The Aussie Church – Can we survive our hostile enviroment?

The Australian outback is often described as harsh and unforgiving.
Many Christians Australian desertwould claim these words not only describe our land but also our spiritual environment.
Recently an acquaintance commented how friends of hers, newly emigrated from South Africa, were amazed at how ‘uncool’ it is to be a Christian in Australia and, further, how persistently the media engages in ‘church bashing’. In South Africa and many other nations, being a Christian does not have the stigma it carries in Australia.
Our cultural environment is unique. Anyone who aspires to be President of the United States must almost wear a badge which states, “I am a Christian”.
Obama FlierHowever, anyone who wants to be Prime Minister of Australia must hide their spirituality, saying, “It’s a private matter, so don’t ask me questions”. In fact, numbers of people who hold, or have held, positions of prominence in our country have related to me how the kingdom of God is often better served if they do not describe themselves as Christian.
Unhelpful stereotypes
That is not to say that our society is non-spiritual. Rather, it illustrates that spirituality, for Australians, is an embarrassing subject and that our culture has a limited range of images and metaphors it can use to express it. Even words such as ‘Christian’ and ‘church’ have all but lost their true usefulness and meaning; all they communicate are unhelpful stereotypes.
So how are believers responding to this uniquely hostile environment? Some act as if it is time to retreat into a ghetto – yet surely the appropriate response is to confront the challenge. This hostile Australian environment is as much a mission field as ever. The challenge we face is how to live as followers of Jesus in such a way that we communciate the gospel message to our fellow Australians.
To do this we need to live as missionaries within our own country. We need to adjust our mind-set, our language, our church lifestyles with its many forms and adapt to life in a hostile environment. It can be done. At different times throughout church history God’s people have worked hard in understanding their culture so that they can communicate the gospel to their communities.
Baptist churches across Greater Hobart have acknowledged the need to address these issues in a postive and proactive way. Our ‘2020 Vision’, to grow to 20 communities of faith with a total of 2000 people by 2020, is a way of expressing a hope that with God’s help we can transition into churches with mission, evangelism and church planting at the centre of all we do.
Will you pray that God will enable, not just Baptists to face these challenges with hope and courage, but Christians of all denominations throughout Hobart (and your locality)? Not only that, but will you pray that God raises up godly men and women to address these key issues and lead us through the necessary transitions?
Let’s look forward to seeing how God transforms his Church in Hobart and beyond!
Stephen L Baxter

6 Replies to “The Aussie Church – Can we survive our hostile enviroment?”

  1. Probably I could summarise the previous comment as: if all Christians knew how much they are loved, and lived life completely under this love, then we wouldn’t be wrapped up in our phony selves, which is possibly while people outside the Church are so hostile towards it.

  2. The basic premise of this argument is certainly correct – Australians may not be as welcoming to Christians (and religion in general for that matter) as other countries such as the United States or South Africa. Culturally, Australians are suspicious of authority, government and religion. Given, many people in Australia exercise their faith through the activity and expression of religion – but many do not. We are a multi-cultural country with MANY faiths and practices. I don’t agree that our politicians try to hide their religion – John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Peter Costello are all notable examples of church-going leaders (2 Prime Ministers and a deputy leader). The landscape is certainly different because politicians understand that, culturally, Australians don’t appreciate any set of beliefs or religion being forced down their throat, nor do they want religion being mixed with politics or the law. You only have to look at one of the worst leaders in US history – George W. Bush – to see why religion should NEVER influence a leader’s political decisions. This “Christian man” single-handedly lined his greedy pockets, destroyed the American economy, and waged a Holy Christian War (lets call it what it is) on Muslim countries under the clearly false banner of “stopping terrorism”. There was clearly a fabrication of evidence to support the 10 year war in Iraq – which is still not over. Australian political leaders should set aside and ignore their personal religious beliefs – and govern with the best interests of the whole country – not just the Christian Right.

    1. Warren, thanks for your thoughtful response. I’m sorry if I gave the impression I was endorsing the way “Christian” politicians in America act, that wasn’t my intention. I was just trying to make the point, as you incisively note, that the landscape is quite different in Australia than it is in the USA and that it is becoming increasingly hostile. I think we can also discern a trend where Christian parliamentarians are finding new ways to express their faith, although it is still often misunderstood. Your point is well made about recent leaders. I believe we live in difficult yet exciting times as God leads us in uncovering ways to express our faith in Jesus within the harsh Aussie landscape.

  3. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clickedsubmit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr…well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyway, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

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