Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book Review: Honest Evangelism by Rico Tice

If there is anything that gets most Christians nervous, it's the topic of evangelism. We get distracted, apathetic, preoccupied, fearful or overwhelmed. Rico Tice seems to come alongside and say I know what you are feeling, I feel it too. Rico Tice's approach to evangelism in "Honest Evangelism: How to Talk about Jesus even when it's tough", is the approach of a friend that knows how you feel. His work is the most honest approach to evangelism that I've read. It's not a technical, expositional, historical, or case study approach. It's one mans fears and hopes for evangelism, shared with the rest of us.

His first words of admitting evangelism is hard, puts us on the footing of work that is ahead. Yet almost immediately, he provides a biblical hope in the task.

In his first chapter Rico shows how believers are already equipped to share the gospel. He warns of the inevitable hostility that people will exhibit and it is that hostility that he sees as the main reason why people don't do evangelism. What seems to be a helpful element in each chapter is showing how within the problem lies the pathway to the solution: "The same rising tide of secularism and materialism that rejects truth claims and is offended by absolute moral standards is proving to be an empty and hollow way to live". The interesting dichotomy that he presents in our task is how it is "more and more likely to find people quietly hungering for  the content of the gospel, even as our culture teaches them to be hostile towards it"

Knowing what to expect, in the second chapter Rico presents a helpful mindset to present the gospel: "talk to people about Jesus because we want to, long to, and are excited to, even though it's tough". The reality of the consequences of hell provide the antithesis to delight.

Lest we get too far a this point, Rico provides a helpful idol inventory in chapter three, that might be getting in the way of our evangelism. Chapter four provides the most solid theological examination through sovereignty, grace, and power What would be a natural follow up to this theological foundation, chapter five provides some helpful content to our message. From being quick to listen, slow to speak (James 1:19), Rico suggests we present the truth of the gospel from an everyday, natural part of our conversations with people. From this everyday gospeling is a refreshing natural approach instead of all to "now-I-am-sharing-the-gospel-with-you" canned methodology. In a simple to remember summary, Rico suggest a "identity, mission, call" description of Christ (2 Cor. 4:5) as a good summary of the gospel. Much like Jesus approach His own explanations, Rico suggest checking understanding with questions. Ask who they think Jesus is (Mk. 8:27-29)  Secondly, explain His mission: show why He came (Mk. 8:30). As an answer to guilt, death (Mk. 8:31). Finally, present His call (Mk. 8:34). Rico obvious has the reader in mind at this point, for he invites the read to consider if they have repented of their sin.

Chapter 6 tries to eliminate common excuses for evangelism and invites the reader to just be themselves. Rico presents biblical examples of evangelism from Peter (confrontational), Paul (intellectual) the ex-blind man (testimonial), and the woman at the well (invitational). I would have appreciated more detail at this point. I was wondering if it is appropriate to use an approach related to the audience, although it may not be our usual way of thinking. In a brilliant follow up to individual approaches, Rico points to the "striving together" role that the church has. This section could have had a chapter each, especially a "church wide" approach to evangelism.

In "getting started (or re-started), in chapter seven, Rico surveys the changing methodology of evangelism, giving modern barriers. This is one section that I think many books on evangelism forget. Rico flat out presents the need for time and effort in the task. His approach is unusual in suggesting that we ask our audience particular questions. Finally, he presents the character qualities necessary to not cause unnecessary offence His conclusion in chapter 8, reiterates the need for prayer, proclamation and availability. Naturally, the appendix contains lists of helpful resources.

Honest evangelism is honest: honest about fears and the future reality of the task. It is hard to get much more personal. This work is an excellent addition for the everyday believer in Christ to fulfill their calling to evangelize.

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