Most New Zealanders believe that the most effective approach to evangelism is to demonstrate Christian actions before speaking of one’s faith, according to a new survey.

More than half of New Zealanders (59%) thought they were more likely to be influenced to investigate the Christian faith by seeing it in Christians’ lives, especially in caring for people experiencing trauma or life change. The survey also found that 54 percent of New Zealanders were open to changing their religious beliefs or exploring other beliefs.

Faith and Belief in New Zealand reports on a survey commissioned by the Wilberforce Foundation and conducted by McCrindle Research of Australia. The survey, which also draws on New Zealand Census records of religious affiliation, used online questionnaires to establish patterns of perception and belief across a group of 1,007 respondents.

Just under half of those who completed the questionnaire (46-47%) believe that spirituality is important for well-being and mental health.

Respondents said stories of sexual abuse are the greatest barrier to people coming to faith. The most off-putting aspects they cited were sexual abuse within the church (76%), hypocritical attitudes or behavior by Christians or churches (69%), church teachings on homosexuality (47%), and the perceived conflict of proclaiming a loving God who sends some people to hell (45%).

Just under 10 percent of the respondents did not know a single Christian and a quarter knew fewer than two. Another statistic showed that more than half of the respondents knew next to nothing about their local churches.

The survey indicated that Jesus constituted good news: 92 percent of respondents knew about Jesus, 53 percent associated him with love, and members of a non-Christian focus group largely agreed that they saw Jesus as relatable, approachable, and gracious.

John Martin

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