Church Growth Part 2
Understanding the demographics of a particular country, city, location, and congregation is vitally important to church growth. Without knowing the cultural/ethnic/religious backgrounds, household income, gender, population density, etc., one cannot accurately assess the needs and desires of a certain area. Peoples’ worldview is not the same in every place on earth. Thus, for a missionary or team of missionaries going into a new area foreign to them, the more they can know about that particular culture the better prepared they will be to share the gospel. It has been said that “two of the greatest problems faced by missionaries entering new cultures are misunderstandings and premature judgments” (Hiebert 111). Americans especially tend to think that everyone thinks like them, acts like them, views the world around them like them, and so on. For instance, if a neighborhood is predominantly Catholic, the evangelistic approach would be different than if it were Muslim. In the same manner a lower income area would not have the same needs as one that is in a wealthier category.
Perth is a very diverse place, consisting of large numbers of people from Africa, Asia, Europe, and some from America. It is the capital of the state of Western Australia, the fourth largest city in the country, and is also 4 the most rapidly growing of all Australia's major cities with a population over 2 million people (worldpopulationreview.com).
As already mentioned, culture shapes worldview; thus, culture directly impacts which method might be best for sharing the gospel. Because Perth is so diverse, there really is no one specific method that might work. In fact, evangelism methods would need to be flexible depending on which culture the person being evangelized is from. Therefore, determining the race, ethnicity, cultural background of the city is important. In 2016, the largest ancestry groups in the Perth metropolitan areas were: English (534,555 or 28.6%), Australian (479,174 or 25.6%), Irish (115,384 or 6.2%), Scottish (113,846 or 6.1%), Italian (84,331 or 4.5%) and Chinese (53,390 or 2.9%) (2016 Quick Stats). There were also 26,486 Indigenous Australians in the city (Perth, Western Australia). Housing and cost of living is generally higher than most places in the U.S.; however, wages are also higher, with a median household income of over $95,000 per year.
Congregationally speaking, the demographic makeup of Central North is much like that of Perth itself. There are members from Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, China, Philippines, South Africa, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), and several other countries. In fact, the Australians by no means consist as the majority. Such diversity is a beautiful thing to see and gives one the sense of what God originally designed the church to be. While beautiful, this cultural smorgasbord does pose ministerial challenges. It has been said that, “cultural context of a Christian community shapes the practice of evangelism just as much as the historical context and theological ethos … determines its distinctive missiological frame of reference”(Evangelistic Praxis 341). For people to respond to God’s word it has to be communicated in a way that they can relate to and understand. With each culture being different, multiple 5 approaches of communicating Scripture must be employed to help the members grow. To further the point, Sherwood Lingenfelter states that, “communication requires effective use of contextual cues… A cultural cue is a specific signal or sign that people use to communicate the meaning of their behavior. Each culture has literally thousands of cues that signal a change of context…” (18). The challenge of effective communication and ministry can clearly be seen. Any minister working with Central North must take these factors into account in order to best meet the needs of the people.