The language we use to speak about evangelism is at least misleading if not just wrong. We're unclear about what it means to be a Christian, to become a Christian, and the message of the" gospel. We use language like, "how do you get saved?" and "what do you have to believe to be saved?" as though salvation or "being saved" is some elite club we're trying to get into. It's the same as asking the question of "what do I need to know to get into Mensa?" or "how do I become a republican?" We talk as if there's some formula--like you have to pass some kind of criteria to be in the "saved" club. The truth is, getting "saved" is much more mysterious. There is no formula. "Getting saved" isn't even the ultimate goal. The salvation of the individual is not ultimately what evangelism is all about. It's about discipleship and community. It's about sharing life with people and inviting them to be part of the community of God which is about the mission of God. Instead of formulating criteria and figuring out how to convince people to "seal the deal with Jesus," we simply should be sharing life with people. If our lives are truly about the mission of God and a passion for Jesus Christ, then sharing becomes evangelistic. When people are witness to authentic community which is so alternative to the cultural patterns it becomes evangelistic.
The way we talk about the gospel is misleading as well. Most of the time when one is asked to explain the gospel, they begin with a statement like, "Jesus is divine" or "I am a sinner." The truth is that neither of those things, Jesus or sin, are at the beginning of the story. They are key components but Jesus comes in as the climax--at the end--of a much longer story which does not begin with sin, but rather with a garden--a paradise. The gospel is a story of the reconciliation of a world which has fallen victim to something from outside itself. If we begin with sin and Jesus we may miss the depth of the good in this world and the context into which Jesus and his teachings enter the story. We should resist the temptation to every make the story too short or too simple.