Radical Conservatives: 21st Century Evangelicals in the UK

During 2011, at Christ Church we are reading, reflecting upon and applying the biblical principles highlighted in John Stott’s book The Living Church: Convictions of a lifelong pastor. In the foreword, he compares and contrasts two kinds of churches, ‘traditional’ and ’emerging’.

It seems to me that traditional and ‘emerging’ churches need to listen attentively to one another, with a view to learning from one another. The former must recognize that much of what we recognize as traditional today was itself once revolutionary and even ‘emerging’, and therefore be open to today’s creative thinking. The latter should be wary of loving newness for newness’ sake. We both could afford to be less suspicious, less dismissive of one another, and more respectful and open. For, as Archbishop Rowan Williams has written, ‘there are many ways in which the reality of ‘‘church’’ can exist’. Nevertheless, it has certain essential marks which will always characterize an authentic and living church.

John Stott insists we need churches that combine the best of both strands, in his words, “more ‘R.C.’ churches” – that is Radical Conservative churches –

‘conservative’ in the sense that they conserve what Scripture plainly requires, but ‘radical’ in relation to that combination of tradition and convention which we call ‘culture’. Scripture is unchangeable; culture is not.”

This month, the Evangelical Alliance publish the findings of a survey into the views of 17,000 evangelicals in the UK.  It is the most extensive piece of research of its kind ever conducted. Speaking as someone who aspires to be a ‘Radical Conservative’ the results are most heartening. They demonstrate that the kind of Christianity John Stott was calling for as long ago at 1958 in his first book, Basic Christianity – far from being in decline or irrelevant – is setting the pace and the agenda for the Church in Britain and offers the best hope for the conversion of the nation.  Here are some of the initial findings:

  • JESUS: 91% strongly agree that Jesus is the only way to God.
  • CHURCH: 97% attend a church service at least once a week.
  • BIBLE: 93% strongly agree that the Bible is the inspired word of God.
  • PRAYER: 76% pray daily, 95% do so at least a few times a week.
  • GIVING: 96% have given money to their church in the past year.
  • MIRACLES: 83% strongly agree miracles did not end in the 1st century.
  • FAITH: 88% strongly agree their faith is the most important thing in their life.
  • ENVIRONMENT: 94% believe we have a duty to care for the environment.
  • ENGAGEMENT: 76% watch, listen or read the news every day.
  • VOTING: 85% voted in the last General Election.
  • VOLUNTEERING: 81% do voluntary week every month.
  • VOICE: 93% believe evangelicals should have a voice in the media and engage with government.

The first report will be available to view online or download from 12th January from the Evangelical Alliance website.