Recently I drew attention to Goodbye meaning ‘God be with you’. This is one in a series of evangelistic one-liners that Christians should practice.
Christians need to learn how to use one-liners.
The role of one-liners
There was a time when people read books. As advertising became more prominent, leaflets were used, not so much to explain issues, but to draw people’s attention to the issues. Leaflets and pamphlets soon gave way to flyers, and soon these used bullet points instead of paragraphs because of the need to catch the reader’s attention.
Many people are too impatient to read arguments. For the most part, they want ‘the bottom line’ to determine if this interests them or not.
Finally the flyer gave way to one-liners, slogans such as Take Back Control in the 2016 Brexit campaign and Make America Great Again in Donald Trump’s 2017 campaign for the Presidency of the United States of America.
One-liners are common in politics because this is the limit that the public will tolerate, and BBC Newsnight on 25/2/2019 introduced a relatively new one: “democracy depends upon the consent of the loser.” This is a brief way to highlight that Remainers were bad losers in the EU Referendum and that they were contradicting democracy by trying to overturn the Brexit result.
However, the Brexit debate has illustrated the weakness of one-liners in public debate, because the Remainers complained that the issues had not been clearly explained.
The debate since then has been about the accuracy and completeness of the information, although the reality is that each side for the most part knew what they were voting for. One wanted to remain in the EU and the other wanted the UK to be clear of the EU’s jurisdiction.
Preparing his party’s campaign for today’s election to the European Parliament, Nigel Farage considered Tell Them Again as the Brexit slogan, but this is ambiguous and at the launch of the Brexit Party the slogan was Fighting Back and eventually the one-liner became Change Politics for Good.
This brief resumé of recent politics demonstrates that one-liners are but an introduction to a larger discussion. The one-liner catches attention, following which instruction takes place.
Therefore one-liners do have a role, or politicians would not continue to use them so frequently. Indeed, the clearest politicians can speak in one-liners and sound bites. Preachers should know the same and use them also. So should all Christians.
Christians and one-liners
One-liners put across an idea or vision in short compass. Take Back Control. Make America Great Again. The Lord Jesus Christ gave us Thy Kingdom come – a stand-alone or in combination with – Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.
Christians need to learn one-liners. That is, those Christians who want to help their neighbour. Such Christians desire to know how to benefit their neighbour and even their enemies, but they are conscious that they lack the skills and the means to do so and they have no mentor nor public figures to act as role models.
Preachers should be an example in this respect to their congregations. Further, they should teach their congregations how to witness. Jesus trained His disciples for three years.
Minority groups and those with rare diseases look for a role model to publicise their cause. Christians don’t have such in the UK. They have neither role model nor mentor to show them how to witness effectively to their neighbour. “How can I, except some man should guide me?” Act 8:31.
There is no Christian leader who is a household name in Britain. The last one was the Rev. Dr. Ian R K Paisley, MP, MEP, whom everyone knew, although they did not know the Gospel nor the Lord Jesus Christ whom he preached. In Australia, Israel Folau is trying to lead the way, but he could benefit from guidance and zugology.
Christians have no living mentor from whom to learn. The Lord Jesus is our prime example, but He was perfect and sinless, with His own role to play that we cannot imitate. So God has given us the apostle Paul as an attainable example. He was not perfect and some were quick to point out his faults because they could not agree with his zealous example nor with his doctrine. I have heard a Christian say plainly that he did not like the apostle Paul. Little did he realise that his words indicated that he was not like the apostle Paul. More is the pity. Paul’s earnest Christian witness was and is too much for many to follow.
So Christians must learn at the personal level to witness for Christ. If we cannot have a top-down national revival and reformation at least individual Christians can shine – “Jesus bids us shine … you in your small corner and I in mine”.
Where do we begin?
Begin with yourself.
One must study to use intelligent one-liners. The adjective ‘intelligent’ is where prayer and Bible study comes in. Any one-liner will not do it. “Down with the pope” is not very helpful. All it tells us is that the speaker is against the pope in Rome, possibly against his teaching and power, and probably against the scandals so prominent among the Roman Catholic hierarchy, but our aim is to lead sinners to Christ – not from one false religion to another.
A common one-liner is “God loves you”. This is not very informative, may be a platitude, and it is easily interpreted as such. Does it make the average person think? Does it catch their attention? It needs so much explanation that it does not serve as a useful one-liner.
A one-liner must resonate with the hearer, catch their attention and provoke their thoughts. Even if they do not agree with it, at least they may discern that it is worth consideration. They should have some understanding what it implies.
A one-liner is ‘a touch and go’ introduction to a more significant conversation.
Christians should not be afraid that their one-liners will lead to difficult topics you cannot handle. I hope to illustrate how to follow through with examples in future blogposts.
23 May 2019: personal evangelism and evangelistic one-liners.
28 Jun 2019: will I meet you in heaven?
4 Aug 2019: confidence to converse.
23 Sep 2019: secular one-liners.
2 Dec 2019: “there is a Christian Party – I like that!” for Christian political evangelism.