Carl Medearis is a minister, missionary, ministry founder, and international speaker/consultant on Christian-Muslim relations. He lived in Lebanon for over a decade and has spent years going back and forth between the US and the Middle East. He has multiple books, podcasts, a youtube channel and on-going conferences - you can look into all of these for yourself via his website.
He begins his engaging, sub 200 page read, Speaking of Jesus - the art of not-evangelism with an analogy of all the world-religions in something of a world-cup kind of match - and of course - the goal is "to win". All of a sudden in the middle of the Muslim-Christian match - right at the top of the 2nd half with the score tied - this guy saunters out onto the field and makes direct eye-contact with you - the goalie and says "follow me" - and your're like "but it's THE game!" ... this strikes me as an apt analogy.
On page 22 poses this question:
"What if our concept of salvation is based on a gospel that is the sum of its explainable parts? What if we consider ourselves "saved" because we have a dynamite explanation of salvation? We can correctly label and identify all the components. Sinners fallen away from God. God's mercy. Sacrifice for man's sins. The atonement. Justification by faith. Eternal life.
Let's try a litmus test: Try to describe your salvation using only the four Gospels, without using any of the above terms. You have one minute: Go."
Not that long ago Medearis did this actual experiment in a classroom full of seminary students in Texas and fills a chalkboard with their answers - and confirms that this is everything that describes salvation according to the above criteria - and then poses this second question:
"How come non of us mentioned Jesus?"
It'd be easy to mock the students - but let's not mock. Let's own the part of that whole conversation that's utterly relatable. Medearis goes on to talk about how when he started out in ministry - this was the paradigm he found himself in daily - and it led to him giving himself an interesting nick-name: "Carl the ministry killer" as he repeatedly took small groups of 4-8 and reduced them to zero.
He talks about the heavy burden we often take on as Christians of attempting to own all that that word Christian means - even though it means ten different things to ten different people. And frees us from that burden by reminding us that defending the reputation of all of Christendom is not the "game" that Jesus has called us to play. He's called us to lift Him up - not our agendas, our egos, our favorite church or worship song - just Him. If you want to really go for broke - you can talk about what it meant for you to encounter Jesus. Medearis doesn't report such an exercise in his book - but I do wonder how a the chalkboard experiment above would compare to a chalkboard full of responses to the question: "Describe what it was like for you to experience Jesus' salvation?"
Medearis seems to have developed a knack for sticking to talking about Jesus and Jesus impact on his life - rather than falling into the trap of what I like to call "binary conversations" ... you know - all those things that even if you can't define "Christianity the same way as nine other people define it - everyone just "knows" Christianity is. If you're a Christian you vote like this, care about these issues but not those, believe in this kind of science but not that kind ... and so on. Medearis pleasantly and refreshingly reframes conversation after conversation away from divisive hot-buttons to points of meaningful connection. Take for example this conversation he had with a Muslim friend after another of his friends - a Christian - was arguing with him.
I won't plot spoil how the rest of this conversation went - or the countless others he had with members of many faiths as well as those of no particular faith. Medearis has even met with members of Hezbollah and even Yasser Arafat.
This approach is a breath of fresh air regardless of who you share your space with. If you're looking for an engaging read, or a different perspective on how to talk about faith - I recommend Speaking of Jesus. I've reserved a copy of Tea of Hezbollah which is one of his newest books and which I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing as soon as it's available.