Step into the captivating world of faith and advertising with Talbot Dean Ed Stetzer in this Think Biblically podcast episode.

Explore the groundbreaking "He Gets Us" campaign, a visionary effort by Christian business leaders and marketing experts to reshape contemporary views of Jesus, fostering curiosity and dialogue among skeptics and believers alike. Stetzer delves into the campaign's strategic approach to reach a broader audience, its significant impact on engagement with the Bible and church communities, and addresses the criticism it faces. Additionally, Ed provides details on a companion book to the campaign.

This episode is a treasure trove for anyone fascinated by the innovative intersection of faith, culture, and marketing, offering deep reflections on making Jesus' message resonate in today's world.

Episode Transcript

Scott: You may have seen the commercials in the "He Gets Us" campaign on television. What was behind them, and what's the strategy for reaching people with these commercial spots? Our Talbot Dean Ed Stetzer has been involved in the campaign from the start, and will give us a behind-the-scenes look at these very creative portraits of Jesus. I'm your host, Scott Rae.

Sean: I'm your co-host, Sean McDowell.

Scott: This is Think Biblically from Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Ed, welcome. So glad to have you with us, especially glad to have you as the Dean of Talbot School of Theology.

Ed: Good to be back on the podcast, but also good to be here at the Talbot School of Theology with you folks.

Scott: Now, I suspect many of our listeners have seen the "He Gets Us" commercials.

Ed: Oh, I think I can actually tell you statistically, they've all seen the commercials. If they have a screen, they've seen the commercials.

Scott: And we'll see a lot more of them in the upcoming Super Bowl. So what is the "He Gets Us" campaign about, and what makes it so different and unique?

Ed: Yeah, so "He Gets Us" started before I was engaged and involved. They asked me to be involved a little bit later on as kind of an advisor to the campaign. But the "He Gets Us" campaign was started by a group of Christian business leaders who were concerned that the perception of Christianity had suffered, and people weren't necessarily considering who Jesus was. And they would like for people to consider who he was and who he is. And so one of the things that when you look in so, they hired marketing people, right? So, I came in after marketing people to help with, give some theological advice, things of that sort. So, they hired some marketing people who did marketing surveys. Now, that's what marketing people do. That's why they tend to be good at what they do. And they found that people were open and curious skeptics who were open to consider who Jesus was. So, they decided to create an ad campaign around it. Now, one of the things I'm going to use in our conversation is there's a very distinct frame or box within the ad campaign that the ad campaign is only that. One of the challenges is people want to make it a lot.hey want to make, "Well, what about this? What about this?" So, it's only a campaign to, the "He Gets Us" ad campaign is basically an air campaign with ads and media on all kinds of platforms. People have seen it on TikTok or people have seen it on—they'll see it in the Super Bowl to help people consider who Jesus is by seeking to build a bridge across which they will travel to then say, "I want to learn more, go to the website." And then, for example, go to the Bible reading plans. And I don't have the most recent number, but 600,000 people thus far have made the trip, ultimately, to subscribing to the Bible reading plans. We have some of the highest reading responses to the, you know, the U-version Bible reading plans. So that's kind of, and we'll press it on some of those questions. So all the ads cause people, for example, one of the most played ad before the last Super Bowl, not that would be 2023 Super Bowl, the most played ad showed this group of people who looked a little rough kind of going through the neighborhood, tricked out cars, and were doing good deeds. And it kind of said that, then Jesus, you know, put a group of people who changed the world. So, for Christians, like, "Well, Jesus wasn't driving a tricked out car." Well, you know, that's kind of, it's a way to get you to think. And that's what ad people do. And so then to say, "Well, how was Jesus pushing against the cultural norms of his day? Who's Jesus? How do I know him more?" So, the folks behind the campaign want to help foster a national campaign about Jesus. So, I came on later to then help churches, Christians churches and others, kind of be prepared in one way to receive people. Remember the campaign's a very specific frame or box. So, outside that framer box, now I speak sometimes into the framer box, but outside that framer box, I wanted to help churches. You can actually, churches receive referrals. And hundreds of thousands of people have through the different campaigns that are involved in this. He gets us in several and a few others. Hundreds of thousands of people have actually been referred to local churches. I go all over the country and people say, you know, we sign up for what are called explorers through an organization called GLU. And they say, you know, we receive, I mean, I've just talked to a pastor that, you know, SoCal pastor, you have two or three times a week, we receive somebody who has questions. Now, of course, they're not coming in like, hi, I'm a person who loves Jesus. I'm already tithing. Can I lead a small group? I mean, these are people who got questions and more. So again, just keep in mind that frame, all the questions that people have is, not all of them, but the vast majority of question people say, well, why don't you do this is because the campaign is a very clear frame within which they are working, which is to cause people to say, I want to understand and learn more about this Jesus.

Sean: So you hit some of the responses so far. 600,000 people sign up for the Bible plans. People get engaged in church. All this is positive—

Ed: I think it's 300,000 referrals to church through the different campaigns.

Sean: 300,000 referrals. So obviously, there's some people that are in favor of this. There's obviously some criticism. I've seen some of both. How has the team and the leadership processed some of this criticism? And what is some of the criticism that's come out against it?

Ed: Well, so, the Super Bowl was the peak of the criticism.

Seam: That's right.

Ed: So, in the middle of the Super Bowl, AOC, the liberal congresswoman from New York, tweeted, this is trying to make fascism look benign. So, not exactly a friendly response to the ads. Now, why would they say such a thing? Well, because a lot of news stories came out that one of the funders of this is, on a more conservative side, and they give to a fund that gives to different funds. And so all of a sudden, it's like, well, this is bad. And so that was at the beginning—and my joke is, and a million people went to the website there in the Super Bowl after AOC tweeted. So, that had a lot of people.

Sean: Okay, there you go.

Ed: It wasn't really a million, but I'm like, that's my joke. Million people. Thank you, AOC. So then Charlie Kirk tweeted a little later that the Green family. So remember, one of the families that helped to resource this is the Green family, so the Hobby Lobby family, and so then Charlie Kirk tweeted—and I don't remember the exact wording—but something like they're being fooled into mis-portraying Jesus or something like that. And then a million people come to the website.

So, I mean, the reality is we live in a time when, it's 2024 boys and girls, everything's controversial, everyone is someone's hero, someone's villain. And when you run ads that are geared towards engaging skeptics using creative ways—C.S. Lewis talked about why he wrote fanciful stories. He wanted to steal past the watchful dragons, because in his day, everyone sort of knew the gospel story. So what he said is, we'd say, sneak today. I'm trying to sneak past these watchful dragons of your familiarity with the story of the Christian story with these fanciful tales that he would tell. Well, so, in some ways, the campaign is trying to steal past the watchful dragons of people who've sort of rejected Christianity, say, look what Jesus did. And he had some pretty shocking things about how he elevated women, how he challenged the religious authorities. I mean, we can look at dozens of things. So that, to a skeptic who may have rejected Christianity, in that frame, then say, well, I want to learn more. And then they go to the website and they learn more about the Bible reading plans. So, I think Joe Carter wrote kind of a thing about the He Gets Us campaign—and I tend to read the different criticisms, I read the different suggestions, I read the different things. But in that case, he said, man, if you like pre-evangelism, you probably will get the He Gets Us campaign more. Because it's not like in 30 seconds, in 60 seconds, the ads in the Super Bowl coming up—a lot of people will listen to this after the Super Bowl—but the 2024 Super Bowl, it's 60 seconds at this time. These things changed, which I didn't know, but it's 60 seconds and then a 15 second one. You can't go from creation, fall, redemption and restoration, God, us in Christ's response. So, it's a conversation starter. So, we knew there'd be some criticism. I think there are things to learn and to be clearer on. And part of early on, I wanted to help them be clearer on some things as well. So that's all part of that journey.

Sean: But let me ask you this. In terms of the pushback, you've got someone from the left, you got some from the right, you gave us numbers. Do we know that these are actually skeptics that responded? Or are these Christians going, oh, I should be reading the Bible. I'm going to sign up.

Ed: Yeah, we don't know. And that's because we don't ask them demographic questions when they come, because people aren't generally willing to give demographic questions when they come. So for us, we've seen, I mean, through some of these referrals to churches, countless people come into faith in Christ. And I love that. But we don't know of the percentage of individual people, largely because what we used to call seekers, and now we might call explorers or curiously skeptics, whatever, they don't tend to give you their demographic profile or their religious background. So, we're not sure. We do know—the numbers that we do know, I mean, this was the most talked about ad in last year's Super Bowl, more than anything else.

Sean: So how do you know that you just searched online?

Ed: Well, there's actually magazines that report like ad meters and stuff like that. So, the most talked about. And so we know that it helped to foster a conversation about who Jesus is. One of the stats that was interesting was people search for Jesus more during the Super Bowl than they did during Christmas that year.

Scott: Really?

Ed: So, that seems to me—now the challenge is search for Jesus, all kinds of stuff about Jesus out there. So, but more people, I mean, that catches me. And again, that was shared in one of our meetings. So, I think it's, is it perfect? You know, I'm an advisor to the campaign, but, you know, I advise—we've got a very, I mean, the creative team that does this are the people who have done like all these national non faith-based campaigns. Matter of fact, the creative team that did the He Gets Us ad, did another ad in the Super Bowl for some sort of food product. I can't remember what it is. And it was top, they're top 10. So., they had two top 10 ads. So, this is not, you know, these are people—now the question I got asked missiologically is, you know, what do I feel about the box? You know, and, you know, and I look at Paul and I look at Paul at Pisidian Antioch and he crosses a bridge using Jewish history. You know, he says, uh, I'm sitting Antioch. He says men of Israel and you fear God, listen. And he goes, you know, takes them through the entirety of Jewish history. And then at Lystra, he talks about nature. You know, he's building a bridge there. And then at Acts 17 of the Areopagus, he's, you know, quoting Epicurean and stoic poets and philosophers. So, I think there's biblical warrant for seeking to kind of build a bridge to culture to engage. There's biblical warrant to say, let's get people to look more at Jesus. If you're comfortable with pre-evangelism, which not everybody is, you know, I'm deeply committed to evangelism. I, you know, that's one reason I led the Billy Graham Center for seven years at Wheaton. If you're comfortable with pre-evangelism, you're probably going to say, well I might have done this or that a little differently. My hope is, because again, the ad campaign is going to continue. So. if you look at that campaign, and I wouldn't do it that way, I get it. I mean, that's the world in which we live. It's 2024. I wouldn't do it that way. I wouldn't do that. To me, my hope is that Christians and churches will say that people are going to be talking about this and that water cooler conversation, you know, depending on the people that listen to this podcast, it releases before the Superbowl. But maybe right after Super Bowl Monday morning, man, help your people be prepared to respond to these conversations and know that the campaign is going to go on. So, you're going to have people all over the world. So you can casually have a conversation at a sporting thing and say, Hey, did you see that ad and then lead into that conversation? So whether you like it, whether you would have done it that way, whether you've done it differently, man, just help. There's seed being planted in culture about conversations about Jesus. I want Christians to step up, stand out and show and share the love of Jesus in that. My answers are too long, aren't they? I'm sorry.

[all laugh]

Scott: Not at all.

Ed: I'm sorry.

Scott: You know, you said the book “He Gets Us—”

Ed: Yeah, Max Likato.

Scott: Yeah. So, tell us a little bit about the connection between the book and the campaign.

Ed: Yeah, so the hope was that there'd be some ancillary resources that would come around. And so I'm trying to remember who reached out to Max. I don't know if I reached out to Max or someone else did. But, you know, Max Likato is sort of well known, you know, and we said, you know, we just wanted to take and quickly to do this so that people who saw the ads can then pick up the book and in the book, they can—by the way, the subtitle up top is probably helpful for people, “Experience the Confounding Love, Forgiveness and Relevance of Jesus.” That's a phrase that's used a lot, the confounding love of Jesus, right? If you have not seen the Super Bowl ad, or if you have seen it by now, depending upon it, you'll see that it's about, and I imagine people will be talking about it a lot, about the confounding love of Jesus, how Jesus modeled a serving love, even to his enemy. Even to Judas. And so that's going to be reflected. So here, anytime to me, we can kind of lean in and say, let's explore Jesus more. So the desire of this was not that there's anything wrong with Christian bookstores, there aren't many left, but as the former vice president of LifeWay. [Scott and Ed laugh] But this is airport shops, you know, we want these in airport shops. So people pick it up. Oh, I saw the ads. So the hope is that people will explore again, explore or experience this, the confounding love, forgiveness and relevance of Jesus. Now, you know, the folks with the air campaign, again, that's the box, I'm in conversation like—we are helping to foster a conversation, Ed and denominational leaders and networks and churches. You get your people to join in that conversation. So it's not the job of the campaign to get everyone to join into the conversation. It's the job of Christian leaders to say, let's do it. So this is just another tool in the toolbox to help with that.

Sean: And let me ask you a couple of just objections or criticisms I've heard people express and get your take on this. One is people would say, how much does a Super Bowl ad cost? $5 million, $10 million, whatever it is.

Ed: I think it's somewhere between five and 10, but it's a lot of money.

Sean: So even creating it we're thinking tens of millions of dollars. And there's a commercial for Bud Light with somebody scantily clad, deodorant, a car. “He gets us.”

Ed: Let me just be clear that we don't, I don't participate with Bud Light, but if you want to say that there's an ad for that, I understand.

Sean: Fair enough. There's a lot at the Super Bowl of course.

Ed: It's not a bastion of righteousness.

Sean: So how do we, I just justify, or not just justify, explain the thinking behind so much money for a 30 second ad.

Ed: Totally. Yeah.

Sean: Walk us through that process.

Ed: It is probably the most common objective objection, particularly from maybe secular people, not that you're secular, Sean. But the reason is like, you know— [Ed and Sean laugh]

Sean: I work for you.

Ed: Yeah, fair enough. Fair enough. But more like, couldn't you use this money to serve the poor too, for me, I'm a church planting person. So like, can we invest that in planting, creating help facilitating the church planting movement. And the answer is that when you've been, if you've been a pastor, a lot of our listeners could be pastors, and someone comes to you in your church and said, "Man, I just have a vision for this. And I want to do this." And that's what you say. Well, let's do it the best that we can. You might say, "Well, you know, if you were to give them this, we could fix these broken lights in the hallway, but you want to put a new sign out front." Okay, great. Do we really, is that the first choice that we would do? So I think of all the Christians in America, probably everyone would say, if I had, a Super Bowl ad is nothing, but the news reports have been hundreds of millions of dollars. So you're going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars. There's a lot of things that you could do. And I would say that, for me, I know some of the folks behind—I don't know everybody, but I know some folks behind it. And they had a burden that Christianity really has been misrepresented in culture. And one of the ways that they would like to foster a better understanding of the Christian faith is to point to who Jesus was and what he did. So, again, it's sort of like what was the burden on their heart. But of course the challenge is, there's not a thing that you do that someone might say you should have done it this way or differently. But I'm not, and I don't think they're bothered by that. That's just something that they had the resources to do and they felt the call to do. And it actually, there's actually news stories to sort of talk about where, they said, how did the Christian message get so misunderstood and how do we help people understand who Jesus is? So again, back to that frame, who Jesus is, what he's done, how to understand him more. That's what they wanted to focus on.

Sean: Okay, so let me push back.

Ed: Please, please, my feelings are not hurt.

Sean: And again, because I hear, I know they're not. Some people say, okay, if we're focusing on who he is and what he did, he gets us, might get us to empathy, the incarnation, but not the death and the resurrection, which is the root of the message itself. So it's not really focused ultimately on what he did. I've heard that pushback, so give us some context of the thinking.

Ed: Yeah, the ads are in a frame. And that frame is to understand who Jesus is, particularly focused on the earthly Jesus and the things he did on earth. So we're trying to get you, you know, do you go to the website, go to the website that's there? Well, the website takes you to the Bible plans and the Bible reading plans goes through and eventually gets to the I am statements of Jesus. I am the resurrection and the life, one of those I am statements of Jesus. So I guess the question is: is how quickly do you get to something and who gets to something? So I know that everybody in the campaign believes in the death, burial, resurrection of Jesus, believes in the divinity of Christ and more. So the question is how and when do you get to that? And what's the receptivity point for curiously open seekers? And the receptivity point based on research for those curiously open seekers is actually the person of Jesus. So the frame, the person of Jesus, then to the website, then to the Bible reading plan. And then, if you don't read the Bible, you can't, I mean, that's where those things are. Now, again, I'm an advisor to the campaign. I don't decide, you know, all those things, but that's the description of the pathway. And so it's a question of when and how you get there. And who can you bring along on that journey in the conversations? Go again, this is more pre evangelism. We're going to keep coming back to that. Evangelism would be reclaiming Jesus' death on the cross for our sin and in our place and calling women and men to respond by grace and through faith to the good news of that gospel. The frame is, I don't think I'm using the term, like they're not necessarily using that term. The frame is the hook. You might say, is that a fair way to put it? Yeah, I think I wouldn't be offended by that. You know, again, I'm not a spokesperson for the campaign. So I'm not saying the campaign would say that I'm an advisor. Fair enough. You know, you don't want to be, some people are like, "Oh, I do this or that." You know, there are some ads that I think are amazing, some ads I probably would do differently. But I appreciate the heart of what they're trying to do. And I think there's some missiological precedent here that you're looking for a bridge. Now, you know, people don't like the idea of marketing research, see how people are open to things. But man, you know, before Paul gets to Acts 16, he walks around, Acts 17, he walks around Acts 16, looking at their idols, being deeply troubled in his soul. And I think that people walking around being deeply troubled. I would say too, you know, you got to remember, too, that the ad company is not a Christian ad company. There are Christians in the ad company, but it's not a Christian ad company. They do work for Christian organizations among others, but, I mean, it's a big company. And so for them, for some people, it's like, well, you have, you know, Christians and non-Christians working on this? And the answer is yes. And partly because we want to ask the question, you know, if you're not a person of faith, you know, what questions do you have sort of coming from this? I come from a non-Christian home and I would often ask one of my direct family members, who's not a Christian. I'd say, I got this thing we're going to do at our church as a mailer. We just look over this and see what questions you have. And he, you know, the changes he'd make, I couldn't make some of them. I mean, we still do believe these things, but I think that adds a richness—LERMA is the ad campaign. So I went to LERMA in Dallas and I met with their leadership. And, you know, the guy who was leading the campaign is a committed follower of Jesus. But there's a team that actually speaks into this that helps to avoid some Christian jargon and things of that sort.

Sean: That makes sense.

Ed: So you would be, if you're like, this is not either of you, but if you, like, have been going to church for 30 years, you love Jesus with your whole heart, these ads are not targeted towards you. [all laugh] You may feel that because these are not, you're not the audience. Now, the question is, is the audience being moved? And I think that's right now, we're kind of thinking through, we got some new leadership. I'm not the new leadership. We got some new leadership saying, are we moving the needle the way that we want to? So those are always questions. I think those are good questions to ask.

Scott: So let's be a little more specific about the frame that you're talking about. What are some things, some ways in which you think Jesus has been misrepresented that the campaign is trying to correct?

Ed: That the campaign is trying to correct. The first part of the question was easier. I could say, I think some ways that Jesus has been misrepresented.

Scott: Let's stick with that to start.

Ed: 'Cause I don't know that I've had conversation with what are you trying to correct per se? So what are some ways I think Jesus has been misrepresented? I think, I mean, what I write about often is contextualization. And when people make the assumption that Jesus is a certain cultural expression or a political party or a way of dress or whatever, and they kind of put—I think what's happened is, because I mean, let's be honest, I don't think Christians have always represented Jesus in his kingdom well. It's one of the reasons I wrote “Chrisitans in the Age of Outrage,” is that they have not represented Jesus in his kingdom well. So what happened is that people have sort of missed that Jesus. I just added Derwin Gray as a columnist to the magazine, I serve as editor in chief of Outreach Magazine. And his first article is on lessons from Gandhi. Gandhi writes about why are you Christians so unlike your Jesus? And I kind of was like, I'm not, I was like lessons from Gandhi. But that's, you read through the article, it's really good. But I think that the question is like, if people see Christians and assume, for example, Jesus is anti-women, but I mean, nobody around the table, everyone around the table would just say, Jesus was shockingly pro and affirming of women in the first century. I mean, shockingly, I mean, you know, women witnessed his resurrection, the woman at the well, we could give hundreds of examples. So when you tell people that, that Jesus was pro woman, what does that mean? And obviously that means different people to whoever hears that, those words. When you and I hear that, we're like, well, of course he was, but other people hear that and say, well, what? Because it's all tied up in the secular things. So the end result is, from that frame, they go learn more. So again, keep hearing that that in the frame, “huh,” if it produces the “huh,” or the hook, as you called it, huh, I want to learn more. Then ultimately, if we believe as I do, that the Bible is God's, you know, in our inspired word, and we can have people reading the Bible. So again, that's the pathway, because there's too many people on the pathway for everyone to have a conversation with. But we have people engaging God's word and those people who are interested in also engaging a church. I mean, that to me is a substantive step forward. But those places there, again, back to C.S. Lewis, we've got to steal past the watchful dragons and they say, oh, those Christians, that must mean Jesus is like this. Reading the Jesus of the New Testament, it's pretty shocking. And then you feel, you hear the full story of the message and it changes your life. It changes everything and ultimately renews all things.

Sean: And what I think is perhaps the most powerful about the campaign is just the three words:
“He gets us.” I found myself in a few sermons making that point and literally stopping and saying, as the famous campaign says, “he gets us,” which means it's an effective campaign. So, obviously that has power. It's three short words. What's the story behind? What did it take to come up with that? Why did they choose that angle?

Ed: That was pre-me. But there's this team and Bill and Jason, they have this, it's kind of strange because there’s a lot of players involved, like there's this marketing agency, Haven's, this creative hub in Grand Rapids and then LERMA is in Dallas. So LERMA sort of makes it. But early on, he gets this stuff sort of comes out of Bill McKendree, who's a very well-known person in this field, very committed Christian. And I'm not sure how soon that was, 'cause I'm not sure where, like Jason Vanderground actually now leads that organization. I'm not a hundred percent sure who first came up with it, but, for me, the thing that, and again, I recognize that it must drive you a little crazy that people have a lot of Josh McDowell references in your life. But if you remember the crew days. So I grew up on Long Island outside of New York City in a non-Christian home. And I remember seeing bumper stickers with three words on them: “I found it.” And if you've been around long enough, so you remember this, I found a camp. It actually happened in multiple iterations. Now, I never knew what it was until I became a professor and scholar and taught evangelism. I taught a history of evangelism campaigns once. And so I found out that that's an evangelism campaign. But I remember my dad and my mom, we've driveing down the road, the cigarettes full, smoking the car, this kind of stuff, little four year day, Sean, no seatbelts, probably sitting on the dashboard, looking at the back of the station, like, but they would see the bumper stickers and we didn't know what it was. It was, I found it and I got it all over my shirt. I found it, but I've lost it. Where is it now? And so I remember, I talked to my dad later on, I said, Oh yeah, I remember making fun of that. And cause it never said what it was. Three words kind of clearly articulated: I found it. Well, something's changed since the 70s. It's called, wait for it, the inner webs. So there are these vacuum tubes that communicate information. So the simplicity of this kind of reminds me of, I found it. He gets us. So he, who's he, you're going to look in the mirror. What does it mean? He gets, because remember the campaign is emphasizing the, the, the human life of Jesus. So he gets a he's lived, you live this, he gets us. And then there's the sense, the bridge to you, but also put a dot com on the end of that. And that's where people can go learn more. And that's to the Bible reading plan. Cause I found it still to this day. I never told, I didn't tell my dad the full story of what that necessarily was, but still to this day, I think all kinds of people, like me, in outside of New York city as a kid saw the campaign, didn't know what it was. So the three words are important, but these three words, I mean, you know, he gets us, each has a pretty profound meaning. So I love it.

Scott: So let's be a little more specific about some of the things that are included in the book that we see from the campaign. How are the various aspects of the life of Jesus selected?

Scott: Yeah. Yeah. So, each time, each ad is sort of different. So, sometimes it will emphasize how Jesus was misunderstood. That's the one ad that I mentioned earlier. He was seen as a troublemaker, rebel, et cetera, et cetera. So again, I'm trying to, you know, I've signed a NDA on, on the Super Bowl ad this coming out before the Super Bowl. So, but you're going to see in the Super Bowl ad that what Jesus did is the central to the theme of the ad. So, really smart people, way smarter than me, I got to remember I’m like the worst at creativity. So I had a book I once wrote called “Comeback Churches” and they sent me the cover and it's a bunch of people from the fifties and hats going into this dying church. And I said, what a depressing cover. And then it won the creative book cover of the year. So I was like, okay, well, I don't know. I'm clearly not going to be that person. So, what happens is that they'll kind of look for different aspects of Jesus' life. At that point, they'll often engage me and some others and say, you know, how could we rightfully, but creatively, you know, kind of explain or extrapolate some of what's there. But I think, you know, the keywords were looking for ways to explain the confounding love of Jesus. So, you know, so give examples. So, around Thanksgiving and Christmas, you may be aware that people sometimes have family conflict around the holidays. Well, Jesus had some of that as well. I mean, think about, you know, when he was at the temple and his mother and, and so we can actually,, where does that come from? How did Jesus walk through that? So you look for points of commonality, which I think is very, missiologically appropriate. So Paul looked for commonality with the Jews, Abyssinian Antioch, and went to history. He looked for commonality with the people at Lystra and the backwaters of the Roman empire and went to nature. He looked for commonalities and went to Epicurean and poet, uh, Stoic philosophy and poetry. So, I think that there's a commonality that—now you might say, well, I wouldn't have done it this way or that way. And part of the challenges, like when the ad where, um, you know, clearly was portraying a picture of Jesus and the disciples as a misunderstood group of people and tricked out cars. Again, be like, well, Jesus didn't drive. We—they know Jesus didn't drive. But if it makes you think, well, man, what, how is Jesus misunderstood? There's the bridge. How was Jesus misunderstood? Then go to the website, learn more, go to the Bible plan to understand who Jesus is fully and rightly. So that's, that's the trajectory, the desired trajectory.

Sean: Okay, so I've got another one for you.

Ed: Please. I'm not shocked that you do.

Sean: So when you look at what Christians believe about Jesus, not all have a theology that you and I would like them to have that we teach here at Talbot School of Theology.

Ed: But if they go to the Talbot School of Theology with a fully online M.Div now available as an undergrad, as well. Sorry.

Sean: Good, good commercial. Those who say I'm a born again Christian, even go to church to some degree, the amount who say Jesus sinned or the amount who say Jesus was not born of a virgin. He's one way to God, et cetera. So, they need to be reminded of good biblical theology. If this is towards skeptics, I would assume that they understand the human side of Jesus, but probably not the divine side of Jesus. So why are these emphasizing more the human side to get the skeptic in rather than the divine side?

Ed: Because it's an evangelist—well, it's a pre-evangelistic conversation and that's the point of interest that people have. So if you listen to the leaders of the campaign, what they would say is, man, there's 300,000 plus churches in America that need to be telling people about the divine side of Jesus. We're trying to foster and start a conversation about Jesus that causes people to look to the Bible to learn more. The other thing too, just transparently, it's really hard to run ads that would address the, I mean, how do you address the divinity in a 30 second ad? So, but you could point to the confounding love of Jesus and what he did on the earth and then say, here's a place to learn more. But ultimately I think it's the folks who have created the campaign, again, among folks who created the campaign have said, this is the frame we want, and this is the bridge. And then, but they invite, invite people to come and say, let's again, the Bible reading plans or let's refer to churches that point to that. So I guess they would say, this is our piece of the puzzle that they're looking for others to pick up the rest.

Sean: Maybe this is it. And I don't, I don't know what's in it thinking, but if you ask skeptics, they don't believe Jesus is God, but they're all aware that Jesus did those things. And that's the narrative about it.

Ed: And so one of the things we have on the website in about us, it talks about we're Christians who believe in the divinity of Christ. So I'm not sure exactly how it's worded, but there's a statement in there that specifically says that. But we recognize that a lot of people, if they fully believe in the divinity of Christ, they would have rightfully responded by repentance and by grace and through faith. So, this is an entree point, right? So, and then from that entree point, you want to go elsewhere.

Sean: That makes sense. And by the way, some of the research out of Barna worldwide called the open generation, like three volumes in this, they said people are open to Jesus. And there's a sense where he's 2000 years in the past and doesn't relate to my life today. Maybe at the root of this is trying to say, no, actually, he gets you and relates more practically with your neighbor. And even on issues that are bubbling up in culture today, maybe that's a way of bridging that. I don't know, but just-

Ed: Bridge, I think is a constant word to think of, right? Frame is one word. And from that frame, because people look at why doesn't the campaign do this? Because that's not what the campaign feels called to do.

Sean: It's meant to do.

Ed: And yeah, it's literally designed to, in this frame, point people to who Jesus did, who he was, so they can learn more, and et cetera. I've already said it three times, so I'm going to do it again. One more, one more. But I guess the question is, is the bridge. So there's a bridge to culture. And I would say that based on what we're seeing in the metrics of how people are responding, they actually see a measured change in how people respond to and understand who Jesus is. And so, again, there's internal polling things. So, there's a percentage of people who are now more open to explore the Jesus of the Bible. And to me, I mean, again, I'm just an advisor of the campaign, but I'm glad to advise and speak into and encourage when we literally can see metrics that more people are open to explore Jesus and hundreds of thousands of people are actually doing that. So that to me is the strength of it. And again, I think a lot of things, you know, early when it came out that it was the Green family, one of the key funders and key beginning, I think people sort of in the Christian world sort of know them and appreciate so much of what they do and they've done. And so what I would say is I would say, you know, look to the ads themselves, recognize it's not for you, but if it moves the interest level of somebody, even if you don't, you know, let's say I don't like it, but you know, but if Christ is being proclaimed and people are having a conversation, rejoice and picked up that conversation, had a great call with somebody who wasn't happy with it. And I said, man, I get it, but are your friends talking about it? And he said, yeah, he says, well, I know you're not happy with it, but it's not going to stop. So just a thought, why don't you talk to your friends about it? And he actually said to me, you know, I'm going to do that. I don't have to go around critiquing this or that, but what I can do is my neighbor, you know, his guy worked in a secular role, a friend, he said, I'm just going to talk to people. I said, then the campaign's happy.

Sean: And honestly, maybe don't feel like you need to defend everything in the commercial because it's produced largely by Christians. If you disagree with something in it, that's still a talking point. Go back to the scriptures, ask why, who is Jesus? That's the point to provoke.

Ed: I promise you that the founders and the leadership of the campaign would be profoundly thrilled if you disagreed with the campaign but the end result was you had a conversation with someone who doesn't know the Lord and got share with them the good news of the gospel.

Scott: What is your favorite of all the commercials that have aired so far?

Ed: Gosh, that's a good question. I think probably the rebel one, the one that was the most viewed and in part, it was my favorite because it's kind of got a nice twist. Well, I don't know that I want to describe it in a little more detail. I want to withdraw. I want to go back to this. I want to go back to the Super Bowl ad with the Patsy Cline song. That was my favorite one. So what the two, the two Super Bowl ads last year were pretty strong. I don't know if you saw them, but one of them has these people in conflict and you can feel the music kind of escalating in conflict. And then it just ends with Jesus loved the people we hate. And it's like, okay, well, I mean, how do you, where do you go with that? And then the other one was talking about, was kind of a feel good thing with the Patsy Cline song. And so that was, I've given you three in the answer to that. So I don't know. There's some that I like less, but I'm not going to tell you that. But the ones I like catch people's attention and they say, that's shocking. Jesus did that. And, you know, and, and, and what does that mean for me? So to me, I keep coming back—because I'm a missiologist, right? So if it builds the bridge and then causes people to explore, I'm like, that is the best. If it is, you know, if it’s just creativity for creativity's sake, you can do creativity all day long. And again, you have super creative people. Like these people, the ad people are insanely creative. But to me, that's success, people. And the fact that so many people went to see some of those ads, rewatch them over and over again, talked about them. I think that, to me, my favorite ads are probably the ones that get people talking about Jesus the most.

Sean: Fair enough. Good stuff. So any last words that we missed on the purpose of the campaign, what to look for in the campaign, how to use it, or do you think we covered it?

Ed: I think we, well, let me, let me add one more thing. I think one of the misunderstandings, particularly after last year's Super Bowl, was that that was it. That was the pinnacle of the campaign. And I, I assure you it's not. It's an ongoing multi-year strategy back in the Super Bowl with two ads this year. That could change, but I mean, it's, and that's probably now just the time of this recording, yesterday, broke the news that, you know, there's going to be another, I think they said one, so I may be breaking news here too, but there's actually two. But again, that changes sometimes because, you know, they're kind of moving things around. But if you like sports, you've seen a lot of these ads. I'm not a sports ball person, so I don't know much about these things. But, like, I know the plans for next year, and it's not getting less, it's getting more.

Sean: Oh, wow.

Ed: And what I would say is you're not getting less, not getting more. And I don't need you to get on board, but I, boy, I sure would encourage you to seize the opportunity of people talking about Jesus and our culture.

Seam: That's great.

Ed: And let's do that as Christians. Again, now, because remember, one of the great things about me is I'm not in the frame. I know the frame, right? Sometimes I can speak into the frame, but I'm not in the frame. So I want to say as a pastor, as a leader of seminary and a school of theology, I want to say that this is a great time. Culture is in the midst of tumult and turbulence. We're going into an election year. What a great opportunity in the midst of all the turbulence and tumult to say, "Hey, let's talk about who this Jesus is. What did he do? Point them to the fact they lived a sinless life. He died on the cross for our sin in our place. God raised him from the dead on the third day, and you can receive him by grace and through faith." We're at a historic low in evangelism in our world today. I mean, I can remember back to when in the eighties when people were doing a Tuesday night evangelism outreach and people were doing evangelism training every day and everyone was going to EE or whatever. And now we're at this historic low. And I would just say, if I could just ask Christians who have different opinions about all different things, is that you like it, don't like it, but the world needs to hear about Jesus. And if there're some people who want to help foster some of those conversations, why don't you jump into those conversations in a world where evangelism is on decline. Let's make much of Jesus. That's my thought.

Scott: I don't think we can add much more to that.

Sean: Drop the mic, baby. Let's go.

Scott: Let me encourage our viewers and listeners. If you don't have the book, “He Gets Us.” And we'd encourage you to watch the Super Bowl for no other reason than to watch the two commercials.

Ed: That's the only reason I'm watching the Super Bowl.

Scott: And to engage with your neighbors.

Ed: Yeah. Amen. Who's in the Super Bowl? We don't know yet. We don't know at the time of this recording. Okay. Could it be Buffalo?

Scott: Yes, it could.

Ed: Okay. If it's the Buffalo Bills, watch for the Buffalo Bills. I lived in Buffalo five years and four of those five years they went to the Super Bowl. Don't follow up on that. Don't follow up. I know what happened, but yeah. Amen, brother. Thanks.

Scott: Great. Ed, thanks so much for being with us for your role in the campaign and your role ongoing. We are delighted to hear the figures, the conversations that are taking place. And this is great stuff. So, watch the Super Bowl. Thanks for being with us.