He Gets Us
There’s a groundswell happening. Can you feel it? A new movement in Christianity is taking shape among a growing cohort of like-minded Jesus followers. We are diverse in our faith traditions and lived experiences, but we share a calling — to reintroduce our culture to Jesus through unending grace and unconditional love. He Gets Us is hoping to give this movement a voice.
He Gets Us is hoping to give this movement a voice.
He Gets Us is the result of growing discontent felt by many leaders in the body of Christ. Like many of you, every time we see a new piece of research about the perceptions and practice of our faith, we cannot help but ask, “How did we get here?”
A Spiral of Decline
How did the American church find itself in such a dramatic spiral of decline? What started as a decade of gradual attrition in church attendance and membership is now a multiyear free fall. For the past few years, the fastest-growing faith category has been “none.” Bible engagement is at an all-time low. Pastors are burning out at an alarming rate. And among the rapidly growing audience of people who are skeptical of our faith, Christianity is primarily seen as hateful, judgmental, and hypocritical.
How did we get here?
It’s natural to want to ease the psychological tension of these trends with blame. “It’s the media’s fault. Christians are always portrayed negatively.” “It’s millennials and Gen Z’s fault. This generation has moved away from the Christian values our society was founded on.” “It’s the pastor’s fault. Church leaders are trying too hard to be relevant in culture instead of being countercultural.” “It’s the fascist Christian nationalists.” “It’s the woke liberal socialists.”
And while those narratives might ease our cognitive dissonance, they also distract us from a simple fact: People aren’t experiencing the love of Jesus through Christians.
Non-Christians are attracted to the story of Jesus and the ideas he taught.
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.
Generosity and Grace
But we remain bullish on the average Christian. Because we believe the vast majority of Jesus’ followers see themselves as imperfect vessels of his perfect love. Most Christians strive to represent the apex of human generosity and grace.
Most Christians are in constant pursuit of and remain perpetually amazed by Christ’s confounding love — a love that continues to transform our lives. And we are so motivated by our own redemption that we want nothing more than to share it with others.
Most of us recognize that we only know his love because a Christian in our lives loved us in some confounding and beautiful way that made Jesus real and alive to us. And we are tired of seeing our beautiful faith leveraged by others who seek wealth and power. We are frustrated that our least Christlike brothers and sisters often represent us publicly. And we refuse to be defined by the sum of what we’re against, who we condemn, or the scandals perpetrated by a few of our leaders.
And so, this new Christian cohort is coalescing around our desire to experience and share his love above all else. So that no matter what else people know about Christians, they will know that we love them because they’ll feel loved by us.
And so, let’s revisit the question I haven’t yet answered: How did we get here?
Modern Media's Role
There are a hundred correct answers. I’m an advertising executive, which means I’m a student of modern media. So I’ll answer it through my lens.
Most media have a simple goal: Create content that will build an audience, and sell that audience to advertisers. It has always been that way. Newspaper publishers used to say, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Stories about violent crimes often found their way to the front page because they stoked the reader’s emotions, which sold more papers, and made them more money in both circulation and advertising.
The advent of social media gave publishers the ability to make all of us partners in that emotional manipulation. We call it online engagement. The most emotionally charged content tends to get the most online engagement (comments, likes, and shares). And as giant publicly traded media and technology companies feel the pressure to provide more shareholder value, they find ways to increase their audience’s size and engagement. And nothing keeps an audience engaged like a culture war.
Pitting us in ideological battles, giving us all the illusion that we are responsible for a significant public platform, and making us aware of every negative moment and story in all of humanity all of the time, while pressuring leaders to have an authoritative point of view on every divisive issue of the day — it is a great way to build an audience and sell ads. It’s also an effective way to make people feel isolated, anxious, and distrusting of others, forcing us into factions. And, just like a slot machine, our social apps reward the pleasure centers in our brains with likes, shares, and comments when we create conflict and cultivate tribalism. It’s systemic. It’s diabolical. And it works.
So what could possibly be more captivating than the culture war? Love. But not just any love. Confounding love. Radical love. Unconditional love. The love we’ve experienced in Jesus and the love we cannot help but share with others. When others feel the love of Jesus through us, when they feel truly loved by us, it changes everything. It changes the tenor of our conflicts and our conversations. It opens opportunities for relationships that never existed before.
If we hope to reach a world for Christ, we must focus all of our energy, time, and resources on aligning our message and our actions with the promise of Christ’s radical love.
So, where do we begin? How can we share the love of Jesus with a growing audience of people who are skeptical and suspicious of Christianity? We do it the same way Jesus and his disciples did. We begin by meeting people where they are. By not expecting a non-Christian audience to be ready to meet a Savior. But rather, by creating a campaign that invites them to explore the story of this man, who experienced the same challenges of the human condition that we experience every day. A man who decided that in the face of poverty and persecution, he would create a radically inclusive love movement that is still impacting the world thousands of years later. A man who built this movement by rejecting the human path to success of power and wealth. A man who identifies with the poor, and the excluded, and the marginalized. A man who died forgiving his murderers.
He Gets Us retells stories from the Gospels in a modern context. And we do not require the viewer or the reader to accept the divinity of Jesus to begin exploring his story. We simply share the stories of the man that Jesus was and the experiences he had.
He Gets Us retells stories from the Gospels in a modern context.
Jesus was a refugee as an infant. He came from a blue-collar, working-class background. He experienced anxiety in the Garden of Gethsemane. He called out injustice against the poor. He treated women as equals in a time and place where that was unheard of. He befriended outcasts, violent zealots, and corrupt bureaucrats. Jesus defended criminals and touched the untouchable.
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.
There’s a groundswell happening. We can feel it – a movement that will minister his love to others in a new way. We’re counting on it. And we’re counting on you to join us.
Hear Jon Lee discuss “Serving Thriving Leaders” on The Outcomes Conference Podcast (09/06/21) - LISTEN