Reverend Joan Gray – former moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) – once wrote:
“Give people in your church a chance to craft and practice their faith ‘elevator speech’. When I was candidate for Moderator of the 217th General Assembly (2006), someone told me that I must be able to tell someone why they should want me to be moderator between the time they got on an elevator with me and the time they got off. I think every Presbyterian should have an ‘elevator speech’ in answer to questions such as, ‘Why are you a Christian? What difference does God make in your life?’ It would give us a jumping off place to talk about faith and help us get over our evangelistic lockjaw.”
Since I’ve heard this, I have been captivated by this idea of an “elevator speech” and it has piqued my curiosity in other arenas. The idea that you only have a short amount of time or words to succinctly state something that you find grand and life-altering is a challenge.
The Christian Century had an project a while back in which it asked people to summarize the gospel in seven words or less – an “elevator speech” explaining what the good news is all about. Here are some of my favorite responses:
M. Craig Barnes: “We live by grace.”
Beverly Roberts Gaventa: “In Christ, God’s yes defeats our no.”
Brian McLaren: “In Christ, God calls all to reconciliation.”
Walter Brueggemann: “Israel’s God’s bodied love continues world-making.” (Brueggemann also pointed out that he used only six words because he followed God’s command to rest on the seventh)
And it doesn’t stop here. I keep finding “elevator speeches” everywhere.
Will Campbell wrote in his book Brother to a Dragonfly that the main story to all of the Bible is really: “We’re all bastards but God loves us anyways.”
Rob Bell once tweeted his summary: “The gospel is the counterintuitive, joyous, exuberant news that Jesus has brought the unending, limitless, stunning love of God to even us.”
So my first set of questions for you are about your “elevator speech”. How do you understand the essence of this good news? What would your succinct definition of the gospel be? Could you share it in a tweet? Could you put it in seven or less words? Here’s my working attempt at one:
BCC: “Jesus – the embodied Spirit of God – claims us, calls us, and loves us more than we could ever imagine.” What’s one of yours?
My second set of questions for you deal with how you give people in your church a chance to craft and practice their “elevator speech”. Have you talked about this? How do you talk about evangelism? What avenues have you tried? What opportunities have you provided? What other examples have you heard?
Any advice or reflection would be helpful for me (for us) as I continue to seek out ways to incorporate this idea of an “elevator speech” into my ministry.