Market Research and The Perception of Jesus and Church

I had the opportunity to hear a Haven research presentation as they were preparing to launch a nationwide campaign called
They conducted 5,000 online interviews in the spring of 2021, with respondents breaking down into these four categories.

  • Non-believers – 16%
  • Skeptics – 24%
  • Cultural Christians – 30%
  • Engaged Christians – 30%

The two categories in the middle – skeptics and cultural Christians – are called the movable middle, persuadable by either side.  
In that group, people’s issue wasn’t with Jesus.  

They generally agreed Jesus was approachable, compassionate, and loving. Jesus matched up with the values people wanted for their own lives and was a worthy example to live by.  Skeptics and cultural Christians say they are familiar with Christianity, the Bible, and Jesus…and open to learning more.
There’s good news there.
The middle sees Christians as one of the primary barriers between culture and Jesus.  That’s probably not new information, as we’ve heard that people’s primary complaint isn’t with Jesus but with His followers.
But there’s an opportunity here.
What was interesting out of this research is the messages and themes churches could use to reach the middle.  Remember, this was primarily marketing and messaging research, or at least performed with a nationwide campaign in mind.
Haven found that convincing messages for this audience include:

  • Peace – Just like Jesus sought peace, we should be about that as well.
  • Love – Just like Jesus loved everyone, we should love our neighbors.
  • Reconciliation – Jesus’ teaching could solve problems that divide us today.
  • Living out faith – Jesus set an example and our belief should lead to action.

These messages are going into a campaign called but I wonder how our individual churches might also be able to leverage these findings in the language we use on our digital properties and even the sermons we choose to preach.
If your church is truly trying to reach skeptics or engage cultural Christians and help them get on mission, would aligning our language with these themes help us be more effective?  
That’s an important question for every pastor and church leader to consider.
You can read about the He Gets Us campaign here.