It’s a bold plan and one which is certain to turn heads. In fact, that’s exactly what a group of Christians behind a proposed prime-time television advertising campaign aim to do.

In a project that’s fast gaining momentum across the country, they are leading the development of a series of ads which would put Jesus at the forefront of people’s minds and stir conversation about His relevance to our lives today.

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IMAGE: Courtesy of Jesus. All about life.

 

“Without a local church it won’t work. It’s like the Billy Graham Crusades. Billy Graham came to town - we ran two weeks of meetings at the MCG but without local churches and the people in those local churches talking to their friends and neighbours and families and loved and inviting them along, then it wouldn’t have been effective. This is a bit the same.”

- Martin Johnson

Martin Johnson, one of the project’s directors, says the idea for the Jesus. All about life campaign emerged out of a series of think tanks held in 2002 under the auspices of Christian Television Australia.

Led by Reverend Karl Faase, senior pastor at Gymea Baptist Church in Sydney, participants included Rob Adsett, chairman of Christian Television Australia, Mike Jeffs, founder of the Optus Christian Channel and David Smith of the Genesis Foundation. “It sort of just came out of people talking about ‘Well, what else can we do for the Gospel, but do in prime time?’” says Johnson.

They looked at campaigns run in different parts of the world including the United Kingdom, Singapore, and the United States as well as one which had run in Ireland and Canada called Power to Change

Put together by Campus Crusade, it last ran in Ireland during September and October 2002 when it involved 1,000 Catholic and Protestant churches. While the success of the Irish campaign was hard to quantify, Johnson says there were some statistics which indicated the sort of impact such a campaign could have.

About 90,000 copies of a response book were handed out as a result of the advertising and the campaign website received around 150,000 hits. But more significant still was the fact that surveys revealed a staggering 90 per cent of Irish population was exposed to some elements of the campaign - whether a television advertisement or a billboard - at least 10 times. “It certainly generated interest,” says Johnson. 

It was subsequently decided to run an Australian campaign - initially known as the Christian Media Project - which would adopt a similar strategy to that employed during the Power to Change campaign.

Spear-headed by the Bible Society NSW - which “took on” the project at the end of 2002 after seeing it as a way to better interact with the community and encourage interest in the Bible - the project will involve mobilising the Christian business community in each state or territory to raise enough money to buy a series of advertising slots which would run over four to six weeks on prime time television networks and will be supported by radio and billboard advertising.

The ads will be aimed at helping to raise the profile of the Gospel and the Christian message within the community and provide an opportunity and a point of connection for local churches to interact with the people in their immediate area.

Launch

Martin Johnson, Bible Society NSW CEO Daniel Willis, and Reverend Karl Faase signing the launch poster at the 'Jesus. All about life' launch in August in Sydney. PICTURE: Ramon Williams.

The first of the advertising campaigns is expected to kick off in Adelaide and Canberra next year with other cities expected to follow.

Johnson says that the essence of the campaign was really about mobilising “quiet Christians” to share their faith with their families, friends and neighbours. 

“The campaign will generate interest but unless a person who is interested in the campaign meets somebody, comes across somebody, talks to somebody who actually is a Christian then they ain’t actually going to go much further. 

“Without a local church it won’t work. It’s like the Billy Graham Crusades. Billy Graham came to town - we ran two weeks of meetings at the MCG but without local churches and the people in those local churches talking to their friends and neighbours and families and loved and inviting them along, then it wouldn’t have been effective. This is a bit the same.”

Johnson adds that it’s important to remember “an ad won’t make a person a Christian”. “An ad will simply generate interest and we’re trying to target with research what sort of message we need to put in an ad or how we structure an ad so it actually encourages people to find out more.”

In a step toward developing the content of the ads, the Bible Society NSW recently commissioned research company Market Access Consulting and Research to find out what people think about such things Jesus, the church, Christianity and religion.

It found, perhaps not surprisingly, that while many people were comfortable with the concept of Jesus, the church was strongly associated with intolerance and a lack of acceptance. “Essentially the church was an almost insurmountable problem for most people...” the research concludes.

Johnson says that in light of the findings, the ads and campaign materials such as a response kit for churches to buy and hand out to people, will be designed with a post-modern culture in mind.

“This campaign is not about restoring the image of the church,” he says. “Because you can’t do that, it’s just not possible...”

Rather, Johnson says, the campaign is aimed at overcoming the response people have to the institution of the church by connecting them instead with individuals and the matter at the heart of what Christianity is all about.

“If you say in whatever you creatively, look, we know there are some problems with the institution but put that to one side and consider the person who established it. Jesus is cool, we know you think that, so let us tell you what Jesus is about. Jesus isn’t about religion; Jesus is about life, about fulfilment and about providing you with truth.”

For further information on Jesus. All about life, visit www.allaboutlife.com.au.