Finding Faith: John 3:16 is the Bible summed up on a sign

"In one verse, a reader can glimpse God’s entire design from the beginning of time on through the arc of the New Testament."

Devlyn Brooks 2021
Devlyn Brooks

I don’t watch many sporting events these days, but late one night this week while working, I caught one of the NCAA March Madness tournament play-in games.

In the closing seconds, as the camera panned the upper regions of the arena — the cheap seats — there it was: a fluorescent green poster board with the message “John 3:16” written in black marker. … A ubiquitous and longstanding sporting tradition!

This isn’t a history lesson, but the cherished ritual took off in the 1980s thanks to Christians who would hold up “John 3:16” events all over the sports landscape in an attempt to spread the gospel. A pretty effective initiative when everyone was watching the same few TV stations.

I’m not a good judge of how widespread the tradition is nowadays, but if you watch enough sports you still see the signs out there. They still have an endearing legacy.

For those unfamiliar, John 3:16 is a Bible passage that reads: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." … It is quite possibly Christians’ most beloved scriptural text; a central tenet of the faith.


But it is also more than that. You could go as far as to say that the verse is the entire gospel in a nutshell. In a Christian’s view, it explains the entire Bible.

In one verse, a reader can glimpse God’s entire design from the beginning of time on through the arc of the New Testament. This verse shares the “Good News” — or gospel — of God’s promise in the Hebrew Bible to conquer sin and death in our earthly realm and God’s following through on his promise by sending his only son to reclaim the kingdom of earth.

Talk about an economy of words! … The entire biblical story arc — all 66 books (depending upon your version) — summed up in those two words: John 3:16. … Every marketing professional in the world should take note!

For so many Christians, this passage hearkens back to their earliest days of Sunday school when they learned just how much God loved them. … God loves you so much that God came to earth in the form of a defenseless human baby, born of a human mother. God didn’t have to, but wanted to as a loving gesture for his beloved people. Can you imagine a greater love!

Once upon a time, the John 3:16 signs at sporting events were more like wallpaper to me than a message to be cherished. But as I grow a little longer in the tooth, each one earns a joyful smile as I think about the clever outreach to all.

Wait, what did that sign say? … Hmm, John 3:16? … Oh, Google says it means the “Good News!”

Indeed it does! Amen.

Opinion by Devlyn Brooks
Devlyn Brooks is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and serves Faith Lutheran Church in Wolverton, Minn. He also works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at for comments and story ideas.
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