Two recent reports from McCrindle Research, ‘Australia’s Changing Spiritual Climate’ and ‘The impact of faith on Australian Society’; have provided fascinating and surprising insights into the views of everyday Australians on spirituality, faith, and Christianity. Here are 5 take homes from these reports:
Australian society is more open and positive to Christianity than we realise
Three quarters of Australians believe the overall impact of Christianity on Australia society has been positive. More than a third of Australians interviewed identified themselves as Christian and another third responded that they were either positive or neutral in their attitude toward Christianity.
Only a quarter responded in a negative way, and of these only five percent indicated they were strongly opposed to Christianity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused people to think more about life’s bigger questions
Almost half of people surveyed indicated they are thinking more about the meaning of life and their own mortality during Covid and almost a third indicated they are spending more time praying and thinking about God.
It seems the pandemic has given people time, space and cause to consider spiritual things.
Young people are searching spiritually more than older people
When analysed by age group the data reveals it’s Gen Y (25-40) and Gen Z (10-25) who have experienced the greatest change in their spiritual hunger. In every area younger people indicated the greatest increase in thinking about spirituality, prayer and God.
While younger generations may be less present in Church, the results suggest this does not mean they are less interested in spirituality or less open to Christianity, but possibly more so.
People think more positively about Christians that we think
When given a list of both positive and negative attitudes and characteristics to describe Christians the most common descriptions were that Christians are caring, kind, honest, loving and generous.
It seems most people actually have positive interactions with the Christians they know and through this have a surprisingly positive view of Christians.
People are very open to coming to Church
Three in 10 Australians indicated they would be extremely or very likely to attend a Church service if invited by a friend or family member. For Gen Z this number jumped to 45% of respondents, quite a remarkable response.
In summary, the overall sense is that for Christians the reality of how we are viewed by our culture is very different from our perceptions. Outspoken voices in the mainstream and social media, changing moral attitudes and growing secularisation have often left Christians feeling as though the world is against us and no-one is open to Jesus.
The results however paint a very different picture. Christianity still retains a significant place in our nation, and especially among emerging generations, spiritual hunger remains strong and growing. The pandemic has undoubtedly caused people to reflect more deeply on spiritual things.
As Christians and Churches, the question then is what will we do with this opportunity? How will we make the most of this cultural moment? Are we seeking opportunities to love, listen, invite and share the reason for the hope that we have among our neighbours and friends?
Perhaps the fields are whiter for the harvest that we have been led to believe. Let us therefore keep praying that God will use this season for his glory.