It has been interesting over the last month or so to hear numerous important statistics being articulated abut Christianity in New Zealand.
In this issue we highlight some of the data shared with the recent New Zealand Christian Leaders’ Congress by Associate Professor Geoff Troughton of Victoria University. His presentation, “A Snapshot of Christianity and the Churches in New Zealand”.
From the 2018 Census (the 2023 data is not yet available), Dr Troughton noted that 37% of New Zealand census respondents identify as “Christian” (in 2013 it was 49.1%, in 2006 it was 54.2%, and back in the 1960s it was over 80%).
The substantial decline of Christian affiliation was matched by a new high of 48.2% of New Zealanders identifying with “no religion” (up from 41.9% in 2013).
In both categories (Christian and “no religion”), Maori and NZ European percentages were the same, and growth in “no religion” is strongest among young people.
Dr Troughton commented that Christianity remains “by a long way the largest religion in New Zealand”, that other religions were only 8%), and that the growth in other religions is largely fuelled by immigration. Nevertheless 27% of Asian people in New Zealand identify as Christian. Auckland is both more diverse and more Christian that other major New Zealand cities.
From the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (a longitudinal survey-based study begin in 2009), Dr Troughton reported that in 2019 about 14.4% of New Zealanders attended church at least monthly (down from 20-25% in 2009), but the largest proportion of those attended weekly.
In response to all that, we might ask ourselves: what is behind all these changes? Clearly, the church is being buffeted by many ideological moods that pervade western society, not least scepticism, post-modernism, consumerism, individualism, and hedonism.
How can the Church stand, in the face of such powerful tides? Not by complacency, not by complicity, not by just doing just what we have always done.
These are times that call the Church to a more robust faith in Christ, to greater love, to more prayer, to more power of the Holy Spirit, to more authentic Christian living, to more effective discipleship, and to more passion for sharing our faith with people around us in a way that respects and connects.
In the next NZCN News we will reflect on some findings of the 2023 Faith and Belief Study and the 2023 Church Life Survey.