Australia

169-Tracking Progress Downunder - Dave Milne

Dave Milne has been tracking progress towards multiplying movements in Australia. He talks to Steve Addison about the lessons.

For a copy of Dave's research when it's released, send me an email.

Immigration: Threat or challenge to Australia's future?

Religion in Australia 1900-2012.jpg Australia's population is on the rise and growing faster than the rest of the developed world. Faster even than India.

We're having babies and we're drawing in immigrants from around the globe.

A spin-off of immigration is the growth in the number of people of other faiths. Some see this as a threat to our Christian heritage, such as it is.

I prefer to see it as an opportunity, as God brings the world to Australia.

Note the decline in Protestantism. Mainly due to the collapse of the Protestant mainline — the Uniting Church and non-Evangelical Anglicans.

Thanks to reader Tas for the heads up on the ABS stats.

The Aussie boom continues

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Australia's population is about to tick past the 23 million mark as the country continues to grow at the fastest rate in the developed world.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics population counter will tick over to 23 million at 9.57pm. Social researchers say the milestone baby will - statistically - be a boy called Jack. Odds suggest his mother will be 31, his father 33 and he will live in western Sydney.

Our annual population growth rate of 1.7 per cent - 1048 people per day, or the equivalent of a new Gold Coast every 19 months - is the fastest of any OECD country. The US is growing at 0.9 per cent, and Britain at just 0.6 per cent.

Australia's population growth is even outstripping countries with traditionally high birth rates, such as India on 1.4 per cent.

Demographers say it is migration, rather than an elevated birth rate, that is the main driver spurring Australia's growth.

Net overseas migration accounted for 60 per cent of Australia's population increase last year.

In 1918, Australia's population was just 5 million. It passed 10 million in 1959, 15 million in 1982, and 20 million in 2003. While a lesser contributor than migration, births still hit a record high last year, surpassing 300,000 for the first time. Australia recorded twice as many births (303,600) as deaths (149,100). By 2028 there will be more people aged over 60 than under 20.

Full details.

The turnaround of the Australian Christian Churches

hillsong.jpg For the first forty years of its existence the number of ACC* attenders and churches grew steadily. Something changed in the late 1970s and the movement took off.

Attendances grew from 9,446 people to 215,000 between 1977-2007 — a staggering 2276%. The number of churches grew from 152 to 1120 — or 736%.

Despite this history, the number of ACC churches has recently fallen — from 1133 in 2008, to 1073 in 2011.

If the number of ACC churches continues to shrink, so will attendances.

What could be at the heart of this dramatic turnaround?

The ACC may be suffering from is the “failure of success.” In their early stages, movements risk everything for the cause they believe in. Success can change movements. They become risk averse. They have attained a place in society, they have resources, their clergy are increasingly educated and respected. They have more to lose.

In a plateaued movement, the next generation of leaders would prefer to be on the staff of a large successful church, than take the risk of planting a new church. Larger churches would prefer to reproduce what they know works, rather than risk planting new churches.

Growing something bigger is safer than starting something new. Success is measured by the size of a church, rather than the number of generations of new churches it has produced.

The challenge for the ACC is to make an innovative return to the best of its traditions . . .

*The Australian Christian Churches was formally known as the Assemblies of God in Australia

The turnaround of the Australian Christian Churches

hillsong.jpg For the first forty years of its existence the number of ACC* attenders and churches grew steadily. Something changed in the late 1970s and the movement took off.

Attendances grew from 9,446 people to 215,000 between 1977-2007 — a staggering 2276%. The number of churches grew from 152 to 1120 — or 736%.

Despite this history, the number of ACC churches has recently fallen — from 1133 in 2008, to 1073 in 2011.

If the number of ACC churches continues to shrink, so will attendances.

What could be at the heart of this dramatic turnaround?

The ACC may be suffering from is the “failure of success.” In their early stages, movements risk everything for the cause they believe in. Success can change movements. They become risk averse. They have attained a place in society, they have resources, their clergy are increasingly educated and respected. They have more to lose.

In a plateaued movement, the next generation of leaders would prefer to be on the staff of a large successful church, than take the risk of planting a new church. Larger churches would prefer to reproduce what they know works, rather than risk planting new churches.

Growing something bigger is safer than starting something new. Success is measured by the size of a church, rather than the number of generations of new churches it has produced.

The challenge for the ACC is to make an innovative return to the best of its traditions . . .

*The Australian Christian Churches was formally known as the Assemblies of God in Australia

The rise of the Jedi and other Australian religious trends in 2011.

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The latest Australian census data reveals that the number of Australians identifying their religion as Jedi has risen from 58,000 in 2006, to 65,000 in 2011. The Force is strong in them.

The Australian census figures reveal some other interesting religious trends. Gary Bouma identifies ten of them.

  1. "No religion" is up: Those declaring no religion rose by 29% to become 22.3% of the population.
  2. No joy for atheists: The ‘no religion’ types are certainly not all atheists. In the last census there were only 31,000 who wrote in atheist in the census.
  3. Christians still a majority: Self declared Christians are at 61% [ed. down from 96% in 1911].
  4. Catholics are the largest denomination — growing but not fast enough: The biggest Christian denomination is and has been the Catholics at 25.3%. Even though Catholicism has shrunk as a percentage of the population, they’ve found 300,000 new adherents. They grew by 6.1%. But the whole population grew by 8.3%.
  5. Bad news and good news on Anglican decline: Anglicans are now at 17.1% of the population, down from 18.7% but they only declined by 1% which is amazing because they declined by 4.2% between 2001 and 2006 so something is happening to slow that decline.
  6. Anglicans in Sydney declined by the same rate as Anglicans in Melbourne. So, according to Bouma, the declines appear to be endemic to the system and not reflective of particular styles of Anglicanism. [ed What Gary Bouma doesn't mention is that Census figures do not tell the whole story. Sydney Anglicans are younger and more vibrant than their progressive Anglican brethren in other dioceses. Sydney Anglicans will do considerably better in holding their own in the face of the decline and collapse of mainline Christianity in Australia.]
  7. Bad news and good news on Presbyterian, Reformed and Uniting decline: The Presbyterians, Reformed and Uniting decline was 4%, but that was half of what they declined between 2001 and 2006. [ed That's not really good news. The bad news is not as bad as we expected.]
  8. Hinduism is Australia’s fastest growing religion: Hindus grew by 86% to become 1.3% of the population. Hindus are more numerous than Lutherans, Pentecostals or Jews.
  9. Islam and Buddhism overtaking Presbyterians: Islam has grown to become 2.2% of the population and Buddhism, 2.5%. There are more Muslims, and almost as many Buddhists, in Australia as Presbyterians.
  10. Long term decline of Christianity will continue: A lot of those who identify as Christian in Australia are nominal, cultural Christians.They are now elderly and dying out. Anglicans, Presbyterians and Uniting have a vast pile of non-attending people who identify culturally with these strands but do not attend. Those identifying with Christianity is very likely to fall below 50% in ten years. [ed. unless there is a game-changer.]

I take a lot of comfort that there are twice as many Jedi roaming our land as atheists. I also take comfort from this observation by GK Chesterton — five times in history, the church has gone to the dogs. But on every occasion, it was the dogs that died.