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It happened twenty years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. Away on a business trip, I went out to dinner with a few coworkers. Table talk mostly revolved around company business, especially the convention we were working, until Melissa* suddenly dropped the question, "Do you guys ever just feel empty inside?" Awkward silence.
Honestly, I don't remember how the conversation went after that, probably because I was sitting there thinking, "I should say something. I don't know what to say. I have answers, but I don't know how to do this in this context."
I'd completed evangelism classes (LES, CWT), learned the Roman Road, and grew up on The Four Spiritual Laws and Chick Tracts. So why did I feel so inadequate, maybe even unwilling, to walk through this wide-open door?
Rico Tice answered that for me in Honest Evangelism: How to talk about Jesus even when it's tough:
I know there's a painline that needs to be crossed if I tell someone the gospel; but I want to stay the comfortable side of the painline. Of course I do! I think that's the main reason we don't do evangelism.That's it: I wasn't willing to cross that painline. I've since repented of my selfishness and have prayed that the Lord would help Melissa see not only the reason for her emptiness but His amazingly merciful remedy. But I still have a painline. I appreciate this book's help in not only identifying that for me, but also in motivating me to risk the pain.
Tice packs good content into this short, reader-friendly book. The first half (chapters 1-4) tells us why we don't evangelize... and why we should. Reassuringly, Tice clarifies responsibilities, reminding of a truth I know but sometimes live like I've forgotten:
We talk about Christ. God opens blind eyes... You communicate the message--and then you pray that he would do the miracle.What a comfort it is to know God is sovereign in all.
The second half of the book tells us how we can evangelize... but without giving a script. In Chapter 4, Tice empathizes with my feeling that some people seem to have more of a bent toward upfront, straightforward evangelism toward everyone they meet. And then there's me. But he also reminds me that God put people in my path, my life, my circles and family, people who need the gospel:
It's no accident that you know the people you do. It's no accident that they're in your path. They need the gospel. You know the gospel. God wants them to hear the gospel. And that transforms how I look at my life. It makes it really exciting. If I'm sitting on a train and there's someone opposite me, God has put them there. He's not far from them, because I know him and I'm sitting opposite them. Now that transforms whether I'll bother to try to start a conversation with them. It'll transform what I am to talk about with them. And it'll transform how I pray for my day ahead; I'll be praying for energy and love to make the most of every divine appointment that god has already written into my schedule.Chapter 5 provides some practical discussion about what to say in a gospel conversation, any gospel conversation. No script, just some practical and simple markers to help you point the discussion down the right road. Chapter 6 gives us permission to be ourselves as we pursue these gospel opportunities. Tice gives examples of gospel-sharers from Scripture, all very different in personality and approach, but all eager participants in God's work of evangelism.
Chapters 7 and 8 discuss the recent changes in spiritual climate and encourage us toward two responses, both key to any believer who has been moved to cross the painline. And I found two quotes included in the closing chapter to be especially poignant and pointed:
The whole life of man until he is converted to Christ is a ruinous labyrinth of wanderings, harassed and helpless. (John Calvin)
Let me never fancy that I have zeal until my heart overflows with love to every human being. (Henry Martin)What a great summation of our call to evangelize. Honest Evangelism can help you identify what's behind your painline, as well as how to cross it... and why you should.
Lord, help me clearly see the plight of those lost ones you've brought near me, and help me love them enough to share your good news.
*not her real name
Cross Focused Reviews provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review; however, the views stated here are my own. This review has also been posted on Amazon.com and Goodreads. This post contains affiliate links.