I was given a fun little assignment the other day. Our church is passing out balloons at a local event and we are tying to the balloon a little handout. My assignment was to write a gospel presentation, “simple enough for a fifth grader”, on about a 4 x 6 inch space. I had about 240 words.
If you have never done an exercise like this I encourage you to try it. It’s easy to be critical of short gospel presentations but it is much more difficult to write one. That is why this article by Tim Keller was so helpful: The Gospel in All its Forms.
Keller reminds us that when “studying Paul's gospel speeches in the book of Acts, it is striking how much is always left out.” Therefore, Keller does not put all the gospel points in one gospel presentation. What he means by that is that you do not have to say everything about the gospel every time that you share the gospel. Obviously there are essentials that must be in every gospel presentation—but it will appear in different forms.
I like the God, Man, Christ, Response Model. But what do I say about God? What part of man do I focus on? What aspect of the atonement do I center in on? How much do I put about response? If I have 250 words how many do I use on each point? Do I make the presentation response heavy, sin heavy, work of Christ heavy, or character of God heavy?
While leaning heavily on Keller I have come up with these principles for a gospel presentation.
1. Consider your audience. My audience is a German community that is primarily Catholic. I thought given the context a belief in God would be somewhat assumed, so I minored on that point. But I majored on the finished work of Christ. I thought it unwise to major on the response section. Given a different audience I think I would emphasize different points.
2. Don’t Confuse Implications of the Gospel with the Gospel. This keeps us from starting in the wrong place and finishing in the wrong place. A gospel presentation needs to be primarily focused on the finished work of Jesus—no matter how it is balanced. Sin cannot be redefined or redirected. The work of Christ can never be assumed. The gospel is not, “if you don’t have peace, Jesus can give you peace”. That’s an implication of the gospel.
3. Know Where the Power Lies. The power to convert is not in my catchiness, simplicity, or wordiness. The power of the gospel lies in the Holy Spirit communicating biblical truth to people’s hearts and minds. Therefore, I need to focus more on being biblically faithful than “simple”. What I mean is that if I have to take out key elements so someone can understand or swallow the gospel then it’s quite possible they are not at a spot to receive Christ.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Tell a Story. Sometimes the simplest way to communicate the gospel is to sum up the overall narrative of Scripture. Don’t be afraid of doing this instead of a typical “what must I do to be saved”. Be sure that the story is Christocentric, but don’t shy away from the Bible’s main story arc.
5. Leave the Door Open. Obviously, if you cannot share everything that needs to be shared it may be wise to leave the door open for further communication. Be certain that someone can contact you, the church, or someone that is a faithful gospel teacher. Don’t close the door by assuring them that if they did a certain activity that they are certainly saved. Keep it open—share the gospel, and let the Holy Spirit give assurance.
Anything you’d like to add or interact with?