In their own words, “He Gets Us has an agenda.”
“How did the story of a man who taught and practiced unconditional love, peace, and kindness; who spent his life defending the poor and the marginalized; a man who even forgave his killers while they executed him unjustly—whose life inspired a radical movement that is still impacting the world thousands of years later—how did this man’s story become associated with hatred and oppression for so many people? And how might we all rediscover the promise of the love his story represents?”
Such questions motivate those behind the ministry called He Gets Us and, if you haven’t seen their ads or billboards yet, the Super Bowl this Sunday night will offer the perfect chance to change that.
What is He Gets Us?
But what is the He Gets Us campaign? And why are they spending roughly $20 million for ninety seconds of airtime this weekend—with plans to invest about a billion dollars over the next three years in similar efforts? Surely, some argue, there are better ways to use that much money.
It’s a question people like Hobby Lobby co-founder David Green and the other—largely anonymous—donors behind the He Gets Us ministry have asked themselves on multiple occasions. Yet, as Lora Harding, an associate professor of marketing at Belmont University, noted, outside of major events like the Super Bowl, “There just aren’t ways to reach an attentive, engaged audience that size anymore.”
Their short videos are certainly attention-grabbing and engaging.
However, they’ve also been somewhat controversial
With taglines like “Jesus was a refugee” and “Jesus felt alone, too,” He Gets Us leans heavily into the human side of Jesus’ story. In so doing, they invite us to engage with the Christ who stood beyond any of the stereotypes and preconceived notions with which people—Christians and non-Christians alike—have often attempted to define him for the better part of two thousand years.
But, as Religion News Service‘s Bob Smietana described, while they hope to help everyone encounter that Jesus, their target audience appears to be “spiritually open skeptics, which are people who might be OK with religion but aren’t really excited about Christians.” And that description fits an increasingly large percentage of the population.
He gets us because he became one of us
Phil Boone, the Director of Generosity for the He Gets Us campaign, recently mentioned on the Denison Forum Podcast that research shows as many as 150 million people—58 percent of the American population—are either skeptics or cultural Christians.
Boone was quick to point out, though, that “skeptic” is not a negative term. Rather, it refers to people who are “just not sure about all this, but they want to know more. They want help in raising their children. They want help in having a healthier emotional condition. They want help in providing for their family.” And the cultural Christians “have a lot of those same desires.”
These are practical issues, and they require a practical response.
That’s why He Gets Us doesn’t start with topics like human depravity or deep, theological truths. They start with the story of Christ and, in so doing, help people meet a God who gets us because he became one of us.
They understand the other stuff is important too, which is why anyone who engages with He Gets Us is eventually pointed toward resources that can help them go deeper and, if they choose, connected with one of 6,500 partner churches that have signed up across the country to help people find a local community of faith.
But they don’t start there, and that’s all right.
As Boone pointed out, it’s often “people’s expectations to have the whole thing presented and wrapped up in a nice package. And that’s the problem.”
Instead, He Gets Us is more focused on introducing people to Jesus and then partnering with the body of Christ to help them dive deeper into that relationship.
It’s a strategy that has already borne fruit for more than 115,000 people over the last nine months, with countless more sure to come given that roughly two-thirds of American adults are likely to tune in this Sunday.
Are you a skeptic?
While He Gets Us may target religious skeptics, it is often the skeptics who are already part of God’s kingdom that can be the greatest impediment to its advance.
What was your first reaction upon hearing about the strategy and financial decisions of the He Gets Us campaign? Did part of you share the concerns of those who question whether that money could be better spent in other ways? Did you want to push back against the idea of starting a presentation of the gospel without any mention of sin, hell, or repentance?
If you answered yes, that’s all right. I’ll admit, part of me was a bit skeptical when I first encountered the videos and began researching the campaign.
But in the time since, I feel like God has used their ministry to remind me that I’m not immune to trying to put him in a box either.
Videos that might not appeal to me could be exactly what the Holy Spirit will use to lead others into a saving relationship with Jesus. And theological questions that I consider essential to a right understanding of the Lord can easily be irrelevant to those who do not already have a relationship with him.
So the next time you pass by a billboard or see an ad aimed at helping people identify with the God who loves us so much that he left heaven to become one of us, make sure your first response is to pray rather than judge.
Pray that the Holy Spirit will work through those images and videos to break down barriers and call people to take a fresh look at Jesus. Pray that the Lord will guide the believers who are engaging with the lost that reach out as a result of what they’ve seen. And pray that God will help you and your church know in what ways you might be called to join them.
Helping the lost know Christ requires strategies as diverse as the humanity he’s endeavoring to save.
Are you doing your part today?