(Image: BGEA via Christian Post)
Football fans and observers of the NFL playoffs are still searching the Internet for the meaning of the Bible verse John 3:16, which was initially prompted by Tim Tebow’s 316 yards passing in the Denver Broncos playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers more than a week ago.
For some, that search is leading to salvation.
According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Internet Evangelism team, which launched a special “John 3:16” Web page the day after the winning stats were put up by Tebow, there have been 11,000 views of the page and 207 people indicating, by way of filling out a short contact form, that they had made decisions to follow Jesus.
Although Tebow, a devout Christian, may no longer be center stage after the Broncos loss to the New England Patriots, the legacy of his statistical numbers, that also includes an average of 31.6 yards gained per pass in the victory against the Steelers, lives on.
Noting that millions of Internet users were searching for “John 3 16” immediately following Tebow’s final “316” was tallied, the BGEA Internet Evangelism team sprang into action. The ministry launched the John 3:16 page through its PeaceWithGod.net site.
Ken Barun, who is BGEA’s senior vice president of communications, told The Christian Post Tuesday that quickly responding to a current trend in society by offering answers to questions of faith is critical for Christians.
Focus on the Family, a Christian ministry based in Colorado Springs, also seized the opportunity and aired a 30-second TV spot during the AFC Divisional playoff game between the Broncos the New England Patriots. The commercial showed children quoting and explaining John 3:16.
Barun was asked by CP if the commercial brought additional traffic to BGEA’s John 3:16 Web page.
“We did see some additional traffic on the page over the weekend, but more important than numbers is the reminder that we can – and should – respond quickly when we are given an opportunity to present the Gospel,” Barun stated in an email response. “This was a great opportunity to reach people for Christ.”
“Millions of people have been exposed to the Gospel in the succinct form contained within the verse of John 3:16. And, we also know this from Scripture: ‘So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)’”
BGEA is calling a major part of their online efforts the “SearchforJesus.net Internet evangelism initiative.” The work involved spans across a number of different departments, Barun said.
“In addition, we have a dedicated team focused on Internet evangelism. We are still in the early days of Internet evangelism at BGEA. We are training a multitude of volunteers to serve as chat counselors and discipleship coaches,” he said.
Social media also plays a major role, not only in Internet evangelism, but in the overall ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“Our social media communities are essential in helping us share information. Facebook was an important part of the ‘John 3:16’ page strategy. We shared the ‘John 3:16’ page on the ‘Billy Graham’ and ‘Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’ Facebook pages and our friends responded with thousands liking, commenting and sharing on their own pages,” Barun explained. “Social media is an effective and efficient force-multiplier in evangelistic outreach.”
The John 3:16 page is the 27th landing page BGEA has launched since the initiative began last April.
Barun said that the Web pages have ranged from “I have 300 Facebook friends but does anyone really care about me?” to “I lost my job – now what?”
“What’s different about the ‘John 3:16’ page is that it was tied to a very specific moment in time. We plan to continue to look for these types of opportunities to present the Gospel,” he added.
Those that made a decision for Christ and provided contact information received a special Bible study series in which they can learn more about what it means to be a follower of Christ. In the series, they have the opportunity to go deeper in their studies.
“We encourage all new believers to get involved in a local church where they can grow in their faith and learn from God’s Word,” Barun said. “We are working now on training volunteer ‘E-counselors’ to chat online with those who are searching, as well as ‘Discipleship Coaches’ who can offer follow-up training to those who have made a commitment and encourage them in finding a church in their area.”
“We are also working on launching our Internet evangelism initiative in several other languages.”
Asked about whether he thinks there will continue to be a high number of searches for John 3:16 even as Tebow mania settles down, he answered:
“We can’t predict what will happen in the future, but we do know that God never changes. The Gospel – or Good News – doesn’t change. And, we stand ready to offer that hope that is found only Jesus Christ.”
“Every day, people continue to search for answers to difficult questions online. We want to meet them where they are and offer them this life-changing message. And, we are continuing to do that through this Internet evangelism program,” he said.