Steele slams Jesus campaign

Natasha Percy

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What is your next 10 words?

Read Dominic Steele's insights piece on Jesus All About Life, and taking conversations beyond the advertisements – and suggest your own 'next 10 words'.

One of Sydney Diocese's most prominent evangelists has said the Jesus All About Life campaign undersells Jesus, but that Sydney Anglicans should use it as a "first date with Jesus'.

The Rev Dominic Steele is enthusiastic about the opportunities that will be afforded by the Jesus All About Life advertising campaign set to hit TV screens and billboards on September 15.

"It's a good first date with Jesus. I like it," he says of the advertisements’ “brilliant catchy statement”. "But I want to go further.”

He says the Jesus All About Life follow-up book, which carries on the theme in the advertisements that ‘a lot of the things Jesus said make real sense’, "doesn't get near to the real Jesus" and "leaves me pretty underwhelmed".

In particular, Mr Steele has said he is concerned that the material "undersells' sin and judgement, and that he is "not prepared to run with a default prosperity line of "Jesus came to give us the immediate abundant life'."

"The categories of life in the Bible are much stronger. It's not just that Jesus makes sense of life, but that he is the living one, the meaning and purpose of life. And there's a river of life, there's a tree of life, there's a book of life, and there's eternal life."

However Mr Steele is particularly concerned that fellow evangelical Christian leaders will steer away from using the campaign because they have the same concerns about the material that he does.

What he wants them to hear, he says is, "we can recognise it's got a problem, but we can still use it for good".

CEO of Bible Society NSW, the Rev Daniel Willis has defended the campaign as a whole and the material in the follow-up information pack, written by Peter Downey and Bill Salier.

He says "the book has got the gospel in it " if you think the gospel doesn't have everything that's necessary for people to come to faith, that [critical] statement will be true", and that "the ads are not designed to convert anybody or give them the full gospel message".

"Jesus All About Life creates a lot of noise that local churches can use to share their faith with others and provide opportunties for non-churched people to come to a safe haven and have the gospel explained to them."

However what he and Mr Steele do agree on is the need to make the most of the opportunity the campaign provides " and to devise ways of carrying on the conversations started by the ads.

"People need to be trained and tutored in "what do I say next?'. How do I get my neighbour from mowing the lawn and having seen the ad, to wanting to do a Christianity Explained course?" Mr Willis says.

Over 160 Sydney Anglican parishes have registered for Jesus All About Life, and Bible Society NSW's communications manager, Martin Johnson says there are more Anglican churches on board than any other denomination.

Other participating denominations include the Uniting Church of NSW, the Churches of Christ NSW, NSW Baptist church, Brethren, Seventh Day Adventists, Presbyterian Church, Salvation Army, and Australian Christian Churches (including Hillsong).

The majority of Catholic Church dioceses are also taking part.

What will your next 10 words be?

Drawing on a clip from popular political drama, West Wing, Mr Steele has said, like presidents and opposition leaders need to find the "next 10 words' to carry on the impact of their election promises, so too Christians need to think about what their "next 10 words’ will be.

"What we need to hear is a satisfactory discussion so that everyone is educated on the next 10 words," he says.

“I am concerned that because each one of us hasn't thought through an excellent next 10 words that we might end up playing a dead bat and not make the full benefit of this campaign, and that would be a tragedy."

Mr Steele has suggested asking whether people have seen the ads, and then suggesting the ads "undersell' Jesus, could be a great conversation starter.

However Mr Willis disagrees.

"I think to say that it undersells Jesus is to totally disregard the relationship they have been trying to establish," he says.

"We're not talking about selling " what we're talking about is entering a living relationship."

Mr Steele is asking for suggestions on possible conversation starters.

“It will be too late to start thinking about this on September 15. This is the conversation we need to have now.”

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