Yesterday The West Australian previewed the findings of a survey about to be released by the Christian Research Association into belief and church attendance in Australia. The print version of the newspaper had more information, quoting, I think, that only 44% of Australians now believed in God. I was surprised by that, as my impression was that a fair majority of people believed in God, but just didn’t feel that any particular religion connected them to him/her. It’s so strange that we can all live in the same world, even the same country and have such different accounts of why we’re alive, or what the nature of the world is. (But then in another sense, there is a consensus about life, built around not religious questions, but economic and political ones – home ownership, career, education, health. And most believers share in this consensus, that’s how they can function in the world.) (I tried to read Charles Taylor’s massive 2007 opus, A Secular Age, on these questions, but it was too long, too dense and I couldn’t hold it up reading in bed.)
What do I think as an Anabaptist of the decline in monthly church attendance to 16%? Not sure; more mixed than a few years ago. (Comes from working for the Establishment now.) I think churches are not often places for authentic discipleship – but is it better people didn’t go at all? Probably not. I just hope something of Jesus truly gets into them. As more people grow up without a tradition of going to church, I’m hoping that truly post-Constintinian churches will develop, and those who go to church will more often be interested in deep discipleship.
What will actually happen? The megachurches will keep growing. The print version of the article hinted at this, interviewing Margaret Court of the Victory Life Centre, a warehouse in Osborne Park. I don’t think evangelicals and pentecostals are in decline.