If sports fans didn't know the message behind John 3:16 before, they do now.
Focus on the Family (FOTF), a Christian ministry based in Colorado Springs, aired a 30-second TV spot during the AFC Divisional playoff game between the Denver Broncos – a team led by Christian quarterback Tim Tebow – and the New England Patriots. The commercial showed children quoting and explaining John 3:16.
"There's been a lot of buzz lately about what John 3:16 says, and we wanted to help people understand it without having to run to their computer to look it up," Jim Daly, president of FOTF, said in a statement. "For Christians, the verse is the essence of the Good News of Jesus Christ, and when you have good news you want to share it with as many people as possible.”
Gary Schneeberger, vice president of media relations for FOTF, told The Christian Post on Monday that John 3:16 became the top trending topic worldwide on Twitter after the advertisement aired. He says that it is difficult to gauge precisely what kind of impact the video had, although most of the responses the organization has received have been positive.
“My estimate would be that only about 3.16 percent of the comments have been negative,” he said jokingly.
John 3:16, which is perhaps the most widely known Bible verse in the Christian community, first became a hot internet topic over a week ago when Tebow made reference to it following his team's overtime win against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 8.
Internet searches for the verse were further fueled by Tebow's stats during the Pittsburgh game, in which he threw for 316 yards and averaged 31.6 passing yards.
The game against the Patriots went a much different way, however.
Despite what some thought to be a divine victory the week before, the Broncos quickly fell behind against the Patriots and entered halftime trailing 35-7. It didn't get much better, either, as they went on to lose by a final of 45-10 in a game where Tebow, who is used to playing hero, completed just 9 of 26 pass attempts and failed to score a single touchdown either in the air or on the ground.
Despite the blowout loss Saturday, however, the FOTF ad helped John 3:16 to again become the number one trending topic on Twitter for the second time in about a week.
Internet evangelists from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) took advantage of the trend last week by setting up a web page explaining the verse. Near the end of the week, the BGEA reported that 9,000 people had visited the website and 170 people began a relationship with Jesus Christ as a result.
The John 3:16 commercial isn't the first FOTF ad that Tebow played an important role in. The organization also ran a pro-life ad during Super Bowl XLIV in 2010 that featured Tebow and his mother, Pam.
Schneeberger hopes that the new commercial will lead hundreds or even thousands of people to Christ.
Dave Grumme, pastor of creative communications at Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Sugar Land, Texas, sent a Twitter message to FOTF saying that his children were saved through the commercial.
“Both my sons just saw your commercial and gave their lives to Christ as a result. Thank you. #John316,” Grumme Tweeted.
Although it is unclear whether or not FOTF will air the commercial again, Schneeberger thinks they probably will.
“It's a good ad about the Good News, so there's a really good chance you'll see it again,” he said.