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Church. Not as churchy as you think

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In its attempt to get the message across, British churches have undertaken extensive advertising campaigns to re-image church and faith.

Mountaineer Bear Grylls, model Kim Johnson and footballer Linvoy Primus feature in a new series of 60-second cinema commercial for the Alpha course. After scoring a winning goal, walking the catwalk or climbing a mountain each of the role models turns to the camera and asks, "Is there more to life than this?"

Communications director Mark Elsdon-Dew would not reveal the cost of the ads.

"It would have cost us half a million as a straight commercial proposition: we’re a little coy about saying exactly how much we actually did have to pay for it, but it was hundreds of thousands."

The ads do not mention God, religion or church.

Another campaign by the Fallon agency which successfully remarketed Skoda in England in 2000 – "A car that good can’t be a Skoda" is similarly self-depreciating with the slogan being "Church. Not as churchy as you think".

"You have to be a pretty good bloke to let 40 screaming kids and a bouncy castle in your house" and "More dances are held in church halls than in dance halls" are other captions used.

Now the British Churches Advertising Network has launched its Christmas campaign with a re-run of a 1999 campaign featuring a controversial image of Jesus in the style of Che Guevara "Meek. Mild. As if."

For the 2005 campaign the image is the face of a small child with the caption, "Dec 25. The revolution begins."

Such campaigns have not been without their critics. Editor Simon Jenkins from the Christian website Ship of Fools, http://ship-of-fools.com, says while some ads are good, many are painful.

Ship of Fools collects such ads on their website. "We collect them partly out of mischief but also to encourage churches to stop making an ass of themselves," said Jenkins.

"The best advertisement for Christianity is Christians who are thoughtful, sensitive, self-critical. But why not let people know what we’re about – as long as it’s done with some thought, and not a dreadful pun."

As Stephen Tomkins from BBC News says, "It only remains to add that Christianity is available from all good churches. Terms and conditions apply."

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