There are several things Australians love about Christianity and the Christian Church.
Before I share those things with you, let me make a couple of things clear.
Making the Gospel Relevant?
Firstly, I’m not talking here about making the gospel relevant. I’m not keen on that language because the gospel is already relevant. There will always be a desire amongst people for things like mercy, forgiveness and second chances.
Be Wise In Conversation
Secondly, there will always be those who oppose Christians and the church no matter what we do. So, I’m not suggesting we water down Jesus’ teaching to become palatable to everyone.
With that in mind, I feel that some Christian people go out of their way to be obnoxious and, by their teaching and behaviour, end up repelling people from the gospel.
There’s enough evidence in the life and teaching of Jesus, as well as in the Scriptures, to suggest the church’s job is not to annoy people.
Consider the young Jesus who “grew in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and all the people” (Luke 2:52 NLT). In other words, Jesus had the approval and admiration of others. When Jesus started teaching people, they really enjoyed listening to him (Mark 12:37). The only people he annoyed were the religious leaders. My how things have changed!
Those who continued Jesus’ teaching also encouraged this approach. The apostle Peter wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Peter suggests that others should be the ones who initiate a faith conversation and, when the conversation is taking place, the Jesus-follower should exemplify a kind and courteous approach.
Many Australians are not opposed to having a discussion or debate on spiritual matters, but there’s no room for the obnoxious Bible-bashing by which some Christians are known. Research shows that conversations with people (especially friends) are the most significant prompt for Aussies to think about spiritual or religious things.
So, what do Aussies love about the church? McCrindle Research discovered what is most highly valued is the work that churches and Christian organisations do in looking after people who are homeless. The offering of financial assistance, food aid programs, and disaster relief also feature prominently.
On occasions, I’ve had people suggest that Bayside Church is too focused on social justice. “Why don’t you just preach the gospel,” they ask. My response is always the same. I am preaching the gospel; sometimes, I use words!
Care for the underprivileged and alleviating poverty, should be a major part of the church’s ministry today just as it was with the first-century church. It’s a vital part of the gospel that Jesus taught was to be “good news to the poor”. What could better news be for people in poverty than that their poverty was to be alleviated? I pray that every church in Australia becomes gripped with this passion. There’s no doubt that the church is on the nose right now (more on that next week).
May I suggest that now would be a good time to lay aside our rights and demands and focus on helping others?
Living an Authentic Faith
I have no doubt that the church would grow in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and people if it did this.
The research on which I’ve based this blog reveals that Aussies want to see Christians live out an authentic faith. People want to know that we are the real deal, not that we are perfect but that we are not hypocrites.
Known For Love
People are also attracted to the Christian faith when they’re going through a personal trauma or significant life change. That’s because Christians are known, by and large, as being caring, loving and kind. Love, hope, and care are the three attributes of Jesus that Aussies connect with the most, and they want to see these qualities in the lives of his followers. When it comes to the Christian church, Australians most value the church’s offer of a supportive community.
More than half of Australians say they are open to change their current religious views, given the right circumstances and evidence. The younger generations are more likely than older people to change their current religious beliefs. So, even though Christianity is in decline in Australia right now, all is not lost. But there are some significant repellents to the church and Christianity right now, and these need to be seriously addressed. More on that, in next week’s blog.
Photo Attribute: Ed Yourdon from New York City, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]