The way we have experienced church this year has changed significantly for many. From foregoing weekly face-to-face gatherings, to embracing digital services and not singing in a congregation, there’s been widespread adaptation required of both church leaders and attendees. But has it all been bad? What affect has it had on Australia’s interest in the church?
McCrindle Research has just released the results of their latest study, The Future of the Church in Australia, compiling the responses of over 30 church leaders and hundreds of churchgoers who they interviewed about the state of Christianity in our nation.
“It’s been a year like no other – for the church,” Mark told Hope 103.2.
“We’ve all been dealing with the pandemic, and social isolation and working from home, and that has impacted people spiritually.”
As the COVID-19 crisis upends traditional church formats and how we engage with our faith, social researcher Mark McCrindle delves into the future of the church in Australia, and how it’s fundamentally shifted as a result of the pandemic – for the better, and maybe for the worst.
For people who already had a faith, this has meant they’ve leaned into that faith, and for non-Christians it’s caused them to be spirituality hungry and curious.
“The amazing news is that 76 per cent of Australian churchgoers said that this year has been a year of spiritual growth from them,” Mark said.
“Only 26 per cent said that it’s been a year of spiritual dryness… [and we] know this biblically: that though [these] times, hardships and difficulties do strengthen our faith, because when we’re weak in ourselves then we’re strong in Christ.”
Despite the reputational challenges that have faced the church in recent years, particularly after the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse, people still turn to the church in crises.
“In these new times of uncertainty and complexity and volatility, people do look for something more grounding in their life. They look beyond everything else that seems to be fading,” Mark said.
“And as people of faith that have built our life on timeless truth and on the Rock, we know that you need something more than the shifting sands of our society. We, as the church, have a hope and have a message of good news to share, and I think it’s important we do that.”
The McCrindle Research report also clarified data around the decline of Christianity in Australia.
“’Christianity’ in terms of our identity nationally has been declining,” Mark said.
“In the last 10 years of census results, the proportion of Australians saying their religion is Christianity has declined from 64 per cent to 52 per cent.
“However, that doesn’t capture people’s practice, and those who might be churchgoers. In fact, the National Church Life survey data shows that the proportion of Australians attending church regularly has been unchanged.
“So while there’s been the evaporation of what you might call, ‘cultural Christianity’ or ‘historic Christianity’ or ‘I’m Australian… so I guess I’m that’, the core of those who say, ‘Christianity is my faith, it’s my walk and I’m a churchgoer’ is unchanged.”
Download a free copy of the full report on The Future of the Church in Australia, and hear Mark McCrindle’s extended conversation with Laura Bennett in the video and player above.