I was honored to be part of the leadership team at a Catholic Military family retreat in S. Korea back in May. At one of my sessions with the adults, I talked to them about having an “elevator speech” at the ready to explain their faith to anyone they might encounter.
In 1 Peter 3:15, he tells us, “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence…” And, of course, this is great advice! Additionally, from a secular viewpoint, it is a common marketing technique to have that short “elevator speech” ready to share; it’s the nuts and bolts of your company or organization’s product or mission you convey to a potential customer. Why elevator? It’s short enough to share as a parting message with someone as you take the elevator together to the ground floor after a meeting! You have only a short time to make an impactful impression that gives the fundamental, but meaningful, ‘defense’ as to why what you’re offering is the best.
So, while our faith is centuries old and filled with Traditions, and much of it is contained in a rather imposing tome, you know the crux of your faith and why you have this hope within you! It’s important, I’d say critical, to have the words you want to say on the tip of your tongue when such an occasion arises.
If someone asks, “Why are you so happy all the time?” Or “so optimistic” or “so joyful?” “Are you a Christian?” Or maybe someone tells you they don’t believe in God and they don’t see why they should. You can tell them in a brief, but certain way, that you do. It takes time and focus to really narrow what you believe down to a few sentences, so pray about what God wants you to say, pray for inspiration from the Holy Spirit, and then begin to construct your elevator speech.
Maybe you start with the words made famous by Micky Dolenz in that popular Monkee’s song, “I’m a Believer!” And maybe you use the Apostle’s Creed as the source for your answer. I believe in a God who loves me. And He loves you, too. He beholds every created thing and sustains its existence out of His love for us. His Son, Jesus, died to redeem us and He rose from the dead to give us all everlasting life. He left the Holy Spirit with us. And, as a believer, that Spirit lives in me, in my spirit, and that’s why I am joyful and peaceful and loving. (I hope you are!) That’s the beginning of why you’re a Christian. Because you know this stuff. It’s true and it has changed your life.
While I’m recalling old songs, I am reminded of an old church song we sang in the 1960’s, same era as the Monkees, called “They’ll Know We Are Christians.” They’ll know we are Christians by our love! And that is a paraphrase of Scripture, by the way, something Jesus said to His followers. We are His followers still. (John 13: 34-35) If we aren’t loving others and aren’t patient with them and joyful much of the time, no one will ever be curious about what makes us different. We are peculiar! That’s in Scripture, too! (1 Peter 2: 9) Set apart, unique! Precisely because we are loving, and peaceful, and joyful. And hopeful.
Just as St. Peter advises, we have to be able to tell people why we have this hope within us. And that elevator speech should be just the beginning. Hopefully, there will be more questions, more discussion, with the person who is not a believer yet. Then you can explain more deeply what you believe.
If it’s only that short interaction on an elevator or wherever you happen to be, you’ve at least planted a seed. And then you get the privilege and the serious responsibility of praying for that person you met, that God will send others onto their path to continue to lead them to Jesus, toward hope, joy, and true love. You could pray that the heart will be softened, or the mind sufficiently curious. You may be the first one to share real truth, goodness, and beauty with someone. What an honor. Just remember that God only wants our willing hearts; He takes care of the rest.
Let’s pray about our elevator speech, our vision statement, of why we are believers. Mine above is a first draft. Just as in our lives, God allows us to change things! He does the erasing, and the improving, of course. If you’d like to share yours, I’d love to read it! You will be helping someone else! Me, for sure. And hopefully others who are reading this.
Holy Spirit, inspire us, teach us what to say, to glorify God and advance His Kingdom! That is our heart’s deepest desire! Amen.
Here’s a version of that 1960’s hymn I mention above. It’s a song about Jesus’ command to love one another so people will know we’re His followers!
*Photo taken at the Mirinae Holy Site (Catholic Martyrs shrine) in S. Korea.