Book Review: Honest Evangelism, by Rico Tice
Rico Tice, Honest Evangelism: How to Talk about Jesus Even When It’s Tough. The Good Book Company, 2015. 112 pps, $12.99.
Few topics in Christianity are as paradoxical as evangelism. Christians are those who have been saved by the greatest news in the world, but are often hesitant to share it. When we do share it, we often do so awkwardly, forcing a conversation on someone who does not really want to listen to us. Then, sometimes, when we do this, the Almighty God reaches into the conversation and makes that spiritually dead person alive in Christ. He who does not need us for his plan chooses to use us to spread the message that he has promised will offend, but will not fail.
Rico Tice begins his book on why and how Christians should evangelize with the admission that evangelism is hard. That may not seem like an earth-shattering revelation to most readers, but it is refreshing to hear it from a professional evangelist. Early on, Tice puts his finger on the reason why Christians do not share the gospel. It offends. But that is the point.
THE PAIN-LINE AND OTHER HELPFUL TIPS
Early in the book, Tice introduces the concept of the Pain-Line. That is the point in an evangelistic conversation when the offense of the gospel is made plain. Vague conversations of spirituality or even of the concept of God become evangelistic when the Christian crosses the pain-line.
Tice helpfully clarifies what faithful evangelism is and is not. In so doing, he acknowledges the difficulty we Christians will face, but encourages us with examples of faithfulness and assurances of God’s provision.
He begins by describing his own coming to faith through the circumstances surrounding the death of his uncle. Like many brand new Christians, he immediately started talking about Jesus to friends and classmates. Immediately, he was ridiculed for it. This story might not strike most readers as encouragement to evangelize, but Tice points out that Jesus said this pattern would be typical for his followers: “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves.”
This honesty helps any prospective evangelists place his or her hope in the right place. We should not hope that we will be well received or respected because we shared the gospel with friends or relatives. Yet we can hope that, by faithfully sharing the message of Jesus, God might do what we cannot, and save those who hear us.
Using plenty of Scripture, Tice effectively argues that Christians should trust God and obey him by talking about Jesus. Using more Scripture and filling it out with encouraging examples, he shows how Christians evangelizing through hard circumstances have seen strangers and loved ones come to faith. Job well done.
A FEW REMAINING QUESTIONS
This is a good book and I hope people read it. Tice is winsome, clear, Scriptural, and tenaciously focused on the sovereignty of God in salvation. That said, I have two concerns. In the first case, I am concerned that the formula he lays out for communicating the Gospel might be confusing.
Giving instruction to evangelistic rookies, he writes, “First, what do I need to say? Identity. Mission. Call. That’s the gospel. Jesus’ identity – who he is. Jesus’ mission – why he came. Jesus’ call – what he wants from us.”
I am glad for his focus on the person and work of Jesus. Evangelism is supposed to be about Jesus! But I am concerned that this summary might not adequately explain Jesus to someone who does not already have the right theological framework in place. Starting a conversation about the gospel with the identity, mission, and call of the savior assumes the hearers understand themselves to be in need of a savior.
My second concern is that this book uses a definition of evangelism that is limited to individual conversations. In all the practical tips on how to do evangelism better, Tice focuses on how to make individual Christians better at sharing the gospel with non-Christians. This focus neglects one of the greatest gifts of God to his people – the church.
Christians should not think of themselves as lone-ranger evangelists out to save the world by their individual efforts. We should think of evangelism not only as an individual effort, but as something we do together. When Christians work together within the local church to share the Gospel, we demonstrate the power of the message we are sharing. The unique witness of God’s redeemed people is more powerful than even the best lone evangelist can be.
There are many books on evangelism. Has Tice done something here with this book to merit a read? Yes. The bulk of this book is focused on setting the reader’s mind on the power of the God who saves through his gospel and by his power, not ours. By developing that theology, Tice encourages his readers to share an offensive message with people they cannot convince on their own. In God’s wisdom, that is exactly the right message with which to encourage Christians.