(Photo: Reuters/Mark Leffingwell)
The millions of searches on Google for "John 3 16" after quarterback Tim Tebow racked up 316 yards passing in the Broncos' NFL playoff win over the Steelers Sunday resulted in 170 people making decisions to accept Jesus Christ through a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website, the group's Internet evangelism leader said.
Falling just short of saying that Tebow, a devout Christian currently riding a media storm, was the reason for the new believers, BGEA’s John Cass said that his team of Internet evangelists took advantage of the opportunity to lead people to their Web page created especially because of the frenzy.
On Monday, when “John 3 16” was at the top of Google Trends Hot Searches for most of the day, Cass said his team launched a special John 3:16 Web page through its Internet site PeaceWithGod.net.
“Last week’s playoff game launched a viral buzz with millions of people searching for the terms ‘John 3:16,”’ Cass told The Christian Post Friday. The team utilized “advertisements to help lead people to a special Web page dedicated to explaining John 3:16 and offering people the opportunity to view a presentation of the Gospel.”
“This week, there have been more than 9,000 visits to the page, and 170 people have indicated making a decision to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said.
The custom page, titled “John 3:16 – What does it mean?” has a rather small box of text that begins:
“You might have seen the verse at a football game, but what does it mean?
“John 3:16 says, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’”
After a few more short paragraphs, the text ends with the question, “Would you like assurance that you are going to heaven?” Clicking on an icon button then leads to another page with Bible scripture and a chance to learn more about what it means to be a follower of Christ.
“At the completion, they are then given the opportunity to do so. From there, they go to a section of the site with spiritual help resources,” Cass said. “For those who give us contact information, we are able to follow up and discuss this with them further and offer additional resources.”
“This is what our SearchforJesus.net Internet evangelism initiative is all about – reaching people where they are, in their moment of need. And, being able to react quickly to current events is essential,” he said.
When asked specifically about whether Tebow's 316 passing yards led people to Christ, Cass answered, “You could say the numbers assisted in creating the buzz online. But, the key is harnessing that and being an instrument that God can use to draw people to Himself. And, that’s what we want to do. Be instruments that God uses. And, we feel we’ve seen that in a powerful way this week.”
“There’s rejoicing in Heaven over these 170 new believers. And, we are excited to see how God will continue to use this page, and Internet evangelism, in the future,” he said.
In a blog post on the BGEA website, Cass pointed out even more astonishing statistics related to the number 316.
He states: “And if that wasn't enough … Tebow's per-throw average: 31.6 yards. Sunday's overtime TV rating: 31.6. Pittsburgh's time of possession: 31 minutes, 6 seconds.”
Then he wrote, “But there have been other numbers, eternally speaking, surrounding John 3:16 that have also been registered this week on PeacewithGod.net. The initial website launched by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's Internet Evangelism ministry known as Search for Jesus has had a very busy week.”
The Search for Jesus ministry at BGEA was launched in April 2011 and is a substantial part of the organization, Cass said.
“We’ve seen more than 140,000 people choose Christ. This week, we’ve seen again how important it is for Christians to be ‘in the world, but not of the world,’” he explained.
“By reacting quickly and engaging, Christians can play a substantial role in the conversation, and together we can see more people come to Christ. And, that’s what the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is all about – using every effective means available to reach the world with the Gospel.”