While the church has one Lord, it is very diverse. It worships its Lord in many languages, styles and forms that reflect the many different cultural and ethnic communities in which it is found. The church has an amazing ability to adapt to local conditions in which it ministers where the experiences, attitudes, and reflections of the community impact on the way it worships. This adaptability is perhaps one of its greatest strengths.
However, when it comes to the Australian church, many ask whether our churches have ever properly adapted to the unique Aussie culture and landscape and whether or not we speak with an Australian accent.
A quick look at our history reveals the majority of our forms and styles of church are imports from other countries, whether Europe or America. Initially, English and European convicts and settlers brought their churches to Australia. Since WWII the church has been influenced by America, much like the rest of our culture. Whether it be from our worship expressions, our songs and hymns, and our architecture the impression remains that the church in Australia speaks a foreign language wrapped in imported forms.
What would it mean if our churches spoke with an ‘Aussie accent’? What would it mean if we explored expressions of worship that are more akin to being Australian? What if our songs and architecture reflected something of the things Australians value such as irregularity and informality, or reflected our landscape of wide-open and rugged beauty? What would it mean for us to be much more sensitive to Australian culture and its effects on how people see God, Jesus and the church? What can we learn about sowing the gospel in Australian soil?
As we look at our cities, and the place of the church within them, we can easily move to despair. However, as we remember God’s love for each person we should be encouraged that God is still as work and hasn’t given up. Across Hobart and the rest of Australia there are many who, in a uniquely Aussie way, still search for meaning and purpose.
May God grant us grace, courage, wisdom and inspiration as we continue to pray and work at being his witnesses in our homes, schools, business, community groups and churches.
Stephen L Baxter
Hobart Baptist Church