Elevator version of the Gospel

When people are seeking funding for a new idea from venture capitalists, they’re told that if they can’t put their message into a short version suitable for an elevator interaction with another person, they won’t find funding.

Seems to me that we Christians ought to be thinking along the same sorts of lines. If someone came up to you today and asked you to tell you the Gospel in a short statement, what would you respond? Would you need to add so much jargon that while what you said is correct, it’s going to take a year to unpack?

Here’s what I’m thinking mine might be:

“God definitively entered the world in the person of Jesus, was murdered with our complicity by the religious and secular authorities and died. God burst forth from death and is now radically transforming us and the whole world into something brand new, just and loving.”

It comes from a discussion on the previous post.

What’s yours? Care to share?

Author: Nicholas Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

11 thoughts on “Elevator version of the Gospel”

  1. God burst forth from death? Hmmm. Don’t we say God raised Jesus? Richly theopaschite theologies are attractive, but this kind of undisciplined talk (which some think adds rhetorical punch)is ultimately not credible and gives a mythological feel to it all.

  2. I like God bursting forth because it heightens the skandalon contained the sentence before that God dies.
    Besides, is it really possible to fully think of God as separate from Jesus, or Jesus from God? Granted the human and divine nature contained within the Incarnation are fully comingled but not identical.
    Maybe a better way to say it would be that God burst forth and because of the Incarnation, humanity does as well?
    Ugh. Who says the Christological controversies are fully behind us?

  3. Love yours. I’ll have to think long and hard to improve on it.
    OK, I thought. 🙂 Maybe this: In “God burst forth” and “is now”, the connotation seems to be that God being fully alive and transformative wasn’t an ongoing process but started only or mainly after we murdered Jesus. Whereas I think God has been doing/being this all along and has let the revelation both of Jesus’s life and of our complicity in Jesus’s death become yet another loving way to open our eyes to the truth of love and pacific mimesis.
    I’ll have to think more about my own statement. It will be very similar to yours.

  4. Wm Paul – how about if I changed the second sentence to “Jesus burst forth from death…”?
    That’s makes the point I want to make about Death now being vanquished, and has the benefit of a little more precision along the lines of your point.

  5. Thanks M Wms. I’m looking forwarding to reading yours. I take your point about the ongoing process that was present from the beginning of creation.
    I just would want to also highlight the fact that there was a historical action and date. I chose the language I did to try to avoid slipping too far into mythic language unintentionally.

  6. It seems to me that our elevator version of the gospel should be some form of personal witness, otherwise it will only connect with the already converted, ie. What is the good news for me? Why am I a Christian? How does Jesus make a difference in my life?
    For those in recovery, it goes like this: What it was like; what happened; and what it’s like now.
    John Newton put it this way, “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”
    My personal favorite is, “The Lord who made heaven and earth, knows me better than I know myself and loves me better than I love myself.” Then again, I would be happy with, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”
    As long as I’m posting, let me add that this is one of my very favorite blogs. It gives me a lot of intellectual and spiritual nourishment on a very regular basis.
    Blessings,
    Bunker Hill
    Spearfish, SD

  7. Thanks Bunker for your kind words, and for sharing your thoughts.
    I was at a conference a little while ago that featured a presentation on the work of conversion ala John Newton, and then in a free flowing discussion we talked about how his thinking is similar to the models of the various recovery programs work.
    The main upshot for me was that in the Church we rarely talk about the explicit transformation of the person anymore when we’re talking about Gospel. Full Inclusion is great. But it’s not the full statement. Leaving Inclusion as just Inclusion seems to me to beg the question about why people wouldn’t already know they are included…
    It’s the regular testimonies given in recovery meetings that are sort of playing in the back of my head as I think about this question.

  8. One advantage of the “bursting forth” language is that we leave behind the “risen” imagery which dates back to the literal imagining of the three story universe. It’s all well and good to proclaim “Christ is risen” in an Easter vigil service, but I think we have to use modern language for those elevators.
    I still don’t know what a skandelon is. I doubt anyone in the elevator will, either.
    I’m still working on my own statement, but I remember a phrase from a Christian Century article of many years ago: The forces of evil will not have the last word. I have always liked that one.

  9. I fear we just can’t collapse God into death without being mythological and, in a strange way, it can also eclipse that part of Jesus’ death which is the death of a full human being for very human reasons (as well as divine)on the human, historical plane with all that that means, even if it was much more.
    The way ahead IMHO is Trinitarian which would involve saying that the Father does indeed suffer–grieves, esp–but not in the way Jesus suffers (death). And this is part of the problem with elevator speeches! They may be a good lead in to discussion but what we might think about is how complex things demand complex (not confused) responses. The art of appropriate and helpful simplicity is to be sought. So I applaud that.
    Back to the original post, ‘Yes, Jesus burst forth from the dead’ or even (as an Irish poet put it) ‘with the resurrection God let loose on history a laugh and a joy forever’–or s’thing like that. I am all for creativity and pithiness. But there are many dangers, and one (not mentioned) is faddishness (tho’ that wasn’t happening here.)

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