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How Can We Correct Christianity’s Image Problem?
by Tom Goodman
October 5, 2007

This week Time magazine covered the results of a recent Barna poll and concluded that we have an "image problem."  The poll found that 38 percent of a national sample of 16-29 year olds have a "bad impression" of Christianity.  What can we do about that?

Another news outlet added more sobering stats from the national survey.  While only 16 percent of young people ages 16-29 express favorable views toward Christians in general, a mere 3 percent have favorable views of evangelical Christians.

Most of the complaints aren't theological.  In other words, the poll discovered high respect for the Bible and for Jesus.  The resentment was focused on perceived Christian attitudes.  Nine of every ten people in the survey found Christians too "anti-homosexual" and almost as many said they saw us as "hypocritical" and "judgmental."  Nearly 8 in 10 said Christianity was "old-fashioned" while 3 in 4 said Christianity was "too involved in politics."

Interestingly, nearly as many young Christians in the survey expressed the same level of dismay about the way their faith comes across to the world today.  For example, 80 percent of those identified as believers in the survey consider the church "anti-homosexual."  According to the Christian Post, young Christians say that "the church has not helped them apply the biblical teaching on homosexuality to their friendships with gays and lesbians."

Remember, these were 16-29 year-olds.  The Barna organization has found that while 23 percent of Americans over the age of 61 were non-Christians, people are less likely to identify with Christianity the younger the respondents were.  Among those 42-60, 27 percent said they were not believers, while 40 percent of the 16-29 year olds didn't express commitment to Christ.

Considering this report, it's not surprising that half of senior pastors surveyed said that "ministry is more difficult than ever before because people are increasingly hostile and negative toward Christianity."

So, what should we do about it?  Oh, I realize that Jesus said that "everyone will hate you because of me." (Matthew 10:22 CEV)  I'm ready for that.  But I just don't think everyone should hate us because we're insensitive and culturally tone-deaf.

In his book, No Perfect People Allowed, Austin pastor John Burke says that there are five main struggles in our culture Christian leaders must come to terms with:


Across the next five weeks in LeaderLines, I will introduce you to these five struggles and how we as Christian leaders can respond to them.  Let's do our part to reverse these sour stats about Christian churches.


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