How can believers bridge the gap between faith and culture?
That’s the question that Christian leaders gathered to discuss this week for the first episode of the He Gets Us Engaging Culture Series. Ed Stetzer, executive director at the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, led the conversation with:
- Kevin Palau, president and CEO, Luis Palau Association
- Jason Vanderground, president, Haven | a creative hub
- Nancy Smith, director of campaigns and ecosystem engagement, Gloo
Titled “Building Bridges,” the inaugural episode shared the latest insights on how Americans perceive Christianity, what that means for churches, and how leaders can more authentically connect with people in today’s culture.
“[Bridges] invite people to take small steps,” said Palau, “because some people just want to know and understand that they are loved by God.”
Many Christians are familiar with the concept of a bridge. On one side is the unreached culture, on the other is a relationship with God, and Jesus spans between them. But, explained Vanderground, there are actually two bridges that need to be considered.
The Two Bridges of Connection
Before people who are skeptical about Christianity can really consider Jesus, they need to cross the bridge of respect and personal relevance. While people who have been Christians for a long time may want to start conversations about Jesus with doctrine and divinity, data indicates that connecting the person of Jesus to the person in front of you is far more important. Jesus-followers can demonstrate relevance and respect by listening, being open to questions, and being ready to actively demonstrate how Jesus loves and relates to each of us. In other words, people need a bridge that makes them feel seen and heard. That same bridge can help them understand Jesus as a person, said Vanderground, so that if they choose, they can later explore the concept of Christ as a savior.
He Gets Us, a campaign designed to create cultural change in the way people think about Jesus and his relevance in our lives, is striving to build this first bridge. As the largest faith-based media campaign in history, over 100 million people have already seen the thought-provoking video ads He Gets Us has produced, in addition to billboards on highways, large ads in Times Square, and more.
The He Gets Us messaging offers Jesus-followers the opportunity for “water cooler moments” with their friends, neighbors and coworkers, says Nancy Smith at Gloo. The ads create cultural touchstones that millions of people see during a weekly football game or on their commutes to and from work. Now, responding to a simple “Hey, did you see that commercial during the game?” question from a coworker can lead to meaningful dialogue about who Jesus is.
Data shared in the webinar revealed that around 134 million Americans say that they are skeptical about Christianity or are quite casual about it. However, among those who are skeptical, over 50 percent are open to learning more about Jesus, who they believe to be good and loving.
People who see the He Gets Us ads—which depict Jesus as human, relatable, and relevant to our modern-day struggles—are:
- 11% more likely to see Jesus as a worthy example
- 11% more likely agree that Jesus loves all
- 14% more likely to believe Jesus “understands me”
- 13% more likely to want to read about Jesus in the Bible
So how can Jesus-followers be ready to engage their spiritually open friends and become a bridge builder in this movement?
To start, they can be ready for those water cooler moments as they look to engage in gentle conversations whenever they arise. In a society where Christians too often mirror the loud, polarized, and volatile overtones of the world around them, we can return to our calling because “the moment we’re in does not pause the mission we’re on,” says Stetzer.
Our calling as Christians is to be welcoming, unified, and peaceful—offering grace and truth in love within the context of relationships and hospitality—especially when the world around us clamors and cries. Stetzer pointed out that resources from the He Gets Us Hub, created with churches in mind, can help churches and individuals engage in gentle, meaningful conversations with their friends and coworkers about the person of Jesus.
Show Your Neighbors That Jesus Gets Them
Over 5,700 churches have already joined what is developing into a He Gets Us movement. Stetzer says that by modeling bridge building–through exhibiting humility and repentance, meeting community needs, and generating cultures of hospitality–more pastors can inspire their congregations to show who the true Jesus is.
To watch the whole episode and get tips on bridge building with people in your community, sign up for the He Gets Us Hub. You'll find discussion guides and resources, along with access to the entire Engaging Culture series.