Upwards of two-thirds of Americans have positive opinions about Jesus Christ, spirituality, and the Bible – but don't think so highly of those delivering the message of the gospel. According to a Barna Group study conducted in December, 71% of Americans have a positive view of Jesus; 65% are favorable toward spirituality; and 63% are positive toward the Bible.
At the other end of the spectrum, however, only 26% percent view evangelicals, famous worship bands, and Christian celebrities in a positive light. That drops to 17% when talking about celebrity pastors; and megachurches come in last with just 16% of Americans having a positive view.
Dr. Alex McFarland of Truth for a New Generation shares America's disdain for celebrity pastors and their churches. "[I have] worked with many megachurch pastors, a few of whom who are truly godly people; but most are self-absorbed, self-seeking, egomaniacal, and just insufferable," he states bluntly.
Likewise, he thinks many megachurches have lost their way. "When big becomes corporate, and when excellence becomes slick, and when high visibility becomes celebrity, that's what turns people's stomachs," tells AFN. "It's fine for people to not know who a certain Christian is – but it's tragic when they don't know who Christ is."
Christianity itself garnered a 57% positive opinion among those surveyed; local churches, 47%; and Christian pastors or priests, 44%.
McFarland urges the American evangelical church to get back to basics. "We need to start caring more about the truth of the saving gospel and less about branding, merchandising, and how much of a market we can carve out for ourselves," says the Christian educator and speaker.