In his autobiography Brother to a Dragonfly, Will Campbell wrote how his friend P. D. East badgered him for a succinct definition of Christianity.  East did not want a long or fancy explanation.  “I’m not too bright,” he told Campbell.  “Keep it simple.  In ten words or less, what’s the Christian message?”

Campbell replied to his friend: “We’re all bastards but God loves us anyway.”  To which East replied, “If you want to try again, you have two words left.”

Campbell and East eventually had an extended conversation provoked by Campbell’s summary. It had stuck in East’s mind.  He wasn’t sure he bought it, but it gave him something to think about.

A number of pastors and theologians have responded to this challenge to describe the gospel -Christianity’s good news – in under ten words.  Some have tried to do it in seven:

Nadia Boltz Weber: We are who God says we are:

Walter Brueggemann: Israel’s God’s bodied love continues world-making.

Walter’s gospel is dense. “I used only six words,” he says; “I rested on the seventh.”

Last year at this time, I invited Broad Streeters to share their responses.  Thanks to each who offered words:

Betty: Love, Unconditional, Grace, Messy, Miraculous, Uncertainty, Acceptance

Bill: Love, Creation, Grace, Mystery, Why, Inclusive, Believe

Lynn: Love beyond love for all and forever

Martha: Challenging, Comforting, Perplexing, Authoritative, Instructive, Foundational, Loving


At the end of 2023, what seven words would you use to describe the gospel?


-Blog by Rev. Ann Palmerton

Enjoying the Broad Street Blog? Be sure to subscribe so you never miss another post


  1. Mark Dominik December 28, 2023 at 11:21 am - Reply

    A simple guide to be kind everyday.

  2. Jim Miller December 28, 2023 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    Universal love and forgiveness for all.

    (I too rested on the seventh)

Leave A Comment