Last week Karl Faase, Australian Christian communicator, media presenter, and social commentator, was in Hobart speaking at Family Voice events. The former senior pastor of Gymea Baptist, is well informed about the challenges faced by the church in Australia today.
Faase suggested that the average Christian attending church regularly on a Sunday has lost confidence in what they believe. The sad result is an unwillingness, even an inability, to engage in conversations about Christianity during the week.
However, he encouraged Christians not to be silenced by the media’s caricature of the irrelevancy of Christianity, its heralding of the Church’s demise and its increasing hostility both. Rather, he said, it is time to regain hope in the gospel and boldness in our proclamation. “We need to move from fearful silence to positive engagement.”
Citing research by Olive Tree Media (his company) and McCrindle Research, Faase explained how Australians show significant “warmth” to Christianity contrary to what is commonly assumed. When asked, “What best describes your current beliefs and attitude towards Christianity?” 25%, who don’t consider themselves as Christians, are warm towards Christianity. This is on top of the 33% who described themselves as Christian (whether they are or not is another matter). What this shows is that nearly 60% of Australians have an open stance towards Christianity and are willing to talk about it.
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5 Replies to “Is the Aussie Church Facing Challenges? Or Opportunities?”
It’s good to see some ‘leading’ Christian ‘communicators’ are waking up to the fact that Christians should be moving from ‘fearful silence’ to positively engaging their communities with the gospel. Of course, the immediate question that needs to be asked is “how is ‘positive engagement’ defined?” ( what does it look like in practice : a greater presence in charity work?, further capitulation to the great ‘gods’ of Natural Empiricism? [ i.e., acting as if Science is the guiding light of truth over and above Biblical revelation] and Secular Humanism? [allowing the world to define and direct what is morally and ethically appropriate] ?).
Second, “how did we get here in the first place?” How is it that the vast majority of professing Christians are so ‘fearfully silent’ ? I believe these are fundamentally important questions Christians in affluent countries like ours should ask – with a sincere willingness to be personally examined by them!
Jesus commanded the disciples to go out, preach the gospel, make disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father , the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all that He commanded them.
Yet, it is patently clear that the vast majority of professing Christians are willing to go to any length to avoid this simple ‘commandment’.
“Oh, no…surely that this can’t be taken a face value, as though it applies to us?!!!” ….”Surely our job is to live good and wholesome lives, and just wait patiently for God to send those he is saving our way. Then, when we have thoroughly convinced them we are not ‘religious loonies’, but just ordinary people just like them – then, maybe, we can tell them about Jesus [ carefully, because themes like suffering, blood etc., are after all , quite ‘off putting’ in our enlightened day and age!]
It is as thought they are ASHAMED of the gospel of Jesus Christ, ASHAMED also of His cross. Seeking rather to ‘fit in’ and be ‘accepted’ by the unbelieving world.
After all, how much easier is it to put aside a small portion of one’s income and help some poor children overseas ( never mind whether they ever hear about Christ – as long as we put food in their bellies, shoes on their feet, perhaps give them some school books and certainly a tap with clean running water in their village! ). Yes, let’s by all means increase the comfort quotient of souls on their way to hell. Because that is the primary function and task of the Church – right?
And let’s by all means join hands with any and every organization in such efforts. Tell them we are Christians IF we must, but no need to ‘shove it down their throats’. Because, of course, telling someone there is a unique God and that Salvation is on HIS terms alone, is ‘nasty’ and ‘antagonistic’.
Show me how I can be a Christian, AND get on with my unbelieving school mates, work mates, Uni professors etc. Show me how I can be a Christian and ‘cool’ at the same time. Give me a ‘Christianity’ that leads to personal prosperity, successful living and personal peace – yummy yummy ! Give me a church that serves the best coffee, with really cool contemporary style ‘worship’ [ that word has become synonymous with theatrical musical performances designed to get people into and ‘altered state of mind’ in many churches long ago – I wonder how many realize the fuller sense of the word in relation to the worship of God?]
Am I being to harsh? Too cynical? Maybe. But I think the facts speak for themselves. While we in the West belly gaze and wonder what on earth Jesus meant by “Go into all the world and make disciples…” , “…you are my witnesses…”, ” …preach the gospel to every creature…” , [Matt 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18] Christians in other parts of the world are experiencing what it is to pay for their faith with their SKINS!
That said, it appears there exist a growing number of Christians who are experiencing serious flack for their witness – even in the West.
See here for example:
DHS ( Department of Human Services) is no better. I have PROOF of that.
So when I read statements like this one :
“What this shows is that nearly 60% of Australians have an open stance towards Christianity and are willing to talk about it.”
I ask: What does that statistic REALLY mean? Are over half of all Australians REALLY non – hostile to the gospel of Christ?
Is it really just the leftist media skewing our perspective of reality ? Or are they simply serving up what most people actually want to hear ?
You ask if you are being “To harsh? Too cynical? You answer your own question with a “Maybe”. I answer it with a “yes”.
A quick look at church history shows that while there are uniquenesses in our current situation, the church has faced similar moments in the past when it is under increasing pressure. At those times there were some Christians are able to stand with boldness, others that were not.
Some fail and succumb to the pressure, others are able to prevail.
We believe in a gracious and forgiving God. It is reflected in Jesus response to his disciples when none of his disciples were able to stand with him in his final hours, yet he forgave them.
God cares for the weak, and that includes Christians who struggle to be witnesses, who cower in the face of growing hostility and who become mute, and perhaps flee, as a result.
So yes, I believe the tone of what you say is too harsh and cynical. However, that doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit is not at work stirring up believers to be bold and wanting us to be his witness in this hour. Let’s pray that we see just that – God’s people empowered by the Spirit who model the same love, grace, mercy and clarity of Jesus.
Hi Steve; with reference to the response of Chritians under pressure at various times in church history, as opposed to that of the disciples in the final hours of Jesus’ life on earth, I’m sure you realise that the first disciples had not yet received the Promise of the Father [Acts 1:4; c.f. John 7:39] ; thus, the Scriptures reveal that these same self confessed ‘cowards’ became bold witnesses of the resurrection of Christ AFTER they receieved the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. And yes, the Lord forgave them. But you are comparing apples with oranges. Moreover, that the Lord is ‘gracious and forgiving’ is not in contention here. My point is this: why are so many Christians STILL seeking man’s ‘solution’ to the general malaise in the body of Christ, when the LORD’s solution it is staring at ALL of us right in the face??? The Church seems to be so preoccuppied with becoming PALATABLE to the world, she is forgetting to do the very thing her HEAD ( Jesus Christ ) commanded her to do from the beginning! Which is to PREACH the GOSPEL!
It seems many Christians are so concerned about offending people, they won’t WARN them of their predicament and point them to the Savior. Time to stop with the programs, and get busy EXHORTING each other to get off our ‘blessed assurance’ and go and TELL someone why they need a Savior, and WHO that Savior is. The insane irony of it all is this: quite often, Christians who actually DO go out and preach the gospel, are often ridiculed by those who DON’T ( and WON’T). “Oh, they aren’t doing it the right way” , or “We have to learn to communicate in a relevant way to our culture” , or “Those street preachers are embarrassing the rest of us!”. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic.
Jesus also had this to say:
“”Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himsef, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save his life. … For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” [Mark 8:34 -38 ]
To conclude, the very freedoms and rights we have enjoyed in Australia ( and other Western democracies) have existed thanks to the Christian world view. In other words, Western democracy is underpinned by Judeo- Christian values. Instead of seizing the day, Christians in general have been busy enjoing the freedom, and fitting in with the world. But it seems all this is about to be seriously challenged!
IF we won’t step up, we’ll be stepped on.
Point taken, they hadn’t received the Spirit, however, I’m not sure you are comparing apples with apples either. While all Christians receive the Holy Spirit not all are given the same task. Peter, and the other apostles were was set aside by God for a specific purpose, we are not all similarly called.
That does not give anyone an excuse not to be witnesses, but it does means Christians go about their witnessing in different ways. I have no doubt that the Spirit is at work in his church preparing us for a future in which it will be more dangerous to be a follower of Jesus. I don’t believe we should fear that day but see it is as the grace of God (1 Peter 5:12).
That being said, primarily I was answering your question whether you were being too “harsh”, I still think that is the case.
Hi Stephen; you seem to be responding to a position I have not argued. Nowhere have I stated ( or even hinted ) that ALL Christians are given the same task, or share the same ‘calling’.
I find it odd that you should insinuate otherwise.
Recently, you attended some seminars, at which the need to motivate Christians to evangelize was discussed – because too few are actually doing so. It is well known that not more than 5% of evangelical Christians in Western countries actively share their faith in Christ.
The question is : WHY? This is the point I am addressing.
Encouraging Christians to believe it’s “ok” to be silent and fearful because God is “gracious and forgiving” isn’t going to fix the problem. In fact, it seems downright irresponsible.
Why not rather encourage the body of Christ to seek the Lord for opportunities and boldness to by His witnesses? Why not rather prepare the body of Christ to know how to answer the critics and the skeptics? We may not all be able to operate on the level of gifted apologists such as Dr. Ravi Zacharias, Dr.Norman Geisler or Dr.William Lane Craig, but all of us are called to be ready to give an ‘apologia’ [defense] to those who ask [ 1 Pet 3:15]
You say I was being too “harsh”. Your opinion is noted. Nor does it come as a surprise. But since only 5 out of every 100 professing Christians are actively sharing their faith in Christ, I think I’m not too far off the mark.