Steve Fogg has an informative piece on his blog about what Australians think of Christian faith (Stunning Research About What Australians Think Of Christian Faith).
He chose four points to highlight. Here is my edited version:
1. Seeing public figures and celebrities declaring their faith is a turn-off for many Australians …
2. People’s stories, seeing first hand people who live out a genuine faith, philosophical discussion were all somewhat attractive to approximately 50% of people who were non-christian and open to Christianity.
3. The tone of communication must not be in the slightest authoritative or even straight line …
4. Australians most preferred method on gathering information about religion or spirituality was through an information rich website …
I enjoyed the blog post (thanks Steve), and his concluding question is really the right one to ask: How would these insights impact the way you communicate?
My initial answer lands in two different categories: Aussie culture, Christian message.
As an Aussie, my gut feeling is that these points are pretty right. We feel uncomfortable with overt personal ‘religious stuff’. We don’t always complain when a US citizen says ‘God Bless America’, but we do recognise how different from us that is. If someone tried ‘God bless Australia’ we’d jump under the table in embarrassment.
Though there may be place for public and less personal God-talk – a significant public funeral, or ANZAC day – these don’t appear to have much traction in changing lives. This agrees with point #2 about the value of personal contact.
What do we do with this knowledge? Don’t go against the grain of Aussie culture for no apparent reason. If possible, have a good website. Have great personal contacts rich in conversation. Don’t resort to celebrity endorsement of Christianity. Ask lots of questions, and listen intently to the answers.
Some of the points create a potential problem. The Christian message is of divine kingship (Jesus is both Lord and Christ, Acts 2:36). This is a straightforward authority claim. Can we communicate this without appearing authoritative? I don;t think so.
Christian caring is also intensely personal: Paul reminded the church how he shared his very life with them (1 Thessalonians 2:8). Web pages are wonderfully helpful, but inherently cannot convey this personal urging and instruction.
This is why I said for no apparent reason. At some points, the news about Jesus does clash with Aussie culture. When it comes to communicating to Aussies – to anyone – there are times we will need to risk social gaffes. To never risk awkwardness is to guarantee miscommunication, for we will be editing out parts of the message.
So, my short answer to Steve’s question: get to know Australian culture really well and communicate appropriately whenever you can; know the message of Jesus really well, so you can choose to be awkward only when it is truly necessary.