ACR JournalChristian LivingEvangelism

Book Review: Honest Evangelism by Rico Tice

Do you find evangelism hard? Why is that the case when we have the best news to share?

Here lies a common tension—we know people need to hear about Jesus, yet all too often we hesitate to tell them about him. Maybe it’s a fear of the consequences, that relationships might be broken, especially in a world that increasingly sees followers of Christ as the bearers of bad news rather than good. Or maybe this wasn’t always the case, but weariness has set in from repeated rejection when we have shared.

Guilt then sets in as evangelism begins to feel like we’re not doing enough. The temptation grows to pass it off as an optional extra for the lay Christian and reserved as work for the ‘elite’ (or paid) evangelist. Rico Tice seeks to challenge all this in Honest Evangelism (The Good Book Company, 2015). Right off the bat, he acknowledges that even as someone paid to do so, he finds telling people about Jesus hard. Yet, even though the costs are high, we need to recognise the joys that are greater.

Tice does so by consistently pointing us back to the gospel, the good news about the love of Christ that we are to share, to compel our evangelism. The book is nicely divided into two parts: the Why and the How.

In the first part, a key concept that Tice speaks of is ‘the pain line’: when we are hurt after getting hit (metaphorically) by

rejection, that typically indicates something has gone wrong. Awareness of the pain line often leads to self-preservation kicking in so that we stay on the safe, comfortable side by not doing the thing that causes this hurt.

In this case, it means we stop talking about Jesus.

Having laid out the very real stakes, Tice promptly counters with the biblical truths that keep him motivated to cross the pain line—the glory of Christ, the hope of new creation, and the reality of judgment, so that “we will want to witness because we will know that it is always worth it” (p 25). Ultimately, he reasons that the heart of any objection we can put forth lies in our idolatrous hearts that fail to love God first. Hence, we need to get our view of God right. By casting our eyes upward instead of inward, Tice encourages us to pray to the one who is sovereign, gracious, and powerful, who liberates the weak and trembling to witness:

‘What is successful witnessing? It’s not someone becoming a Christian – it’s someone hearing about Christ. It’s not you winning the argument, having all the answers, or giving an eloquent speech – it’s you preaching Christ’ (p 55).

In the second part, hopefully after you’ve been convinced that we always need to evangelise, we get practical. How then

do we rightly present the gospel to our audience?

Tice offers two tips to start: Ask them questions, and chat about your faith. And two exhortations: Be honest about the

gospel and resist the urge to leave out parts that might trigger the pain line. Be yourself, resist the whispers of the devil that “You’re not an evangelist”. Tice insightfully observes that God has made us as we are (Psa 139:13- 14), and placed certain people around us, so that the world might be reached. This leaves us without an excuse out of evangelism just

because we are not “John Chapman/Helen Roseveare/my friend who seems to talk about Jesus naturally and compellingly with strangers on the bus” (p 74).

Wrapping up, Tice once again acknowledges the reality of challenges that we face in this day and age in bringing the Bible to people. This increases the need for us to be prayerful, patient and perseverant.

Any competence in evangelism comes not through our own strength, but through practice. After all, “you don’t need to be good at witnessing; you simply need to be faithful in doing it” (p 93).

The message is simple but not simplistic—as those who are loved by Christ, any suffering is worth it to share him with so many who live in need, so keep at it. I greatly appreciated the perspective of this book, that the gospel is about God more than it is about us; His glory is of greater importance than our suffering for the gospel, yet He is not detached, for Christ suffered to the point of death so that we have this amazing news to share.

Tice manages to not just provoke thought, but also provide a way forward, all within a wonderfully concise 100 pages. This makes it a practical choice if reading is not your forte, as you could break the reading up into shorter blocks over a few days. Although each chapter is bite-sized, it is packed with material for deeper consideration, which could be used for a regular book club or discussion group.

If you ever needed a shot of encouragement to keep persevering at telling people about Jesus, Honest Evangelism does just that.