‘Is religion good for
Would you be
confident to ask this question to your friends or family that don’t profess any
kind of faith? If you would hesitate — you have good reason to. According to
the most recent National Church Life Survey (NCLS) report, which draws
information from congregations of Catholics, Anglicans and Protestants around
the country, six in ten people can’t think of a reason why religion is
good for society.
It’s disheartening, especially when you consider all the good things churches do that benefit the wider community. It’s
not a fair assessment. This may be true, but given that the survey was
conducted in the context of public engagement with outcomes of the Royal
Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, societal
attitudes have been marred by negative elements about religious
institutions that were revealed at that time.
The NCLS report also
revealed something that seems contradictory at first glance: six in ten also
think the most important role for churches in society is to serve the poor.
Australia may have lost confidence in religion as a vessel for good. However,
people recognise that benevolence is the language of the Church.
This insight is
directly from the vision of the Church from its earliest days, as found in
James 2:16-17: 'If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well
fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same
way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.'
We live in a crucial moment for the Church in Australia. Jesus commissioned the
Church to continue what he started: to serve the poor, to save the lost and to
point people to his Good News. His good news is needed in a world full of
chaos, uncertainty and division, hurting from the direct and indirect impacts
The economic fallout
is predicted to be large and ongoing, and felt by our communities for a long
The Church is the people of God, bringing His kingdom here on Earth until it
comes in fullness. But how does this translate to someone searching for
employment alongside nearly 4 million others after the government stimulus and
rental freezes cease? What about those unable to afford groceries or are facing
The answer is in the way the people of God are instructed to live. James 2
instructs the people of God to provide for the needs of their brothers and
sisters. We’re instructed not just to wish them well and offer up a Psalm, but
to stand in solidarity alongside the poor and disadvantaged, say 'we’re with you'
in hardship, loneliness and anxiety.
When you’re with someone, you’re attentive to their needs. If it’s only
metaphorical, the sentiment becomes meaningless.
organisations like Christians Against Poverty (CAP)
exist, to equip churches of
all denominations to carry out the mission to serve and include the poor in
their communities and do so while confidently proclaiming the good news of
CAP resources, equips, and trains churches to do what Jesus called all of us to
do, in the context of need in modern Australia. Through CAP Debt Centres,
churches are stepping into the homes of some of the poorest and at-risk people,
offering them a practical solution, and sharing the love of Jesus.
Churches have a unique opportunity to regain public faith by taking action to
help people crippled by debt in the post-pandemic world. When the pandemic
hit, CAP clients Mark and Sarah found themselves in a desperate financial
situation, and their local church was able to stand with them.
Almost immediately after social distancing was put in place, Sarah’s bookings
as a professional photographer dried up. Mark’s hours at his retail position in
menswear were dramatically reduced, then stopped altogether. Both were
unemployed and getting calls each day by creditors demanding repayments from
debt incurred to pay for medical bills when their first child was born with a
Through their church, they called their CAP caseworker and together, they worked out
a solution to keep them afloat.
'We feel like there's
so much uncertainty and there’s definite anxiety there. But I just can imagine
it being so much worse,' Sarah says.
forward to things at the moment, which sounds ridiculous in the midst of a
It doesn't need to be said that taking opportunities like this to help those in need also assists in redeeming the nation's perception of the Church. It's not about ourselves; it’s
about bringing transformation into people’s lives and bringing glory to God in
There are many
reasons one could make a case for why Christianity has been good for society
and will continue to be good for society. But historical analysis aside, it’s
Keeping our focus on
Jesus’ mandate and example to truly care for the poor will inevitably shine the
light of God into our communities and into the world. Recognition of this work
will likely come and go, but transformed lives are forever.
Rosie is the CEO of CAP Australia and has been working for CAP in both
Australia and in the UK for 10 years. She loves the church and seeing the bride
of Christ respond to Jesus’ call to serve the poor and save the lost. She is
passionate about equipping others to flourish in all that God has created them
to be. Rosie’s husband Dave also works at CAP and they have three beautiful
daughters, Esther, Lydia and the most recent addition, Maeve.