jQuery Slider

You are here

Effective evangelism by the whole people of God

Effective evangelism by the whole people of God
A great new book on evangelism by Rico Tice

Reviewed By Andrew Symes
Anglican Mainstream
Mar 24, 2015

In his presidential address to the General Synod on Tuesday 10th February 2015 the Archbishop of Canterbury urged the church to share the good news of Jesus with 'joy and delight'. He admitted that many of us shy away from telling our neighbours about Christ through "lack of confidence in the Gospel", but insisted: "We are... called to be those who worship and adore God in Christ, overflowing with the good news that we've received, making Christ known to all so that the good news is proclaimed effectively throughout the church."

It was a real encouragement to hear the leader of the Anglican Communion give such an unequivocal call to evangelism based on a clear commitment to and personal experience of the Christ of the Scriptures. It is also commendable that the call is for all Christians to be involved in the work of evangelism, not just a few clergy or those who seem particularly gifted. However there must be big question marks about whether large sections of the church are in a position to share faith as the Archbishop urges, given a) the lack of agreement about the content of the Gospel, and b) the lack of awareness about the extent to which we have, consciously or unconsciously, self-censored the "unacceptable" aspects of the Gospel, as a response to the growing hostility of the culture to Christian truth.

"Honest Evangelism" by Rico Tice, just published and soon to be launched by the Good Book Company in their "Live Different" series of short practical guides, is written for this context, and specifically for those who have an evangelical faith but are either not sharing it at all, or only sharing those elements which will not bring opposition. Rico is Associate Minister at All Souls, Langham Place, and the well known presenter of the Christianity Explored courses (also here) used in all English speaking countries and whose materials have been translated into 22 languages. Rico has thirty years experience of evangelistic preaching and one to one ministry all over the world, resulting in many thousands coming to faith, but he begins his book with the admission that he finds sharing his faith in Jesus increasingly difficult.

Much contemporary teaching on evangelism, he says, gives the impression that if we are pleasant, engaging and use the right techniques, people will warm to us and come to Christ, if not, our methods and/or our message must be wrong. But we must be honest -- in the West today, to speak the truth of the Gospel and to hold to authentic Christian values is as likely to meet real hatred as indifference or approval. "The culture teaches people not to consider Christianity", and even "to be hostile to the Gospel". The answer is not to leave evangelism to "the experts", to keep silent or worse, to leave out or change aspects of the message, but to make a renewed commitment to share Christ with courage, being willing to cross what Rico calls "the pain barrier". We can trust in God and in the power of the message, but also understand that beneath the veneer of sneering and even aggressive outrage at the Christian message there are human beings with huge inner hurts and an unsatisfied hunger.

The book is structured around short chapters, often using three basic points for easy memory. So for example, the motivation for evangelism should be: The glory of Jesus, the guarantee of the new creation, the grim reality of death and hell. "Life skills" for sharing our faith should include a simple understanding of the Gospel (Jesus' identity, mission and call -- familiar to those who have experienced Christianity Explored), and the ability to ask questions and listen with genuine interest. Being equipped with personal experience of Christian faith and handy summaries of how to explain it are often not enough. We also need to grasp God's sovereignty (he has put me in this street, in this workplace, for a purpose). God's grace (as his child my approval and esteem from God does not depend on success or failure in my witness to him). God's power -- he is the one who opens blind eyes as we proclaim Christ.

A really interesting chapter on our idols begins to explore some of the things we hold dear and which compete with Christ for our affection and worship. In other words, it is often not just fear of rejection or lack of confidence in being able to come up with good points made with razor sharp wit and empathetic compassion which prevents us from sharing our faith in Christ. "As long as Jesus is not my greatest love, I will keep quiet about him in order to serve...my idol", says Rico. There are some brief but helpful suggestions for diagnosing our idols, for example: "Yes I'll take risks to witness about Jesus, once I've achieved...and the end of that sentence is my idol."

Up until now the teaching in the book has been about preparation for evangelism. It ends with how to do it, but in a way that does not stress techniques or individual effort or knowledge. The body of Christ is made up of people flawed by sin, saved by grace and with a diversity of personality types and friendship groups, and so it is by and through the church as community of love that the Gospel of Christ can be made known to the world.

However there are methods which are more appropriate to the changing culture. Broadly speaking, from the 1950's to the 1980's it was possible to fruitfully ask friends and family to attend big stadium rallies and traditional "mission weeks". In the 1990's and 2000's the focus shifted to the more intimate setting of the small group centred around a meal, followed by listening to a speaker or even a DVD. Today, it seems that personal one-to-one sharing of faith is vital before many people will consider attending a course or a talk in a church or hall, while the days of stadium rallies are long gone. And the lead time is much longer. Sixty years ago, many came to hear Billy Graham and were converted on the night. With Alpha and Christianity Explored many folk went from agnosticism to faith in ten weeks. Today, increasingly, it takes years of patient, faithful, often frustrating relationship building and faith sharing.

How do we start? Rico suggests a key moment is when Christians take a deep breath and say to a friend "would you look at the Bible with me?" There is of course an increasing danger that this might be perceived as harassment or judgmentalism, as freedoms are eroded. But experience in churches and Christian Unions which stress one to one Bible reading programmes such as Uncover shows that while is a lot of cynicism and political correctness around, there are some people still open to the power of the word, the work of the Holy Spirit and the security of genuine friendship to help them come through to faith.

Rico's compelling and warm speaking style comes through in the book, which is an excellent complement to the growing Christianity Explored resource library. Honest Evangelism deserves to be widely used as a tool to help people engage in the increasingly costly and difficult task of witness to Christ in our culture.


Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top