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Check the detailed infographic above of Australian views. Australia is probably similar in religious attitudes to most European countries, and Canada.
There are similar figures available for Europe from the Eurobarometer and Gallup Polls – unfortunately these do not measure animosity/hostility as such, though this may overlap considerably with the percent of non-theists in their research results.
The USA is numerically very different, but George Barna Research recently reported that over the last decade, as a percentage of the population, there was zero gain in the number of Christians in America, despite the fact that $500 billion was spent on domestic ministry during that same period!
Can we do anything about this decline in relative numbers and increase in negative attitudes? Well, the easy answer might be to blame society. We could take the position that people are more sinful, more narcissistic, self-absorbed seekers of pleasure.
Whilst this may be true, there can be no justificationt in being judgmental or pharisaical. Being so might momentarily ease our conscience, but does not absolve Christians of their God-given responsibility to evangelise the world (). Perhaps what is being measure in these polls is a reflection of attitudes towards people of the Christian faith who have lost their saltiness. () Maybe we have so obscured the gospel message that, in doing so, it has lost its effectiveness.
Our message must not change; man is sinful (), Jesus died and rose three days later for sinners (), men and women must put their faith in God () who through Jesus, pours out His unmerited grace upon us. It’s this message that must be proclaimed, unpackaged, simple and straightforward.
Whilst it makes sense to use new means and methods to deliver this unchanged message, we must avoid slick packaging, dumbed-down politically-correct evasive language that so dilutes the message it becomes unintelligible. Fear of offending is often a big motivator in obscuring the gospel but I am not advocating that we intentionally offend, but present the message contained in God’s Word. I’m not talking about license to be a jerk, but as a matter of fact, the gospel is deeply, deeply offensive. In fact, the Bible tells us that it’s offensive in , , and .
We don’t normally hesitate to proclaim “God loves you”, which is true, but that’s only half the message. What makes this good news, indeed – terrific news, is that God loves us in spite of our sinful ways. God’s love is totally unmerited and is extended towards us whilst we are His enemies.
Now that’s tremendous news – that’s great news -that’s the gospel. And the best bit is – we do not need to (indeed cannot) do anything to earn God’s favour. Jesus paid the price for us – simply believe it!
View this video clip in which Mark Dever and John Piper discuss the ‘offensive nature’ of the gospel. [apologies for the poor sound quality]
15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.
33 as it is written,
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.