Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Blessed Are The Cringe-Makers...

Talking Jesus Booklet | Evangelical Alliance, Church of England & Hope Together

I wrote a few days ago about a survey showing that 39% of English people believed Jesus is fiction. This survey, carried out by Barna Group and ComRes, has now been published in the form of a booklet - and it makes some more astonishing reading.

Firstly, it found that, of those English adults who believe Jesus was real, only 20% believe he was a god. 47% think he was a normal human being, a prophet or a spiritual leader of some sort. If anything, this finding is even more encouraging than the 39% who think Jesus is fiction.

But it gets worse, and quite frankly descends into farce as the evangelicals try to justify their existence in the face of the evidence against them. I've seen more realistic programs for action from village hall committees and pre-school playgroups.

For example, on page 20 we find out how people feel when they have been 'talked to about Jesus'. Of non-Christians who had been spoken to about Jesus by a Christian:
  • 19% wanted to know more about Jesus.
    59% wanted to know less about Jesus.
    Score for Jesus: -40%
  • 20% were open to an experience or encounter with Jesus.
    49% were not open to an experience or encounter with Jesus.
    Score for Jesus: -29%
  • 14% felt sad that [they] did not share their faith.
    42% felt glad [they] did not share their faith.
    Score for Jesus: -28%
  • 23% felt more positive towards Jesus.
    30% felt more negative towards Jesus.
    Score for Jesus: -7%
  • 26% felt closer to the person in question.
    29% felt less close to the person in question.
    Score for Jesus: -3%
  • 53% felt comfortable.
    32% felt uncomfortable.
    Score for Jesus: 21%

So, the only positive outcome from evangelical Christians talking to English non-Christians about Jesus was that only 32% of them were made to feel uncomfortable by the experience. For every other measure the experience had a negative impact on them so far as making people inclined to know more or to consider becoming a Christian. 59% were actually made to want to know less about Jesus and 42% were made to feel glad they weren't Christian; three times as many as felt sad they weren't.

What comes across most strongly in this result is that, whilst those spoken to didn't feel particularly threatened by the experience, the experience was negative so far as their perception of Christians and Christianity is concerned. English people are no longer impressed by faith but find it embarrassing; something to be avoided. This perception is reinforced when confronted by an evangelising Christian.

Even if the faithful are regarded as relatively harmless, faith itself makes the English cringe in embarrassment.

So, what lessons do the report's authors draw from these results? Amongst the recommendations on page 25-26, in addition to more praying, of course, we find:
  • Let’s encourage our congregations to prioritise talking about Jesus to our friends and family – one in five of them is open to him.
  • Let’s prioritise reaching the millennial generation who are open to Jesus after a Christian friend has talked to them about him.
  • Churches/denominations/networks should consider tracking our community’s commitment to sharing our life and faith with those who don’t know Jesus (tracking tools are available).
  • Let’s discuss in our churches how we can establish as our top priority ‘making Jesus known’ to those who don’t know him. Let’s encourage the telling of stories as to how those conversations take place.

They've concluded they need to do even more talking to non-Christians about Jesus!

They actually think they should do more of the very thing that is making a significant majority of those spoken to want to know less about Jesus! They believe they should do more of the very thing that makes people glad they don't share their faith by a 3 to 1 majority of those who expressed an opinion!

You know, it's axiomatic in Statistical Process Control that:
  • Systems are perfectly designed, intentionally or otherwise, to produce their current output.
  • A definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting to outcome to change.
  • If you want the output to change, change the process!

I used to include that at the start of a PowerPoint presentation to managers on the benefits of Statistical Process Control.

The Church of England, if they follow the recommendations in this report, will continue to do the same thing that produces the present outcome - where people are leaving the church in droves because they find the idea of faith, and in particular sanctimonious Christians who 'want to talk to you about Jesus', cringingly embarrassing and something to be avoided.

More power to them, I say. With only 9% of English adults now being 'practicing' Christians, it shouldn't be too long before the Church of England disappears up it's own smug irrelevancy.

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1 comment :

  1. Hah, so they've finally figured out that pestering people about your imaginary friend isn't very effective when you don't have a bunch of scary guys with swords backing you up?

    Several years ago, when I used to ride the bus a lot, I remember overhearing a number of conversations on buses which sounded very staged. They always consisted of two guys exchanging Evangelical Christian views (or harsh put-downs of secularism and evolution, anyway), in loud voices, speaking in a way that didn't sound like a natural conversation -- it sounded like they were reciting talking points to each other and agreeing with each other. I always wondered if it was some kind of orchestrated campaign where they sent pairs of guys onto buses to do this to get their points "over"heard by a captive audience, since talking to people in the old-fashioned way wasn't producing results. If so, I doubt it was effective. The odd conversations stopped happening after a couple of weeks and I never heard one again.


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