Earlier this month Olive Tree Media, led by Karl Faase pastor of Gymea Baptist in Sydney, launched the results from their Australian Communities Report conducted by McCrindle Research. The aim of the research was to discover what Australians really think of Christian faith, Christians and the Church.
It found that “Church abuse” is the number one obstacle to Australians believing in Christianity with more than three-quarters of the people surveyed (76%) saying church abuse was a “massive” or “significant” negative influence on them. The report goes on to list further top 10 “belief blockers” for Christianity as hypocrisy, “judging others”, religious wars, suffering, issues around money, that the church is “outdated”, Hell and condemnation, homosexuality, exclusivity and celebrity endorsement of Christianity.
The results are based on a national online survey of over 1000 people who were subsequently followed up in three focus groups made up of non-Christians. Although a small number were used in the survey, it used standard processes that can be extended to the broader population.
Further findings in the report suggests that just over half of the population (51%) are “not open at all” to changing their religious world view, while parents and families are by far the biggest influence on their attitudes to Christianity and the church (67%). Interestingly 80% believe Jesus died on a cross and 52% believe he rose from the dead, 42% said Jesus was just a man who with no divine powers while only 17% said he did not exist at all.
As a sample of the Australian, and Hobartian, population the report is a valuable resource for us in that it helps us appreciate what the average person in the street thinks. Sydney’s Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen said at the launch, “The first thing I noticed as a communicator is how ill-informed the audience is. My expectation of what people know is far higher than what, in fact, the research has indicated.”
This is important for us. It is easy for those of us who live mostly in Christian circles to assume we understand what people think. However, religion, Christianity and church are often no-go areas and so we never get the chance to talk about them.
Despite the fact that the report’s findings are a real challenge for us, we should not be discouraged. In fact, as Archbishop Jensen suggests, the findings should help us “translate the faith in a way which will be heard by the real people we deal with, and not the imaginary people that I think we ought to be dealing with.”
If you would like a copy of the summary of the report Click Here
Stephen L Baxter
PS Apologies for the late upload this week. I’ve been away in Melbourne.