Sacred Agents #101
Census and Sensibility
By Andrew Turner, Director of Crossover, helping Australian Baptists share Jesus
I know most of you don’t love statistics as much as I do, probably 98.841% of you with a margin of error of … WAIT! Don’t switch off. The recent Australian Census data is important. Let me try to translate the number columns into a meaningful story.
Some results were not that surprising. Turns out we’re all five years older than we were at the last census five years ago. Over that time the Australian population grew 8.6% (1.5% per year) to 25.4 million. Half of that growth came from migration. Ask your parents where the other half came from. Speaking of which, did you know nearly 50% of us have a parent born overseas? Oh, and that Millennials have totally taken over as largest age demographic? LOL. Eye-roll emoji.
But it was the Religious Affiliation data that surprised many. The proportion of Aussies who claim to be Christian dropped sharply, from 52% to 44% (in 2011 it was 61%). At the same time, those who ticked ‘No Religion’ rose from 30% to 39%. This represents two million nominal Christians no longer claiming to be what they don’t practice.
Most of us would see this as a rise in honesty – don’t claim to be a musician if you don’t play an instrument. But if it’s a shift from ‘I’m a lazy musician who hardly ever practices’ to ‘I’m no musician and selling my trumpet’, it is a loss and a grief.
The drop-off from those claiming Christianity was not spread evenly across denominations. Anglicans especially, but Catholics, Uniting, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Salvos had very significant reductions. Pentecostals and Churches of Christ fell a little. And Baptists actually grew – by 2,192 – small falls in most states were more than offset by a jump of 4,500 in Victoria. Go BUV!
The generation that is least ‘Christian’ (31%) and most ‘No Religion’ (47%) are those millennials, now aged 26-40. But this may be more about life-stage than generation; young adults often do a prodigal walkabout before returning to faith. Let’s be sure to welcome them.
So what’s the story? What might God be saying to us and what might we do with all this?
Firstly, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Andrew Turner is the Director of Crossover for Australian Baptist Ministries and author of Fruitful Church and Taking the Plunge: Baptism and Belonging to Jesus.
Andrew recently completed a Leadership Review of Tasmanian Baptists, with results soon to be tabled.
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