Is it too late to tell people about Jesus?

You may have already seen this over at Steve Kryger’s blog, but I’m going in a slightly different direction with it, so bear with me here.

Popular (Sydney) marketing blog mUmBRELLA yesterday featured a post on the upcoming Jesus all About life campaign. This is an ad campaign where a variety of Sydney churches have contributed some money so that some TV commercials and other forms of advertising can be broadcast over a six week period. The goal of the campaign is to show that Jesus is relevant to modern life, and churches are hoping to benefit from the campaign by seeing more opportunities to talk to people outside their normal attendees about spiritual things.

The comments on the post were variously upset at the idea and actively mocking it (or the church), with a few Christians and Christian-sympathisers wondering what the fuss was about. Here are a couple of example quotes.

if paid for by ‘the Church’ it will also be funded by the ATO, since these bludgers are scabbing on the backs of Rudd’s ‘working families’ and pay no tax

What a waste of money. All this coin promoting a make believe friend for grown ups.

A further link I saw today on twitterthings that Christians have said – makes it seem much worse. Far from poor choices of words, some of these quotes show some really awful views of the world.

All of this has reminded me that for some who are seeing an ad campaign like Jesus all about life, it will be the first thing that they’ve heard about Jesus, or Christianity.

For others, though, there are negative impressions (or worse, negative experiences) they’ve had with people who identify themselves as Christians. Hearing about Jesus – rather than being a welcome message – will be like fingernails down a blackboard, and reminders of past hurt.

Perhaps you’re wondering what I’m doing about this. I try to have gentle, respectful conversations with people, where I listen to what they have to say about there understanding of Christianity. Though I’m not shy about talking about my Christian faith, it’s not something that I try and shoehorn into every conversation.

If the ad campaign helps start conversations, that’s great: I welcome the opportunity to talk. If not, I’m hoping to be ready to explain how what I believe fits in with their experiences.

What do you think about all of this?

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5 Comments

  1. You make a good point – if people have only had bad experiences of Christianity, then learning about an ad campaign to talk more about Jesus might be a hard pill to swallow. All we can do is pray – that God will make his name great through this campaign, and through us, his weak (but Spirit-filled) vessels.

  2. I’m from the “all publicity is good publicity” school of brand awareness, and I think the Jesus All About Life thing is a suitably generic non denominational opportunity to promote Christianity. I think the V8 exposure is absolutely amazing.

    But I agree that it won’t work for some people. I don’t think that’s a reason not to do it though. The people who feel like it’s nails down a blackboard aren’t the target market of this sort of campaign, and should be reached appropriately through physical demonstrations of Christian love and an apologetic (in the “sorry” sense rather than the “give reason for” sense) discussion about the wrongs perpetrated in the name of Jesus.

  3. Dave

    As you know, I’m pretty firmly entrenched in the atheist camp, so I doubt this campaign will have any impact on me whatsoever (probably about as much impact as those UK atheist bus campaigns have on people who are comfortable with their Christianity).

    OTOH, I doubt I’ll get worked up or offended by the ads either. They will almost certainly just be background noise to me (like almost all commercials).

    Does it matter, though? Is conversion necessarily the end game? I’m happy to discuss religion with anybody willing to discuss it with me. I find it a fascinating topic, especially seeing as it’s not something for which I’m apparently wired. Lots of people I like and respect are Christians and, given that the Christianity is generally a large part of their life, I like to understand what it means to them. But I have little to no interest in a conversation which needs to have a winner, where somebody must change their entire world view for it to be a conversation worth having. That’s the ‘nails down the blackboard’ experience for me.

    (And, obviously, that goes both ways. I also see little point in making dismissive comments like ‘make believe friends for grown ups’. It’s just disrespectful and a conversation-ender. Isn’t it more useful and interesting to try and understand one another, even if (especially if?) we have fundamentally different belief systems)

    Heck, I have a Mac now, Dave. What more do you want from me?

  4. I agree with you that conversations about faith should be gentle and respectful. And I also agree that the advertising campaign may provide opportunities to talk to people about Christ.

    However, I do not think that the only reason people will be against it is if they have had bad experiences with Christianity. I myself do not like the idea of ‘selling Jesus’ and I am a Christian. Also, I do believe there is a strong feeling out there that people are sick of getting the ‘conversion talk’ from Christians. They see Christianity as just another group of people trying to sell them something and they’re not interested.

    I really can’t stand getting sales calls from phone companies. Is that because I have had a bad experience with their phone company? No, it’s because I get too many of them and I’m sick and tired of hearing the same sales speech all over again. I think some people feel the same way about Christianity.

  5. @Steve thanks for blogging about this in the first place, and helping me get to a point where I could blog about it!

    @Nathan I think there are certainly people out there who will benefit from the campaign, I want to point out that it’s not the silver bullet.

    @Dan As similar as a Mac is to a religion, I don’t think they’re quite on the same wavelength. I’m glad to have reached the point where a conversation about religion doesn’t need to have that kind of endgame, and I look forward to having such conversations at some stage, preferably over beer.

    @Liz Thanks for your thoughts. I’m hoping with this campaign that the kind of conversations that result aren’t along “sales” lines, but are more the kind of gentle, respectful ones that you’re talking about. Is there, perhaps, some middle ground, where there is still a sense of importance attributed to making a decision (without it being like a sales push)? I’m not sure.

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