Immigration is a reality of national life. In London, over 50 nationalities have communities of over 10,000 people, and every nationality in the world is represented here! Many Brits struggle to welcome immigrants, and immigrants struggle to adjust to life in the UK. Some react negatively to these changes, but society must face the challenges of many cultures living together in peace. Immigration blesses the UK Church in 2 ways:
- Widespread immigration from strongly Christian nations (such as Nigeria, Brazil, others) brings new church life and growth. Around 1,500 Christian missionaries have come into the UK from the Americas, Africa, and Asia. The Church also grew from conversions among Africans, Chinese, Polish, “Travellers” (Romani/Gypsy), and even some among South Asians and other groups.
- Many immigrants come from the world’s least-evangelized nations, and now live on the doorstep of Christian churches! Pray for God’s people to open their doors, homes, and hearts to the peoples around them. Pray for local congregations to plant new churches, reach new peoples, and glorify Jesus by partnership with believers from many lands.
England is the most secular of the four countries that comprise the UK. The steady decline in belief and church attendance is of deep concern. Only 6% of people regularly attend church; those who do attend rarely engage with the unbelieving majority. Notional Christianity is giving way to atheism as the main barrier to true faith; the trappings of inherited cultural forms of Christianity are being discarded. This presents both a great challenge and a new opportunity for a fresh start to the re-evangelization of England. Pray that the Holy Spirit may break into lives and bring a sense of the reality of God and the truth of the gospel.
London is one of the world's hub cities for finance, travel, politics, culture and such. The spiritual life of London also has global impact. As the destination of a high proportion of the inflow of migrants over the last 50 years, London has a strong claim to be the world's most international city. Pray for these:
- Church life in London, in many senses, is rich and vibrant. The percentage of Londoners (especially 20- and 30-somethings) who attend church is higher than the national average. London's churches are on average twice as large, more diverse and more engaged in outreach and projects of many kinds. London offers a host of vibrant church options - large Pentecostal churches (especially among Africans), flagship churches (such as Kensington Temple, Holy Trinity Brompton, All Souls and Hillsong), charismatic networks with large numbers of smaller congregations (Pioneer, Ichthus, New Frontiers) and even house church networks. Even so, in London, the majority are unchurched, other religions are assertive and growing and churches would be in notable decline were it not for London's many church-going immigrants.
- Ethnic minorities, increasingly, are becoming the majority in many boroughs. In London, over 50 nationalities have communities of over 10,000 people, and every nationality in the world is represented in some number. Nearly 60% of church-goers in London are ethnic minorities. These provide incredible opportunities for witness and evangelism of otherwise unreached people groups.
England's inner cities are in threat of becoming physical and spiritual wastelands, riddled with drugs and crime. Dying congregations, closed churches and churches converted into Muslim mosques, Hindu temples or Sikh gurdwaras are commonplace. Most white evangelicals moved to comfortable, middle-class suburbs and towns a generation ago. Whites trapped in inner-city poverty and joblessness usually have fewer prospects than even their ethnic-minority neighbours. Pray that God may raise up an army of workers with effective ways of meeting the many needs of these impoverished and often troubled areas. Ministries such as The Message Trust (in Manchester) and Street Pastors (in many cities) are brilliant examples of what can be done.
Economic changes have had a profound impact on the nation. The decline of the coal and slate industries led to much depopulation and depression in industrialized areas. These, coupled with the acceptance of a social gospel, have led to empty chapels and a spiritually hardened population. Pray for those church leaders and fellowships with a clear vision to witness and serve faithfully, many of them in hard and unreceptive areas.
Scotland faces a potent cocktail of social ills. Nearly half of all children are born out of wedlock. Alcohol and drug abuse are high. The country has the inauspicious title of the worst-performing Western European nation, based on economy, employment, health and education. Increasingly, Christian groups are engaging these problems; pray that the transforming impact of the gospel may be evident through loving witness and ministry.
The Church of Scotland is Presbyterian in structure and is the established church. Membership is in steep decline - half of what it was 50 years ago - and attendance a tiny fraction of membership. There is a shortage of clergy; many current clergy are out of touch with the needs of their congregations. Nominalism is widespread, liberal theology still dominant and Freemasonry influential. Still, there are stirrings of new life through those evangelicals who remain. Pray for the Church of Scotland to return to its biblical roots and to the radical but biblically grounded faith of its early martyrs.
Church growth is evident among the non-institutional groups - Pentecostals, Baptists, Brethren and the Salvation Army. Pray for the effective re-evangelization of Scotland. The Aberdeen area has the highest percentage of non-church-goers.
Peace has prevailed in Northern Ireland since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and especially since a power-sharing agreement in 2007. Only a small number of dissidents persist, but through them, the threat of violence remains. Greater risks to long-term peace are the mistrust and resentment that can remain in people's hearts. Pray for repentance and forgiveness of past transgressions and crimes and for reconciliation between communities. Pray for those who work to uphold the peace, especially politicians and police.
Segregation and sectarianism remain, despite the prevalent peace. Separate confessions, separate churches, separate schools, separated communities keep Ulster a divided land. Pray that both Catholics and Protestants may take initiative in instigating reconciliation. Northern Ireland's history has long been used as an example of religion's destructive influence; pray that it may become a testimony of faith's power to heal and restore.
The Isle of Man has a long Christian tradition, but just as in the UK, nominalism is rife and non-religion is growing. Pray that the Church will continue to strive to bring people back into the fold and that the Isle of Man might see an awakening.
The Channel Islands: Guernsey and especially Jersey rely upon the financial sector for their economic growth, leading to accusations they are used as tax havens. Relative prosperity and an emphasis on material wealth have inevitably blunted the spiritual life of the islands; pray for an awakening.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.