We can't make Christ known to people if we can't explain the gospel to them. It's not hard to do, but it does require a little preparation. There are many gospel presentations out there of varying quality, and just about anything is better than nothing. The old Roman Road approach has led countless souls to the Lord. The Four Spiritual Laws approach has some good things going for it. The FAITH outline can be useful. Evangelism Explosion teaches a lengthy, detailed version that can easily be pared down for time. Get comfortable with something. Be able to share the good news in sixty seconds if you have to or six minutes if you've got it.
The version I currently use is based off Evangelism Explosion's gospel presentation with some modifications where I disagree with their approach. (I say "currently." I reserve the right to change everything next week if I rethink something or find a better approach.) I reproduce my version below.
In my presentation, the bold text can be presented alone if pressed for time, the normal text can be added to explain if time allows, and the italic text gives examples and explanations that can be added if necessary and if time permits. [Square brackets] are comments to the reader from me.
Have you ever wondered how good you have to be to be good enough to get into heaven? Jesus told us exactly how good you have to be; he said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).
This is bad news, because none of us is perfect. As the Bible says, everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s standard (Rom 3:23).
Do you know what sin is? Sin is anything that doesn't line up with God's standards. It can be things we do that we shouldn't. It can be things we don't do that we should.
Have you ever told a lie? [Obviously they have.] Then according to God’s standards you are a liar. Have you ever stolen anything, even something small? "Borrowed something without permission? [Hopefully they'll admit it.] Have you ever lusted? Have you ever hated anyone? Have you ever taken God’s name in vain? Did you ever disobey your parents? Have you ever seen someone who needed help that you didn’t help?
I’m not saying you’re an awful person, but we have to look at sin through God’s eyes. If I only sinned three times a day, most people would say I'm a pretty good person. If I only lied or was selfish or lusted three times a day, that doesn't seem to be that bad. But three sins a day is over 1000 a year and in an average lifetime that adds up to over 70,000 sins. Someone who's broken the laws 70,000 times isn't "a pretty good person"; they're a hardened criminal.
But even just one sins taints us. Think about an omelet. If I made you can omelet with four good eggs and one bad one, you wouldn't want to eat it. You wouldn't want to drink a glass of water with just one drop of poison in it. That little bit spoils the whole.
If we just commit one sin, we’re ruined. And in the course of our lifetimes, we commit thousands. We’re not just criminals; we’re hardened habitual offenders.
Do you think people who commit crimes should be punished? [Sure they do.] God does too. If He let someone get away with just one crime – one sin – He would not be a holy God worthy of worship. We have all sinned – a lot. And God is a God of justice, so He has to punish our sin.
We will all stand before God one day and answer for the life we’ve lived. For our sins, we’ll be sentenced to hell. We don’t know exactly what hell will be like, but Jesus described it as somewhere no one wants to go – a place of great agony that will never, ever end.
Now, God does not want anyone to go to hell, but He has to punish sin. So He created a way for us to escape hell. Would you like me to tell you about it?
Because God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell, He became a man. Jesus lived the perfect life that we can’t. Then He died as a sacrifice – paying the price for our sins – and rose from the dead to give us everlasting life in heaven.
Imagine sin as like a blanket draped over you like you were pretending to be a ghost. When God looks at us, he sees that blanket of sin. It stands between us and God. When Jesus died, he took the blanket and wore it. God saw our sin as being punished with Christ on the cross. As the scripture says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray … and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Is 53:6).
Jesus offers the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life to us as a free gift. This gift is received by faith.
Faith is the key that opens the door to heaven. But what do I mean by faith? [Maybe hold up a key ring.] Two keys may look alike, but only one is going to open a door. It doesn't matter how much I believe the wrong key will open the door, it won't. The right kind of faith will open the door; the wrong kid will not. Saving faith is not believing God or Jesus exists. It's not even believing Jesus rose from the dead. It's not trusting Jesus with things or issues in life -- your health, finances, safety, even your family.
Saving faith is trusting in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life. (Acts 16:31)
It's like a chair. I can believe a chair will hold me up. I can put my things on a chair and let it hold them up. That's not trusting the chair. I can sit on the edge of the chair, most of my weight on my toes in case the chair collapses. That's not trusting the chair. When I sit on the chair and pull my legs up under me, I am depending on the chair to hold me up.
Saving faith isn't doing something. It's receiving something. It's a beggar taking bread from an outstretched hand.
Saving faith is trusting that Jesus alone will get you into heaven.
Does this make sense to you?
Would you like to receive the gift of forgiveness of sins and everlasting life?
Let me clarify what this involves:
Transfer your trust from your good deeds to what Jesus did.
Receive the resurrected and living Christ as savior.
Receive Christ as Lord -- that is, to decide to live with him as king of your life.
Decide you aren't going to live the same way, that you want to live to please God from here on out.
From there you run into the question of whether a "sinner's prayer" is necessary. I think it can help people focus, but it's not magic words. It is faith in Christ that saves.
Whatever approach you want to use, practice it, get comfortable with it, and employ it.