We conducted this billboard campaign because we sincerely care about the spiritual welfare of people.Our new “Thank God You’re Wrong” billboard campaign began with a big bang on Monday. The billboards are up in the San Francisco Bay Area, one large video board is seen in Times Square in downtown New York City, and six will be going up soon around Los Angeles and Hollywood. We praise the Lord for the great response we have received all this week, from media outlets like the New York Times and CNN to countless bloggers. As expected, many atheists revealed their real anger against God by posting some very nasty, vile comments on my Facebook page, so they were deleted and banned. Also some secularists (after some investigation) were found to be pretending to be Christians on Facebook and were complaining about the billboard campaign.
But it was sad to see some people whom I presume are Christians (or at least church-attenders) make all sorts of wild accusations against AiG because of the billboards’ direct challenge to atheism. Frankly, no matter what AiG does, we get criticized, including when we posted pro-life billboards around the country. A number of people calling themselves Christians considered the latest campaign to be unloving. Others believed the billboards should have had the gospel (or what they believe is the “gospel”), presented on the boards. I wonder if these same Christians would object to a billboard that presented some of the Ten Commandments or contained a pro-life message, which are not gospel-proclaiming messages. Furthermore, some Christians did not like the fact that we stated that the atheists are wrong in their worldview.
After reading some of the negative comments, I think many of these same people would have also criticized Elijah at Mt. Carmel for the way he treated the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20–40)! And our approach is not harsh compared to Elijah. The billboards’ statement that atheists can be our friends is genuine. Our society needs to hear from Bible-believing Christians who unashamedly stand for the truth. We will continue to make public statements to get people to talk about God and His Word. While right now the major news item of the day is focused on politics, we need to get people focused on what the real topic of conversation should be: how this nation has turned its back on God and the gospel message.
The Gospel on a Billboard?
Why did we not present the gospel on the billboards? Answers in Genesis and our Creation Museum are all about the gospel, but the nature of a billboard is such that there is a limitation of space and size. People can only read them at a glance if they are travelling in a car.
The gospel message includes a recognition of man’s sin in Adam and the resulting penalty of death. Now, in this day and age, many secularists have heard about Jesus, but they certainly don’t believe the book (the Bible) that the message of Jesus comes from. Many people reject the saving gospel because they dismiss the history in Genesis concerning their sin and need for a Savior. Increasingly, there are people who don’t understand the foundations of the gospel in Genesis. As a result, they don’t (or can’t) understand the message of Jesus. Some of the Christians who said we needed to put the gospel on the billboard apparently don’t really understand that a person can’t comprehend their need of salvation unless they first realize they are lost.
We also live in a church culture in America where there is an increasing attitude that a Christian shouldn’t say anything negative at all in public—that we have to be positive and promote what they would call “Christian love.” But true love is making sure people know they are sinners and need to repent before a holy God and telling people they are without excuse if they reject Him. True love is reminding people what God’s Word clearly teaches:
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good. (Psalm 14:1)
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
Now, we could have placed Bible verses on the billboards—after all, we’ve done that before. But if we had put the above verses on a billboard, we would probably have been heavily criticized for being too negative!
Instead, we decided to use our next series of billboards to direct people to the truth—to challenge them with a carefully designed purpose. When people visit www.answersingenesis.org, they will see the campaign banner: “Thank God You’re Wrong,” and when clicked on, a web article answers the question, “How Do We Know There Is a God?” Within this article and an accompanying video, many Bible verses and other articles give more answers to the existence of God, the skeptical questions of the day, how you can be saved, etc. It ends with a call for unbelievers to recognize their need for a Savior.
By the way, the good news of Jesus Christ can be found via a menu bar at the top of every page of www.answersingenesis.org. We also have many articles dedicated to upholding the authority of the Bible beginning in Genesis to show web visitors why they can trust God’s Word, including its gospel message.
We conducted this billboard campaign because we sincerely care about the spiritual welfare of people. As Jesus stated, “
‘For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’” (Matthew 16:26).
On Tuesday, an article about our billboards (with a photo of our large billboard in New York’s Times Square) appeared in the New York Times. The article began, “If the evangelical organization Answers in Genesis was looking to take its message to a secular audience, it would be hard to do better than the heart of Times Square at noon on Monday.” It also stated that our approach has been a “friendly jab” at atheists.
Frankly, I chuckle at the comment at the end of the Times’ article: “Whatever one thinks of his message, Mr. Ham has shown a knack for spreading his views.” Well, I would actually call it “a fire in my bones” (i.e., a calling from the Lord) to contend for the faith and see the gospel preached to as many as possible! At AiG, we continually pray for wisdom to do our best to push forward in the spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of people. I pray this billboard campaign will encourage more Christians to boldly stand up for the Lord. After all, we are soldiers in an army that is engaged in a spiritual war!
Has the Billboard Campaign Worked?
I had to smile when I read a blogger’s comment about our new billboard campaign. He stated, “As a trained communicator and former speech and debate coach, I can personally tell you that this is a rhetorical fail.” Not realizing the irony, the person who wrote this long blog post about the billboards helped the billboard campaign’s exposure! In fact, this campaign seems to have prompted many more responses than any other billboard outreach we’ve conducted:
- The New York Times published an article on the boards (one of the more fair articles).
- Numerous atheist sites have blogged about them. This new campaign has seen the atheist community buzzing about the billboards and the message.
- Many Christian media and other secular media (e.g., the Daily Mail in the UK) have written articles on the boards.
- I have had the largest number of “likes” ever on my Facebook posts—and the largest number of “shares of posts” ever. The weekly reach for my Facebook increased over 370 percent! I had more comments on my Facebook posts than I could have ever imagined.
- I’ve been encouraged to see lots of conversations occurring on the Internet from people who are talking about God and the Bible. And because the knowledge of God is written on their hearts (Romans 2), the billboards are really stirring up those people who reject God to reconsider Him—even if right now they are shaking their fist at Him.
So is the blogger right? Is this campaign a “rhetorical fail?” No, not when this blogger has had to write several hundred words to counter the billboards! Now, the blogger may not be convinced that we have made a persuasive case with a few words on a billboard, but he has missed the whole point of the campaign. As I wrote in a Facebook posting, this blogger may be a communications expert in his field, but he apparently has little or no background in marketing and advertising.
Our ad agency, JDA, which has won several national awards for creativity, came up with many possible phrases for us to review and place on the boards. As advertising experts, JDA wanted to create a short message on a billboard—knowing it is virtually impossible in the space given to convey a deep message—that would draw people to our website. That was the strategy—the billboard wasn’t designed be our only communication with atheists. That’s why our website address is so prominent on the boards. Once we have caught the attention of people with a thought-provoking statement, they will be inclined to visit our website, where they can read an article on God’s existence and watch a video by me. And guess what? Huge numbers of people are visiting our website and going to Facebook. The campaign has been a huge success in that regard.
So, the whole package of billboards, web articles, and a video has done what we and JDA hoped it would do: get secularists to visit our website, comment about it, and have the nation talking about God’s existence. The fact that the New York Times, CNN, and other media outlets have commented about the billboards has shown that the campaign has been successful, contrary to the blogger’s claim.
Yes, the billboards have been an incredible success the past four days—more than we hoped and prayed for. This billboard campaign has seen the atheist community talking about the boards and God. And that’s what we wanted.
Contend for the Faith
I think of the passage:
I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 3–4)
We addressed our billboards to our “atheist friends” to show that we do care about them. At the same time, we wanted to boldly declare the truth of God’s Word and the reality of His existence. It is not ourselves that we should exalt but Jesus Christ, who sacrificed Himself to save rebellious sinners (Galatians 6:14).
And so, we have boldness and confidence in Jesus Christ our Savior (Ephesians 3:10–12; 6:19), and as Christians, we must boldly proclaim the gospel, yet remain humble ourselves. I encourage you to read my blog post to find out more about the reason for this campaign.
Here is just one of the enormous number of positive comments we have received on Facebook this week that helps sum up the purpose of our billboards:
I really like it. The more I think about it, the more I like it. The population they are trying to target doesn't need any more explanation. Many of them think they know quite a bit about Christianity already. They know God offers them salvation according to the Bible. They just make the choice to refuse that gift or are so deceived by the devil to think it’s a lie.
The billboard will cause many to come to the website. And that is the goal. Get them there. Maybe they will read something and be enlightened while they are there. Instead of criticizing, let’s join together and pray that those that do respond will have their eyes opened by the Spirit of God. No one can come to God unless HE draws them there. Pray for the Holy Spirit to move and convict this lost nation!
So our campaign continues as we contend for the faith in the spiritual battle that rages around us. Please pray that this campaign will bring people to focus on God and His Word, and that ultimately many people will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Yes, the atheists are wrong, and they need to be challenged with the truth of God’s Word and the gospel, beginning in Genesis.