Known for his dozens of books and role as “America’s pastor,” Max Lucado has spent decades engaging in Christian movements. He sees something special in the He Gets Us campaign.
“I cannot remember in my lifetime when I have been more excited, more encouraged, and more willing to participate in some type of movement that is so pure,” Lucado said during the fourth episode of the He Gets Us Engaging Culture series.
Lucado joined David Kinnaman, author and CEO of Barna Group, and Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center to talk about the unprecedented possibilities open to Christians today.
“This cultural moment that we’re in is one that is challenging but also has great opportunity,” said Stetzer.
So then, he, Kinnaman, and Lucado discussed, how might Christians understand those challenges and opportunities and approach them with the simple yet transformative message of Jesus Christ?
Diving into the Data
News headlines about people not returning to church after the pandemic and well-publicized statistics showing that many people feel Christians are judgmental may lead us to think of Americans as resistant to spirituality. But research conducted by Barna and He Gets Us indicates otherwise. While many people are skeptical of Christians and organized religion, there is great spiritual openness in our present culture.
For example, Barna recently found that 91 percent of Americans either believe in or are open to the idea of a spiritual or supernatural dimension. 77 percent of Americans believe in God or a higher power, and an astonishing 74 percent say they would like to grow spiritually. Perhaps most insightful of all when it comes to understanding this precise moment in our culture, Barna found that 44 percent of people are more open to God today than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s a lot of real hopeful data here,” said Kinnaman. One area that especially stands out, he noted, is the openness of two generations who are often thought of as resistant to Christianity: Millennials and Gen Z.
Prioritizing the Personal
Research shows that members of the Millennial and Generation Z generations are more open to the idea of God’s involvement in their lives than many expected.
Consider the potential impact of reaching those generations with the person of Jesus. Millennials, the oldest of whom turn 39 this year, and Generation Z, the youngest of whom turn 12 this year, represent many of today’s workers, leaders, parents, and students. Engaging their imaginations and lives with the real Jesus is exactly what He Gets Us has set out to do. The campaign’s videos and billboards hone in on specific aspects of human life—everything from anxiety and loneliness to having a great time with friends—making plain that Jesus understands it all. And not only does he understand it, he lived it. He can relate to humanity fully because he himself became human. In other words, he gets us.
The campaign mirrors the approach that Kinnaman and Lucado have found to be effective in their own work and ministry, one that takes seriously the stories of the people in front of them. Rather than repeating a generalized version of the gospel, Christian leaders are finding—both in data and through experience—that listening and empathizing are critical components of evangelism.
“I think to the person who says, ‘I’m interested in Jesus but I get tired of the church,’ my response has often been: I’m the same way,” said Lucado. “I’m really fascinated by Jesus but I don’t like his people sometimes … I get it.”
Kinnaman said that such an approach bears out in the research. When engaging people who are spiritually open, curious, and even frustrated, the data is clear that “people want to be talked to like a human being. They want to be listened to without judgment. They want not to be forced to make a conclusion. They want to be respected for their spiritual story and their backstory.”
Lucado and Kinnaman were quick to the point to the work of the Holy Spirit in such conversations. Christians are not responsible for driving the message of Jesus home in such a way that people feel no choice but to convert. Instead, we are called to share the story and message of Jesus, trusting that the Holy Spirit is faithful to change hearts, cause growth, and bring glory to God.
Marking the Moment
Now is the time to join thousands of churches in meeting people where they are with the story of Jesus. Understanding the obstacles and opportunities of our culture moment can help Christians engage the curious with empathy, hope, and a posture of listening.
The first four episodes of the Engaging Culture Series are a great place to start. Create an account to catch up on the great discussions thus far, and gain access to new monthly episodes, discussion guides, sermon ideas, and many more resources related to the Engaging Culture Series and He Gets Us campaign.