According to a large-scale survey of churchgoing published by Tearfund in 2007, there are approximately two million evangelical Christians in the UK. Hitherto, we have had only limited insights into their profile and attitudes.
We now know a great deal more about them, thanks to a study undertaken by Christian Research for the Evangelical Alliance in 2010, and published on 11 January under the title 21st Century Evangelicals: A Snapshot of the Beliefs and Habits of Evangelical Christians in the UK.
17,298 Christians aged 16 and over completed the Christian Research questionnaire. These mostly divided between two samples: 14,511 attenders at seven Christian festivals in the UK and known to be popular with evangelicals, and 1,159 attenders at 35 churches randomly selected from the 3,222 in membership of the Evangelical Alliance.
Interestingly, 6% of both samples could not say for certain that they were Christians, while fully one-quarter of the professing Christians failed to designate themselves as evangelicals.
A third sample was also drawn, of black majority churches and conferences. Only a few agreed to participate. Although 1,239 questionnaires were completed by attenders at these churches, Christian Research clearly has reservations about the typicality of this sample, and limited use has been made of the findings from it.
Two reports on the research have been issued at present, although more are promised. The first (described as the ‘initial report’) is a ‘popular’ 24-page summary. This is fully-illustrated, selective in its use of statistics, and has an emphasis on headlines and brief commentaries. Such data as are quoted in it mainly relate to the festival sample. It can be found at:
The second 47-page report (the so-called ‘data report’) is likely to be of special interest to BRIN users. This contains detailed information about the research methodology and the all-important weighting procedures, which require careful review (see the discussion and weighting factors on pp. 6-7).
The second document mainly comprises tables of results (pp. 8-45), routinely disaggregated for the festival and church samples and, more occasionally, for non-evangelical festival-goers. There are some minor inconsistencies between some of the tables when replies to certain questions are duplicated. This report can be accessed at:
There were fewer differences in the profiles, beliefs and behaviours of the festival and church samples than might have been expected. However, for simplicity, and because they instinctively feel more ‘representative’ of grass-roots evangelicals, all the figures quoted below derive from the church sample only.
DEMOGRAPHICS: 60% of evangelical churchgoers are women and 38% men. 36% are under 45 years of age, 39% 45-64, and 21% 65 and over (an age profile far less skewed than for churchgoers in general). 24% are single, 1% cohabiting, 61% married, 6% separated or divorced, and 7% widowed.
BELIEFS: 98% agree that their faith is the most important thing in life and 96% that it is the key factor in their decision-making. 96% believe that Jesus is the only way to God. 96% consider the Bible to be the inspired word of God and 82% say that, in its original manuscript, it is without error. 92% believe in miraculous gifts of the Spirit. 59% believe in a physical hell, but 27% are unsure and 14% disbelieve. 39% think evolution and Christianity are incompatible, 43% that they are not.
PRACTICES: 95% claim to attend church once a week or more. 76% attend a small group meeting at least once a fortnight. 55% read the Bible daily and a further 36% during the course of a week. 78% pray daily and a further 20% during the course of a week.
EVANGELISM VERSUS SOCIAL ACTION: 91% deem it the Christian’s duty to be actively engaged in evangelism, and 58% talk about their faith with a non-Christian once a month or more. 82% regard evangelism and social action as equally important and 80% as complementary, but 39% think many churches place too much emphasis on social action. 88% consider it a Christian’s duty to volunteer in the service of the local community. 78% volunteer at least once a month. 98% voted in the 2010 general election.
MORALITY: 82% agree that sexual intercourse outside marriage is always wrong. 62% say that assisted suicide is always wrong (and 15% not). 49% agree and 33% disagree that abortion can never be justified. 36% feel it is wrong to have homosexual feelings, with 22% unsure and 42% not seeing it as problematical. However, 80% condemn homosexual actions. 84% oppose the blessing of civil partnerships in churches.
GIVING: 97% have given money to their church in the past year, 77% to Christian charities, 48% to other charities, 47% to individual missionaries, and 22% to individual homeless people. 62% claim to have given at least one-tenth of their household income during the past month to their church and charities. 73% agree that it is a Christian’s duty to give 10% of their income to their church, but only 40% tithed to their church during the past month.
ECUMENICAL AND INTER-FAITH WORK: 95% consider it important for Christians to be united in truth and 93% in mission. 88% say that their church works with other places of worship. 63% want Christians to collaborate with people of other faiths on community projects.
Also worth a glance is the Evangelical Alliance’s press release about both strands of the research, issued on 10 January. This focused on the themes of distinctiveness and diversity in the evangelical constituency, and highlighted the vital role of evangelicals in volunteering in the community. See: