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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 (Mark 16:15). Perhaps what is being measure in these polls is a reflection of attitudes towards people of the Christian faith who have lost their saltiness. (Matthew 5:13) 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 (Eph. 2:1-3), Jesus died and rose three days later for sinners (1 Peter 2:18-25), men and women must put their faith in God (Titus 3:3-7) 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 1Peter 2:8, Galatians 5:11, and Romans 9:33.
But, remember, He promised to bless His words, not ours (Isa. 55:11).
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]