LifeJourney Church in Indianapolis has taken its message to the streets through a billboard campaign that is designed to get both Christians and non-Christians to consider whether or not the Jesus they know is the same Jesus portrayed in the Bible.
“Who Stole Jesus?” is the question posed on billboards that will continue to appear throughout the city during the eight-week campaign. Sixteen signs will go up this week, with four more being posted around town each week until there are 32 in all.
The signs also include the address for the church's website, where it is allowing people to post comments. The church hopes to create dialogue about the questions that have been raised.
“Our congregation is very concerned about how Jesus is being presented in many churches today,” said Jeff Miner, senior pastor of LifeJourney Church, in an interview with The Christian Post Thursday.
“The public face of Jesus in American Christianity, we feel, is terribly distorted. It's almost like the real Jesus has been kidnapped and stowed away in a bunch of church basements, and this mean and judgmental imposter is being brought down in his place.”
Miner said that Jesus commands believers not to judge, but believes that if he asked people on the street who the most judgmental people in the world are, the majority would say Christians.
"We believe that many non-Christians have felt powerfully drawn to Jesus, but [are] really turned off by the followers of Jesus. And so one of our great hopes in this campaign is that people who have been intrigued by Jesus will give him another look and realize that Jesus shouldn't be confused with institutional Christianity,” he said.
The church hopes that the billboards will lead Christians to ask whether or not they are accurately representing the Jesus of the Bible to the world.
In many churches, Miner lamented, Christians look down upon people who have been divorced, drink alcohol or practice homosexuality, among other things.
“You're not going to be well-received unless you tell them that you're in the process of trying to become an ex-gay,” he pointed out.
Miner described his church, which has an average weekly attendance of about 400, as “progressive evangelical” and said they support committed, lifetime, monogamous relationships, regardless of whether they are heterosexual or homosexual.
At the time of publication, most people who posted comments on the church's website support the campaign, though it has only just started.
One post, however, had some strong words of criticism for the church, saying that it needs to emphasize repentance, faith and the way to salvation more on its website.
“Who stole Jesus? I say this as lovingly as possible but you did/are,” the commenter wrote. “All you have done is created a new moral religion that is 'loving' sinners straight to hell. Telling the truth is the most loving thing one can do. John 3:16 is God’s ultimate sign of love. I pray your eyes are opened to truth.”
Miner responded to the post by saying that his church believes that sin is a destructive power and that repentance is important.
“In most churches, just because you’re a little different, people judge you. The real Jesus wasn’t like that and churches shouldn’t be,” the pastor remarked.
“You can be a profound follower of Jesus while sporting tattoos, long beards and leather jackets. So, my fellow Christians, let’s lighten up! Let’s stop preaching at people, and start walking alongside them, as Jesus did!”
Miner said that his church is not trying to prove that their way is the best way, but what the church is trying to say is, “We're concerned."