I attended an evangelization workshop over the weekend in which the speaker was Arturo Lujan, a dynamic Catholic lay minister from Miami, Florida, who is coordinator for a Catholic lay community called Kerygma (Greek for "proclamation" according to Fr. Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary). "Kerygma" is the New Testament word for proclaiming the Gospel. Why keep secret what I learned? Here, in my own words, is the brief, simple proclamation in a nutshell to someone who has not made the conscious, knowing adult commitment to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives:
1. God loves you personally as an individual. My personal suggestion is to ask the person to read John 3:16 and substitute his or her own name in place of the word "world." (Bring a Bible along when you evangelize!)
2. Sin separates us from the love of God, a love that is always there, available, and seeking us.
3. Jesus Christ already died for our sins on the Cross to give us the free gift of salvation that we don't have to earn. We just have to accept the gift and commit to following Jesus and his commandments on a daily basis.
4. Do you want to accept Jesus Christ now as the Lord of your life and as your Savior?
5. If the person freely agrees, then you can pray this prayer or one similar, along with the person:
I know that you love me. I repent of all my sins that separate me from your love. I know that you died for me to cleanse me of my sins that keep me trapped in confusion and in self-destructive behavior. I accept you now as the Lord of my life and as my Savior. Help me to know you more and to learn and obey your life-giving commandments."
That's it in a nutshell, in my own words. For those who are familiar with Campus Crusade for Christ and other evangelical Protestant efforts, you can see the great similarity. They also preach the kerygma. The similarity is no surprise: they got the kerygma from the Catholic Church. As Catholics, we must stop looking at evangelization as a Protestant thing: the only reason the Protestants do it is because they got it, long ago, from the Catholic Church. We need to rediscover that we Catholics are the original evangelicals, the original evangelists, the original experts in evangelization, just as we have rediscovered that the Bible and Bible study are Catholic to the core.
One of the key distinctions that I got from the workshop (and an earlier related tape I had heard) was the distinction between evangelization (bringing people to a mature, conscious commitment to and personal relationship with Christ) and catechesis or instruction which, of necessity, follows evangelization. The problem for too many Catholics is that they are, as other have said, well-catechized (well, even that is questionable given the well-known distortions of Catholic teaching by those both on the theological left and on the theological right) but not evangelized. That's why one priest I heard spoke once of churches full of "baptized pagans."
The immediate, resistant, typical Catholic response is: I don't need to be evangelized, I go to Mass, I receive the sacraments. Yes, but only you can answer the very personal question: have you really accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior; have you given over your life to his lordship, not to your own lordship or that of others; do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It's not a matter of detracting from the sacraments which, of course, actually do give and communicate grace. It's a matter of appropriating the new birth of sacramental Baptism and the grace given in the other sacraments. It's a matter of taking the proferred gift consciously and knowingly. If you already have it, fine--then your obligation (it should be a spontaneously embraced and welcome obligation) is to share it with others. If you haven't made that conscious decision for Christ, then the steps are simple, easy, direct, and life-changing. You will get more out of what the sacraments already give you. Just ask the great Catholic saints.