As a former youth pastor I have a lot of rather simplistic “faith exercises” tucked into the recesses of my mind. One of my favorites is the checkout line gospel.
The explanation goes like this:
Someone you’ve just met finds out you are a Christian. It is fairly obvious this person has little understanding of the Christian faith (or perhaps they are just very, very inquisitive) and they ask you, “what does the Gospel (or Jesus) really mean to you?
You’ve got a limited amount of time in which to speak (perhaps you are in an elevator or checkout line) and you want to be sure that all of the relevant points get across. So what, precisely, would you say?
Here are a few pointers for people who haven’t been subjected to this kind of mental torment before:
- Make a note of what about faith gives you the most hope. Is it not being alone? Is it knowing you are loved? Is it a sense of permanence of eternity, or tradition?
- Make a note of what about the story in the Gospels means the most to you. Is it the miracles? The Virgin Birth? The Resurrection?
- Make a note of what about your particular “brand” of faith has meaning to you.
Now burn all of that. There isn’t enough time. You’ve only got a few seconds, and you need to say something that won’t sound like rhetoric.
And remember: “Christian Speak” will likely only confuse and/or infuriate a lot of people. So avoid it.
This is what I say:
God is everything about other people that you want but may never find. He is pure love and mercy tempered by justice. The Bible says “perfect love casts out all fear” and through Jesus I have found that to be true. I no longer have any reason to be afraid, because even if I died the second I walked out that door I would have experienced a kind of love that most people go their entire lives longing for and never finding. And because God is eternal, this love will never die.
I realize it doesn’t say that much about the Bible, or Christ’s death or resurrection, but for me that’s the point. People have heard the basic story. It’s not that unfamiliar to them. Rah, rah, Christ, and here’s a fish for the back of your car! What most people are curious about is why, in this day and age when logic and science and self-indulgence reign, would any reasonable person want to cling to something as archaic and forbidding as faith?
So tell them.
In 300 words or less. 😉