Monday, January 16, 2012

John 3:16 and Tim Tebow

This past weekend during an NFL playoff game between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, Focus on the Family aired a 30 second commercial. It featured adorable children reciting the Biblical verse John 3:16. It took me by surprise. In fact, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing at first. Then it hit me. Tim Tebow. The reason Focus on the Family was airing the spot was Tim Tebow.

Over the past few weeks, he’s become sort of a cultural sensation. As the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, he went on a hot streak that got the Broncos into the playoffs. In the first round, he threw a winning touchdown pass in overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. In that game, he threw for 316 yards and averaged 31.6 yards per pass completion. Coincidence?

After the game, it was reported that there was a significant number of searches online about the meaning of John 3:16. Obviously, Focus on the Family saw an opportunity. Tim Tebow has openly given praise to his Lord and Savior as the source of his strength. He has knelt down and thanked God in a very public manner during football games. It seems like everybody has an opinion about whether or not this is appropriate behavior. I’m not sure what the big deal is. During his days at the University of Florida, it didn’t seem to be a problem.

If you ask me, I believe that some people in the media are just looking for a story and want to stir up controversy. It increases ratings as well as circulation. But, in reality, this is nothing new in professional football. I’ve seen players thank God during games and after games. Most of the football teams have chaplains and pray before and after each game. I think some people just want to jump on the Tim Tebow bandwagon for one reason or the other.

This takes me back to Focus on the Family. I know I might get into trouble for asking this question. But was it the best use of resources? I don’t’ think they called the local cable company to shoot this spot. It was well done, professionally produced, and looks big league. And I’m sure it cost a pretty penny to buy a 30 second spot during an NFL playoff game.

Hey, I thought the spot was great. Who wouldn’t love a bunch of cute and adorable kids reciting one of the most beloved scriptures in the Bible? But what did it accomplish? First of all, I think it’s a good thing any time you can proclaim the Word of God. I guess the question is how do we do this in an effective way.

The Barna Research Group tells us that 84% of Americans call themselves Christians. Furthermore, 56% state that their faith is important. However, when Barna asked 19 key questions identifying our lifestyle choices, they determined that there was little difference in how Christians and nonChristians lived their lives.

Putting it another way, we say faith matters; however, the way we live our lives say something completely different. The point I’m trying to make is we live in a postChristian society that is familiar with the concept of John 3:16 and have heard the words “you must be born again”. I think it’s become a cliché for many and has lost its power.

Here’s what I wish Focus on the Family would have talked about. What does it mean to be a Christian? Maybe we should have started with Mark 12:29. When Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment, he said that you must love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind and all of your strength. And, second, of equal importance is loving your neighbor as yourself.

The reason why I think John 3:16 doesn’t work in our culture is the world doesn’t see our love. They don’t believe we really love God, and they certainly don’t believe that we love people who think differently from us. They don’t see the power and the passion of our faith and convictions. We need to make our faith real and demonstrate that it can be lived out. That’s what we’re going to have to do if we want to build the Kingdom of God, fulfill the Great Commission, and be a witness for Christ. Now, I don’t know if we can do that in a 30 second spot.

In the end, I don’t care how many 30 second spots we run featuring adorable kids reciting John 3:16. It isn’t going to change the current course of our culture. It may make us feel good. And I’m sure we can slap each other on the back and say “hooray” for our side. But the best thing we can do is live our lives in a way that reflects the very nature and attributes of Christ. If we can find a way to do that, honestly there isn’t enough room on Sunday morning for the people who would show up.


  1. We here in Detroit shot a PSA in support of our budding movie industry that would have cost $150,00.00 had we not all come together and donated, time equipment, editing and plenty of bodies and refreshments to keep them from leaving in the middle of the shoot. So getting a quality video piece is not out of the question if there is a common passion. And if it is submitted as a public service announcement there is no air time cost although it gets shown at 3 in the morning. When the name of Jesus and His word is spoken the Power of God is released so I'm trusting that hearts will be pricked and turn to the Lord as a result. Only the Lord knows what the outcome will be of this campaign. Oh yes and I will continue to live a life dedicated to the Lord to do my part to reach the lost.

  2. In regards to your comment..." In the end, I don’t care how many 30 second spots we run featuring adorable kids reciting John 3:16. It isn’t going to change the current course of our culture. ".... I respectfully disagree...
    You see...Anytime the word of God is declared and shown on the National Platform and or technically in any setting its "SEED" that is entering into the hearts, minds and souls of men/women. The bible says, " For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires." "So shall My WORD be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return to Me void [without producing any effect, useless], but it shall accomplish that which I please and purpose, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.Point being...More WORD...MORE IMPACT.
    If Christian so called Celebrity Pastors and Leaders would do more things like Focus on the family did instead of putting the money into their Bentleys, Homes and Rock-Star Lifestyles....We could accomplish more KINGDOM BUSINESS and IMPACT THE WORLD THRU MEDIA!