The question is, has the UK Church lost confidence in the Gospel?
Who's going to start us off with this one?
Yeah, I'll kick us off.
I think we have a little.
I think we have lost a bit of our confidence in the Gospel.
The Gospel transforms lives, and I think we are in danger at times of not proclaiming whose we are.
You know, postmodernity would say, "Here's me, here's the world revolving around me. Who I am is what matters."
Actually, whose we are is what matters.
We're children of the living God.
And I think in some ways, we have forgotten we have something to proclaim.
I was most challenged by a friend of mine who moved to Britain from Africa.
I thank the Lord that we are a receiving nation of missionaries.
We've sent enough over the years.
I thank Jesus for the church that comes here to reach people.
And my friend comes to Heathrow, collects his bags.
He's got a decision to make.
Never had to make this decision before: "Something to declare or nothing to declare."
So he goes through "something to declare".
Says to the guy at customs, "I declare that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that by believing, you'll have life in His name."
The guy in customs is like, "You what, now?"
So he says, "I declare Jesus died for you," and they let him in.
Now, I'm not advocating that as the model, but it reminded me, we have something to declare.
And do we sometimes forget.
And I think the way you change culture, and a lot of philosophers will talk about this, you tell a different story, and I'm not sure we're telling enough stories of people meeting Jesus.
What you celebrate, you cultivate.
I think we tell a lot of stories of statutory awards and other stuff, and that's great, but we've got to start telling the Jesus stories.
That's why The Alliance from October, every Monday morning, 9:00 in the morning, we're going to release a video on social media of someone who's come to faith recently in the UK.
Why? Because we've got to inspire confidence the Gospel works.
It changes lives.
You might say, "Well, show us."
Okay.
Nine years ago, I had my worst moment preaching.
Went all the way to North Wales, preached at a youth event where there were less young people than I have fingers.
Not even toes, just fingers.
There was a massive stage, and like many youth events I've been to over the years, they insisted on you preaching on that stage, even though there were less than 10 kids there.
It was awful, it was dreadful. I preached terribly.
I got in the car and drove home in a bad mood.
When I got home, I opened the envelope they'd given me: £5 book token.
Not quite sure how that's any use to anything.
You certainly can't put it in for petrol.
I paid for the privilege of going all that way and having the worst night.
But this January, I was preaching in Stoke.
This lad comes up to me afterwards.
He says, "Do you remember that youth event?"
I'm thinking, "Yeah, I remember that youth event...!"
He says, "I gave my life to Jesus that night."
He said, "Now I'm 25, I'm going on with my faith. I'm a youth worker. I led 32 young people recently to Jesus."
The thing is, you don't always reach the masses.
Sometimes you reach the Samaritan woman who gets their village.
The Gospel works, even when I preach badly and with a bad attitude and it hadn't gone well, it transformed lives.
Or, another one and then I'll stop.
When you grow up as the son of a preacher man, you try and find ways to rebel.
So what I did was, I went out with the daughter of an Imam.
I figured that was one way to be rebellious.
She recently found me on Facebook.
She'd seen a preach I'd done that's now on YouTube, and she can't believe what God's done.
And so, she's going to go on an Alpha course simply because she can't believe that I'm as different to who I was before.
Do you know what? The Gospel works.
We've lost our confidence in the all-changing, wonderful Jesus who doesn't just beat the grave; He transforms our lives.
Friends, we need a confidence in this Gospel because it really works.
I guess it's definitely fair to say that in history, the Church had a big say politically and was consulted with things like that.
That isn't the case today.
Do you think the change in the political landscape and the influence of the church has had an influence on how Christians' confidence is in the Gospel?
I think it has.
We produced the report with the All-Party Christian Group a few years ago called 'Clearing the Ground' that looked into this, you know, we've had these big stories in the news about court cases where the Christians are losing freedom, or whether we're being persecuted in the UK.
They were the headlines in the newspapers.
It was a set of hearings in Parliament where cross-party Parliamentary group of Christians, hearing from all these different groups who operate in politics and public policy.
And the conclusion was, definitively, we are not being persecuted in the UK, not in terms of what persecution means to Christians around the world, but we are being marginalised.
There is a chill factor that's come upon the Church in the UK because of secularism, as much as anything else, and humanism and all those other isms that are out there.
So the Church has kind of lost its place as a centre around which all our assumptions are made about society, about our relationships, but there are opportunities with that.
There's a fear that comes on Christians, I think, sometimes about being explicit and open and confident about talking about Jesus in public life.
And at The Alliance, we want to encourage people to overcome that fear, and to do it with grace, but to speak up, to open our mouths in public life.
And often, the phrase that we use when we talk about the necessity of speaking the Gospel in our public squares, that, "if we don't use it, we'll lose it."
You think about religious freedom and the freedom to proclaim the Gospel.
We've got wonderful freedoms in the UK, but if it's not exercised like a muscle, it will just atrophy and waste away.
It will be an abstract thing on a shelf in the back of our mind somewhere that will just gather dust.
Religious freedom needs to be exercised in the UK.
And I would say, we need to overcome our fears and speak with confidence and with grace in public life more often.