How some New Zealanders view the church
In this post I list the nine perceptions of the church discovered in my recent doctoral research titled The disconnected church. This involved qualitative research where I talked to some people who were not what I call Christianised. This means they had never had any intentional engagement with the church throughout their life. The people I talked to also defined themselves as “spiritual”.
In previous posts I’ve attempted to get you thinking about how people outside the church see or perceive the church. In this post I start talking about what I actually found out.
The USA context
Similar research in the USA context was done by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons through the Barna group, published in the 2007 book unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters. Dan Kimball, through his pastoral experience with young people also wrote on this topic in his 2007 They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations (these are both still good reading).
Some things that make my research different is firstly the context: New Zealand is considered one of the most secularised countries in the world, so in some ways New Zealand trends are ahead of other western countries.
Secondly, in my research, the way I got church leaders to engage with these 9 perceptions was new to this kind of process, and I’ll write about that in another post.
In this post I just want to list the 9 perceptions of how the people I interviewed perceive the church. There is a lot to talk about with each of these perceptions, including some fascinating supporting stories. I will write more about these in the future too.
The 9 Perceptions:
Perception 1: The church is not a spiritual place.
Perception 2: The church is stuck in the past, in a time where it had power and abused it’s control.
Perception 3: The church and Christians lack integrity.
Perception 4: Free, independent thinkers don’t need the church.
Perception 5: Church is oppressive.
Perception 6: Christianity is not seen as relevant or necessary.
Perception 7a: Most Christians are nutters.
Perception 7b: Some Christians do amazing good.
Perception 8: The church is after your money.
Perception 9: The church? Who cares?
What’s your reaction?
I’m keen to hear your reaction to these perceptions – either as a New Zealander or from somewhere else. If you’ve read the Kinnaman & Lyons or Kimball material, you probably won’t be surprised. If you’re someone who thinks a lot about church and society engagement, this list probably won’t be a surprise either.
But if you are surprised by anything on the list, or have a thought to share about it, please leave a comment below.
What do you think?
Image “Elizabeth & Edmund” collage using money and a magazine by Mike Crudge.