When the Gospel Isn’t the Gospel

21 07 2007

By Kelsey Hough

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‘Tis the Season for popsicles, camping trips and seasonally ineffective street evangelists.

I was plodding along, completely engrossed in my own thoughts, when a little, gray haired lady – her arms filled with grocery bags – flagged me down.  In a quiet voice, she leaned in closer to me, and with big eyes and a somewhat crazed smile plastered on her face, she informed me there was something she needed to give me.

As she rummaged around in her brown, winter coat, I half expected her to pull out a plastic fork, or an old gumball wrapper, or even, something to help me contact the aliens with.  But instead of ET’s home number, her hand emerged with two small cards – each about the size of a business card.  She handed them proudly over to me.  Cutesy Christian poems were printed on them in flowery fonts; nope, I wouldn’t be helping ET phone home today.

       When the Message Isn’t the Gospel

“Santa Claus,” she said his name with all the inflections a good storyteller would use when the zombies had emerged and were now wreaking havoc on society, “leads straight to the mall which leads to bankruptcy and depression.”  She looked up so she could stare right into my eyes.  It reminded me of the way a door-to-door salesman would stare at you while he tried to convince you of your overwhelming need for the latest and greatest vacuum cleaner.  I smiled back uncomfortably.

After an awkward silence, she apparently decided I was now ripe for the gospel, and added triumphantly, “But Jesus leads to peace.  Santa has deceived us all, we’ve all ended up at the mall, but you don’t have to stay there, because you can choose to either follow Santa or Jesus.”

The street evangelist looked satisfied, and abruptly walked away without another word, and I continued on my way (ironically, I was on my way to spend the afternoon at the mall) thinking how her “gospel” was enough to make me feel turned off from Christianity. I didn’t tell the lady she was preaching to the choir, because the “Christianity” she was selling was nothing I was willing to defend or own.

I’m sure the woman I ran into was very well meaning, but because the “gospel” she shared with me wasn’t the good news of Christ crucified for sinners, it didn’t make any sense and it wasn’t even seasonally fitting, it was still a turn off.

Ready to Give an Account

The Gospel itself does offend, but it heartbreaking when it’s not the Gospel that’s offending people but someone’s inability to communicate it clearly and effectively. To her benefit, after our run-in I went home and practiced going over all the main points of the Gospel, and it paid off, because only a few days later, while at church, I was asked to explain the Gospel in thirty seconds or less.

You never know when you might need to give an account for the hope that is in you, and because of this 1 Peter 3:15 instructs us to “Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” What would you say if you had to give a reason for the hope that is in you?  If you were suddenly asked, would you be able to present the Gospel clearly and accurately, or — like the woman who talked with me — would it not even be recognizable as the Gospel?



4 responses

16 07 2007

Good post! It’s totally true what you said about how you never know when you might need to give an account for the hope that is in you.

I like the site, good job, Kels 🙂


16 07 2007

Santa or Jesus?! That’s hilarious! 🙂

16 07 2007

Cool beans!
I’m glad to see the site up and running.

24 07 2007

I would say this. She was probably trying to relate to you, in her way, the analogy of “The Santa Claus” type of god she believes in. “He’s got a list, and He’s checkin’ it twice.”, she might say. If not, I really wish I knew who passed that message along to her. They need help. She might as well.

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