14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (ESV)
The results for the 2016 Census are in and the statistics don’t appear all that good for those identifying themselves as Christian. Mind you, that’s all stripes, all brands of what someone may self-identify as being Christian. With the decreasing numbers, it seems that those who want to “move-on” from any influence that Christianity has had in shaping Australian life are heartened.
According to conversation.com, “It is important to note that to keep a stable percentage of the population from 2011 to 2016, a religious group had to grow by 8.8% – the national population growth rate. Australia now has more Muslims and more Buddhists than Presbyterians; more Hindus than Baptists or Lutherans; and nearly as many Sikhs as Lutherans.” Fewer and fewer Aussies come from the British Isles; more come from Mumbai than Manchester.
What should be our response? Show and Tell.
Show: In Matthew 5.16 Jesus tells us that we should let our light shine before men and that they should see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. We are called on to live out the implications of th Gospel as we are being transformed by dying to sin, being transformed by the renewing of our minds, and learning to live according to our calling in Christ. By our love toward one another in Christ, by our love toward all men, everywhere we show forth that glorious work of Christ.
The Census results point out to us that we have fallen short of the goal of taking the Gospel to our fellow Australians. It also shows that with immigration to Australia shifting from European to more Asian people coming to our shores, we have mission fields here. In addition, we have a generation of young Australians with no connection to the Church – it is foreign to them. We should not let cowardice or fear of criticism keep us from practicing our faith openly – that is the point of 5.16 – but we should not give place to pride and vanity in the doing of our good works. A.B. Bruce sums up the difference: we should “show when we are tempted to hide and hide when we are tempted to show.”
Tell: We must have a ready answer for the hope that lies within us (1 Peter 3.15). The thing is, we tend to keep it bottled up! We mustn’t be cowed by the fear of what our neighbours or work associates or fellow students may or may not say or do in response to our telling of who our Lord Jesus is and what He has done. To quote the old hymn, “We’ve a story to tell to the nations.” The place to start is in our own backyard, missions-wise.
Our congregation’s GO Team (Grace Outreach) is being reactivated to help us to consider the mission field, both foreign and domestic, where we are to serve. Our Grow @ Grace evening sessions will have personal evangelism training in its curriculum.
As we Show and Tell, we trust that the Lord will move upon the people around us, bringing, as He pleases, a people of His choosing. And that is a statistic that matters!