ONLY one third of the UK population think that churches in the UK are making a “positive difference in the world”, a study by World Vision suggests.
Published on Thursday of last week, a short report commissioned by the charity, The UK Church In Action, says that 33 per cent of all respondents thought that churches were making a positive difference; 19 per cent of non-Christian respondents thought so.
Conducted by Barna Global, the study interviewed 2054 British adults who were representative of the general population, as well as 1170 people identified as active Christians, based on a minimum of monthly churchgoing and prayer. On top of this, 302 church leaders from various denominations were interviewed. It explored the part played by the Church in modern Britain, and also how faith leaders saw their duty in terms of mission and social justice.
Forty-one per cent of non-Christian respondents polled disagreed with the idea that churches were making a positive difference in the world.
Only 35 per cent of people in the study agreed that “local churches are making a positive difference in my community”: 26 per cent disagreed with this.
“Those outside the Christian faith are unsurprisingly the most sceptical of its potential, globally (41 per cent) and locally (35 per cent),” the study says.
When UK adult respondents were asked to select adjectives to define the Church, 24 per cent chose “Hypocritical” and 23 per cent chose “Judgemental”; nine per cent chose “Relevant” and seven per cent chose “Generous”.
Active Christian respondents had a more positive view of the Church: a quarter of those asked said that it was good at “focusing on community needs”, and that it “offered hope for the future” (24 per cent for both options).
The report says that there is a split between Christians and non-Christians over how they see the Church, but “active Christians who are committed to social justice and mission activities not only help improve the lives of others, but could help improve the reputation of the Church.”
It also notes that there is a generational divide between those who think that the Church is broadly a positive force, and those who did not. The report concludes: “UK church leaders need to embrace an intentionally multi-generational message.”
It concludes: “There might be many incentives and positive outcomes for the UK Church that takes social justice seriously. But, ultimately, there is scriptural precedent for its engagement as well. . . Whatever a Church’s path forward, it should be paved in prayer.”
The co-founder of Barna Global, David Kinnaman, said: “We have noted a growing trend to define the mission of the Church less exclusively about evangelism, but increasingly to include social justice, and working for and with the poor and the marginalised.
“This study has highlighted that, while churches are prioritising social action and often delivering on those priorities, their efforts are not always widely recognised by the wider population.”