By Philip Ryan | November 8, 2022
Editor’s Note: To sign an active petition against the PCA’s participation in the “He Gets Us” Campaign, click here or hit the button below.
I don’t get the “He Gets Us” Campaign. If you aren’t familiar with this organization, be prepared to hear denominational leaders promote it in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
The campaign has a noble goal to “reintroduce people to the Jesus of the Bible.” Based on recent surveys like Ligonier’s on The State of Theology, it is clear that those outside and inside the church need a reintroduction to the Jesus of the Bible. There is growing confusion on a range of topics from the inspiration of Scripture to misunderstandings on gender and sexuality. The campaign organizers should be applauded for their passion to reintroduce people to Jesus. Sadly, I am not so sure that the Jesus they want to introduce is the one found in the Bible. There are a number of red flags on the campaign’s website.
About the Campaign
Let’s start in the “About Us” section. If you were hoping to find out who is behind this campaign, you would be disappointed. All we are told is that “a diverse group of people passionate about the authentic Jesus of the Bible” (emphasis mine) started the campaign. At the very bottom of this section, it says that the “He Gets Us” campaign is an initiative of the Servant Foundation. If you Google “Servant Foundation” you will find this: https://servantokc.org/the-servant-foundation It is an endowment fund controlled by the Church of the Servant’s Foundation Board and the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation. The Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation is dedicated to “empowering you to invest your resources to do long-lasting good in the world. From writing wills and estate plans to caring for single mothers and orphans, we empower you to commit your resources to do good that echoes for generations.” This is confusing. Is the whole initiative an outworking of one Church? Is it funded by the Methodists? If the latter, then which ones, since they are currently splitting? Finally, the Church of the Servant doesn’t tell you much about their beliefs. The Church’s “Our Beliefs” section tells us only that they love Jesus and that he died as a “demonstration of God’s redeeming love.” There is no statement on why Christ’s death (i.e., the Atonement) was necessary. Jesus’ death did “demonstrate God’s redeeming love,” but Scripture repeatedly says he died for my sins, which is not mentioned in the statement of belief on the Church’s website. Such clarity is likewise absent from the “He Gets Us” campaign site.
Editor’s Note: after initial publication of this article, a reader noted the following. “HeGetsUs lists “Servant Foundation,” not “The Servant Foundation.” This matches “The Signatry” which does business as “Servant Foundation.” “The Signatry” is involved in all sorts of broadly “Christian” work and functionally anonymizes where the money is coming from – basically a dead end for anyone wondering who is funding the campaign and what their theological convictions may be.” Of course, the ambiguity of the founding and accountability structures in place for the Campaign does nothing to address the concern of the author (or editor) of this piece.
One more thing worth sharing from the “About Us” section is that it says, “We’re also not affiliated with any particular church or denomination. We simply want everyone to understand the authentic (emphasis mine; there’s that adjective again) Jesus as he’s depicted in the Bible – the Jesus of radical forgiveness, compassion, and love.” This is confusing based on what I said above about this being an initiative of “The Servant Church.” It is also confusing with regards to why they keep referring to an “authentic Jesus.” Who is He?
According to the “About Us” section, the “authentic Jesus” is characterized by the following values: “radical forgiveness,” “compassion,” “love,” “radical compassion,” and he “stood up for the marginalized.” His sacrificial death, teaching about hell, and emphasis on holiness are apparently not important enough aspects of the “authentic Jesus” to be worth mentioning. Finally, the emphasis of the Campaign is on Jesus’ humanity, “Ultimately, we want people to know his teachings and how he lived while here on Earth. And this will be a starting point to understanding him and his message.” Though they say they affirm Jesus’ full humanity and divinity, they again stress this is not all too important because “We’re simply inviting you to explore with us at He Gets Us how might things be different if more people followed his example.” So what kind of things does He Gets Us want the world to know about the “authentic” Jesus?
About the Campaign’s “Authentic Jesus”
The “authentic Jesus” struggled just like you.
One of the “featured articles” is titled “Did Jesus Struggle to be a good role model?” As with all of their articles, it features a well-made short video to help illustrate the article. The He Gets Us Campaign said that as they searched out themes to share with the world about Jesus, “it became It is (sic) apparent to us that Jesus set a high bar for himself and for others.” They go on to say it must have been really hard for him to practice what he preached while he was mocked, betrayed, and crucified. They conclude “We realized how hard it must have been, even for Jesus, we recognized that he faced similar pressure to be a good example as we do today.” Let me make this clear, Jesus was not primarily concerned about being a good moral example for you. He was primarily concerned with being a ransom for many, the bread of life, the good shepherd who gives His life for the sheep. (Mt 20:28; John 6:35; and John 10:11). This “authentic Jesus” which He Gets Us wants to share is a moralistic man who was a good person so you can be one too.
The “authentic” Jesus doesn’t want you to go to a church.
The campaign website answers the question “Is this a campaign to get me to go to church?” The emphatic answer is “No.” Instead, they want “all to consider the story of a man who created a radical love movement that continues to impact the world thousands of years later” (emphasis mine). We again see that they shy away from the Deity of Christ in order to focus on the humanity of Jesus, “we invite you to hear about Jesus and be inspired by his example.” On this page, we see that whoever is really behind this campaign in no apparent way supports what the Bible says about regeneration or conversion. They seem to shy away from those biblical themes. They much rather present themselves as “a movement – of people who have considered his [Jesus] story and found it deeply and personally transformational. For some, it has been a religious experience, and for others, it’s simply a call to strive to love others better.”
The “authentic” Jesus wants you to be an activist.
The campaign really likes hashtags. As you will see when you visit the website, hashtags are everywhere. One hashtag that caught my attention was #activist. One featured article with the #activist mark is titled “How did Jesus deal with injustice?” In a truly bizarre hermeneutical move, the anonymous author describes Jesus’ abuse at his trial as a time when he knew “to pick his battles.” The takeaway is that Jesus knew how to swallow his rage, so why can’t you? They conclude “By telling this story, we remind ourselves that even when we’re tested and trolled, we have the option of rising above.”
Another post under the #activist category is titled “Jesus was fed up with politics, too.” Here we are encouraged to learn that “Jesus lived in the middle of a culture war, too.” This anonymous author equates the Pharisees and Sadducees with today’s conservatives and liberals. Obviously, the Pharisees were religious conservatives. The good news is that as similar as Jesus’ time was to ours we can take hope that he didn’t join any faction, “Jesus’ movement was so impactful because he actively resisted and rejected participating in culture-war politics.” The “authentic” Jesus is a champion of “a better way.” They don’t bother telling you what that “better way” looks like other than that it is loving (in some indeterminate and undefined way).
The final post I will highlight under the #activist category is a push for vague inclusivism. In a post titled, “Jesus invited everyone to sit at his table,” another anonymous author lets you know that Jesus kept company with a “remarkably diverse cast” of people. The anonymous author says, “It was radical at the time. No one was that inclusive.” The anonymous author fears that there are inauthentic Jesus followers who “claim to be followers of Jesus taking his open invite and turning it into an exclusive club.” The author even states “Jesus was not exclusive. He was radically inclusive.” Apparently, this author is biblically illiterate. True, Jesus did practice hospitality and we are called to do the same. However, Jesus did not leave the self-righteous, the unclean, and the sinner the same way he found them. Every person who encounters Jesus and follows him is radically transformed. Think of the woman at the well in John 4 or Zacchaeus the Tax Collector from Luke 19. Jesus engages them through hospitality but He transforms them through conviction of sin, enabling them to follow Him by not going back to their previous sinful lifestyle. Further, the truly authentic Jesus of the Gospels said things like, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus clearly excluded those who did not recognize him as the Messiah, and He continues to do so today.
The anonymous author of this piece (and the Campaign in general) appears to focus only on the parts of the New Testament that treat of certain aspects of Jesus. They do not deal much with Paul who has strong words about not walking the way Gentiles do and about putting away the old self (Ephesians 4:17-32). By being so vague in their presentation of what Jesus did during his earthly ministry, the people behind the Campaign jeopardize the souls of those who will walk away thinking the “authentic Jesus” would have had them over for dinner and wink at their sin.
I want to conclude with a brief summary of the “authentic Jesus” presented in the He Gets Us Campaign. First, His humanity is elevated over His Deity. Second, there is no mention in any of the Campaign’s posts that the reason we need Jesus is that we are sinners. In fact, the words “sin” or “repent” are never used. Third and finally, Jesus is presented as all works and no grace. This might seem strange since I have criticized the Campaign for its vagueness and for presenting a welcoming, inclusive Jesus. The Campaign repeatedly presents Jesus as nothing more than a moral example to be followed. The Campaign places a heavy burden upon the necks of those looking into Christianity. Its evangelistic message is to be like Jesus because if He could be a good example, so can you. The Campaign fails to mention His sinless life and atoning work on the cross as the indispensable heart of the gospel message. They want to sound Christian, but they are not like other Christians. They want you to know they are good Christians following the “authentic Jesus,” a Jesus which they have created based on a loose interpretation of the Scriptures. The rest of us are apparently Pharisees for asking people to repent, stressing Jesus’ death on the cross, and proclaiming His glorious resurrection from the dead.
Saints, we should be concerned with evangelism, but we should also be concerned with doing evangelism biblically. The He Gets Us Campaign does not practice biblical evangelism, and it does not present the biblical Jesus. We in the PCA should be seriously concerned that our leadership is even considering cooperating with such a Campaign, much less promoting and defending it to our Churches.
Philip Ryan is a PCA Teaching Elder serving as Assistant Pastor of Discipleship at The Kirk Presbyterian (PCA) in Savannah, GA.