Well-Being Australia chairman, Mark Tronson, a Baptist minister, provides two examples that illustrate that point, the first from 'Yes Minister'.
A survey question could be put to the public: "Do you think National Conscription would give young people purpose and discipline in their life?" Another question for an opposite response might be: "After conscription, do you want highly disciplined and military trained out of control unemployed young people forming into gangs in your neighborhood?"
In the second example, you could ask a child: "Do you want carrots for dinner tonight?" – we all know what the answer would be. But the outcome would be different if you asked: "Would you like your carrots cooked with honey or raw in a salad tonight?"
The way we perceive what the questioner is asking, determines how we think about the answer: this is a fundamental condition of the way humans react to each other.
M V Tronson says it applies to all facets of life, including how the large Christian Denominations are viewed. He was recently reading where the Denominations are big purchasers of building and property, particularly in the realm of retirement housing.
Some of these properties have been purchased for tens of millions of dollars and the critics come out from the woodwork, pointing the finger at the enormous amount of money the denominational church structures have in their back pocket.
At the same time, another set of people are praising the Denominations for their foresight and financial strategies in providing retirement housing, an area that is essential as the baby boomers continue to move into their twilight years.
Many Denominations are also involved in purchasing property for their churches: they are building all-purpose facilities, day care, schools and other services that will benefit their congregations. Moreover each of these projects also benefits everyone in those local communities, regardless of how many actually attend Sunday worship services.
"We can read the results of many surveys which report the declining number of people opting to claim they belong to one of the major denominations," muses Mark Tronson,
"But if one poses the question another way, we see that the denominational structures are far from dead and dying.
"Perhaps those who conduct professional research should think about framing their questions from two different angles."
In other words, when you read headlines that claim the churches 'numbers' are dwindling, change around the issue and ask, 'How would the nation survive without the churches many community services?'