A new survey that asks what influences people to become Christians has found that it is personal relationships that count most in converting people.

Men are especially subject to influences from wives or girlfriends, said the survey, conducted for Churches Together in England, the new name for the English Council of Churches. When conversions occur, according to the survey of 511 adult men and women who have recently made a public profession of faith in English churches, they are the result of a long process.

Only 4 percent of those surveyed said they had been brought to Christ through big evangelistic rallies. Events such as the birth of a child or death of a loved one are also important occasions of conversions, the study says.

The report’s results were consoling to traditional church leaders. Canon John Finney, the Church of England’s officer for a program called Decade of Evangelism, said at a press conference that the report shows that evangelization is best done “by being oneself as a Christian” and depends primarily on personal relationships.

The report has been commended by the presidents of Churches Together: George Carey, Anglican archbishop of Canterbury; Basil Cardinal Hume, Roman Catholic archbishop of Westminster; John Newton, former president of the Methodist Conference; and Desmond Pemberton of the Wesleyan Holiness Church. Pat Jones, assistant secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference, said the study proves that “In the end, faith has to be lived out in daily life.”

Gavin Read, newly installed bishop of Maidstone, who was national director of a Billy Graham tour in the mid-1980s, said that such rallies were never meant to serve as a substitute for one-to-one evangelism. “As Christians we are all a lazy bunch,” Read said. “The onset of one of these missions sometimes gives us the heave to get out and do what we should have been doing all the time.”

Religious News Service.

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