He Gets US?

With the recent He Gets US ads playing during the Super Bowl in 2023, there have been a lot of opinions given about the campaign. Sadly, it’s been more dividing than I think many would have thought a commercial about Jesus Christ being aired during the biggest event on national TV ever would have. You would think we would all, Christians at least, would applaud the fact our Lord and Savior’s Name is being broadcast to the world! Instead, reviews have been mixed.

It is these mixed reviews I want to tackle here…or at least share what I know of the campaign myself from being personally involved. You see, around the end of 2021, I got involved by responding to an advertisement (if I recall correctly) during the Carey Nieuwhof podcast I frequently listen to. The ad (Gloo) was something about “serving” folks outside your church by receiving messages from them. I thought, “that would be awesome!” I mean come on, as a pastor of a small online only church trying to figure out who and how we can serve folks outside the church, this should be perfect.

At the time, I knew nothing of the He Gets Us commercials. It may have just been a week or two in before I heard of it. Maybe one of my “explorers,” (that’s what they call those that send prayer requests/or ask for more info), had mentioned it in a response to my contacting them. I don’t’ know, but either way, I eventually learned there was more than just the He Gets Us campaign sending those people’s request out to people, pastors, like myself. It was a different campaign, I do not remember.

So that brings us to the “uproar” of some over He Gets Us advertising during the Super Bowl. They had two ads, one called, “Be Childlike,” and the other, “Love Your Enemies.” Both, in my opinion very good and the second was poignant for sure! From the titles alone, both are biblically based on Jesus’s Words about coming to Him as a child, and of course the commandment to love others. And the truth is, I’ve not seen many arguments about the ads themselves…content wise, just a few different “other” views on them.

Understand I want to keep this blog as short as possible so I don’t do a deep dive on all the “arguments” about the ads.

They aren’t Jesus Enough

Well that’s the way I’ll put those comments I’ve seen as. Basically it is the idea that the ads make Jesus “too” human, “too accepting.” These are those that would say the ads don’t “teach” Jesus enough…i.e. they don’t condemn others. They don’t speak of sin. They “whitewash” Jesus some might say, or “fluff” His teachings.

To this I simply say, you missed the point of the ads. (We’ll get to the point in the conclusion of this blog).

A Waste of Money

The cost of a 30 second Superbowl ad in 2023 was about $7M for a 30 second ad. So, quick math tells us, He Gets Us, (it’s founders and partners), may have paid around $21M for 90 seconds worth of TV time. That is in fact a “LOT” of money to everyone reading this blog I am sure. And, the thought of, “what good could have been done with that money?” is indeed a fair question. I’ve asked the same question about many organizations. And everything comes down to ROI in reality, (Return on Investment). For the goals of He Gets Us, apparently, the cost of getting the campaign before the eyes of over 100 million people was worth it.

Again, it is my belief that the problem is people don’t understand the goal(s) of the campaign, addressed in the conclusion.

I Don’t Like Where the Money Comes From

There are those that don’t like one of the biggest investors of the project, David Green, the CEO of Hobby Lobby. You may recall the past uproar over Hobby Lobby’s decision to not fund birth control for its employees, and as a Christian owned organization, the conservative stance of its leadership in moral and political issues. I remember the news about it, but I’m not looking into it here.

Green is of course not the only funding for this project as there are many “un-named” investors.

The ads are the product of Bill McKendry’s marketing organization, Hazen. He and his team are truly the masterminds behind the He Gets Us brand. I listened to him on a recent podcast, (forgive me I don’t recall, but he’s been on many), and he shared their early expectations and how blown away they were when they had the “reactions” of over 14 million people on the first ad within less than two weeks.

I believe this argument is more about the litmus test of what some would consider correct Christianity or not, liberal or conservative, and so on. This is a never ending debate really.

The Heart of He Gets Us

He Gets Us is NOT preaching Jesus, (i.e. theology), to people. It’s not about getting people saved, or condemning them. It is about bridging the gap between the Church (and our messed up history) and those people outside of her that are hurting, seeking help, and are “scared” of going to a physical church building. As Bill himself asserts, and I’m sure you can find more factual numbers if you desire, about most of the population, (especially in the west if not world wide), admires and respects the person, the human person, of Jesus. Seriously, half of the world’s religions speak highly of Him. So the campaign uses that idea, and Jesus’s “humanity” in the idea, that “He knows our struggles.” “He knows our pains.” “He experienced anxiety too.” So, “He gets us.”

The ads are presented with the goal of getting folks to go to the website and click around and explore. Now, when I first started with Gloo, the “explorers” would send a message to Gloo that was usually a prayer request or an “I need someone to talk to,” kind of message. The goal for the one receiving the messages was then to respond as soon as possible to the incoming request with basically a “Hi, I am Gerald, and I received your prayer request. I am happy to pray for you about this situation. If you would like to talk more about it with me, just respond to this text and we can chat.”

My Personal Experience

I was told when signing up that I’d probably receive about 10 requests per week. If I recall, I received about 15 that first week, and most every other week was ten or more. From what could see, the goal was to begin a conversation with these folks that could possibly lead to, eventually, a Gospel conversation. For many it might have been seeking opportunity to meet with the explorer physically. But I run an online only church so my goal was simply to serve them, and if/when the time allowed, let the know a little bit about our church. however, most of my conversations didn’t really get that far and I never pushed the issue.

My bigger problem was I got overwhelmed with so many requests and was stressing trying to get back to them. I also found it difficult to carry on the relationships with those I did actually talk to more than once because frankly, I’m busy and don’t like chatting that much.

Here’s a Few Requests I Received

-Lots of changes. Feel like nobody truly loves me. I think maybe I just expect to much from people.

-My family!  My children have cause so much pain and heart break. I’m drowning in debt in part because of them and they just want more for themselves. It’s sad really. I’m losing sleep worrying about them and they just want to use me the rest of the way up for their own benefits. God help me get on my own feet and let me stop being hurt by them

-I think I have depression I’m only 10 and want to hurt myself I always put a fake smile on and can never sleep I cry almost everyday and have somewhat of anxiety I wanna die and feel like I have to reason to be alive and think that I’m better of dead.

-I have so many heath issues I’m about to give up.

-I’m not very good at talking to people like on the phone or in person cuz of my PTSD and anxiety and stuff but I have this situation where I’m living at and I need to get out of it the only problem is I have no car so I have no way of going nowhere and I’m just stuck here no food no heat no power…

-I just want to know if there’s anyone else like me out there. I have been depressed most of my life, it seemed as if nothing would get better and I failed at everything. I failed at having a good childhood at loving myself. I failed College and finding a job. I failed at being a good brother and son, The only thing I succeeded on was being born and that wasn’t even supposed to happen. I feel like nothing but a mistake and that that is all I will ever be and that I should just leave this world.

He Gets Us Explorers

Yes, I even had a few young kids make contact through the system. For those I would respond back with some encouragement and say I’m praying for you. For the one above, her mother saw it on the daughter’s iPad and called me to discuss…of course wondering who the heck I was. And we had a really good conversation that I pray helped the daughter…and mother.


But as you see, these are just a few of the 100+ I received over a 3-4 month period. These are the kind of requests, and more importantly, PEOPLE, He Gets Us is resonating with. They are bridging a gap between folks being turned off to the Church with Jesus and His loyal servants that want to serve hurting folks. This is why I believe the money, is worth it. This is why it doesn’t matter to me who started it. This is why I hate to see the division promoted by those who feel the need to snub this ministry.

It’s not a waste of money when you’re potentially reaching millions of people in need and connecting them with folks that can help them. The ads aren’t about preaching a theology. They’re about making people think, “Maybe Jesus can help me.” “Maybe Jesus can get me.”

You may not feel the way I do about the ministry. You may take issue with it some way or another. But I do cry out to God that you would allow this ministry to continue to do what it is doing to reach people that sadly are not being reached by traditional means, (local churches). It’s doing a great service and connecting people that need connection.

Are You Thirsty?

Classic Gatorade Advertisement

Think back to a time where you have been really thirsty. I mean REALLY thirsty. Your mouth was completely parched. Tongue sticking to the roof of your mouth. You were to the point that you couldn’t talk clearly. You’d take anything you could to drink. Maybe not Bear Grylls kind of thirsty, but you might have been close to it.

When you’re that thirsty, how do you quench it? Usually when I am this thirsty I actually have a taste for something other than water. I drink water most of the time. But for some reason when I am really parched thirsty, I get this desire for something else. In the past it has been milk. Mind you I don’t generally ever drink milk unless it’s in cereal or my coffee. Yet, for some reason, there have been times when I’ve come into the house, extremely thirsty, and grab the milk container and guzzle down a cup. It’s been a while now that I’ve done that. Now I might down some chocolate milk…but who doesn’t like chocolate milk right?

Have you ever been so thirsty you’d drink just about anything?

What about your spiritual life? Have you been spiritually thirsty? Maybe even felt abandoned by God? Maybe you’ve experienced abandonment by others in the world, and feel as though God too has abandoned you. Maybe you’re missing something inside and you’re not even sure if it is God, if there is a God, or what. You only know you have this emptiness you want filled.

The story of the woman at the well may be familiar to many of us in the faith, but I believe it speaks to some of these feelings of thirst and spiritual dryness. It speaks to a thirst for something, for water, for God, for friendship, for community, for acceptance maybe. 

This story is about an interaction Jesus had with a woman. Not just any woman, a Samaritan woman. And if you don’t know what that means, the short end of it is, these were people the Jews absolutely disliked. They were considered halfbreeds, because they were a mixed people, Jewish and Gentiles, (goes back to Old Testament times). Along with the racial and thnic differences between them, they also had some differences in their religious thoughts/beliefs. They were both Jewish, but they had differences. Kind of like different denominations. Things that shouldn’t divide, yet they do.

Let’s read the full story found in John chapter 4:

John 4:7-26

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Avoiding Samaria

In the beginning of Chapter 4, John explains that Jesus had left the region of Judea and is heading to Galilee and John says Jesus “had” to go through Samaria.

The truth is, He didn’t “have” to, but it was indeed the shorter way to go. It is generally taught that Jews would prefer to go around Samaria than go through it. It’s like trying to go to Missippi from Georgia, you have to go through Alabama. To avoid going through Alabama we’d have to go through Tennessee. It would take a 2.5 day walking trip from Judea to Galilee and turn it into a week-long journey to go around Samaria. 

How many of us, when we travel somewhere, especially locally, avoid “those places” because of the “people” we’ve heard about that live there? Usually it’s due to a different ethnic or racial group if we’re honest, the low class, crime ridden, areas of your location. We’ve been told, “don’t get caught there at night,” right? Horror stories that probably have little truth to them.

Why Was She There?

Either way, Jesus was going through Samaria to get to Galilee. He stops to rest and for whatever reason, all of His disciples leave Him there at Jacob’s well alone to go get food. While there, this woman comes up to draw water from the well. John gives us the time of day just before this interaction is recorded…it is about noon time. It is nearing, if not already, the hottest time of the day. She was there at a time outside of the cultural norm, which would have been early morning. And she was alone.

Do You Wonder Why?

Have you ever read stories like this in the Bible and thought to yourself, “I wonder why?” This is one of those stories that should call us to wonder why. Why was she there alone? Why did she choose to go when she did? Why didn’t she go at the normal time when all the other women would have gone?

And then we read in this interaction with Jesus that she has had 5 husbands, and is now living with a man that wasn’t her husband. Then we think, “oh, that’s why.”

Is She Who We Think?

What do we then tend to think about her? She’s a sinner. She’s been married 5 times and left each marriage for another man? Then we put it together that she’s an outcast, and that is why she is alone. We almost justify it in our minds…”this is what she deserves.” We read into the text what our own presuppositions might be about a woman that’s been married 5 times. It’s her fault we jump to a conclusion about her. So we judge her right? We see Jesus’s Words to her as judging her, maybe, “He’s calling her out in her sinful ways.” 

I want to challenge us on how we read this story. Not to make it say something it doesn’t but to give us a new perspective that came to me about it the other day. You see, I’ve always read it the same as I have described too. But then it hit me, what if? What if she’s not the one to blame in her 5 marriages? What if she’s been the one that was hurt? She couldn’t find a man that would stay faithful to her. A man that would treat her as he should? (Women were property in those days as well). What if the men didn’t value her and only took her for what they could get out of her? What if she’s had 5 husbands and each of them passed away? Now she’s lonely. Alone. An outcast of the community because “something has to be wrong with her, right?” Who knows what stories the locals may have made up about her.

Placing Blame

Now put this same vision in your head about the last person you may have looked upon and judged their situation from the outside. What narrative did you add to their situation that might not have been the truth. How could you know the truth unless you knew the person? And maybe you needed to hear both sides of the story to discern “who’s to blame?”

What if Jesus’s words to her about being married and living with another guy, wasn’t a judgment but a recognition of her pain, her loneliness? What if He was truly being empathetic to her instead of calling her out for her misdeeds. 

He Offered Her His Gift

Another thing to note about this interaction is how did Jesus introduce Himself to her? He didn’t begin with what she had done wrong, or the reason she was there alone. He offered her a gift. He speaks to her thirst for water, but He tells her He has living water of which she would never thirst again. I am reminded of his meeting with Nicodemus, a high religious character he told “you must be born again” in chapter 3 of John. Poor old Nick took it literal and asked how that was possible. Jesus meant being reborn by God’s Holy Spirit. Here we see this woman do the same. She is thinking of the literal water that Jesus is offering her. “Sir, give me this water so I won’t be thirsty again.”

The Real Thirst Quencher

What if the real thirst she had, or the quencher she needed for that thirst was not water, but was love? Acceptance? Belonging? Whether she was to blame for her failed marriages or not, she had a deeper need.

What are you needing right now? Has someone or something made you an outcast? Are you unable to “fit in?” Do you lack acceptance? Belonging? Or maybe you just know there is an internal thirst that you need quenching. You need the water of life that Jesus offers.

God says in the last chapter of Revelation, “To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life.” This is the water Jesus is offering. Not only His salvation, but also His acceptance, adopting us as His own through our faith in Him. Giving us a belonging to His own family.

I’m reminded of the old Gatorade commercials, as disturbing as they might have been, but as they had advertised themselves as the “thirst quencher” they ask the question, “Is it in you?”

So I ask you, is the Holy Spirit, the water of life, the cleansing waters of God’s Holy Spirit in you? Do you want it if not? He’ll end that thirst for you right here and now. It’s not something you can earn.

Notice Jesus didn’t tell the Samaritan Woman, “go, fix your life, then come back and I will give you the water you seek.” No, He told her He is the source of that living water, and if she’d ask, He’d give it to her.

Do you want that living water? Do you want that missing part of you to be filled? If you do, pray and ask God to fill it for you. Trust in the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross to provide for you a way to be made right with the Father, by faith not works, and ask Him to give you His Holy Spirit, to live within you from now until eternity.

A Challenge

I leave you with a challenge, whether you are currently a believer or unbeliever. Remember to see through the outward appearance of situations and look for the real need they might have. Whether this woman was the sinner we generally behold her as, or if she was simply the victim of a hard life. She needed love. She needed acceptance. She truly needed a community to belong to. And that is the calling of the Church. To share God’s love to the deserving and undeserving alike. The truth is we are all undeserving, yet God so loved each one of us that He offers us His living water, through Jesus.