Who of us has not witnessed how the fruitfulness of our evangelism has disappeared? People no longer turn up to events, no matter the speaker or the advertising, and they no longer listen to what we have to say.
Australians are an interesting lot. Although Christianity remains the dominant religion in Australia with 61% still calling themselves Christian, the vast majority have stopped going to church and actively practicing their faith. Despite this, they are not as negative towards the church as our media might suggest.
In fact, the vast majority of Australians believe the church adds value to the community. McCrindle Research reports how 91% of Australians see the church as beneficial to the community and over half (56%) believe it is beneficial to them personally. (Click here to download a PDF of these research results.) Even amongst those who are not regular church attenders the results are similar. Here 88% see the church as beneficial for the community and 43% for them personally. Yet despite this positive response, most people have strong reservations about its relevance to their lives. In fact nearly half of the population (47%) don’t attend church because they believe it is ‘outdated’ and ‘irrelevant’.
This is the ‘spirit’ of our times. Australians have strong and confused views of the church. McCrindle warns us to read the research carefully. Australians, he suggests, have not rejected the church; they have rejected their perceptions of the church. While these perceptions are powerful and influential, the reality is that most adult Australians have had little or no experience of church.
So how should we respond?
When the disciples found they could not heal the boy, they most likely were down in confidence in God’s willingness or ability to work through them. Jesus showed that it could be done and taught them how they should go about it in the future. Pray and ask for insight to see the new reality. Ask for freedom from old ways of doing things. Ask for power to act that the demon expelled.
We too can lose confidence in the power of God to work through us so we can address the ‘spirit’ of our day. But Jesus has shown us how to respond and taught what we are to do – pray. The reality is that nothing is impossible for God.
Stephen L Baxter