While watching or attending sporting events in America, the people have become exposed to the He Gets Us campaign. Whether via commercials or through stadium advertising, messages about Jesus are presented in the most trifling manner with banal statements like “Jesus left it all on the field” to more unscriptural statements like “Jesus was a refuge” and “Jesus was fed up with politics, too” in vain attempts to make Jesus more relatable to a modern audience. In reality, the modern connotation surrounding the word “refugee” along with the images of the campaign wrongly relate Jesus, who sojourned (to pass through) in Egypt for a brief stay, to illegal immigrants, who are not refugees by definition, crossing the border and taking advantage of American welfare. This is just the tip of the iceberg for the theological problems surrounding He Gets Us, as they also do not affirm the perfect deity of Christ.
Over the years, Superbowl ads have become rife with Hollywood personalities and social engineering agendas. Since it remains the largest audience for any given broadcast, it demands premium dollars from advertisers. When exposed to these advertisements, many Americans take to the internet to research what exactly is He Gets Us. They are asking questions concerning who is behind it and why they spent around $20 million on two Superbowl ads.
Ultimately, He Gets Us is another attempt at social agenda being imposed by its theologically apostate and even unbelieving benefactors who desire the most improvident “rebrand” of Jesus ever concocted.
The Signatry: Dark Money Behind He Gets Us
He Gets Us was initiated by the Servant Foundation which operates under the business name, The Signatry.
The Signatry is a Donor Advised Funds (DAF), which is an investment firm for charitable donations. Essentially, they oversee moneys allocated for charity, growing it via investment and distributing it to the designated recipient based on the accountholder’s desire. So if a philanthropist donates $100 million to charity, then the fund would manage this money while allocating portions to the charity as designated. One criticism of these funds is that wealthy elites can park money in these accounts and work around the tax system.
The Signatry was founded by Bill High and contends that it is a Christian organization with its own statement of faith. Now in retirement, High built a career branding himself as a “rags to riches” success story and is devoted to charity and family legacy. High also co-authored Leadership Not by the Book: 12 Unconventional Principles to Drive Incredible Results by David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby. The two have worked on other published books together.
The Signatry distributes grants to a large swath of ministries that vary in quality. From their 2020 IRS Form 990, Apologia Ministries in Tempe, AZ and Bethel Redding received grants of around $500K during the fiscal year (through March 2021). A host of other churches are listed as recipients of contributions. Amongst the notable organizations receiving grants includes $16 million to the Alliance Defending Freedom, $651K to the Museum of the Bible (founded by Steve Green), $10 million to Answers in Genesis, $1 Million to Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU), $827K to Focus on the Family, and $8.5 million to Life.Church (Craig Groeschel/YouVersion). They are not exclusively Christian in their grants, with contributions to Boy Scouts, universities, and other secular “community development” programs.
This foundation distributes money to thousands of programs, so the squandering of this money to He Gets Us is valuable resources that could be devoted to actual ministries. Stephen French is the President and CEO of The Signatry. DAF’s tend to be democratized as opposed to the infamous Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The clients are also ecumenically broad and are not exclusively protestant. Nevertheless, French as the CEO is a salesman for He Gets Us and the Servant Foundation has greater oversight in this project as it is the organization’s initiative.
David Green: Primary Financier
David Green is a longtime client of The Signatry and has elected to “give away” his company. The He Gets Us campaign is a direct initiative of David Green and other families. During an interview with Glenn Beck, Green explained that the campaign’s message is a Jesus who “loves who we hate so I think we have to let the public know and create a movement.”
David Green built Hobby Lobby and earned a reputation upholding biblical values in face of increasing government incursion. He and his family were blessed with a net worth of $14.9 billion, making the Green family the wealthiest in evangelical Christianity. His son Steve is President of Hobby Lobby and runs the Museum of the Bible while his other son Mart runs Mardel, a Christian bookstore.
Green advocates building a business to last 150 years while having three generations working under his umbrella. 90 seconds of Superbowl commercials is not a long term strategy but a short term folly.
Jason Vanderground and Haven
Jason Vanderground is president of Haven, the creative firm behind the He Gets Us campaign. Vanderground is the brain behind the organization and the direction of the content. To Vanderground, the problem with Christianity is one of marketing where the real “problem question” surrounding Jesus is “how did the world’s greatest love story become known as a hate group?”
To a post-modern world, Vanderground sought to employ post-modernism to craft the He Gets Us campaign through the notion of shared connection between people and Christ. Conversation is the goal, not conversion. By their own admission, they are not even designed to get people to go to church.
Haven designs the vision behind the campaign and directs the marketing. The concepts for He Gets Us come from them. They design the website and marketing materials, with the commercials being created by LERMA. Vanderground stated that for 2023, it is expected that the campaign will be double the $100 million budget for 2023 and become one of the top 100 advertised brands.
Haven was founded by Bill McKendry and is based out of Grand Haven, Michigan. McKendry, being the Chief Creative Officer is involved in the campaign and messaging of He Gets Us. In the past, McKendry has worked on campaigns for Focus on the Family, Alliance Defending Freedom, and American Bible Society.
If this were Mad Men, Vanderground functions as the Roger Sterling to McKendry’s Don Draper.
LERMA: Liberal Creatives
While Haven is the firm behind He Gets Us, LERMA is the ad agency behind the vapid commercials. Based out of Dallas, LERMA is known for its campaigns for He Gets Us, Avocados from Mexico, and Salvation Army. They also created a commercial for The Chosen. Politically, they are leftwing, which is unsurprising given their industry, supporting anti-gun initiatives, homosexual pride, and general celebration of diversity. Much of the criticisms that have been lodged against the SBC using Guidepost Solutions, a pagan firm, to investigate a Christian organization can be equally applied to He Gets Us relying upon a pagan ad agency to market Jesus. Why not use Christian creatives—but that is the point.
The creative team behind the commercials includes David Morring and Ryan Beals. The trite “Jesus is a refugee” messaging was written by them, along with the 2023 Superbowl spots. These commercials are their ideas. The commercials are then filmed by Ditore Mayo. David Morring went to BYU, indicating that he is presumably Mormon. Ryan Beals is a liberal who hates Trump and is pro-abortion. The creative teams behind a marketing campaign are not bible believing Christians. David Green went from fighting the Obama Administration on its abortifacient requirements to paying pro-abortion creatives to market Jesus. Naturally, they would create a version of Jesus palatable to their proclivities.
Also on the team is Jon Lee, who wrote a piece for Outcomes Magazine to promote the campaign.
The research is very clear. Non-Christians are attracted to the story of Jesus and the ideas he taught. But they don’t perceive Christians as representing his values and thus don’t see the story of Jesus as particularly relevant to or valuable for their lives. Instead of seeing Jesus as a real person who loved all unconditionally and who demonstrated unending grace and forgiveness, they see him as a fairytale of unattainable perfection. And instead of seeing Christians representing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, they experience Christians as judgmental, oppressive, hypocritical, power-hungry, political ideologues with a superiority complex.
Lee’s words are reminiscent of Vanderground, believing that Christians are the problem with Christianity. Lee suggests that they need to relate to Jesus in order to find value in Him. Christ was fully Man and God. The value is that He became Man to bear the sins of the world and offers hope for eternal life and restoration. People do not want to admit that they are wretched sinners before an Almighty God. $100 million dollars is not going to overcome the ultimate objection to Jesus, especially if the campaign does not ever address the total depravity of man.
In John 15:18-19, Jesus warns His disciples:
If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.
Certainly, the world is going to view Christians as judgmental and oppressive. They do not believe they are sinners, so any confrontation of sin is perceived as unloving and hateful. The last descriptor, “power-hungry, political ideologues with a superiority complex,” could basically be a descriptor for conservative Christian evangelicals, like David Green, who want to “control women’s bodies” because abortion is a right in the world’s eyes.
We start by reminding people that whether you believe that Jesus was God, or a prophet, or just a man, his story demonstrates that we are capable of this miracle of unconditional love. And that the pursuit of Jesus is a lifelong journey to perfecting that love.
We believe that if we strive to love others unconditionally and we invite people to explore the story of Jesus on their own terms, the Holy Spirit will open the door to transformation in their lives. And while we hope He Gets Us will play a role in helping give voice to this movement of God, we know that the real work will happen in everyday interactions. This movement will come to life in the peaceable interactions and confounding kindness of Christ’s love ambassadors — you and me.
This is not how the gospel is presented in Scripture, not by Peter and Stephen before Jewish audiences in Jerusalem who were cognizant of Jesus, nor Paul before an unfamiliar Greek audience in Athens. Their mentality is to brand Jesus positively for everyday interactions, yet a Christian response to this campaign should be disgust, having a believer and nonbeliever in ironic agreement over the vacuous advertisement they just saw. This campaign is burning hundreds of millions at an ineffective promotion which necessitates that genuine gospel presentations dispel the very misconceptions this campaign creates.
LERMA is a pagan organization attempting to market Jesus to a pagan audience. They are not forsaking the Gospel, for they never had it, yet are misappropriating the money of supposed Christian outlets.
The Ed Stetzer Effect
Those curious enough to indulge in the He Gets Us campaign visit a website operated by Gloo, which is the embodiment of Algorithm Christianity. Theologically, He Gets Us is under the influence of Ed Stetzer, who is an open liberal who serves as the Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. Rather than its own Statement of Faith, He Gets Us hold to the Lausanne Covenant, whose Regional Director for North America is Ed Stetzer. The Lausanne Covenant is a globalist, theologically ambiguous doctrine that provides coverage for those who would subvert the gospel and Church through errant ideologies because it is reliant upon modern connotations to its language rather than precise, biblical definitions. Moreover, the Lausanne Movement has transformed everything into a gospel issue, including HIV/AIDS and global warming. This is reflected in the emphasis on the ambiguous meaning of “injustice” in their doctrine.
Other partners of He Gets Us include Christianity Today, who publishes paid content for the campaign and the National Association of Evangelicals, which is managed by Walter Kim with Ed Stetzer. The NAE lobbied in favor of the so-called “Respect For ‘Marriage’ Act” while Christianity Today endorsed it. In one of their promotional pieces, Christianity Today likened He Gets Us to Howard Thurman’s vision of Jesus as an underdog who was marginalized. In addition to being a theological influence behind Martin Luther King Jr, Thurman’s functioned as a proto-liberation theologian who applied a critical lens to the Bible where Jesus is reduced to an oppressed Jew against the Roman colonizers. Thurman is described as a mystic and co-founded a universalist church in San Francisco.
He Gets Us has a partner podcast hosted by Ed Stetzer, that has featured Side A heretic Andy Stanley, Jason Vanderground, Kevin Palau, and Nona Jones, who is a faith advisor to Facebook.
Stetzer is the theological framework behind the He Gets Us campaign, which is why the messaging is reduced to frivolous attempts to relate Jesus incorrectly to modern culture while shoehorning liberalism as Christianity. They attempt to pass Jesus off as apolitical, rebranding Him as a proponent for open borders while utilizing images of BLM protest/riots.
YouVersion Bible Plan
YouVersion Bible app, operated by Life.Church, is the recommended pathway for He Gets Us. They measure their success in the conversion of website traffic to bible reading plans offered on the app. The recommended plan is one created by He Gets Us.
Day one of seven employs John 14:27 as the proof text. Because it is YouVersion, when users read Scripture, it only shows the exact verse, ironically in the uncontemporary KJV as the default. The “devotional” proceeds to elaborate the following:
In his day, Jesus’ enemies accused him of enjoying himself too much at parties and hanging out with the wrong people. They feared him because he challenged the norm.
Look closely and you’ll see Jesus was…
Fearless; never backing down from doing what is right.
Vulnerable; allowing us to get close enough to know him.
Compassionate; entering into our pain.
None of this would be ascertained from this verse about the peace that comes from the Holy Spirit. Instead, they are just spouting propaganda and using a verse about peace to roll into a talking point while making it seem like Jesus went to raging parties and hung out with degenerates, ignoring the fact that the sinners and tax collectors were transformed, not placated in their condition.
The way Jesus called out the toxic religious and political systems turned history upside down. He’s a radical in any decade—which makes him a worthwhile model to live by today.
Let’s explore his life together…He came to show, not just tell. Match his words and his actions and you might be surprised at what you’ll find.
The toxic religious system that Christ called out included the antinomian religious elites who taught a law they did not uphold. Then there was the extortionist Temple of the First Century. In other words, He rebuked the corrupt religious establishment—the ancient equivalent of the people funding He Gets Us.
He Gets Us would contend that people reading a single verse with their eisegesis is the individual “reading the bible.” It would be better if this were a bait and switch and they delivered hard truths contrary to their inane portrayals of Jesus, but instead, they treat their readers like fools and expect them to be receptive to this infantile approach.
There is much that can be critiqued about YouVersion “devotionals” but they are no substitute for cracking open a study bible, like John MacArthur’s, and reading it for yourself.
In attempting to brand Jesus as rebellious, radical, and anti-establishment, the He Gets Us campaign, initiated by the Servant Foundation, is going to squander what they forecast to be a billion dollars by 2025 on a puerile advertising campaign that misapplies Scripture and slanders Christ. Moreover, it is reliant upon pro-abortion creatives, Mormons, and apostates to create a presentation that will fail to lead people to Christ. God’s word does not come back void, but one must utilize Scripture for this to be true.
The firms behind this travesty are attempting to counter the words of Christ who declared that the world would hate Him, no matter how relevant the messaging. Even worse, this is hundreds of millions, and eventually a billion dollars that could have been deployed towards viable projects and ministries or left in a bank to accrue interest for when the Master returns.
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