1 Britain needs to regain a sense of purpose and direction for the 21st Century. The nation is torn between its European geography and its Atlanticist culture. Pray that political leadership may have the moral integrity and courage to give the correct lead. Membership of the EU and differing views on the degree of federalism desirable and its impact on national life is a matter for intense public concern and debate.
2 A sense that all is not well pervades the country. The ‘freedoms’ of the 1960s led to social disaster and hastened spiritual decline. Many are discouraged about the future and cynical about the seeming impotence of politicians to deal with the malaise. The gay rights movement, though representing a small minority, has seized the initiative in many areas of public life and in government legislation. Spiritual need is highlighted by increasing violence in the cities, the high divorce, suicide and illegitimacy rates, and drug abuse. Paralleling this is the growing number of younger people who have no contact with or knowledge of Christianity. Without a radical change, disaster looms. Pray for national repentance and restoration to the spiritual vigour that once made Britain’s Christians a blessing to the world.
3 A national awakening is needed. There has been one every century in the last 800 years – the last was in 1859-69. The Judeo-Christian heritage has been so eroded by post-modernist worldviews that public opinion is no longer Christian. Christians have been marginalized in the media, public life, government legislation and school curricula. Religious pluralization has sapped the confidence of many Christians to testify boldly and even believe that Jesus is theonly way to the Father. The steep decline in numbers of the Methodists, Anglicans, United Reformed, Brethren and other denominations continues and the Baptists and newer (house) churches have plateaued. Pray that Christians might become passionate for God’s honour, burdened to pray for revival and be freed from a deadening negativism and materialism that pervades the life of the churches.
4 Tolerance is the ‘in’ word. The influx of non-Christian religions has affected the worldview of the population. The spokesmen for Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc., push for legislation that will favour their religions, and demand freedoms they would never grant Christians in their lands of origin. Astrology, the occult, reincarnation, old world paganism (Druid/Wicca) and even Satanism have become popular, with a massive increase in literature promoting their ends. The mission field has come to the UK – and many non-Western Christians perceive the UK itself as a mission field. Pray that UK Christians may recover a confidence in the ‘intolerant’ gospel and a passion for sharing it with the majority who have little concept of its content.
5 The future of the Church of England is crucial for the country and is the ‘mother’ Church for the world’s 80 million Anglicans. This composite body is an umbrella under which Anglo-Catholics, liberals and Evangelicals co-exist and where, tragically, equivocation on homosexuality and the basic tenets of the Christian faith are condoned. Fragmentation of the Church over such issues as ordination of women, ecumenism and dis-establishment is possible. Yet Evangelicalism is a growing force and gaining centre stage: 27% of bishops, 53% of clergy, 60% of ordinands and 40% of church-goers espouse its cause. The 1998 Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion was a resounding setback for liberalism as the non-Western majority strongly affirmed biblical values. The charismatic movement has also contributed to an extensive renewal movement in the Church. Pray that Church leadership might regain a prophetic role and speak with clear biblical authority to a nation that is morally and spiritually adrift.
b) Renewal movements. Many pastors and congregations experienced charismatic renewal between the 1960s-‘80s. This also gave rise to a new family of churches. The house church movement, or Newer Churches, grew fast and have become a significant spiritual force in the nation, deeply affecting church structures and fellowship patterns, and have enlivened worship across the denominational spectrum. Their growth slowed in the 1990s. Nation-wide, these changes have been stimulated by major trans-denominational gatherings such as Greenbelt and Spring Harvest.
c) New younger generation movements are emerging with radically new approaches – Internet café gatherings, WEB prayer and culturally appropriate worship styles, such as Tribal Generation, flowing from the Church of England, and also others spontaneously springing up in different parts of the country.
d) The Alpha Course phenomenon has spread across the country to nearly every denomination and across the world as one of the most successful outreach programmes run by churches in the UK today. These user-friendly introductory courses explain Christianity in a relaxed and informal environment. About 6,400 congregations were using the Alpha courses in 1998 with over 650,000 individuals having completed one.
a) To maintain and increase unity in fellowship and vision. The Evangelical Alliance has done much to encourage this and give credibility to Evangelicals in national life. The EA represents 1.3 million Evangelicals, 30 denominations and 800 agencies.
b) A widespread loss of confidence and certainty about models for church life and outreach. There were a number of initiatives in the 1990s which fizzled out or did not halt the overall malaise and decline.
c) A common cynicism about the future and the state of the Kingdom of God in the world which cripples enthusiasm for missions locally or overseas. Pray for restoration of vision and faith in God’s ability to change Britain once more.
8 Christian leadership is under intense pressure – church members are more demanding, less committed, giving less and often more interested in self-fulfilment than sacrificial service. There is a lack of effective Bible teachers and expositors. Pray for effective discipling and training of a new generation of leaders in both congregational and more formal theological training. There were 59 residential denominational colleges and 25 interdenominational colleges with a total of 7,150 students in 1999. Pray that these may not only impart a theological education, but also spirituality and world vision.
9 Young people are more spiritually open, but increasingly come from dysfunctional families, a history of drug abuse and promiscuous lifestyles. They need intense, loving help to become effective disciples. Pray for:
a) Religious education teachers in schools. RE is a core subject by law but is often ignored, resisted or even opposed by school authorities and students. Pray for Christians involved in this ministry and for meaningful ways of making the message of the gospel come alive.
e) Missions vision – few young people have much exposure to a vision for the world. The ministries of OM, World Horizons, YWAM and Worldwide Message Tribe are seeking to redress this with short-term training and exposure.
10 Students are exposed to great pressures in the secular education system. A largely godless and materialistic younger generation is being formed by it. Relatively few secondary schools have a live, outgoing witness from staff or student groups. Pray for:
b) The Campus Christian groups among the 900,000 full-time students in colleges and universities. Their growth and diversity is encouraging, the main ones being Agapé (CCCI), Navigators, Fusion and UCCF(IFES). The oldest and most widespread is the work of UCCF with Christian Unions in nearly 600 colleges and universities, yet a further 300 have no permanent group. Pray for mature, stable leadership, effective support and advice from the 45 travelling secretaries, and establishment of a viable witness in every college. The student population is one of the more receptive segments of society.
c) Overseas students. About 400,000 overseas students are granted visas every year – 80,000 to do university degrees. Outreach to them is varied but too limited, and many return home without ever hearing the gospel. UCCF(IFES), International Student Christian Services with 40 staff in 18 cities, In Contact Ministries, and others have ministry to them.
11 Britain’s contribution to world evangelization in the last 200 years is unique. Interest has waned and many congregations have never even sent out their own missionary. In 2000 there was only one Protestant missionary overseas for every 6 churches. There is a widespread conviction that either the job has been done or that efforts should be concentrated on Britain’s need. Pray for:
12 The growing non-Anglo-Saxon minority has become a significant part of UK urban life in the past 50 years. Many cities have large minority communities and in some they have become the majority. Some communities such as the Afro-Caribbean and Chinese have a higher proportion of active Christians than the indigenous population. Others come from countries where the gospel is little known and entry of missionaries impeded. Cultural distance, racial discrimination and even open hostility have antagonized many against ‘Christianity’. Pray for:
a) Local congregations in multi-ethnic areas to open their doors, homes and hearts to this mission field on their doorstep, and to find effective ways of making friendships, meeting needs and winning some for the Lord.
b) Specialist cross-cultural workers to be called both for training churches and ministering to specific ethnic groups. Unique ministries already involved: South Asian Concern, OM (Turning Point), YWAM, In Contact Ministries, and also missionaries linked with Interserve, ECM, MECO, BCMS Crosslinks, WEC, IMI, IT,RSTI as well as non-Western mission agencies.
c) Better coordination of effort and research of the need. South Asia Concern has completed a detailed survey of the 1.5 million South Asians. Many ethnic minority communities are completely unreached due to lack of information to mobilize a ministry to reach them.
d) Effective use of literature and other media. Some CLC bookstores stock minority language literature. WEC’s ‘SOON’ broadsheet ministry in English, Panjabi, French, Hindi, Swahili, Urdu and Arabic reaches many. In Contact Ministries specializes in literature on Islamics and in ethnic minority languages.
a) Caribbean and African peoples. There are over 200 denominations; 20% of the population is church-going. In the past, these churches have been somewhat isolated from the mainstream of evangelical Christianity. The African Caribbean Evangelical Alliance (ACEA) is committed to creating an equitable partnership through their programmes of networking and community building. Pray that ACEA may be able to continue giving a sense of unity to these churches and help them to combat the growing social and economic problems faced by the black community in general.
b) South Asians. An increasing number of people are coming to Christ from the Hindu and Sikh communities, but few from among Muslims; about 4% of all South Asians are Christian. The greatest need is among the Panjabi, Kashmiri, Bangladeshi and Pathan communities.
c) Middle Eastern peoples. Outreach is largely localized and sporadic. Many wealthy Arabs come to the UK as tourists, businessmen and students; some have come to faith. There are several Christian fellowships for Arabs and a few for the Turks, Kurds and Iranians. There is also a Bible Training School (ELAM Ministries) for preparing Iranians for ministry. The Yemenis and 50,000 Moroccans are unreached.
d) Muslims now officially number over 1.2 million, but the actual number is probably much higher. About ½ from Pakistan, ¼ from the Middle East and a further ¼ from India and Bangladesh. Large-scale illegal immigration, and an increasingly strident radical Islam of a minority that seeks to alter British society in favour of Islam, have helped to alienate Muslims from the indigenous majority. Muslims see the conversion of England to Islam as a key strategy for winning Europe. London has become a hub for extreme, militant Islamist organizations. Pray for a breakdown of cultural and social barriers on both sides and for opportunities to be created for sharing the gospel.
e) Chinese. They have mainly come from Hong Kong and Vietnam, but increasingly from Mainland China as illegal immigrants and students. The Chinese Overseas Christian Mission (COCM) has a successful church planting and student ministry. There are around 70 Chinese churches and about 7% of Chinese are Christian.
f) The Jewish community. This is slowly declining through assimilation (80% have no religious commitment to Judaism) and marriage. Many are disillusioned by the rigid legalism and internal squabbling of communal leaders. Many of the believers integrate into Gentile churches, though there are also eight fellowships of Messianic Jews and possibly about 2,000 believers altogether. Pray for the ministry of CMJ, MT, CWI and Jews for Jesus. There is increasing opposition to such ministry both from Jewish anti-missionary groups and from liberal Christian circles.
a) Christian literature and Bibles. Few nations have such an extensive range of Christian literature, Bible versions and the facilities to acquire them. The Gideons International distributed 20 million NTs and Bibles in their first 40 years of ministry. In 2000 there were 506 Christian bookstores carrying an average of 3,600 titles! There are over 100 Christian publishers publishing 4,400 new titles annually. The Bible Societies not only have a ministry of Bible translation, publication and distribution in Britain and around the world, but also a wide range of catalytic ministries to stimulate Christian growth. BookAid has a remarkable ministry of exporting one million surplus and second-hand Christian books annually to poorer countries. Pray for these ministries and for Christians to become more avid readers.
b) Christian broadcasting. The 1990 Broadcasting Act opened unprecedented opportunities for Christians to own radio stations, satellite and cable TV stations. Pray for wisdom and balance in the face of opportunities. Many Christians are active in secular broadcasting as well as religious programming on national radio and television – over 6 million view Songs of Praise every week. Pray for positive impact. All efforts at ending the BBC’s monopoly on (increasingly multi-faith) national, terrestrial religious broadcasting have failed – pray for change.