Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Jesus at the Superbowl: The Intersection of Faith and Culture

Written by: on February 5, 2023

In just over a week, on Sunday, February 12, experts predict that more than 100 million people in the U.S. will tune in to watch the Super Bowl. [1]   It’s referred to as the biggest pop culture event of the year. And this year, Jesus will show up on the big screen two times. An anonymous group of high dollar donors are footing the bill for this massive “He Gets Us” campaign that has recently been making waves by showing the nature of Jesus in relevant, modern ways through commercials online and in primetime advertising slots such as the NFL.[2]

Some Christians embrace the campaign as a positive way to spark conversation about the real Jesus to a culture that has a largely negative view of His followers, while other Christians are appalled by the “woke” tone the campaign evokes.[3] All of this is on my mind because my church is currently using the “He Gets Us” campaign as the theme for our current worship series. As the creative director and member of the worship planning team, I’ve been studying this campaign for more than 6 months and the connection to this week’s reading was fascinating.

I’ve always tacitly known that religion influences culture and culture influences religion, however after reading Evangelicalism in Modern Britain by Bebbington and Evangelicalism and Capitalism by Clark, I have a new appreciation for just how interrelated they are and how the current culture war between secular society and religious institutions came to fruition. The remainder of this blog will share my key take-aways about this intersection and relate them to the current “He Gets Us” campaign that is attempting to reshape the reputation of Jesus.

Defining Evangelicalism

Am I an Evangelical? I confess that question entered my mind as I began to read Evangelicalism and Capitalism. I never really thought of myself as anything other than “Christian” when it came to my faith. I was born into a Lutheran family and continue to serve at a Lutheran church, so Protestantism and the reformation are part of my heritage. Honestly, the term evangelical did not enter my consciousness until it became part of political discourse in terms of the “evangelical voting block” (of which I do not consider myself a member).

So, when Bebbington defined Evangelicals as Christians with a common core of four characteristics: 1) conversionism (going from lost to saved), 2) activism (living out the faith and encouraging others to be saved), 3) biblicism (devotion to the bible as the inerrant Word of God), and 4) crucicentnrism (focus on the death of Jesus being the atoning sacrifice that took the place of our sin),[4] I was a bit surprised because I thought, “well maybe that IS me!” 

Evangelicalism and Culture

What interested me most in reading about the development of Evangelicalism was that it was bigger than any single denomination and it appears to have developed in concert with culture much more than my own denomination of Lutheranism, which is steeped in tradition. As Bebbington states, “it becomes clear that Evangelical religion in Britain, despite the four constant elements [discussed above], has altered enormously over time in response to the changing assumptions of Western civilisation.”[5] And yet, it spite of this changing nature, Bebbington shows this category of believers have had significant impact on society.

Dr. Jason Clark’s exploration of Evangelicalism and Capitalism provided further intrigue due to my own entrepreneurial spirit. It was fascinating to see how the Evangelical movement took advantage of the growing capitalist markets in the late twentieth century, launching faith-based products such as books, organizations, companies and careers. [6]

It is this entrepreneurial/activism spirit that I see reflected in the “He Gets Us” campaign introduced at the beginning of this blog. Personally, I believe pairing a media obsessed culture with the message of Jesus and taking advantage of the capitalistic nature of the Superbowl is a brilliant move on the part of the mysterious donors who are funding the campaign. Are they using man-made profit centers and selfish markets to get this word out? Yes. Do they have the millions of dollars of money to do this because they have profited from capitalism themselves? Yes. Is it worth it to proclaim the nature of Jesus to a world that desperately needs Him. I say, yes. If nothing else, the development of Evangelicalism and it’s symbiotic relationship to culture and capitalism has made this day possible. I look forward to seeing how God uses it!

Watch this promo for the Superbowl He Gets Us Ads and let me know your thoughts in the comments.

[1] Bridge, Gavin. “2023 Super Bowl: Expect a TV Ratings Rebound.” Variety (blog), February 2, 2023. https://variety.com/vip/2023-super-bowl-expect-a-tv-ratings-rebound-1235509835/.

[2] See the public facing information at HeGetsUs.com and the partner/church information at HeGetsUsPartners.com

[3] Nieuwhof, Carey. “CNLP 549: Bill McKendry on How to Build a Super Bowl Ad, The Marketing Mistakes Churches and Non-Profits Make, And How to Brand When You Have No Budget CNLP 549: Bill McKendry on How to Build a Super Bowl Ad, The Marketing Mistakes Churches and Non-Profits Make, And How to Brand When You Have No Budget.” CareyNieuwhof.com, January 31, 2023. https://careynieuwhof.com/episode549/.

[4] Bebbington, David W. Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s. London: Routledge, 1989. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203359907.

[5] Bebbington, 19.

[6] Clark, Jason Paul. “Evangelicalism and Capitalism: A Reparative Account and Diagnosis of Pathogeneses in the Relationship,” n.d.

About the Author


Laura Fleetwood

Laura Fleetwood is a Christian creative, certified Enneagram Coach, doctoral student at Portland Seminary and Creative Director at her home church, Messiah St. Charles. As a published author, national faith speaker, podcaster and self-described anxiety warrior, Laura uses storytelling to teach you how to seek the S T I L L in the midst of your chaotic life. Find Laura at www.seekingthestill.com

7 responses to “Jesus at the Superbowl: The Intersection of Faith and Culture”

  1. mm Chad McSwain says:

    Laura – I am so excited to read your post and the integration of the “He Gets Us” campaign. I just saw one of the ads during the Grammy’s and thought, “wow that was a pricey ad.” It also made me think of a conversation I had with a person tonight as I described how we can engage with people who are interested in hearing the gospel but are not ready to walk through the doors of the church. Perhaps these ads that are the product of a capitalist culture could actually create the bridge we were hoping for. I can’t wait to hear more about your work with incorporating the campaign in your worship services.

    • Thanks, Chad! It’s nice to see Jesus glorified in the midst of secular events, isn’t it? The goal of the campaign is to start conversations and engage people through the person of Jesus instead of through religion. I think it’s exciting, too!

  2. Kristy Newport says:

    Wow…100 million dollar budget for He Gets Us.

    I’m usually not interested in the Superbowl. I am now wanting to watch it and pray for those who will be seeing the ads!
    Excellent summary in the last paragraph.

  3. Michael O'Neill says:

    Awesome post, Laura. This is a very interesting topic and definitely the largest stage for a campaign. I agree with you that there is still more reward than risk, as long as the intention is to bring people to Jesus and not spread the agenda of anything non-biblical. I am looking forward to doing my own research on the campaign and seeing the reaction post-Superbowl to the critics. Thank you for bringing this up!

    • You’re welcome! The goal behind the campaign is to foster conversations about Jesus (not religion) and point people to a local church if they’re interested in learning more. Nothing man-made is perfect, but I’m excited to see who the campaign reaches. If the Holy Spirit is in it, there will be movement for sure!

  4. Laura,
    Thank you for your post. I grew up in a Lutheran church and my family and extended family primarily Lutheran as they are from Norway. It was interesting as I became spirit filled and started pulling away from tradition. It was hard on my parents as I purchased an older Scandinavian Lutheran church but as non-denominational church plant.

    I always appreciate your insightfulness and perspectives.

    Peace and Blessings.

  5. Wow, I didn’t realize your church’s histroy was Lutheran. Our particular church is quite modern for a Lutheran Church, but our denomination is quite steeped in tradition. That often causes friction, so I understand a bit of the walk you’ve experienced. Keep up the Lord’s work, Greg!

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