We live in an exceptional time. If you're not sure how to do something, just ask! Nearly endless online help is available to guide you through car trouble, DIY (do-it-yourself) projects, romance, and even religious concerns.
Is there online help for becoming a Christian? Sure! Of course there is, this is the 21st Century!
I looked up a well-known Christian phrase and found more information than I wanted. It included varying and even opposing thoughts. I'll spare you all that, though you could explore it yourself if you're so inclined.
One of the earliest questions I remember during the Jesus Movement (late 60's through early 70's) was, "Do you want to accept Christ into your heart?" Many variations of the phrase exist, such as, "Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?" But I don't want to travel down the path of examining all these related phrases. It's a long one.
I'm more interested in finding ways to explain and communicate common Christian phrases and Christianese into simple and clear words. Or, as I like to express it, IYOW—in your own words.
Here's what I put in the glossary at the end of my book, "The Mystery of the Gospel"—
Believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior by faith, usually by saying a prayer of confession and trust (also called the Sinner's Prayer). [Common Christianese Terms, page 205]
As with many words and phrases, other terms and expressions are associated with the idea of "receiving Christ." But how does a person put such a popularized phrase IYOW?
I won't give a sure-fire bullet list of steps, but I'll give a brief walk through of the process I use.
What does it mean?
First, I need to understand the intent of the term used, whether it's a word, phrase, or cliché. This requires some thought. For me, asking questions helps me process things.
Where did this term come from? Is it (or something similar) found in the Bible? If so, how and where is it used? If not, how was it coined? And most importantly, what idea, thought, or truth is it supposed to convey?
You would need to adjust the questions to fit the term or cliché used, but the idea is to explore the meaning for yourself.
Put it in your own words (IYOW)
Then I need to come up with a non cliché version in my own words (IYOW). This is not as easy as it sounds, but it is vital.
You'll want to avoid making it a technical definition. The goal is to make it clear and interesting, not obscure and boring. Keep who you want to explain it to in mind, or else, they'll be indifferent and uninterested. You don't want to hear, "What are you talking about?"
More and more people have less and less knowledge about the Bible, Jesus, church, and Christianity in general. Even though they are familiar with certain terms, they often don't understand them.
Give it a try
Lastly, you need to try it out. Make the effort to ask or answer a person in simple, non-religious sounding words. It will take some practice, but most people will appreciate your effort. I've had people within the church and outside of it tell me so.
Also, try to avoid answering people's questions with Bible verses. If you need to refer to a Bible verse, put that IYOW too. And give some frame of reference (context) to the verse. But please, don't bore them with lengthy exegetical explanations and definitions of Greek words. It will not help your effort to make things simple and clear.
So, how would I explain "accepting Christ?"
First of all, I try not to use terms like these, even among Christians who are familiar with them. It's how I practice putting things in my own words (IYOW).
Generally, I want to talk with them about having a personal relationship with God, and how Jesus, His only Son, is the personal link to that relationship. It is by having faith, a confidence in Jesus being who He said He was in the Bible. If they ask about what Jesus said, then I need to be ready to tell them—in my own words.
So, I want to convey the idea that what a person "accepts" is the freedom from sin that Jesus' death and resurrection brings into a person's life, spiritually. Depending on how the conversation goes I'll give more insight as they ask for it. I don't want to overwhelm them with too much information at one time, nor push to "close the deal" by getting them to pray right away.
Now you try it!
Here's some resources you may want to check out related to "Accepting Christ" and Christianese (just click on the link or copy and paste it into your browser)—
How do I accept Jesus as my Savior? — http://www.intouch.org/you/article-archive/content?topic=how_do_i_accept_jesus_as_my_savior_article