Abuse within the church, hypocrisy, judging others and issues around money and exclusivity. They’re just some of the top 10 barriers as to why people don’t embrace the Christian faith, according to new research released last week.

Other key “blocker issues” identified in the study include religious wars, suffering, the church being outdated, hell and condemnation, and homosexuality.

REPORT LAUNCH: Karl Faase speaking at the launch of the research. PICTURE: Ramon Williams


“I think the thing that struck me most is that a lot of the issues are actually around the church and how the church functions more so than kind of major issues around belief." 

- Karl Faase, chief executive of Olive Tree Media

The survey of reasons why people don’t accept Christianity involved 1,094 people aged over 18 from across the country and was followed up with three focus groups made up of non-Christians. Carried out by McCrindle Research, the study was commissioned by Olive Tree Media who are hoping to use the data to develop a series of resources to help Christians to better answer some of the identified issues.

“It’s an interesting list,” says Karl Faase, chief executive of Olive Tree Media. “I think the thing that struck me most is that a lot of the issues are actually around the church and how the church functions more so than kind of major issues around belief. Things like church abuse and hypocrisy and judging others – I mean those top three are all about how we function as Christians more so than what it is we believe.”

He adds that while other barrier issues – such as hell and condemnation, exclusivity, and homosexuality – may potentially be in part due to the church’s presentation, the church’s views will often run contrary to those of the population at large. 

Mr Faase says previous research – conducted for the Jesus. All About Life campaign – has showed that Australians are very much in favor of the egalitarian lifestyle “and what we deem to be tolerance”.

“And anything which strikes at the heart of kind of tolerance and a fair-go for everybody actually runs contrary to almost a foundational ideal of the Australian community. And therein lies part of our problem. Now, I have said as many others have said on a pretty regular basis, what is referred to as tolerance in our community is not actually tolerance. It’s moral indifference but it’s framed up as tolerance and what we do is seen as intolerant.”

Elsewhere the survey found that while three out of four Australians tick the Christianity box in the national census, this figures drops to 40 per cent when a “spirituality” option is added to the question. Only eight per cent indicated that they practiced their religion or worshipped as part of a group.

The survey asked people about their openness toward religious belief. Fifty-one per cent of those surveyed said they were not open to exploring or investigating other religious views and practices while 41 percent indicated they were ‘somewhat’ or ‘slightly’ open. 

Mr Faase says that the survey found that among those who were open to exploring faith, one of the things which most attracted them to a new faith was “seeing firsthand people live out a genuine faith”.

“What that says to the church is that we need more people within the Christian community living out their faith in genuine way.”

He says this view was supported by earlier research he’d come across from the UK. 

“The interesting thing they seemed to find in this research was that when you talked about the church generally, they were very negative (but) when you talked about Christians personally, they were quite positive…” Mr Faase says. 

“So one of the things were need to kind of get on top of is the whole idea of person B just being open about the fact that they’re a Christian…You don’t have to preach to them, you don’t have to convert them – this is just about letting them know that this is your foundational position of faith.”

When asked who influenced people the most when it comes to religious belief, the dominant answers returned in were family and friends followed by the mass media, social media and the internet. 

Interestingly, among the “biggest turn-offs” were public figures or celebrities discussing their faith.

“The transmission of faith through families (is) immensely significant. Clearly, too, I think, from the research, knowing someone who is a Christian is pretty significant. Other research I’ve seen has suggested to me that something like 60 per cent of Australians don’t know a Christian.”

- Dr Peter Jensen, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney.

The report was launched in Sydney last Friday where the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, said he was encouraged by the survey’s findings concerning the influence of families on a person’s Christian values. 

“The transmission of faith through families (is) immensely significant,” he said. “Clearly, too, I think, from the research, knowing someone who is a Christian is pretty significant. Other research I’ve seen has suggested to me that something like 60 per cent of Australians don’t know a Christian.”

A further launch is planned in Melbourne later this month.

Olive Tree Media intend on using the findings to develop a series of resources – including a television show, DVD series, radio clips and resource rich website -aimed at helping to reach people to address some of the ‘blocker’ issues.

“One of the things that we want to do coming out of this is to actually help people have a response to these,” Mr Faase says. “So we’ll be developing a series next year which basically says ’If this is the blocker, OK, here is a way of dealing with that, here is a church response as it were.”

He says that while there is no definitive answer to some of the issues raised – take suffering, for instance – there are responses which can help it to no longer be a ‘blocker’ to faith in people’s lives.

www.olivetreemedia.com.au