In Australia, a study has found that the image of the church is the greatest barrier to people accepting Christian beliefs and practices, a local newspaper reported on September 12.
The study by Market Access Consulting and Research showed people were put off by pedophilia in the church, perceived intolerance towards gay and lesbian lifestyles, perceived lack of equality on the role of women, hypocritical behavior of church leaders and Christians, and Christian leaders being seen as intolerant, hypocritical and judgmental.
"The positive attributes associated with the essence of Christianity have been badly tainted by perceptions and experiences of the formalized practices of Christianity," the report says. "Christian churches were strongly associated with intolerance and lack of acceptance, things seen to be directly contradicting some of Christ's most basic messages."
The Bible Society of New South Wales commissioned the research to help with its planned 2005 marketing campaign, "Jesus. All About Life". Its communications manager Martin Johnson said that while the findings were not overly surprising, the depth of feeling against the church was.
But he added that while respondents were critical of the church, they were not of Jesus Christ.
The Jesus. All about life project, based on Campus Crusades' Power to Change campaigns, started in Australia when Rob Adsett, Chairman of the Christian Television Association (CTA) of Victoria, and businessman David Smith looked at how the church could use prime-time media to communicate the Gospel.
"We came across Campus Crusade's 'Power to Change' (PTC) campaigns and have based our project on the success of the PTC projects in Canada and Ireland," said Adsett.
Using prime time television supported by radio and outdoor media over a four to six week period, the project will put the Christian message of hope 'on the map'.
The project will be funded by local churches and those with a vision for using the media to communicate the Good New and will run city by city with local committees already in place in Canberra and Adelaide. Partnerships have also been established with Ambassadors for Christ, Christianityworks.com and Alpha Australia, all of which are providing a range of resources and response mechanisms to tie in with the campaign.
The first aim is to run a successful pilot or test campaign in a smaller metropolitan or large regional area.
The campaign will then seek to run every six months taking in major capital cities and regional areas until December 2006.