Jesus, the Christian and the Church in Australia

Jesus and the Australian Christian

In 1999, Australian psychologist, social researcher and writer Hugh Mackay suggested the time was right for a revival in Australia.  He promptly went on to predict it wouldn’t happen, and was right. There has been no revival of faith in Australia in the two decades since. In fact, McCrindle Research confirms the number who call themselves Christian has fallen to 52%.

Even though the number of Australians identifying with no religion or a spiritual belief has risen to 32% there is still more than two thirds (68%) who do. In fact, the majority of Australians (55%) still believe in God, when God is defined as the Creator of the universe or Supreme Being. Similarly, the majority (53%) believe Jesus is very important to the history and culture of the world. That’s about the same percentage as those who call themselves Christian.

Of all those who call themselves Christian, only 15% of Australians attend church regularly. Less than a third. The figures confirm there hasn’t been a revival. They also suggest Jesus is still attractive to many non-church goers.

One such person was R. M. Williams the Australian bushman and entrepreneur.

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Changing Plausibility Structures

“Plausibility structures” is the term employed by American sociologist, Peter Berger. It describes the preconceived personal and cultural assumptions we all hold and inform us what can and can’t be believed.

Plausibility Structures help explain how some people persist in believing things that aren’t true and other disbelieve what is true. No matter what the evidence, if it doesn’t conform to their preconceived expectations of plausibility, they will not accept it.

For example, there is just as much historical evidence suggesting Jesus existed than there is that Tiberius Caesar conquered the Gauls (perhaps more). But which is more plausible in Australia today?

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The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be

“The future isn’t what it used to be.” French poet Paul Valery wrote these words over 90 years ago. Its just as true today. In our rapidly changing world the future looks scary. As a society we have moved from optimism to pessimism. In Tasmania today, particularly among our young people, their a great fear and cynicism towards the future, not only for themselves but for all of humanity.

The Blue Marble

The first pictures of planet Earth from outer space taken over 50 years ago brought a profound scientific and philosophical shift for many people. For the first time we saw our world as a small and lonely. Although beautiful, it sat suspended amid a vast, infinite and silent universe.

No longer was earth a series of continents, islands, nations, and peoples living in a fixed and unalterable environment. >>> CONTINUE READING

Life’s Journey with the No Name God

The No Name God

Growing up in Australia, “god” was a word I heard often. At school it was commonly an expletive, at home it was never anything but revered. I’ve lived with God all my life and now into my seventh decade, God still comes easy to me. I can’t say the same for being a Christian though. That’s been tough. Most of my life I’ve been embarrassed to be a Christian, even though today I’m a pastor of a Baptist church.

I’ve always been tall and skinny. For most of my life I’ve worn clothes that haven’t fitted well. It the same with the word “Christian”. Christians come in all manner of shapes and sizes and so do people’s opinion of them. When I tell someone I’m a Christian I can almost feel the shape of their preconceptions redressing me. Suddenly, I’m no longer the person they first met, but an airbrushed caricature made in their image. 

I want to scream, continue reading The No Name God>>>

Welcome Stranger

“Places of worship are about turning strangers into friends.”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Like any good teacher, particularly a Jewish one, Jesus answered the lawyer’s question with a question. When the expert asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded by asking the lawyer what he thought. The lawyer answered, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” It was a good response and Jesus told him so.

Full of confidence the expert in the law went on to ask a second question. Perhaps he shouldn’t have. This time Jesus answers the question with a story and the expert is caught out. read more >>>

Christmas 2018

Every Christmas and Easter, one of my duties as State Leader for Tasmanian Baptists is to write a short reflection for the Mercury Newspaper.

$1,000,000,000!

That’s a lot to spend on Christmas decorations. Sadly, it’s the estimate Australians will spend on decorations this Christmas. In contrast, tens of millions of children around the world will spend Christmas sleeping on the streets with empty stomachs exposed to all types of exploitation and abuse. Something is wrong don’t you think?

Continue reading “Christmas 2018”

A better alternative

Stephen Baxter, MC

The Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast is an annual event where leaders from across Tasmania gather to pray for our State and listen to a guest speaker. Each year I have the opportunity to provide a short introduction. In 2018 I began with the following…

2018 Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast | August 22, 2018

Each year, at the beginning of our program I take a moment to reflect why we are here. When 500 people gather so early, in the middle of winter, for a “prayer” breakfast, some explanation is appropriate.

We gather in the name and spirit of Jesus; not in the name of any religion, denomination or ideology. Yale historian Jeroslav Pelikan, wrote, “Regardless of what anyone may personally think or believe about him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western Culture for almost 20 centuries.” Continue reading “A better alternative”

Easter 2018

Every Christmas and Easter, one of my duties as State Leader for Tasmanian Baptists is to write a short reflection for the Mercury Newspaper.

“It’s okay to believe”

Despite living in one of the most beautiful and affluent places on planet Earth, too many Tasmanian young people are doing life tough. The latest Mission Australia’s Youth Mental Health Report notes the “significant increase” in the proportion of youth meeting the criteria for probable serious mental illness. Disturbingly, suicide is the “leading cause of death” for young people aged 15-24 years.

Something is wrong! Life is not working. We need to ask why.

Continue reading “Easter 2018”

Christmas 2017

Every Christmas and Easter, one of my duties as State Leader for Tasmanian Baptists is to write a short reflection for the Mercury Newspaper.

My earliest memories of Christmas are a jumble of excitement, carol singing, presents, meals with the extended family and trotting off to church. My grandfather led the choir there and his baritone solos had won him many a competition.

Aged about five, I was taken to hear Handel’s Messiah because Dad was singing in it. I remember going to sleep half way through only to be woken for the Hallelujah chorus. I promptly went back to sleep again! Despite this, or perhaps because of it, I’m deeply moved by the chorus and the carols.

Continue reading “Christmas 2017”

The loss of faith has a downside

Stephen Baxter, MC

 

The Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast is an annual event where leaders from across Tasmania gather to pray for our State and listen to a guest speaker. Each year I have the opportunity to provide a short introduction. The following is what I said in 2017 titled, “The loss of faith has a downside.”

Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast | August 16, 2017

As we begin this morning, it is important we take a few moments to reflect on why we gather.

Over the past 12 years the breakfast has carved out a unique niche on the civic landscape of our state. It is a place where leaders from government, business, not-for-profits, community groups and the church gather on neutral ground to honour each other, hear a Christian talk about their life, work and trust in Jesus, and pray for our state, our leaders, our institutions and our people. Continue reading “The loss of faith has a downside”