In this e.fish...
A South African with bush blood
Where have all the Christians gone
Some challenges in our modern culture
My name is Andre le Roux - a South African, born and bred. I have come to NZ with my wife, Esmé, and daughter, Kelsey (11), to be closer to my children from my first marriage. Being half a world away from them for 3 years proved far more difficult than I thought. To see my son, Daniel (10), and daughter, Jamie (8), regularly has been really good for me. We have settled well into this beautiful land, taking time to explore and enjoy the beaches, bush and sights of the Auckland area.
My deep love for the mountains and the bush rests somewhat uncomfortably beneath the call to full-time ministry. I love my work, and could spend all my time in the worship / preaching and teaching aspects of ministry, though there are times when I love the bush more!
Where have all the Christians gone?
As a South African, I find the reluctance of Kiwi's to attend church strange. "Back home" people went to church on Sunday because that is what you did on Sunday. In our circuit (parish?) of 3 churches we had 8 full time ministers, with nearly 1500 people attending each week. There always seemed to be new people attending and their commitment to Christ and His church opened opportunities for new ministry all the time. To be honest, I miss that "easy" entry into people lives. Hard work was rewarded with lives changed and church growth.
At the recent Kingdom Builders 03 conference in Auckland Gordon Millar pointed out that, on any given Sunday, about 370 000 people attend church in New Zealand. That equates to less than 10% of the population. Later in the conference, Kevin Ward refered to the lastest NZ census in which 60% of the population considered themselves to be Christian. Now, it is obvious that most Christians in this country are not church attenders - not on a regular basis anyway. Ward suggested that people still believe in God, but choose not align themselves with a particular religious institution. "Religious believing has been split from religious belonging." So, the question is, how do we connect religious believing and belonging in a way that the people of this land / culture / time will find meaningful?
Some challenges in our modern culture.
That question will engage us for some to come - perhaps it will never leave us. However, I found the following descriptions of our culture helpful in giving focus to my thinking:
Ward suggests that our changing culture can be charaterised by the following 5 "isms":
Individualism - people no longer live in community. Independance and free thinking is considered a virtue.
Privatism - people keep their life-story private and do not easily share struggles and needs. To be needy is to be weak.
Pluralism - people have so many choices today (from coffee to cars - the variety is endless). A one-size-fits-all solution is treated with suspicion.
Relativism - people are free to choose their own path from the many offered. There are no absolutes and no unchanging ethical standards.
Anti-institutionalism - people are suspicious of institutions and hierarchical structures.
If this is the world we live in, then what does that mean for the way we do church? Can we survive without changing? And if we are to change, what is the change we need to make?
Well, I've only been in the country for 7 months so I don't have the answers....