As much as we may want to take a more holistic approach to defining / describing the gospel and make it about much more than ‘heaven or hell’ sooner or later we need to discuss issues of sin, forgiveness and atonement.
In some of the pendulum swinging that I have observed in the last few years it is as if some people have wanted to avoid this kind of language / emphasis, yet at the centre of our faith stands the cross, a reminder that no matter how good we live we still needed someone to die in our place.
In the centred set idea of evangelism (which I believe has much merit) we can often see people as simply ‘moving towards Christ’ – the ‘facts’ of doctrine don’t matter – and yet I tend to think that at some point a person does need to come to grips with their sinfulness before God, their need for repentance and his salvation. There needs to be a ‘realisation’.
It seems to me that sooner or later there is a cognitive element to our salvation where we come to grips with the reality of what Jesus has done for us. Of course that cognitive experience will vary from person to person and we can’t expect a child to have the same reasoned thought process as an adult (they might ‘get it’ better!)
Of course the danger in what I am writing is that we make intellectual acceptance of the gospel the key, and I’m not saying that. It seems salvation is a very mysterious process when we try to nail it down! But in y own experience when people move towards Jesus sooner or later the questions of the significance of his eath and resurrection must arise.