client based religion – Mission Shaped Evangelism

Hollinghurst Am racing through Steve Hollinghurst's book Mission Shaped Evangelism. And have been quite taken with the alternative model he presents of client based religion versus nation based religion. Where he distinguishes between practices, beliefs and identity. In nation based religion which is the legacy of Christianity in the UK you have a core of Christian practitioners who express primarily through church going and regular prayer and Bible reading. Surrounded by a wider group who loosely subscribe to the belief system but who aren't churchgoers.  And round them is a wider group still for whom faith is about identity – UK is a Christian country – and put Anglican when they are admitted to hospital.

Steve contrasts this with Japan and client based religion where you have hardly any for whom a single faith is their identity – pretty mandatory if you are a Shinto priest but not really for anyone else. A larger group who have the belief system. And the largest group who engage in religious practices without a fundamental commitment to identity or clearly worked out beliefs. Which involves visiting shrines. Placing offerings on family graves. These days it also includes Christian weddings - 45% of young Japanese claimed in a 2000 survey that they wanted one even though the committed Christian Japanese population is bumping along around 1%.  And he contends that the UK is now turning towards the client base.

Which is why people light candles for Princess Di, write notes about Jade Goody and heavenly angels and go to trad churches on Christmas eve. Disconnected behaviours have overtaken choosing a single religious position and becoming expert in it or a regular practitioner.

An interesting argument which might help to explain the disconnect between religious types who want to discuss beliefs and how they make you who your are and the rest who are more comfortable discussing  what you do and how it makes you feel.  

There's also a great chart showing that the number of those who have quit churches is far below those who have rarely if ever been inside them. When most of the recruitment effort is framed in terms which only the church leavers will understand and which they have already in part rejected – they still believe but they don't want to be practitioners any more as churchgoers. And none of the effort goes cross culturally towards those who have no glimmering of what happens in churches and how it might relate to them.

Still thinking about this – and will post something about it soon. Seeing as how marketing has now switched from being belief/attitude centric to behaviour as the first point I am really intrigued that it is possible to look at religious adherence in the same way.

I first met Steve Hollinghurst at a meet of the postmodern christianity mailing list at Greenbelt some 15 years ago when the list members had to identify themselves to each other using tins of sardines because no one had mobile phones and we didn't know what anyone else looked like! He works in Sheffield as a researcher into evangelism. But is based near St Albans.






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