In the final guest post on The UK Church In Action, Head of Christian Influence & Engagement for World Vision UK, Chine McDonald explains how telling the story of the UK church could have a transformative impact.
The Church is doing amazing things up and down the country and across the world. For those of us who work within faith and international development, this truth is a reality made evident in the work that we do.
Churches are full of Christ followers who work tirelessly to bring about change for good in the lives of those within their communities – the homeless, the elderly, the destitute; and also further afield – those living in poverty, the world’s most vulnerable living in areas of strife and conflict.
I know this, and you know this. But what I was struck by in reading the findings of The UK Church In Action is just how little those outside our church walls know about the positive difference Christians are making.
Just a quarter of Britons surveyed for the study think the Church is good for the community. Meanwhile, 31 per cent of respondents found it difficult to identify the specific needs that churches should meet in their communities.
Non-Christians were just as likely to not know about the UK Church’s impact in the world (40%) as they were to have a negative opinion of it (41%).
As a communications and PR specialist, I find this troubling. Collectively, we have not done enough to tell our communities of the difference that we make. Understandably, there is potential reticence to do this. Especially when we remember how time and time again, the gospels warn against pride or inflating ourselves to look good in front of others.
But I believe this isn’t about the Church being better at its own PR for our own sake. It’s not about us looking good for all the selfless deeds we do in order to get a pat on the back.
Instead, this is about drawing people closer towards God rather moving them further away.
I’m reminded of the passage in Matthew 5 (14-16):
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Why do we want non-Christians to see the work we do to bring holistic transformation in our communities and the wider world? Because by recognising the positive difference we make, they might just choose to take a closer look at the God we follow.
But it would be almost impossible to move those who are apathetic or ignorant about the work of the Church to becoming part of our congregations through merely PR. Perhaps instead, we should tell the story of the Church as good news to those who are already warm towards us.
Because the news isn’t all bad. There are those whowere able to identify specific activities the UK Church – as a force for good – could get involved in.
Many identified working with the elderly and supporting those who are homeless as areas in which the Church could provide a useful contribution. It is these people that we should focus on in our mission – the ones who see our good work and just might glorify our Father in Heaven.