The Church in Australia appears to be in decline. Yet between 2001 and 2011, the number of people identifying with a Christian church grew from 12.8 to 13.1 million.
I belong to the Baptist denomination. In the 2001 census 309,205 people identified as Baptist, but in the 2011 census this had grown to 352,499, a gain of almost 43,000 people. Other churches that increased in number of Australians identifying with them were Brethren, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, Pentecostals and Seventh Day Adventists. Churches that declined were Anglicans, Churches of Christ, Presbyterian and Reformed, and Uniting.
So does this mean we Baptists, and others that grew, have been successful in converting Australians to Christ? No, it doesn’t. Philip Hughes of the Christian Research Association, points out that when you factor in births, deaths and migration, all denominations have experienced a net loss. Baptists for example, grew because births into Baptist families and migration outnumbered deaths and abandonment of identity. The reality is there were 11,576 people who identified with the Baptist church in 2001 who had ceased to do so by 2011. We’re growing by birth and migration, not by conversion.
All up, 577,000 people who identified with a denomination in 2001 had ceased to do so by 2013.
It would appear that we need to do much better in winning people to faith.