COVID-19 on top of rising trends of family breakdown, declining mental health and loneliness are key factors in the apparent openness to spirituality in Australians.
A new research report released today has found that churches across Australia are seeing an increasing spiritual hunger in their communities, alongside a deeply-felt cynicism about the church and the relevance it has for their lives.
The Future of the Church in Australia, released by research firm, McCrindle Research, attributes the impact of COVID-19 as well as pre-pandemic trends such as family breakdown, declining mental health and rising loneliness as being key factors in the apparent openness to spirituality in Australians.
It feels like we are at a defining moment for the church in Australia...
The study, which was based on interviews with more than 30 church and charity leaders, reveals that churches have a long way to go to rebuild trust with their communities as many view faith groups as irrelevant, institutional and untrustworthy due to high profile cases of leaders abusing their power.
Mark McCrindle, founder of McCrindle Research, comments, “It feels like we are at a defining moment for the church in Australia. There is often a media narrative that the church is no longer relevant, but churches and their leaders need to listen to their communities. There is a deep longing for something more than post modernist individualism – Australians are not just open to spirituality, they are spiritually hungry.”
The report also highlighted that the impact of COVID-19 in forcing churches to move their activities online could be a key tool in going some way to rebuilding relationship with those outside the church and communicating the gospel in more effective ways.
Phil Pringle, Founder and Senior Leader at C3 Church Global, comments “God has given us a tool [online church], possibly the greatest tool to the church, for us to reach others in an unprecedented way. The online church is not a viable option, it’s a reality. It has reached people we’ve never been able to meet before.”
Nicky Gumble, the founder of Alpha and Vicar at Holy Trinity Brompton (London, England) agrees, “This is the greatest evangelistic opportunity of our lifetime.”
The findings suggest that the rebuilding of trust and the opportunity for evangelism would be most effectively realised as churchgoers assumed responsibility to disciple those around them. Although many churchgoers have missed the gathered experience of church, almost two in five churchgoers (38%) agree that COVID-19 has made them more active in ministry as they feel they cannot leave it to the paid church staff. Many have also invited more people to church online (47%) or have opened their homes and hosted watch parties for church (34%). Some (35%) also feel that doing less church activities has given them more time to build connections in their local community.
McCrindle concludes, “The global pandemic has highlighted the importance for churches to be dynamic, adaptable and in touch with culture and community. As people were required to stay at home and church moved online, church has largely taken place through friendships, homes and the laity. A number of Christian leaders are thinking about this moment in time as a ‘reformation moment’ where the Word of God is put back into the hands of the people.”
To download the full report go to www.cityinfield.com