My professor presented the class with our assignment for the weekend. We were asked to write how we would present the gospel message to a 5-year-old. I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, a weekend assignment that would be quick and easy. In my undergraduate work I had done a degree in Elementary Education. I could certainly express the message of the gospel in a way any young child could understand. To my surprise, this assignment turned out to be one of the most challenging I would receive in my entire seminary education.
Once I started working on this assignment I realized I had to define every word and concept in the most accessible and elementary way. I had been a Christian for over two decades and I realized that I had gathered a vocabulary of rich and wonderful words like sin, justification, redemption, grace, forgiveness and others. The problem was, no 5-year-old would have any idea of what I was talking about. I had to translate, explain, and write this assignment with language that a child could digest and embrace.
The process of distilling the gospel to its most basics and elementary form was challenging but glorious. I had to be crystal clear and fully understandable. This assignment grew my own understanding of what Christ did for me and it also equipped me to share the message of Jesus to anybody of any age.
In our Organic Outreach training we seek to equip people to share the life-changing, eternity-transforming, message of Jesus in ways that anyone can understand the message. You might want to take some time and try to write out the gospel for a 5-year-old. I believe you will receive some of the same benefits I experienced in this process.
Here is the gospel message I came up with at the time of this assignment almost thirty years ago. You will notice that I do use two theological terms “sin” and “forgiveness.” What I have done is define them before I use them:
God has given us the gift of Jesus because he loves us so much. Jesus came to the earth and died on the cross for all of us. Maybe you are wondering why Jesus had to die in such an awful way. We don’t live the way God wants us to live. Sometimes we do bad things, we say things that are not true or nice, and we even think things we know are wrong. These bad actions, words, and thoughts are called “sin”.
Because we are not living the way God wants us to live, and because we all do wrong things, God must punish our sins. Jesus loves us so much that he offered to take the punishment for us. It says in the Bible that everyone sins. Every one of us falls short of what God wants for us. You and I have done things, said things, and thought things that God is not happy with. We have even not done things that we knew God wanted us to do. Jesus had a lot of punishment to take. That’s why he died on the cross in such an awful way. Because Jesus has done this for us, we can be set free. He has taken our punishment for us. This is what the Bible calls forgiveness.
We know this is true because the Bible teaches it very clearly. There is another thing the Bible tells us that we all need to know. Jesus gives his forgiveness only to those who want it. We have to ask Jesus to forgive us and come into our life. If we come to Jesus and are sorry for those wrong things in our lives, he will forgive all of our sins and wash us clean.
If we know we have sinned, if we are sorry for what we have done, and if we believe Jesus died to take our punishment, we can be certain that Jesus will always forgive our sins.
Jesus loves you so much that he was willing to die on the cross so you would not have to take the punishment for your sins. If you believe this and know Jesus wants to forgive you for your sins, you can be positive that Jesus wants to forgive you and be with you forever. He wants to come into your life so that you will be his friend and one day go to heaven to be with him forever. When you believe that Jesus has done this for you and you are sorry for the wrong things you have done, said, and thought, you are ready to ask Jesus to come into your life. Jesus loves you so much.
However you choose to communicate the message, it’s important to make sure that we keep the essentials clear:
- God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us.
- We don’t live the way God wants.
- Our bad actions, words, and thoughts are called sin.
- Our sins separate us from God and God must punish these sins.
- In love, Jesus has offered to be punished for our sins and in our place.
- If we come to Jesus and are sorry for the sin in our lives, Jesus forgives us and makes us clean.
- Beyond just forgiving us, Jesus wants to have a relationship with each one of us and be in our life.
Make sure that the people you share the gospel with recognize their need for Jesus, understand what he has done for them, dying in their place, and are aware of their need to ask for his forgiveness and to follow Jesus. Most of all communicate that God does all of this for us because he loves us very much and desires to be with us now and for all eternity.
Sherry Harney is the co-founder of Organic Outreach International. She teaches and trains in all aspects of Organic Outreach in the US and Internationally. Her most recent book, “Praying with Eyes Wide Open” is now available through Baker Publishing.