Evangelism Lessons from Super Bowl Sunday

Vince WilliamsEvangelism Practices

It’s time to love American made. At least that is the message Chrysler paid $9 million dollars1 to tell us last Sunday during the Super Bowl. And whether you are an American car lover or not, the ad had impact. In fact, most Super Bowl ads do. But why? Is there something that churches can learn from these over-priced ads to help us better reach people for God?

Let’s take a look at three of last weekends Super Bowl ads, and see what we can glean. (You can view these ads here at the Wall Street Journal Super Bowl ad site.)

1. VW “The Force”

According to the Wall Street Journal online survey, this ad is the overwhelming favorite. This is not because people love Star Wars, but because people resonate with the heart of a dad for his son.

As a church, we have to learn to speak the language of the heart. Jesus uses feeling language throughout His ministry to help people understand heavenly issues. He didn’t describe heaven; he told people what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. Today, the name of Jesus may not mean anything to someone in your neighborhood, but the story of the lost sheep speaks to the heart. Make sure to communicate in universal ways that pre-believers can relate too.

2. GoDaddy.com “Girl” (don’t watch this)

Go Daddy’s Super Bowl advertising is well known for crossing the boundaries of good taste. Some might argue that these ads are more about the ego of Bob Parsons, the company’s owner, than about good marketing practices. But I think there are two things we can learn from these ads:

First, the ad is just a step in the process. Every Go Daddy ad starts with some ridiculously provocative scene, and ends with the line, “See what happens next at GoDaddy.com.” Their goal is to get people to the website, and it works. People hooked by curiosity take action.

The Church is too often afraid to use curiosity as a tool in evangelism. Here at SermonView, we see too many handbills trying to give too much information. You’ve got to pique curiosity, then ask them to take the next step. We need to create a compelling offer, and then let people search their hearts and decide if they are willing to take action. Those that do will be more committed to investigating the truth when they attend your church.

Second, don’t be afraid to offend people in order to reach your target. Every year there are a few ads that are ranked near the top of both the best and worst ads. As of this moment, Go Daddy’s “Girl” ad was ranked 6th best and 3rd worst in the Wall Street Journal online poll. Some love it, some hate it. The ad evokes a strong response, and Go Daddy is willing to offend some in order to reach others.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23, 24). He also spoke of “the offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11). Jesus himself offended people (Matthew 15:12). Clearly, the gospel has always offended some.

Here’s an example of putting this principle into practice. We’ve worked with churches to send out mailings with images of apocalyptic beasts on the cover, and we regularly hear from offended recipients. Yet those very images intrigue others, leading them to learn more about Bible prophecy and more deeply commit to Christ and a community of faith. We don’t want to be intentionally offensive; but we can’t be afraid of offending some in order to reach those who are ready to hear God’s message of hope.

3. Audi “Release the Hounds”

This ad was another favorite this year. Its single goal was to change your perception of Audi and its place in the luxury car world. Without attacking Mercedes directly, it clearly said Audi was better.

The media increasingly portrays the Church in a negative way. Well, it is time that we set the record straight. We have solutions to many of today’s most pressing problems. With the Bible as our guide we are experts in marriage, healthy living, job ethics, and so much more. We are witnesses to the miraculous power of the Spirit in our own lives and the transforming power of a relationship with Jesus.

It’s time we invite people to hear from the Creator of this life on how to live, instead of letting Hollywood tell our story for us. Our communication should simply focus on the facts. We don’t need to say the world is bad; people know it’s broken. It is about pointing to a better way of life.

Super Bowl ad success is not a fluke. Wieden+Kennedy, the company that produced the two-minute Chrysler spot and several other Super Bowl ads this year, have spent millions of dollars and endless hours to discover how to reach people with a message that connects. Their expertise has led them to create some of the best and most memorable commercials of this decade.

Yet without a single focus group or market survey, Jesus told this story that has connected with hungry souls for thousands of years:

Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:4-7 NIV).

Now that’s a moving story. Let’s see a Super Bowl ad hold up like that for two thousand years.

Vince Williams is Vice President of Marketing for SermonView. He is passionate about using his 17 years of marketing and business experience to help churches find effective ways to communicate in their local communities. He lives in Vancouver, WA. with his lovely wife April.

1 http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20110207/FREE/110209919

Scripture quotations  taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.