Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Essential Elements of the Gospel

Occasionally I try to put myself in the shoes of a non-believer who is "checking out" God and this whole "religion" thing. I wonder what goes through their mind as they drive into a parking lot full of cars at a place they at one time thought they would never go except for a wedding, funeral, or when their parents made them (Easter and sometimes Christmas). Maybe a friend invited them and they are looking around as the exit the car and walk into the building. The greeters welcome them and they aren't sure what to say back so they just smile and continue looking for their friend.

Eventually they find their friend. In a church that is paying attention they are introduced to 7 or 8 people who's names they will undoubtedly forget. So far things are good as they could be anyway. The non-believer (let's call her Angie) is nervous, her heart is beating a little faster, her breathing is slightly elevated, and just a tinge of adrenaline is flowing through her veins. Angie really isn't shy, but a crowd like this is a little overwhelming so she is relieved to sit down so she doesn't have to meet anyone else. Of course she only gets to sit for a minute and then it's time to participate in a game (which the regulars love, but she is kind of scared) or the worship starts in which case the people around her are singing and she doesn't sing well. After the music comes the message. She is thinking, "here comes that wacked religion stuff". Instead she becomes engaged in the message and hears about the difficulties of following the negative messages of the culture we live in. The speaker quotes some lyrics from a popular song to make his point. He opens the Bible and reads a passage that actually makes some sense. Angie had thought the Bible was irrelevant, but apparently there is some good stuff in there.

The message is coming to a conclusion and the speaker at the end of a stirring message about making good decisions in the face of a negative culture simply adds this:

Bow your heads and close your eyes; if you would like to accept Jesus
raise your hand and put it right back down. God bless you, you,
you, and you
and you."

The evening is ended with a prayer and Angie goes home wondering why she raised her hand. As she goes to bed that night she recaps the evening. It was fun, after being so nervous she actually enjoyed herself and thought the speaker made some good points. Still she isn't even sure what she committed to. She wonders what the big deal is about church, she has heard the same kind of message (minus the Bible) from her school teachers and commercials on TV. She wonders who Jesus is and what it means to accept Him; further what does accepting him do for her? Oh well, she had fun so maybe she'll give it another try if her friend invites her back.

  • Is this the kind of experience you would want a visitor to have if they visited your church or youth group? Why?
  • What good things happened in this fictional story?
  • What things didn't go the way they should?
  • What is wrong with how the speaker ended the message?
  • What are the essential parts of the gospel message? What does a person need to understand in order to make a decision to "accept Jesus"?

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