Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow prays with New England Patriots and Broncos team members following an NFL divisional playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots defeated the Broncos 45-10.
There wasn’t a lot of celebrating Saturday night in our home state of Colorado, but there was definitely – as Luke 15:7 promises – “rejoicing in heaven.” Our beloved Denver Broncos lost a heartbreaker to the New England Patriots, but that result is really inconsequential souls are won for Christ.
And that’s precisely what happened during the AFC Divisional Playoffs. How do we know? Because people told us.
They were responding to a 30-second commercial from Focus on the Family aired during the game. The spot, featuring children reciting John 3:16, had one simple purpose: to share with the game’s national TV audience – which numbered more than 33 million — the meaning of that precious Scripture that is the essence of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
You probably heard that after Broncos quarterback and bold Christian Tim Tebow passed for 316 yards in his previous week’s playoff upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers, there was a worldwide Internet scramble to find out what John 3:16, his favorite Bible verse, meant. Knowing an estimated 100 million people had engaged their curiosity on the meaning of the passage, we whipped up an ad so fans wouldn’t have to go look up the verse for Saturday’s game. (“Whipped up,” by the way, is the perfect description of the spot, which was conceived, cast, shot, produced and delivered to CBS in, give or take a few percentage points, about 3.16 days).
The commercial was broadcast a few minutes into the second quarter, during what the Nielsen Co. says was the half-hour time segment of the game with the highest ratings. What happened afterward was powerful evidence of Isaiah 55:11: God’s Word does not come back void.
Within minutes, “John 3:16” and “Focus on the Family” were among the hottest topics on the powerhouse social-media sites Facebook and Twitter (where former pro quarterback Kurt Warner was among those who shared it with his followers). On Google, both phrases were searched for by millions, with “Focus on the Family” remaining one of the Top 10 most-looked-up terms for nearly 24 hours. Our Web site, where the ad was (and still is) available to watch and share, received more than 8,000 visits per minute at its peak.
National news outlets like USA Today, The Washington Post and the Fox News Channel have reported on the ad. With pretty much every online story or blog written about it, the commercial itself has been imbedded, helping it “go viral,” as they say in the world of cyberspace. By every measure commonly used to assess the effectiveness of an advertisement, it has been a runaway success.
But, for us, this was more than an advertisement. It was an investment — in the Kingdom of God. And that investment has and, we pray, will continue to pay eternal benefits.
The overwhelmingly positive response to the ad, and the understanding of what its real meaning is, can be seen in this post from Facebook: “Did anyone see the commercial with the children quoting John 3:16. What a message to be seen by everyone watching the play-off game on CBS. That is where Christian dollars should be spent so people who are not saved (know) Christ died for them regardless of what they have done just that they accept Him and Believe !!! How Awesome and Amazing!!!!!!”
Then there was the woman who left this comment on a blog when she stopped by to look around our Web site after seeing the spot: “Thanks for running the John 3:16 ad during the Broncos/Patriots game. My husband is not a believer, but he was so taken by those precious kids that he became emotional watching it. Thanks for reaching out in such a warm, compassionate way.”
What touched us most, though, was this simple tweet from a man watching the game with his family: “Both my sons just saw your commercial and gave their lives to Christ as a result. Thank you. #John316”
You may think of Focus on the Family first and foremost as helping couples strengthen their marriages, raise happy, healthy children and engage the culture with biblical truth. Those are all important priorities for us, to be sure, and we’re humbled and honored by the opportunities the Lord has given us for 35 years to help families thrive in these areas. But our overriding aim, as a Christian ministry, is to share the Gospel of Christ. Offering family advice is not enough. To make a real, everlasting difference, we have to introduce people to the Author of family.
We are so thankful the Lord has allowed us to augment the ways we do that every day with this commercial, and we pray it continues to reveal to those who see it that some numbers are more important than the ones on the score board.
Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family.