A new study has found that while most Americans have a positive view of Jesus, they have a strong dislike for His messengers.
As part of their “Spiritually Open” series, Barna asked Americans whether they have a positive or negative opinion of Jesus. Seven in 10 (71 percent) of Americans say they view him positively, and 63 percent say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today. Among Millennials, the number is actually higher, with 70 percent say their commitment to Jesus is still important to them.
But when it came to the Church itself, even Christians seemed to have a lower view. Overall, 47 percent of Americans said they have a positive view of local churches. Among self-identifying Christians, that number only rises to 58 percent. Pastors themselves faired about the same, with 44 percent of all adults having a positive view compared to 56 percent of Christians.
Interestingly, the more famous a faith entity is, the less well-liked it is among Americans. Celebrity pastors and megachurches hold an overwhelmingly negative view among Americans, Christians and non-Christian alike.
So what’s the cause behind all this negativity for the Church? One word: hypocrisy.
Among religious and non-religious alike, “the hypocrisy of religious people” was listed as one of the major reasons why people doubt Christianity. With docuseries like The Secrets of Hillsong and Shiny, Happy People highlighting well-known instances of hypocrisy, it’s easy to see how non-religious Americans gained this view.
This isn’t to say that Christianity doesn’t have a welcome presence in the U.S. Rather, the study highlights the gaps and hurdles the Church may need to address and ultimately overcome.
“The work of Christians is to embody Jesus—full of truth and grace—and reflect his image in all they say and do,” said David Kinnaman, CEO of Barna Group. “The data shows they too often fall short.”