People who overhear that story somehow get pulled into the narrative and begin to follow Jesus through their own personal engagement with The Story.
Your story is my story is ultimately the story of every human life. And our personal and collective stories make sense only in relation to God's Story as we learn it through Jesus. The gospel is not a series of doctrinal affirmations over which we fight in our different denominations. It is the unfolding story of God's good purposes for the creatures he has made in his own image and likeness.
In its simplest form, then, evangelism is inviting people into the story of Jesus. It is challenging people to see themselves and all the events and relationships of their lives in the light of Jesus as their Way, Truth, and Life. The task of evangelism is to share the gospel so as to invite people to channel the streams and tributaries of their human experience into the ocean vastness of God's love for them in Christ. It is to call them to find meaning, identity, and purpose for their lives in knowing and following him.
The world's culture offers the option of shutting out God, pursuing a self-willed agenda, and suffering the tragic consequences. The church is called out of the world to be an alternative culture whose identity is shaped by God's nature, whose activities reflect his redemptive love, and where authentic joy reigns.
Our neighbors won't get caught up in the story of Jesus until they see us genuinely engaged with it. The heart of evangelism is not bumper stickers, T-shirts, and tracts; it is bona fide imitation of Jesus. Only when our churches are cultural alternatives to the world's racism and sexism, jealousy and rivalry, selfishness and materialism can we be light in a dark world.
It isn't just your church's reputation, but you as a neighbor, worker, classmate, or friend to the person who does not know Christ. You are called to be a person who keeps promises, lives with integrity, cares about others, and demonstrates an appealing, joyous way of life. Then a neighbor just may want to know more about what you believe and how you live. She will be open to talking with you about Jesus, attending church events with you, or joining your Bible study group.
In the process of interacting with the people of God, people hear the music of the gospel and begin to move to its rhythm. They see how The Story engages their personal stories. They encounter the Holy Spirit and are changed.
The unsafe-but-inviting story told in Scripture still engages and enlists hearts. Our task is to model it. Paint the picture. Make the music. God sees to the result.
Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?"
They said, "Rabbi" (which means "Teacher"), "where are you staying?"
"Come," he replied, "and you will see" (John 1:38-39 NIV).
Check out Rubel's new book, "I Knew Jesus Before He Was a Christian and I Liked Him Better Then" — http://hlt.me/jb0VyW