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We now understand we need to undertake the same assignment here in Australia. For too long we have assumed we understood our culture and have borrowed heavily from Britain and the US counterparts assuming their approaches would translate into the Australian context. Thankfully, we are now more aware this will no longer do, and have embarked on the process of understanding and appreciating Australia’s unique history and culture.
This process is known as contextualisation. It studies the peculiarities of all it means to be Australian and works out how we might best share the love of God as demonstrated in Christ. It takes into account the reality of the vast difference between our culture and the culture of Jesus’ day, as well as our culture and that of Britain and the US.
In the face of the ongoing challenge raised by Australia’s increasingly hostile secularity, coupled with the growing recognition that British and North American approaches are not always appropriate for the Aussie scene, the Australian church is undergoing a sort of coming-of-age. This maturity is bringing new insights into how Aussies uniquely gain their sense of meaning, security and identity in a world full of fear, meaninglessness and uncertainty.
Australian culture is a complex mixture of influences including our historical roots, regionality, and political structures, our social and economic status, education, religious traditions and worldview. We also have deep historical roots extending back thousands of years through our aboriginal ancestry and ever increasing cultural diversity.
We are, in fact, one of the world’s most multicultural societies having adopted multiculturalism as official policy decades ago. Along with Canada we are the only other nation to do so. Our culture, as a result, is more a series of overlapping sub‐cultures than a united monoculture. It renders a one-size-fits-all approach to mission and evangelism unworkable and encourages us to do our contextualisation at a many levels.
Nevertheless, despite our multicultural society, there are definitely traits that are decidedly Australian. If we are to be effective in our mission and evangelism these need to be identified and understood so that our communication of the gospel can be adapted accordingly.
Over the next few months from time to time I hope to explore these traits hoping, God willing, we may gain insights into how we best might fulfil our God-given missionary task to take the gospel to our fellow Australians.
Stephen L Baxter
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