Christianity is far from extinct in Britain and nearly six out of ten people still say they are Christian, according to a new report.
Most people like the Christians they know. Even those who say they are not Christian are open to finding out more about the faith.
The survey of 3,000 people was carried out by ComRes and Barna Group on behalf of a coalition of church groups made up of the Church of England, the Evangelical Alliance and HOPE. The study, carried out mainly in England, is particularly significant in light of the changing face of faith in Britain because, unusually, researchers will track the data over the next 30 years.
According to the study, most non-Christians know a Christian and think well of them. They are most likely to describe them as friendly, caring, good-humoured, generous and helpful. One in five non-Christians is open to finding out more about Jesus after hearing Christians talk to them about their faith.
However, just nine per cent of Christians can be described as practising in terms of praying regularly, reading the Bible and attending church at least monthly.
The study, Perceptions of Jesus, Christians and Evangelism, also showed a lack of religious literacy. Two in five people did not know that Jesus was a real person, with those aged under 35 most likely to believe Jesus was fictional.
Dr Rachel Jordan, mission and evangelism adviser for the Church of England, said: "The survey shows that the Church is well-connected throughout society. This connection is through the myriad of relationships that Christians have with the majority of the population in normal, everyday ways. What is more, people like their Christian friends and family members and they enjoy being with them."
She added: "Followers of Jesus are good friends and they are fun. It is here in these relationships that we have conversations about faith, in a place of trust and friendship, and 20 per cent of our friends and family members want to know more about our faith in Jesus."
Roy Crowne, executive director of HOPE, an organisation that brings churches together in mission, said: "Church leaders can often get discouraged by reports of declining numbers. But these results show that Christianity in Britain is diverse, full of life, and many people are passionate about sharing their faith. The research also shows there are some big challenges for churches to face if we are to see loads more people becoming Christians and joining the Church."
Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, said: "There is overwhelming evidence in the New Testament and independent, non-biblical sources indicating Jesus was a historical figure and any historian worth their weight will agree with this. That nearly 40 per cent of people in this country are unsure of this or think Jesus was a mythical character paints a worrying picture of our education system. While it's great to see that non-Christians think positively of Jesus, it would be even better if they realised the significance of his life, death and resurrection for their own lives today."