Campus Crusade's Jesus Idol...

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Atop Campus Crusade's Jesus Film web site are several paragraphs of boiler-plate Evangelical Jesus-marketing shtick:

Every eight seconds, somewhere in the world, another person indicates a decision to follow Christ after watching the "JESUS" film.

Every eight seconds... that's 10,800 people per day, 324,000 per month and more than 3.8 million per year! That’s like the population of the entire city of Pittsburgh, PA coming to Christ every 28 ¼ days. And yet, if you are like many people, you may have never even heard of it.

Called by some “one of the best-kept secrets in Christian missions,” a number of mission experts have acclaimed the film as one of the greatest evangelistic tools of all time. Since 1979 the “JESUS” film has been viewed by several billon people all across the globe, and has resulted in more than 200 million men, women and children indicating decisions to follow Jesus. In addition, through hundreds of partners an estimated 10+ million decisions have been made as the film "JESUS" is used extensively by the Body of Christ worldwide. (emphasis in the original)

A few points of arithmetic regarding these bodacious claims before reflecting on what such claims reveal....

First, do the math and you'll find that a decision every eight seconds for 32 years (the Jesus Film came out in 1979) equals 126,144,000 decisions. Why then the claim to "more than 200 million" decisions by Campus Crusade? Probably because in 2000 this same site claimed a decision every two seconds rather than every eight. Apparently the Jesus Film is getting long in the tooth.

Also, in 2000 the Jesus Film web site claimed 3.3 billion worldwide viewers of the Jesus Film. Unless Campus Crusade is recanting, claimed total viewership of the Jesus Film (said today to be "several billion people all across the globe") should be over 4 billion today.

Having addressed the math, now consider the implications.

1) 4 billion people is over half the world's population (currently 6,775,000,000). Even assuming that one billion of those who have watched the Jesus Film have since died, we're left with the claim that 44 percent of the world's population has viewed the Jesus Film. This, despite my confidence that less than one-tenth of those in my home church have viewed the movie, and we're American Christians with TVs, DVD players and, in many cases, Campus Crusade ties. 

2) More than 210 million people indicating "decisions to accept Christ as their personal Savior and Lord" as a result of viewing the film requires 3.1 percent of the world's population to have professed faith in Christ as a result of the Jesus Film. To illuminate the scope of this boast, imagine walking the streets of London, the jungles of Peru, the mountains of Nepal, the squares of Beijing and every 32nd person you meet having "made a decision to follow Christ" because of the Jesus Film.

3) Campus Crusade maintains that in 2011,"Every eight seconds, somewhere in the world, another person indicates a decision to follow Christ after watching the "JESUS" film." This means 10,800 men and women profess faith in Christ daily, 75,600 weekly, 324,000 monthly and 3,942,000 yearly as a result of the Jesus Film. Live births per day in the United States average 11,803, making the worldwide spiritual new birth figure directly attributable to the Jesus Film close to the physical birth rate in America, the world's third most populous nation. In 2000 Campus Crusade claimed one "decision for Christ" every two seconds due to the Jesus Film, making the Jesus Film as fertile spiritually as China, the most populous nation on earth, physically.

The presumption of these claims would do a ministry of propaganda proud--they're so bold and in-your-face that they get a free pass from many Christians who assume Campus Crusade wouldn't beat its own drum so brazenly unless it were necessary and true. On the front page of the Jesus Film web site is a highlighted quote from Rick Warren saying, "The Jesus Film is the most effective evangelistic tool ever invented." Really? More effective than preaching, than the printing press? 

Equally troubling are Campus Crusade's inflated figures, figures so out of touch with reality that to call them ludicrous is to give ludicrous a bad name. These are marketing boasts, Ponzi scheme claims rather than sober statements of truth, and as such, offenses against the cause of Christ.

The Washington Post once famously called Evangelical Christians "poor, ignorant and easily led." Campus Crusade's success in raising money on the back of the Jesus Film may contradict the first of the Post's claims, but it tends to validate the second and third.

Boasting is never a Christian virtue. Our only boast should be in our Saviour's blood and righteousness.To brag of our success at leading men to Him is a denial of the Holy Spirit's work and power. Yet we're inured to such claims: from the claim that Billy Graham was the most effective evangelist since the Apostle Paul to Campus Crusade's claims to having reached billions upon billions for Christ, Evangelicalism's institutions are riddled with the proud spirit of American mass-marketing rather than the humble Spirit of Christ. God forgive us and send His Spirit in such power that it lays bare the poverty of Spirit currently called success by the Evangelical world.

So what to do? Here's a modest proposal...