What really counts by Stewart Perry

On Thursday last week Bowen and I attended the Lord Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, which has always been, in my experience, a great opportunity to celebrate the diversity of the church… and get a free breakfast… I mean who doesn’t like luke-warm scrambled eggs and cold bacon…

At this years breakfast they presented the results of the NAYBA (pronounced ‘neighbour’) Audit of the Gold Coast which you may have seen reported in the paper. If not, it is a process of measuring the impact of the Christian Churches and faith organisations in a particular area. The one that has just been completed for the Gold Coast was their biggest region so far.

Of the churches and organisations identified in the Gold Coast local government area, 52% responded and completed the survey (which equates to 124 respondents). Our church was included in the results and I remember the rather extensive survey I filled out. Some of the numbers were staggering, and it was emphasised that the numbers were very conservative because it didn’t measure the 48% of churches who didn’t respond along with other conservative measures employed. Despite that, here are some of the astounding statistics:

Our churches and faith organisations served more that 57% of the entire Gold Coast population in some way
The economic value of that service is more that $43 million.
There were more than 400,000 volunteer hours included in that service.
The top areas of focus for this service were:
Social isolation and loneliness
Mental Health
Financial and food insecurity
Domestic and family violence

The reach of the Christian Church into the community is extraordinary and one that I’m sure many of us underestimate and maybe undervalue. All of the small things, short moments and interactions all add up to make a profound difference in a world that seems to be less and less connected to the Christian faith. In reality they are… they perhaps don’t realise it. Our church is just a small part of the bigger picture but without all of the small parts adding together, we don’t get the type of outcomes that this report revealed.

And thinking about our church, there’s some interesting numbers floating around as well. Last week our local councillor Hermann Vorster crunched some numbers from the latest census. In our parish boundaries (which are arguably less important now than they were in the past) there are 7,549 people who identify themselves as Anglicans. That’s around 11% of the total population. I was blown away the more I reflected on this. How amazing that in this world where there is no compulsion to continue to identify yourself as a denomination, that many people have chosen to continue to self-identify as the same denomination. 45% of the population in our parish boundaries identify themselves as Christian. If all of those people went to church on a Sunday the whole of the churches on the Gold Coast would struggle to hold them all… they would only just fit in CBUS Stadium.

But they don’t go to church every Sunday… it’s a problem… is it a challenge… is it an opportunity…

I was talking to Mary-Anne after our Community Connect program on Thursday morning. She was sharing about a conversation with someone who had come in and as part of the course of conversation said “I use to come to this church”. It’s one of many similar conversations that have taken place since we’ve begun the program.

As we approach Christmas, we’re beginning to explore what would it mean for some of those 7,000+ people to come back to church this Christmas. But to stretch our thinking further, what would it mean for them to come back this Sunday. How would they be greeted? Would they feel welcome? Would they be noticed? Would they come back again?

To all of those questions we might answer “well that’s up to them”… that may be somewhat true… but it’s also up to us.

The NAYBA report shows us how impactful the Christian Churches can be but there is so much more capacity. The presenter of the report encouraged us to respond to the report in 3 ways:
Let’s not take a victory lap
Let’s not stop
Let’s not doubt God’s immeasurable love for all people

I think he’s right… I wonder how that all might take shape at the Anglican Church Robina. It’s worth asking the question… what really counts?