The Pressure’s On

The Pressure’s On

Feb 22, 2013

The pressure’s on

by Andrew Camenga


As my daughter and I were talking the other day, I used the phrase “atmospheric pressure” in passing. As soon as the words had crossed my lips, I knew the question might come. But she just nodded her head and let the conversation continue.

When the discussion broke up and we were getting up to do something else, she decided that the time had come to ask: “Daddy, what’s atmospheric pressure?”

I took my first shot. “Atmospheric pressure is a way to measure how much air is stacked on top of any given place.” Her look said it all. I hadn’t communicated. She did not understand.

So, I started looking around and thinking, Where should I begin? What can she understand? While I was tempted to bail on the conversation by distracting her with a book or a game, the stuffed animals in the corner of her room caught my eye.

“Let’s imagine for a minute. If I took just one of your stuffed animals and put it on top of you, would you notice?” She explained that it would depend on whether in was the big bear or the smaller animals. So we settled for a smaller animal.

“Now, what happens if instead of adding just one, we stack all of them on top of you? Would that get heavier?” Yes.

“We could count the number of stuffed animals piled on top of you and use that number to talk about how heavy the stuffed animals seemed to be.”

“Atmospheric pressure is kind of like that. We pick a number to talk about how much air is stacked above us. You see, air is made up of a lot of little pieces that are so small we can’t see them, but they are all around us. Sometimes there are more pieces, sometimes there are fewer pieces. When we say ‘atmospheric pressure,’ we’re talking about how many of those pieces are stacked above us.”

With that, she was ready to move on with the day.

And with that, I thought again about those moments when we need to communicate something we know and don’t have a clue how or where to start. I won’t claim that reaching for stuffed animals was what I should have done, but in the absence of a better plan, I grabbed what was handy. Unless you are a meteorologist, when it comes to explaining things like atmospheric pressure, there is little reason to prepare: the topic doesn’t come up often.


But when it comes to the Gospel, in most circumstances we should know how and where to start. Scripture makes it clear that Christians are expected to know how to tell others about the hope He has given us (1 Peter 3:15). One of the best ways to become ready is to practice identifying the Gospel in your own life and reminding Christians of God’s gracious hand.

Another way to become ready is to learn from people who already know how and where to start. There are many good books, videos, and tracts from which you can learn. One of the Gospel presentations that I have found very helpful is called “Two Ways To Live: The Choice We All Face.” It was produced by two Australians for their ministry in a hostile culture. You can find the presentation online at <>. I share the presentation’s teaser to start your thinking:

       “The message at the heart of Christianity is really quite simple—simple enough to be outlined in a few pages. It is a message from the Bible about God and His Son Jesus. It is about life and death, and the choice that we all face.

       “And it all starts with a loving creator God…”

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