A nationwide study of faith and belief in New Zealand “has revealed both challenging and encouraging results for the public perception of Christianity in Aotearoa New Zealand”, Anglican Taonga reports. Its findings support the disputed words attributed to St Francis of Assisi: “preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words”, as it finds that the most effective form of evangelism in New Zealand is by Christians who demonstrate Christian actions first, before sharing their faith in words.
Of the New Zealanders who completed the survey, 59 per cent thought they would most likely be influenced to investigate faith by seeing others live out their faith. And if that faith was lived out while caring for people suffering from a personal trauma or life change, the impact of that Christian love and care went up. The survey also found that 54 per cent of Kiwis were open to changing their religious views or exploring other beliefs, Anglican Taonga said.
The “Faith and Belief in New Zealand” report came from a Wilberforce Foundation commissioned survey carried out by Australian communications company McCrindle Research. It draws on national census records of religious affiliation and used online questionnaires to establish patterns of perception and belief across a group of 1007 respondents.
Just under half of those who completed the questionnaire (46 to 47 per cent) said spirituality was important for wellbeing and mental health, and in the 18-25 age group that edged up to 50 to 52 per cent, making it the majority view for the youngest age group surveyed.
The survey pinpointed what the Wilberforce Foundation termed “belief blockers” – those aspects of behaviour, belief or reputation that turned people off from pursuing faith. The biggest belief blocker was sexual abuse that had occurred within the church, which was cited by 76 per cent of respondents. Others included hypocritical attitudes or behaviour (69 per cent), negative attitudes on homosexuality (47 per cent) and “the perceived mismatch of proclaiming a loving God that would nonetheless send sinners to hell” (45 per cent).
“The results contained hopeful news for Christians looking to share their faith with those beyond church walls”, Anglican Taonga said. “Of the non-Christians sampled, 26 per cent were warm towards Christianity, while another 13 per cent saw themselves as Christians, but didn’t currently make it to any church.”