Weekly message3

What do people think of Jesus, Christians and evangelism?

The church has an image problem. In a survey conducted to assess people’s religious outlook in the UK, people’s negative views of church were expressed very clearly. 26% of people see the church as hypocritical and as narrow minded. By contrast, 22% see the church as friendly while 20% see us as caring. I call this an ‘image problem’ because when people are asked about practising Christians whom they know personally, 62% think we are friendly and 50% think of us as caring, while only 9% think of us as hypocritical and 10% think of us as narrow minded. It may be, of course, that people are responding to how the church is portrayed in the media, rather than relying on their own, first-hand experience. I don’t think that we all stop
being friendly and caring, and suddenly become hypocritical and narrow-minded when we come to Brighton Road on a Sunday morning…do we?
The number of people in the UK who would describe themselves as ‘Christian’ is at an all-time low (48%), and only 6% can be considered practising Christians, on the (dubious?) basis that they attend church once a month and read the Bible and pray every week. Nevertheless ‘Christians’ are the biggest ‘faith group’ in the UK. The second-biggest tranche of people (26%), when faced with a range of religious affiliations, including ‘atheist’ (12%) and ‘agnostic’ (4%), opted to say ‘none of the above’, which suggests that religion is so irrelevant to them that it does not even get onto their radar.
That means there’s a lot of people out there who don’t know Jesus. In fact, only 54% of those interviewed thought that Jesus was a real person, and only 20% see him as God in human form. There is a clear perception of Jesus as a spiritual, peaceful, loving and wise leader. 45% of people say they believe in Jesus’ resurrection, but most of these (29%) don’t think every detail of the biblical account is literally true.
If people want to find out about the Christian faith, their first port of call is Google (26%) followed by going to a local church (22%) or reading the Bible (22%). Only 15% would turn to a friend or a family member who is a Christian for information. Yet, if we have those conversations, and are prepared to share a personal story about our faith, most people (75%) said they were comfortable with that and 41% said it brought them closer to the person in question. One in three non-Christians who have had that kind of conversation say that they wanted to know more about Jesus Christ, were open to an experience or an encounter with Jesus Christ, or felt more positive towards Jesus Christ as a result of the conversation.
We all know you can prove anything with statistics, but as I digest all this information, a couple of questions strike me. If we come across as caring and friendly to others, is that because we are just such nice people, or is it because we are modelling ourselves on Jesus, our peaceful, loving and wise leader? And if we are who we are because of Jesus, how open are we to sharing that in our conversations with others?
If you are reading this article online, you can read the whole report for yourself at
2022 Research - Talking Jesus.

Tim Carter

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