When you think about evangelism how do you honestly feel?
Excited? Uncomfortable? Scared? Guilty?
Maybe all of these? I think often, especially reading books about evangelism, I overwhelmingly feel guilty because I know I don’t share the gospel enough, or I don’t think I’m good enough at doing it. In Rico Tice’s book “Honest Evangelism” he goes through the good, the bad, and the ugly without hiding anything. Tice talks about the times when he kept quiet and wishes he spoke up. The times he was rebuked for not sharing the gospel. The times he shared the gospel and all he got was ridicule. But he also talks about the joy he has experienced in seeing the hunger people around him have had to get to know Jesus. As well as one experience which led his non-Christian friend to tell him off because he was “sweating all over the bible!” (I’ve never been that nervous before!). You’ll need to read the book yourself if you want to know why he was sweating that much.
Rico Tice doesn’t pretend to be an expert on evangelism: he is very open that this is something he will probably always be scared to do, and never find easy. But his best qualification to encourage us to share the gospel ourselves, is that he believes that sharing the gospel is worth the risk and the discomfort for us, because it is so important to those who need to hear this message.
Rice Tice focusses on what he calls the ‘painline’ in relationships. This is our human self-defense mechanism- we don’t want to put ourselves in a situation where we could get hurt. And we know that at some point sharing the gospel will mean taking a risk and putting ourselves in a situation where it could hurt.
We recoil from outing ourselves in risky situations, because we know that crossing the painline by sharing the gospel could lead to rejection or backlash. But Rico says the reason we still evangelise, why we cross this painline, is because of three reasons: the glory of Jesus, the certainty of the new creation, and the reality of death and hell. These are the things that should motivate us to share the gospel, because it has real consequences. It is worth crossing the painline and taking the risk, because sharing the gospel is how we love the people around us.
If you’re looking for a detailed explanation of how to give a gospel presentation, Rico Tice doesn’t provide that. And that’s not what he wants to do in this book, so if you’re looking for a detailed outline of different gospel presentations you should look elsewhere (there are a lot of other great resources for this: check out “Evangelism in a Skeptical World” by Sam Chan). Instead of trying to provide a formula, Tice looks at how God has made all of us as unique people, with unique personalities and gifts. Different people in the bible shared the good news about Jesus in different ways, so why should we not use the unique gifts and personality that God has gifted us with and be authentic to that in sharing the gospel?
Instead of giving an outline of a gospel presentation, Rico Tice focusses on how we should live in a way that opens up good gospel conversations, that engage people with this good news. This starts with being genuinely interested in people and asking them questions about themselves! This is looking at the value of engaging and building real relationships with the people around us to build relational trust. Rico Tice also shows that often we switch into a different mode or personality when we share the gospel- but we need to be able to simply discuss our faith and how it relates to our everyday life in authentic in conversational ways. This is what will give us opportunities to ask deeper questions that challenge people to see the need they have to know Jesus.
I know that when I think back on my own efforts at evangelism, I can be critical and tend to see it as a kind of bloopers reel. It can be discouraging more than anything else, and can lead me to end up saying “well I’m just not an evangelist, so maybe I should leave it to the professionals”. Rico Tice points out that when we think of the people in our own lives who shared the gospel with us, often it wasn’t a ‘professional evangelist’: it was someone who cared about us. It was a friend, or a family member, or a youth group or children’s ministry leader. Realising this is very liberating, and a good reminder that this is a way that God works in people’s lives!
This book is written for people who are worried about sharing their faith. It’s written for people who don’t think of themselves as evangelists, but want some encouragement to start sharing the gospel without feeling guilty about not being perfect at it. And it is a punchy, short book which is completely honest about the difficulties of sharing the gospel, but reminds us that God is in control and we can trust his sovereignty in evangelism too.
Flinders ES- Lauren B
Honest Evangelism: How to talk about Jesus even when it's tough
Rico Tice and Carl Laferton
(2015, Good Book Company)
Koorong/The Good Book Company $16.99