When I was asked to write a review on Rico Tice’s Honest Evangelism, I was filled with a sense of dread. I was intimidated to write a review on a book about evangelism because I had to honestly assess how I was doing in fulfilling the Great Commission. Even before picking the book up, I knew that I was not living a life of evangelism. I did not want to read a book that would just make me feel guilty, and I knew that writing a review on the book would make me publicly accountable to being more faithful in sharing the gospel. Yet, in God’s goodness and providence, He knew that I needed to read this book and be encouraged by the compassionate call and practical tips for evangelism.
Despite referring to himself as an evangelist, Rico Tice refreshingly states “I don’t find [evangelism] easy, and never have. For me, telling people about Jesus has often been nerve wracking. But it has been joyful.” Those who struggle with the fear of evangelism are immediately encouraged to know that they are not alone in the struggle—even gifted evangelists can find it intimidating and difficult. Tice writes the book because he wants Christians to know up front that evangelism can be costly, but that there is great joy to be found in telling others about Jesus.
I have read several books about evangelism, but I don’t remember an author explicitly talking about the pain that can come from evangelizing as much as Tice does. Just as Jesus told His disciples that He was sending them out “like sheep among wolves” (Matt 10:16), so Tice wants believers to know to expect some pain when faithfully carrying out the Great Commission. He wants us readers to know up front that we may face insults and rejection when sharing the gospel (and in fact, Christians in other parts of the world face even greater costs for their evangelism).
Tice knows that as human beings, our natural tendency is to avoid pain. But to deal with the hostility toward the gospel by simply not sharing is a grave mistake. Not only would we be disobedient, but we would also miss out on seeing those desperately hungering for truth finding their souls satisfied in the only source of true delight.
More than the joy that is found in seeing people come to a saving faith, Tice challenges us readers to be motivated by the glory of Christ and the reality of hell. Most true believers would express a desire to see God glorified and His name hallowed. And yet we are often stoic and unfazed at seeing people around us unaware of—or worse yet—blaspheming, the name of Jesus. Just as Paul was greatly distressed at seeing all of the idolatry happening in Athens (Acts 17:16), Tice states, “This [evangelism] needs to be personal. This needs to be emotional. When we see Jesus’ name dishonored, we need to pray against apathy.” He takes it a step further and quotes the theologian John Stott who argues that we don’t evangelize “because we do not so love his name that we cannot bear to see him unacknowledged and unadorned.”
With an increasing understanding of the glory of the Lord, a proper view of our fellow man is also important. God created mankind in His image, and He created them with eternal souls. To neglect to evangelize indicates that we do not have a proper understanding of the torment that awaits unrepentant sinners in Hell, or it indicates that we love our own comfort more than we care about the eternal fate of our fellow man. After some introspection, I definitely found this to be true of myself. Tice compassionately encourages his readers to discern what is going on in their hearts when they don’t desire to evangelize. When we recognize a low view of the glory of God or some form of idolatry, we should repent and pray for changed hearts.
In the latter half of the book, Tice gives some practical tips on how to evangelize. He reminds us of the all-powerful God we serve and how He has sovereignly appointed where and when people live. He doesn’t do this haphazardly, but rather has purposefully done this that people might seek Him (Acts 17:26-27). Not only is God sovereign, but He is gracious. God has set His love on us not because of anything we have done, but in spite of what we’ve done. When we reflect on the character of God, He assures us that He does the work of salvation; we merely have to be obedient in sharing the gospel. More than that, even if we are rejected by friends, neighbors, and family, we don’t need to fear because we are loved by the holy God.
Perhaps one of Tice’s most helpful observations is that there’s room for different styles of evangelism. He points out how Paul reasoned with the pagans in Athens (Acts 17:22-23), Peter boldly confronted the Pharisees (Acts 2:22-36), the blind man simply shared his testimony (John 9), and the woman at the well beckoned her friends and neighbors to come and see the Messiah (John 4). While the content of our message must remain the only true gospel, God has given each of us unique personalities that are perfectly suited for the unsaved souls that He has divinely placed all around us.
At just over 100 pages long, Honest Evangelism is not a long book. However, I found the book to be convicting and full of practical wisdom. I am glad that Tice spent the first section of the book really focused on our motivation (or lack of motivation) when it comes to evangelism, because unless we actually go and make disciples, all of the tips around on how to effectively share the message are moot. I appreciate that he does not sugarcoat the fact that evangelism is hard and costly; as believers we do need to realize that this is a message that Christ Himself consistently spoke of. But even knowing the pain that can and will come from sharing the gospel, as we reflect on the glory of God, the worth of the eternal human soul, and the grace and love God has bestowed on us, how can we stay silent? Brothers and sisters, I ask for prayer as the apostle Paul did, that I would boldly proclaim the mysteries of the gospel as I ought to (Eph 6:19-20).