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Perceptions of Jesus

CARING: The Christian community

A NEW survey seems to dispel the commonly held myth that people think that Christians are hypocrites, patronising and judgemental.

The survey, entitled Perceptions of Jesus, Christians and Evangelism conducted by ComRes and Barna Group, on behalf of HOPE, the Church of England and the Evangelical Alliance found that the majority of non-Christians know a Christian and think well of them.

There were most likely to describe them as ‘friendly’, ‘caring’, ‘good-humoured’, ‘generous’ and ‘helpful’. And one in five non-Christians is open to finding out more about Jesus after hearing Christians talk to them about their faith.

It was evident, via the survey results, that despite negative media portrayals, most people actually like the Christians they know, and the vast majority of the population still identify with the Christian faith.

FAITH

The study also revealed that 57 per cent of people in England call themselves Christians, and one in five of those who don’t are open to finding out more about Jesus after hearing Christians talk to them about their faith.

However, just nine per cent of those Christians could be described as ‘practising’ – regularly praying, reading the Bible and attending church at least monthly.

Dr Rachel Jordan, national adviser for mission and evangelism for the Church of England, said: “The survey shows that the Church is well-connected throughout society.

“This connection is through the myriad of relationships that Christians have with the majority of the population in normal, everyday ways. What is more, people like their Christian friends and family members and they enjoy being with them.


OPINIONS: Yemi Adedeji associate director for HOPE

“This is a different view of the Church and Christians to the one often portrayed in the media but this survey shows it is the one held by the majority of the population.”

Amongst the things highlighted by the survey was a lack of religious literacy among the general English population, raising calls for religious education in schools to be better supported.

REAL

Thirty nine percent of those surveyed didn’t know Jesus was a real person. And under-35s were more likely (25 per cent) than older people to think Jesus was a fictional character.

Of those who consider Jesus to have been a real person three out of five believe in his resurrection from the dead, as documented in the New Testament. Overall, some 43 per cent of English adults believe in the resurrection, the survey found.

When asked to pick words to describe Jesus, non-Christians were most likely to say he was ‘spiritual’, ‘loving’ and ‘peaceful’.

Roy Crowne, executive director of HOPE, said: “It is the first time that a study like this has been done.

“The results are a game-changer for churches wanting to share the good news of Jesus.
Church leaders can often get discouraged by reports of declining numbers. But these results show that Christianity in Britain is diverse, full of life, and many people are passionate about sharing their faith.”

Yemi Adedeji, associate director for HOPE and director of the Evangelical Alliance’s One People Commission, said: “This invaluable research will give confidence to churches from across denominations, regions and ethnicities and the insight it provides will enable us to answer the questions people are asking of us, not the ones we think they are.”

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