Last week I was at a very worthwhile event - a Tikanga Pakeha forum on Rural Ministry. But in the course of this event, as with many conferences in these islands about ministry and mission, there was no escaping the fact that fewer Kiwis gather for worship on Sundays, with this forum highlighting diminishing numbers in rural churches.
Despite the world crisis of the Pandemic (albeit with NZ doing very well relative to other countries), and other crises (such as the housing crisis in our country), the dial does not seem to be shifting upwards on worshipping numbers (across the nation as a whole - clearly some churches in some places are growing, and some of that growth is conversion growth).
Indeed, nothing has shifted the dial upwards for some decades.
And, as best I understand the wider world, what is true of NZ is true of the Western world as a whole.
Whether we talk about the secular society, the post-Christian nation, the shift from religion to spirituality, we are talking about resistance to the Good News of Jesus Christ.
One theory I think has a lot to commend itself is that in a nation such as ours, notwithstanding crises re housing and threats such as Covid-19, most of us most of the time are incredibly blessed - good health, good times, good prospects.
There is so much goodness to explore and experience that there is little or no time to stop and ask about the truth of the universe, the meaning of life, let alone look within ourselves to see the state of our souls.
It struck me - yesterday, because it was a passage I was preaching on - that when we read Revelation 3:14-20, the famous letter to the somewhat complacent and self-satisfied Christians in Laodicea, we could apply what Jesus says to the spiritual situation of (much of) NZ, as explanation for resistance to the gospel:
"For you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing'." (17a)
Jesus speaking to the Laodiceans does not stop there:
"You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked." (18)
Nothing ever changes about our spiritual state before the God of Jesus Christ.
Could spiritual revival ever come to NZ without our realising that before God we are not rich but in great need?