Following Phoebe

Book Review: Honest Evangelism

'Honest Evangelism: How to talk about Jesus even when it's tough' by Rico Tice has glowing recommendations from many well known authors, it even has a foreword from Don Carson.

I liked this book. It was short like 'Intentional', again only 101 pages, although the book is slightly bigger and had smaller print. Although I felt that it wasn't as accessible as 'Intentional', it is a great book which takes a different approach to talking about evangelism.

In 'Honest Evangelism' Rico Tice sets out from the start to be brutally honest about how difficult sharing the gospel can be, hence the title. He doesn't want to shy away from how increasingly hostile society can be about hearing about Jesus. And he admits that even for someone paid to do evangelism, he too finds it difficult. (Something I found comforting as someone working as an evangelist too!).

Tice talks a lot about crossing the 'painline' ie. the line you have to cross in conversation from the comfortable to the uncomfortable, which puts you out there when talking about the gospel.

He also sets out the reasons why evangelism is important: Jesus' glory, the new creation, and the reality of death and hell. Tice says that idolatry is a big reason we still don't share our faith, even when we are convicted of the reasons we need to.

I found it a challenge to be reminded that if I value saving face, more than I value someone's eternal life being saved from the punishment we all deserve, then my pride has become an idol. Powerful stuff.

The real strength of 'Honest Evangelism', I feel, is in the second half of the book when Tice starts talking about the 'how to' things like what to say and how to get started. He talks about different kinds of people in the Bible and uses them as example of how not everyone has to look the same when they do evangelism. He also says that this is a good thing!

Something I found interesting was the mention that in the UK, one-to-one evangelistic Bible reading has become a staple of evangelism as it can be less intimidating than inviting someone to church to hear 'an expert' preach. I found this interesting as relational approaches to evangelism also seem to be the most effective here in Australia.

I think this is probably because we are more similar to the UK in how secularised our culture is compared to the US which is still in the process of becoming secularised now. It definitely relates to what I see on campus here. We tend to encourage and train our students to talk about their faith in relational contexts as it allows time to build a relationship and for someone to have many conversations which might lead to their coming to faith. As Tice mentions in the book, many people now have very little background knowledge of Christianity, and most don't see it as something they need to worry about, which means there is a lot of ground to cover.

Witnessing is a long-term commitment to invest in a relationship, to pray tirelessly, and to speak the gospel over and over again, patiently and persistently. It is a journey of gospel conversations. It really does take effort. - Rico Tice, 'Honest Evangelism'

One issue I had with this book was that there didn't seem to be a lot of hope that sharing the gospel would ever be not grindingly difficult. It did feel quite negative about the prospect of sharing the gospel and although there was a chapter about God's sovereignty and that he is the one who does the saving, I still came away feeling a bit like I shouldn't expect people to be open to the gospel. I think that if I asked Rico Tice this he would say it wasn't the intended outcome, of course!

In my recent experience with the Gen Z students starting to come through uni, it actually doesn't seem that difficult sometimes. There is a really lovely openness and curiosity to Christian belief and reading the Bible among many of the students I have met over the last year or two, which is a breath of fresh air!

Overall I think this is a great book. I didn't find it so easy to draw the practical tips out as there is only one worked example of how you might go about talking to someone (I think that 'Intentional' might have spoilt me for examples!). But there is a lot of great stuff here and it really is aiming to encourage every Christian to be thinking about sharing the gospel of Jesus, especially as it becomes harder to do so.

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