I recently asked a room full of Christian leaders to share the Gospel as they would to a 10 year old child 3 minutes before they fell asleep.
Then I asked them to share the Gospel as they would to a complete stranger on the subway who was getting off at the next stop.
The results were a little disappointing to everyone involved.
Most of us prefer to warm up to such things. Most of us would rather share the Gospel gradually, in snips and bits, over an extended period, within a safe and stable relational context.
In general, I think that is a reasonable way to go, but there are also times when we need to be able to at least introduce the Gospel in a limited amount of time.
The two scenarios mentioned above are both real and representative of several situations I’ve encountered in the past.
I’ve had children ask me Gospel questions after bedtime prayers and I have watched the alertness drain out of them like sands through an hourglass as I attempted to say true things about God, about us and about how God has saved us through the person and work of Jesus Christ. I was sitting on the train once reading my Bible when a Hindu fellow in the seat next to me asked me what Christians believed about God. I had two, maybe three stops before I would say goodbye forever to this man so I wanted to say as much as I could in the time that I had – but I quickly discovered that I was not adequately prepared.
Since those two failures (along with several others!) I’ve found great benefit in memorizing a very short statement that captures the essence of the Christian Gospel:
The Gospel is the Good News of what God has done in Christ to secure our salvation.
That statement has 17 words in it and takes about 6 seconds to say. If I’m asked by a person on the subway or by a patron in line behind me at Tim Hortons what a Christian believes or what Christianity is all about I will start with that line and then build up from there based on the amount of time that I have.
To the person getting off the subway at the next stop (3 minutes) I would add some version of the following:
The word Gospel means “good news”. It’s pretty important to understand that. The Bible is not a book that tells us what we have to do to earn salvation, it is a book that tells us what God did to earn our salvation. What he did was send Jesus. Jesus did for us what we could never do for ourselves and he paid for what we had done in his body on the cross. God created human beings and intended for them to be ruling creatures. We were supposed to be under God but over everything else. We were supposed to rule over creation under the guidance and authority of God’s Word and to function as conduits for all the blessings of heaven. That’s how it was supposed to be, but unfortunately, the Bible tells the story of how our first parents, Adam and Eve, fell into sin by choosing to rebel against God’s Word in order to become autonomous ruling creatures. Basically, they wanted to be gods unto themselves, deciding good and evil. From that point on, humanity has been on a downward spiral moving further and further away from God and our original design and glory. The heart of the Gospel is the Good News that Jesus has come as God in the flesh and has obeyed God perfectly and has therefore won the right to all the blessings God originally intended to give to men and women. Furthermore, through his sacrificial death on the cross, he has paid the debt that we owed to God for disobeying his commands. There is therefore no need anymore for us to hide from God. In Jesus, we can come home and we can be restored. The climax of the Gospel is the great news that he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven where he now intercedes on our behalf. He gives the Holy Spirit to all his people and he slowly but surely, changes our hearts, reforms our desires and teaches us how to be the children of God we were always intended to be. For now, Jesus remains in heaven, changing the world one person at a time, but one day he will return and judge the world in righteousness. He will remove from this world all sin and all causes of sin and he will restore the cosmos to a state of peace, prosperity and flourishing and all those who have received him as their Lord and Savior will participate in his rule and enjoy his goodness forever.
It takes 2.5 minutes to say that at normal talking speed, which leaves 30 seconds to answer a question or to suggest a website or a book that could provide further information.
To be clear, I don’t imagine that too many people will be saved by a 180 second presentation of the Gospel – but it could lead to an exchange of email addresses; it could lead to a friend request on Facebook; it could lead to a website or a book or a Small Group. Your 180 seconds could be the seed that is used by God to begin a Gospel journey.
So memorize your 20 word summary.
Practice your 2 minute drill.
Find an article on-line that you could recommend for further study.
And then pray and ask the Lord to provide you with opportunities.
For the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few.
Pastor Paul Carter
To listen to Pastor Paul’s Into The Word devotional podcast on the TGC Canada website see here. You can also find it on iTunes.
N.B. A version of this article also appeared in the December edition of Seven Magazine. Used here with permission.