“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
What could happen if the whole church community came together to take responsibility for reaching out to and teaching new believers? What is possible if brothers and sisters in Christ come together to do the evangelism work of the church? Few in our day have done more to work out this biblical teaching than Rico Tice, minister of evangelism at All Souls, Langham Place in London.
During the recent Basics Conference at Parkside Church outside Cleveland, I sat down with Tice, the author and presenter of Christianity Explored, a seven-week study through Mark’s Gospel that is currently being used in 60 countries worldwide. Be sure to check out the newly revised version of Christianity Explored, which released this month with a DVD, leader’s guide, and study guides. He discussed how pastors can set the pace for evangelism in their churches, why love is time in outreach, and the consequences of not saying enough.
What is the role of the pastor in the evangelism of the church?
The speed of the leader is the speed of the team. The pastor must be a model of evangelism in his own life. If everyone in the congregation shared his or her faith as often as you do, how many people would hear the gospel? Modeling is crucial.
Personally, the key for every Christian is the morning quiet time. Are you specifically praying for anyone? If you are not praying for them, you will not follow up with them. If you are praying for them in the morning, you will text or call them in the afternoon for the purpose of the gospel. So ask yourself about your prayers.
Publicly, as Tim Keller has encouraged us, preach as if there are non-Christians present, and there will be. Are we expecting non-Christians to come, because of relationships that we and our members are building? If we are not expecting them to come, and we are not preaching as if they are listening, then we shouldn’t be surprised if they don’t. Here again the pastor is setting a model for the people.
What are some ways that the church can do the work of evangelism collectively that individual Christians cannot do alone?
We have learned through Alpha courses and Christianity Explored and other collective approaches that something powerful happens in evangelism when you invite people to a group. Many people do not embrace the gospel because of social pressures, either from family or peers. So when we take a collective approach, we invite people not only to a new truth, but also to a new family. Here the real cost is time. Love is time.
The old models of knocking on a door or leaving the sawdust trail became popular, in part, because they didn’t require much time. For Americans in particular, as far as I can observe, this is the biggest struggle. But if you are going to show people that you care about relationships, not just responses, and that you are there to listen, not lecture—all of that requires time.
We saw this very powerfully recently. Two girls attending a CE course in London were both living in unhealthy situations. As they began to understand the gospel and see it implications, they realized that they would have to leave the unhealthy situations they were in. Because of the relationship formed between them in the group, they found a new place together.
How can a pastor maintain the priority of personal evangelism without allowing church work to become an excuse for isolation?
We can’t get lost in church work and lose sight of the work of the church—which is to reach the lost.
When I was converted to Christ at the age of 15, one of the first things I realized was that the school chaplain at my boarding school was not converted. He never talked about repentance; he simply told us we shouldn’t feel guilty. He never spoke about a day of judgment, but he told us that God won’t turn anyone away—and so it was my math teacher, not the chaplain, who was instrumental in my conversion.
So from the beginning of my Christian life, I’ve seen the devastating consequences false teaching has on evangelism. And even now as an Anglican pastor, I find this to be a continuing battle. The false teaching is rarely what people say; it’s in what they won’t say. They won’t call people to repentance, they won’t talk about the reality of judgment, they won’t talk about the necessity of regeneration, and they won’t talk about the real costs of following Jesus.
You’ve got to fight against misplaced priorities that keep you in “busy work” and false teaching that undermines the stakes.
What trends or tips would you recommend for evangelism today?
Much of what I would say can be seen in how Christianity Explored is structured and used throughout the world. First, there is an emphasis on relationships, not just responses. So one of the first questions you have to ask is, Where would people come? Some groups meet in homes, some in coffee shops, some in churches. But the question is about the people you are trying to reach. Where would they come?
Then, you have to ask, What time are they free? Are you reaching business people who could give time during their lunch break? Are you reaching university students who are free later in the evening? Are you reaching elderly people who could get together in the morning?
Once you’ve got the who, when, and where of the group, we train our leaders to have specific elements in every meeting. First, the Christian leaders of the group are to meet in prayer. How do we think we can do effective evangelism without dependence upon the Holy Spirit through prayer? Second, we encourage a meal time. If people simply come in and watch a video or hear a presentation, how will you learn about their lives and struggles? Then, we have a group discussion and one-to-one interaction time.
You don’t need Christianity Explored to incorporate these principles in your evangelism, but these are things we’ve seen first in London and now throughout the world as the material is being used. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, we let the Gospel tell the gospel. We take people to the Gospel of Mark to explore their questions about Jesus. People are asked to accept or reject what the Scriptures say, not what the group leader or some organized church says. This then sets a pattern for the rest of their Christian life—when faced with a question about divorce or finances, for example—they’ve been trained to search the Scriptures themselves.