Awake, O Sleeper! Hostilities Prelude to Revival in UK?

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ENGLAND - Christians in the United Kingdom face hostility on many fronts -- from the top levels of government to local city councils and secular organizations. These attacks appear to be waking up a sleeping church.

More than 400 years ago, English explorers brought Christianity to the New World. Spreading the Gospel was a mandate in the England of old.

No to Public Faith

Today in the United Kingdom, sharing that Christian faith could land you behind bars. Under current law, using "insulting words or behaviour" is a criminal offense.

As a result, police have arrested a number of Christians, including street preachers because listeners considered the message insulting.

"I think that personally there is a decline in just the knowledge of God and in the love of God," Shepherd Masango, a Christian street preacher, told CBN News.

"There's a lot of people that we speak to on the streets -- 16-year-olds or below -- people that have never grown up going to church, and people have just radically turned away from God and are just following different kind(s) of things," he said.

"There are campaign groups that want to push Christianity out of public life," Mike Judge, with The Christian Institute, told CBN News.

"They regard religion, and particularly Christianity, as something of a private affair and should have no role to play in public life," he said.

Defending Public Prayer

The Christian Institute is defending the Bideford Town Council against a lawsuit by the National Secular Society.

That group, which is similar to the American Civil Liberties Union, claims praying at council meetings -- a practice that started in the days of Queen Elizabeth I -- discriminates against people of no religion.

The NSS posted a photo of smiling staff members outside the High Court on its website. But for Judge, the matter is nothing to smile about.

"This is a very serious hearing," he said. "It's the first time that the saying of prayers at civic events has been challenged in the High Court."

"Now the saying of prayers is entirely voluntary; no one's compelled to attend, and yet it was taken to court," he explained.

If the judge rules against prayer, it could affect councils across England and Wales since most pray during their meetings. Other councils are already reconsidering their policies in light of the lawsuit.

While there's a push to ban prayer in city council meetings, other local councils have banned Christian words and phrases from advertisements.

Homosexual Push

At the same time, homosexual activists appear to be gaining favor with government groups.

For example, the city of Liverpool became the first in the UK to put homosexual rainbow emblems on some of its street signs.

"The new signs clearly show that we are recognizing where the LGBT scene is based in the city, and that it is a very important part of our city life," Europe's largest gay news service, Pinknews, quoted Liverpool city councilor Nick Small as saying.

The Liverpool council has also spoken out against Frontline Church, a local evangelical non-denominational church.

The church had published a resource online that labeled homosexuality a sin and suggested ways to help people wanting out of that lifestyle.

Frontline Church told CBN News that while it removed the material because it did not adequately address the complexity of the issue, the church hasn't changed its stance on homosexuality.

"We believe that the Bible teaches that heterosexual marriage is the only context for sexual relationship," Frontline Church spokesman John Harding told CBN News.

"All people -- we're all sinners; we're all saved by grace -- those that know the Lord Jesus. So we don't see it as any different to any other issue, but what we're very clear on is that we don't judge people; we don't condemn people," Harding explained.

Other organizations have distanced themselves from Frontline Church, including a city housing association that funds a food bank at the church and the police department, which has been recognized as the second most gay-friendly force in the UK.

"When people stand up, they find themselves targeted," said Andrea Williams, with the UK organization, Christian Concern. "They find themselves misrepresented in the public sphere, and that's the sort of thing that is happening."

"But Frontline Church is a church that loves, that wants to reach out to the community, that will stand no matter what it takes," she said.

'Occupy Faith'

A new government-sponsored survey shows the number of people in England and Wales who consider themselves Christians dropped 10 percent in five years.

During that same period, those who say they have no religion increased from 15 to 21 percent.

Although Christians in the UK are in the middle of an intense spiritual battle, they say they are witnessing encouraging signs of the healing power of Jesus Christ.

A recent "2 Chronicles 7:14" prayer rally in front of St. Paul's Cathedral in London is one example.

"It's cold; it's wet, but still we saw, whatever it was -- five to 600 people to pray and worship Jesus," Rev. Pat Allerton, the prayer rally coordinator, told CBN News.

One woman cried out to God during the rally, praying, "Where the economy is struggling, Father God, we pray and ask for a solution, and may it be rapid, Father God."

The 2 Chronicles 7:14 prayer rally followed a Not Ashamed Day gathering. Both events were held adjacent to the Occupy London tent city.

"There's a deeper problem," Andrew Marsh, with Christian Concern, said. "These things are not actually the root cause; they're symptoms, and that actually Jesus has answers for these issues, for individuals, for communities, for nations, for our world because He transforms lives."

"The thing that stops me from taking crack cocaine every day is that Jesus Christ took the root out of addiction in my heart," shared evangelist Rob Joy at the Not Ashamed Day gathering.

In spite of the attacks on Christianity, many UK believers have not lost hope that revival will return, battling one challenge at a time, while embracing hurting souls.

*Original broadcast January 10, 2012.

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Mark Martin

Mark Martin

CBN News Reporter

Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.