Bill Hybels, the pastor of Willow Creek Church in Chicago which has over 20,000 people in attendance each week, tells the story of an encounter he had with a young woman.
He said, “I recall one time being in a restaurant studying for a message, and a gal looked over from her table and saw me reading my Bible. She said, ‘Why do you study that stuff?’ And I thought, just to stimulate a little discussion, I’d try to knock her off balance. So I said, ‘Because I don’t feel like going to hell when I die.’
I was going to be really blunt, but I took the edge off it a little bit. And she said, ‘There is no such thing as heaven or hell.’ I thought, Well, I got something going now.
“So I turned in my chair and I said, ‘Why do you say that?’ She said, ‘Everybody knows that when you die your candle goes out — poof ’ I said, ‘You mean to tell me there’s no afterlife?’ ‘No.’ ‘So that means you must be able to just live as you please?’ ‘That’s right.’ ‘Like, there’s no Judgment Day or anything?’ ‘No.’
“I said, ‘Well, that’s fascinating to me. Where did you hear that?’ She said, ‘I read it somewhere.’‘Can you give me the name of the book?’ ‘I don’t recall.’ ‘Can you give me the name of the author of the book?’ ‘I forget his name.’ ‘Did that author write any other books?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Is it possible that your author changed his mind two years after he wrote this particular book and then wrote another one that said there is a heaven and a hell? Is that possible?’ ‘It’s possible but not likely.’
“‘All right,’ I said. ‘Let me get this straight. You are rolling the dice on your eternity predicated on what someone you don’t even know wrote in a book you can’t even recall the title of. Have I got that straight?’
“I was playing a little Columbo act with her. She looked me right in the eye and said, ‘That’s right.’ And I said back to her, ‘You know what I think, sweetheart? I think you have merely created a belief that guarantees the continuation of your unencumbered lifestyle. I think you made it up, because it is very discomforting to think of a heaven. It is a very discomforting thought to think of a hell. It is very unnerving to face a holy God in the day of reckoning. I think you made it all up.’ We had quite a conversation after that.” (from Sermon Central)