If you’re on Twitter, you’re used to seeing hot topics trend for a few days and eventually fade into Twittersphere history. But there’s one recent cultural moment that continues to elicit discussion and opinions from across the board—the He Gets Us commercials about Jesus that aired during the Super Bowl.
The campaign’s 30-second ad called “Be Childlike” and a 60-second ad called “Love Your Enemies” were not preachy or heavy-handed—they simply conveyed the message that Jesus knows what it’s like to be human. And yet these ads have sparked a national conversation and have spurred strong reactions from every point on the political and theological spectrum.
Some people felt the ads were too liberal, or they were upset that the ads did not overtly share the gospel. Others objected to the conservative nonprofit organization behind the commercials and questioned their motives. Still more criticized the campaign’s spending, wondering why these millions of dollars were spent on these commercials rather than going toward helping the poor. However, many have pushed back against these criticisms and pointed out the positives.
All these debates may be worth having—but regardless of these objections, the campaign’s reach is undeniable.
About 189 million people saw the ads, and McQueen Analytics—an independent polling firm conducting research on the campaign—shows that they resonated with a wide range of people. This includes those who are not believers but want to know more about Jesus.
In spring of 2022, nearly a third (32%) of “spiritually open” people strongly agreed that the ads remind us that “Jesus loves us all,” and by spring of 2023 this number rose by 5 percent (37%).
And as for me and the church I pastor in Dallas, He Gets Us is more than just the creator of well-produced commercials that have been the subject of hot takes on social media. In fact, it has created new opportunities for us to share the love of Jesus with our community.
Our church is one of the 20,000 congregations partnering with He Gets Us. As a local church partner, we are put into contact with those in our area who see the ads, visit the website, and express an interest in asking for prayer, more information or a connection “with someone local.”
As a Black-majority congregation, our leaders were initially drawn to partnering with He Gets Us because of its inclusiveness. He Gets Us intentionally works to reach a broad audience. It’s been powerful to be able to connect with people from all backgrounds and races. I’ve seen the campaign’s efforts and heart to reach and honor all people.
By showing up on national television and the phone screens of millions of people, He Gets Us is reaching people online in a nonintrusive way. Their ads are also addressing very real issues that are present in many people’s lives, including anxiety, loneliness, and broken families.
Those skeptical of Christianity likely won’t place their faith in Jesus until they understand how he relates to, understands, and loves them—which is why the campaign aims to raise the respect and relevancy of Jesus by presenting his message of love and forgiveness to everyone.
Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles in connecting with people who are willing to explore their spiritual journeys is that they are often open to Jesus but not to the church. Many are skeptical of Christianity because of how they’ve been treated by the church or because of the hypocrisy of Christians around them or in the public space.
A common obstacle nonbelievers have to Christianity is that they feel judged by Christians or that they don’t fit in with them. Just the other day, one of our pastors told me about his own experience when he returned to church years ago. He walked into the sanctuary wearing jean shorts, a T-shirt, and tennis shoes while everyone else was dressed up. No one welcomed him; he felt like an outsider and immediately regretted walking in the door.
We don’t want arbitrary dress codes, economic situations, ethnicity, or backgrounds to make anyone feel like an outsider in our church. Whether they’re entering the building off the street or reaching out online, He Gets Us has helped us become a more welcoming place to everyone.
More people are open to God and spirituality than we might think. According to a recent Barna poll, 77 percent of US adults believe in God or a higher power, and 74 percent want to grow spiritually. As a pastor, this level of spiritual openness in our country is encouraging news. But with this come challenges we must wrestle with—both as church leaders and as Christians.
Many church leaders may not be ready or well equipped to meet spiritually open people where they are. Our country has dramatically changed these last few years due to the pandemic and the major disruptions it caused to nearly every part of our lives. With such a rapid shift in our culture, it’s likely many of us are missing a deep understanding of what’s really going on in the hearts and minds of spiritually curious people today.
He Gets Us has provided an easy way for churches to connect with people in their communities who are searching for answers. But it has also provided an opportunity for me personally—as I suspect it has for many other church leaders—to consider our church’s models and methods of evangelism. It has prompted our congregation to question whether we are really open to new ways of reaching and connecting with people outside the four walls of our church.
The reality of modern evangelism and outreach is that most people are going online to find answers to their spiritual questions and meet their spiritual needs. There’s a huge digital mission field, but people who are open to faith may never call up their local church or find a pastor to come alongside them as they wrestle with their questions.
Recently we were put in touch with one man who had reached out because he was struggling with a deep family feud. He spoke with someone from our church over the phone and admitted he had made mistakes, and he confessed that he wanted to get his life together. This conversation was nothing fancy or programmed—it was just two people talking on the phone about relationships. But we have stayed in touch with him to continue the conversation.
This campaign allows us to connect with and address an individual’s issues first—and in doing so, the person has an opportunity to see and experience God before she ever steps foot in a church. It breaks down barriers by allowing people to click a button or text with one of our staff members; it’s an easy first step in a faith journey.
In fact, we’re in the process of training and mobilizing our evangelism team to respond to more people through digital outreach efforts, including those we receive through the He Gets Us campaign.
Their Super Bowl commercials have sparked a great deal of debate in the Christian community, and these are conversations worth having. Of course, it will take more than TV ads and billboards to fully share the gospel of Jesus—but God uses all means to draw people to himself (1 Cor. 9:22).
He Gets Us has great potential to play a big role in the local church, and I for one am grateful that they’re helping us connect with, pray for, and serve people whom we might never have encountered otherwise.
So many of our neighbors are spiritually open and seeking answers—and we want to be ready to receive them and connect them to Jesus.
Bryan Carter serves as the pastor of Concord Church in Dallas, Texas. He is the author of Made to Last.