christians in sharing their faith. You can download the full Talking Jesus Research report for free, and watch an animation of the key findings. There is also a ten-episode podcast, and a six-part video course to equip your local church to ‘talk about Jesus’.

Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash


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