Rico Tice delivered a message in a breakout session at The Gospel Coalition’s 2019 National Conference titled “Honest Evangelism: How to Talk About Jesus Even When It’s Tough.” The workshop explored the issues that make talking about Jesus difficult—for example, doing the hard work of pursuing the lost and overcoming the fact that Christians are simply weird in the eyes of those around us.
Tice recognizes four common responses by Christians to the tough spiritual terrain of Britain, which is similar to other Western settings. And he encourages the church to develop soft hearts and tough skin around the simple idea that people without Christ spend eternity separated from God in a real hell.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Rico Tice: Thank you very much. Welcome. Let me pray as we begin. Let’s pray. Our Father God, we thank you for the gospel. We thank you very much for the Lord Jesus. We pray for His honor. We’re amazed, Father, that despite the depravity in our hearts, what we long for most is his glory because of the miracle that you’ve done. So we do pray that we’d learn something now that we can not only find feeds our souls, but is to the great good of our churches and to the lost. We pray that you’d be able to cleanse us from sin afresh and that we’d be able to hear. May we not be torpedoed. Lord, we do ask again for the glory of Jesus. May your son be honored as we think together now. Amen.
Rico Tice: Great. The title is Honest Evangelism: How to Talk About Jesus Even When It’s Tough. That comes from a little book that I’ve done here, Honest Evangelism. It’s gone very well. I’ve sold 11 copies, so it’s been outstanding. My wife says that the word honest and Rico Tice should not be on the same page.
In fact, it was quite funny. Five years ago, I had a sabbatical and I was meant to be writing this book, and it was the football or soccer World Cup, so that destroyed my sabbatical. I watched that, and then we had to get together to write it, my wife and I. She’s got an English major. I’ve got dyslexia and got a third in university, which is why I got ordained at the Anglican Church. There weren’t any other career options available.
We were sitting there for a week while her parents babysat the children and doing this book. After five days of writing it together as she was putting it together, I said, “Darling, isn’t this lovely? Here we are, working together for the gospel.” She looked at me and she said, “I hate you and I hate this book.” Do get it. It’s great. Honest Evangelism.
What’s the toughest thing about talking about Jesus? I’m finding as I’ve prepared this seminar and thought about it, interestingly it’s not the persecution. Brothers and sisters, what I find hardest is going after lost people. That’s the hardest thing. It’s just the unrelenting labor.
I knew that the first passage in this book would be Luke 15:1-9. That’s the first one I quote, which is going after the lost coin, and the lost sheep, and a search is launched, and there’s no thought of failure because of the preciousness of what we have to go after. I find it absolutely exhausting going after lost people.
With a church family that gets more and more busy, helping them do that, because in London, love is a four letter word, T-I-M-E. Love is time. We’ve got to pursue people.
Now, why is that the case particularly? Let me just give you a context as we look at evangelism in a tough environment. This is what’s happening in London. This is here, 1954, ’55, Billy Graham comes to England. Here’s man. Here’s our sin. Here’s God. Wonderfully, he preaches the cross for two months at Harringay. 40,000 people get converted. How many of them were already in church of the 40,000 that come to faith at Harringay? How many were already in church? 90% are already church goers. We’re a culture where the Christian faith is there, but he says repent and believe.
Where are we? I don’t know how this works where you are, but I arrive at All Souls 1994. The culture’s like this. People are over here, and there are blocks in the way to coming to faith that makes it a much longer process, humanly speaking. God can open anyone’s blind eyes.
Number one, Christians are weird. If you look at the media, if there’s a Christian in Britain depicted on the media, he’s always depicted as weird. Of course, sometimes you meet a Christian and you go, “Oh, my dear brother, you are weird,” aren’t they? I mean, they are. The BBC, who are next door to us, will hold of our weird people and put them on, because that’s the story they’re telling.
Secondly, the next in the narrative is the Christian faith’s irrelevant. It’s just not relevant to real life. I mean real life is the ground floor. This is on the first floor. It’s just a personal choice, a hobby. It’s not real.
A friend of mine, actually an American friend, was going around Salisbury Cathedral. The guides was there, and he said, “This is amazing to see the Christian past of Britain. What’s happening now?” The guide said, “It’s an irrelevance today.” Shoot him. Can you believe it? That’s what he said, just irrelevant.
Thirdly, it’s untrue. The gospel’s just not true. That’s part of the narrative. It’s not real. They’re like stories being told again and again.
I was speaking. On Thursday nights, we go down to Oxford Circus by All Souls. I put my dog collar on. We put up a sketch board and we’ll do a two minute presentation, put people in a crowd, hopefully get a crowd. One time, I got a massive crowd. I thought, “Lord, this is amazing. What a crowd.” They were all there absolutely gripped. I look behind me. A drunk had lit my sketch board. It was in flames behind me.
But there was one time I was speaking, there was a German girl there, and this German girl, she’s laughing. I stopped halfway through with my paintbrush. I said, “Why are you laughing?” She said, “THere’s nothing there. There’s nothing there.”
Then the huge issue that we’re facing, Christians are homophobic. Another huge narrative in the culture, which is where people like Sam Allberry have been so amazing with livingout.org just saying, “Actually, we want to live a celibate life as we follow Jesus if we’re same sex attracted. We’re determined to be celibate and live for him.”
But all these things are there. Now, you’ve got to knock these defeater beliefs over, and it takes a lot longer to get to where people were in 1954 to see their sin and to come to God. That was often 18 months, two years.
But where are we now in 2019? Well, here people are down and they’re no longer heading towards faith. They’re on the road to destruction. John Stott defined the road to destruction as defined by two things: tolerance and permissiveness. Tolerance, I can think as I please. Permissiveness, I can do as I please. That’s where the culture’s at.
What’s absolutely exhausting today and what have we got to do now? What’s the issue now? What’s the silver bullet for us for the next 25 years in London? Without question, when it comes to evangelism, this is the key issue we’ve got. It’s mobilizing individuals who can link their friends and get them onto that road. It is the individual.
The reason it’s exhausting is it used to be when people came along to a guest event at All Souls or a power service, they’d come along and hear a preacher. They’d come along, they’d give their friend to the preacher, they’d hear the gospel, because they’ve got some Christian background. When you then stop and say that there’s a Christianity Explored course, it’s seven weeks in Mark’s gospel, they would go, “Great.” They’d drop themselves in. They’d been meaning to do it for 20 years.
But now, this is what’s so tough. We have to train the church family that the moment a speaker finishes, so he’s spoken for 15, 20 minutes about the gospel of Christmas, you have to then take your friend back and say to them, “Would you like to look at the Bible with me? What did you make of that?” They’re not dropping themselves onto Christianity Explored courses. They have to be followed up individually. There’s an awful lot of individual Mark’s gospel one to one stuff that has to happen. That is far more exhausting as you’re going after lost people in a culture that’s more and more in disarray where they need the individual stuff.
But having said that, just to say, one level, we’re not all discouraged, but one level things are quite encouraging. What’s encouraging? Well, here’s a survey, and I think there’s another one that’s coming out that’s been done in the States. This is a survey in Britain that’s been done talking Jesus. In this survey, it was done by Barna, done for the Church of England Evangelical Alliance, Hope UK.
In this survey, the country was surveyed by Barna and they asked people, “How many of you have got a Christian friend that you like?” Now, the media would tell us that we think, oh, it’s 15, 20%, we’re in a minority. Answer in Britain, 67% of people have got a Christian friend they like.
Why do you like them? “I like them because they’re selfless.” When you’re training your people, I’m sure it’s the same here. In fact, the survey I heard is going to be published to the same. The first thing I’ve got to do is encourage them saying keep sacrificing yourself, keep loving them, keep reaching out.
Of that 67% who’ve got a Christian friend they like, which was way more than we thought … We didn’t believe that. I gave 750 pounds of my own money, now I’ll use my reward in heaven, to get this done, because I didn’t believe it. Because I knew how important that was as a stat. 67% have got a Christian friend they like. Of that 67%, what percentage of them want to know more about Jesus? Answer, 20%, which is 7.5 million people.
As I’m thinking of the gospel in England, I’m going, “Okay, there are 7.5 million people who if asked would like to have someone open the Bible with them.” But here’s the issue, and this is what’s tough. You’re going to get 80% rejection from people who like you, but they’re going to go, “No.”
What my church family are longing for is that they want people to come up to them and say, “Would you look at the Bible with me and could you show me Jesus?” But that’s not how it works. You have to … Not here’s a big line, and everyone, can you jot this line down now? Because this is a line we’ve got do. You’ve got to cross the pain line and ask them.
In London, the big thing is, “Do you celebrate Christmas?” That’s the first word evangelistically. But another one is, “Would you like to look at the Bible with me?” Now, in order to cross that pain line, this is another key to speaking about Jesus, and here’s the word we’ve got to do. Brothers and sisters, you’ve got to have your identity in the grace of God. Evangelism is about identity, so jot this down. Here’s the issue. Whether you accept or reject me doesn’t make me more valuable. What makes me valuable is Christ died for me.
I remember Tim Keller using an illustration when you said do you remember those old Coke machines, you’d put 50 cents in and have to bang it and bang it on a station, and eventually it would come out? He said it’s like that. That goes in here, the grace of God, but is it going to come down and come out?
The 7.5 million people are there. They’re lost sheep, but actually they’re hungry. We’ve got to go after them.
Just to say, another issue on the issue of homophobia, and this is huge, of that 67% who’ve got a Christian friend they like, what percentage of them think that Christian friend that they like is homophobic? Again, if you look at the church, because we’ve been brainwashed by the media, people would say, well, 50%, 70%. Brothers and sisters, 6% of that 67% think the Christian friend they like is homophobic.
We’ve repented of that. It doesn’t mean we’re not orthodox. There are four same sex attracted couples on my street. We keep the keys for two of them. We’re friends. They call me the 18th century preacher. That’s what they all call me. We’re mates because we’re loving and serving. But that’s just a huge issue there in terms of that. Let’s not be knocked over by the constant narrative from the media that we are homophobic when that has been repented of.
Okay. As we look forward and as we go forward, how are we looking to progress in terms of what’s happening? Well, one of the problems that we’ve got, whether our identity’s in the gospel or not is that the church in Britain, and again I can’t speak of what’s happening over here, but the church in Britain is losing its nerve because it’s listening to this narrative of the culture drying up and walking away from scripture.
What’s happening? At the moment in Britain, you might want to jot these down, there are four responses to our times. I don’t know if you can relate to them, but how are we responding to tougher times to a more secular environment?
One section of the church and of church leaders, their motto is we’ve got to recover where we were. They look back. They look back and they said, “We’ve just got to recover where we were before.” They ring their hands and perhaps they’ll make wrong alliances as they’re looking for that.
But All Souls, my church, central London, we used to be on the front of the Radio Times that had a circulation of 11 million. We were orthodox and loved. The question we’ve got to ask now is, are we going to be orthodox and hated? But one lot, they want to recover it, and all they can do is look back and grieve what’s happening at the moment.
The second issue we’ve got obviously is retreat. There’s a great temptation in the evangelical church in Britain to retreat from the culture because it’ll corrupt and contaminate particularly my children. The line is back to the monastery. The confidence is gone, so those churches might do some social action for which they’re applauded, but they’re not doing evangelism.
What’s interesting here is in many of their narratives, now this is key, they separate holiness from evangelism. They don’t see that right at the center of being godly, of being like God, is going after lost people. You might want to jot this down. This is their narrative. My faith is a personal, private thing. It helps me in my life. I wouldn’t dream of imposing it on other people. With that, they’re retreating from the culture. They’re not prepared to say the tough things. The confidence is gone.
What we’ve got to see is that at the heart of being like God is that we go after lost people. “For God so loved the world, he sent his son.” But that’s been lost. In many of our fine churches, people have an understanding of holiness and attending many meetings and perhaps doing training, but it’s separate from doing evangelism and, here’s the issue, crossing the pain line. Because when you’re looking to say, “Do you want to look at the Bible with me? Can I invite you for Christmas?” When you’re looking to get to that, there is a pain line that we cross.
Number one, there’s recover. Thirdly, there’s retreat. Or secondly, there’s retreat. The third R is obviously reconcile with the culture. That sadly is what Archbishop Welby is doing. I’m an Anglican. He’s trying to reconcile with the culture. His motto is all the churches must flourish, and therefore he’s trying to help profound false teaching flourish. But the word here of course is that we will accommodate the Word of God to the culture in order to fit in with it. We’ll rub away the sharp edges.
What defines whether I’m faithful to the gospel in Britain? Two words, wrath, wrath, wrath, wrath, wrath, wrath and repentance. Two Rs, do jot them down, wrath and repentance. Number one, God’s wrath, God’s settled, controlled personal hostility to evil. Is that being preached? The biggest problem with my sin is that it makes God angry. That’s the issue, and that his anger has to be assuaged. That will either happen at the cross or I’ll pay for my sin myself in a place called hell, which is eternal torment. There is only one way to get to hell. You have to trample over the cross of Jesus.
Here’s the thing on God’s wrath. It’s a good thing, brothers and sisters, because it means how I treat you matters to God, and how you treat me matters to God, and how we treat the world matters to God. Wrath is great. We have to say, “Now, I don’t apologize for the judgment of God. There’s going to be justice done.”
My twin sister worked in South Africa. That’s why I’m so sensitive to women. I was in the womb with a girl. My twin sister worked in South Africa for 14 years, and a couple came to her and said, “Our daughter was raped and murdered. The boy that did it was out of prison after 18 months. We thought our little girl was worth more than that.” Now, doesn’t something rise up in you, that should not be the case? God’s wrath is that in his world, he won’t sweep evil under the carpet.
Secondly, repentance. What is repentance? It means that I’m for what Jesus is for and I’m against what Jesus is against. That’s repentance. Whatever he’s for, I’m against. I trust him. He died for me. Whatever he’s against, I’m against.
Are we doing those things? Time and again, they’re trying to reinterpret the faith, particularly over human sexuality. Where is Justin Welby speaking. He gave an interview reported in Evangelical News. Justin Welby was asked by a non-Christian reporter, is gay sex sinful? He replied, “You know very well that’s a question I can’t give a straight answer to.” Brother, yes, you can.
The interview transcript them states, “Pause, mildly embarrassed. Pressed on why he couldn’t give an answer, he said, ‘Because I don’t do blanket condemnation. I haven’t got a good answer to the question. I’ll be really honest about that.'”
Of course, what happens is if the leaders aren’t clear, then it puts cowardice into everyone. Where you are … Now, here’s the key, two things. One, as I’m responding on that issue, I’ve got to get my tone right. I mean Keller’s tone is great. You’ve got to have the right tone as you speak on that issue. If they can see in our tone there’s an anger and a vitriol, we’ve got to have a loving tone. Secondly, I’ve got to believe in the Holy Spirit.
As I speak on that, I do that, but I just speak very simply. I just say, “Look, I don’t know whether you’ve come across livingout.org. These are same sex attracted Christian men and women who are saying, ‘Because of the Lord Jesus Christ, I am determined to be celibate.’ Will you allow them to have a safe place in the culture where they can live and flourish?”
But what we’ve got to do is push back and ask the questions on that. But they’re too afraid to do that, the culture. They’re reinterpreting. They’re afraid the church will become irrelevant. Here’s the issue. If I don’t hold faithfully … Brothers and sisters, this is huge. If I don’t hold faithfully, it’s very simple, the Holy Spirit departs the ministry. That’s what’s at stake.
You see, what’s at the heart of our evangelism? 2 Corinthians 4:5, we preach Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6, as we do that, God opens blind eyes. 2 Corinthians 4:6, do you remember? The God who made the world, he shines his light out of darkness into our hearts to live us the light and the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. As I preach Christ, God sends his power, he does a miracle, he opens blind eyes, and he gets people to see that Jesus is God. The moment of conversion is a moment of recognition. It’s a moment of identification.
But with evangelism, unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain. I’ve got to be faithful. I must’ve, 2 Corinthians 4:2, distort the Word of God. Because if I do that, the Spirit departs. Revelation, I’ll remove my lamp stand. Those of you who are thinking of not being faithful on that issue, please understand the Spirit departs.
I spoke in an Episcopal church on Sunday evening. It has been sold to the Presbyterians and shut down because … It was back in Pennsylvania. Why has that happened? Fundamentally, let me tell you why. Because the Spirit leaves if we’re not faithful, because he’s the Holy Spirit. That’s what’s at stake here. If I don’t keep telling the truth, the Spirit departs, and if he’s not there, we can’t have the miracle of conversion, which requires the power that made the world.
For your notes, what’s our methodology in evangelism? 2 Corinthians 4:5, we preach Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6, God opens blind eyes. The mountain is that God opens blind eyes. I can’t expect him to do that if I’m distorting the Word of God.
Fourth, what then are we to do is we’re to remain faithful? What’s the fourth R? What’s the R that we miss? It’s not recover. It’s not retreat. It’s not reconcile to the culture. Here’s the key word, resilience. If I’m going to keep preaching Christ and living for him, resilience is the key. I mean there are lots of definitions of it. The ability to anticipate, withstand, and bounce back from external pressures. Resilience. The power of ability to return to the original form. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.
But what’s happened in Britain is that we have moved from Athens, where what we had to do was articulate and defend our faith, to Babylon, where you just need guts. You’ve just got to hold the line. Again, keep your tone gracious. Trust in the Holy Spirit to do his work.
Now, in the light of that, what does that mean, resilience? What am I praying for as an evangelist? Here is what I’m praying for. Do jot this down. Please take this back to your churches. I think this is the heart of what we’re saying. The heart of what we’re saying, what we have to cultivate for evangelism today is this. We’ve got cultivate soft hearts and tough skins.
I need a soft heart. Why do I need a soft heart? Because I represent a God who is reaching for people, and the gospel’s amazing. Lindsay Brown says, “The two things that keep me amazed by the gospel are I’ve got to know it’s true and I’ve got to know it’s wonderful.” But it is wonderful. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were his enemies, he came and sought us. It’s amazing, the gospel. When I think of my depravity, and yet he gives me this gift of righteousness. I need a soft heart.
Secondly, a tough skin, because I’ve got to keep proclaiming Christ. Why? Because of the Great Commission. “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I’ve commanded you. And surely I’m with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I do not have permission to not communicating the Christian faith. I’ve got to do that, particularly because I’d like to give you, this is a mission statement. This is from Bishop Frank Retief. Could I ask you to take this back to your churches as a mission statement? How does this go? This is my personal mission statement. It’s how I organize my life. I think it happens because I come from a non-Christian home. If you come from a non-Christian home, you bury people who you love most and they die without Christ. People who come from Christian homes, it’s an amazing privilege, but you don’t get it sometimes. You don’t get the agony of it.
I remember my brother bursting into tears at my grandmother’s funeral. We’re the only two Christians in the family. She died saying, “I’m a good person. God will accept me because I’m good.” She’s in God’s hands, but I have little hope I’ll see her again. My brother burst into tears.
What’s the mission statement that I think we need in our churches to keep us going on it? There’s the mission statement. People without Christ go to hell. We organize our lives and our churches around that. We keep that priority. People without Christ go to hell. Bishop Frank Retief in South Africa in Cape Town, he makes his clergy organize their diaries around that, around lost people.
I’ve got to have a sort heart and a thick skin, and the thick skin of course too is also for conflict within the church, because when I say to people, people without Christ go to hell, and I’m trying to mobilize my church family, they find that pretty outrageous, because they want their faith to be a personal, private thing that helps them in their life. Don’t want it to be more than that. I’m saying to them, here’s a line, where will they be in 100 years time, your neighbors? Are we not functional universalists? Now again, we’ve got to do it with a smile. We’ve got to be for them, but we’ve got to be asking these questions to keep the evangelism value high.
Okay. How am I self managing myself then if I’m to be doing this? I just have a little outline here that I just use that’s just a little outline to keep myself going in a culture that’s getting tougher to keep myself going after lost people. What have we got here? Just four dots really. Up here, top right is my thinking. Here are my feelings. Feelings! Do you know what? The English don’t really have them, but I thought I’d mention them. Thirdly, choices. I’m just pretending. I don’t really have them. And physical health. Then, this is my environment here. This is what comes into it. You can get hit hard on them.
I did a mission recently at a boarding school in England, and because of what I’ve said on the internet about the Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, became patron of Gay Pride Liverpool and I resigned from the Archbishop’s Task Force on Evangelism in protest of that, having been to see him and ask him to repent and not do that. He led the Gay Pride March. I resigned. I was interviewed about that at GAFCON, which is the New Anglican worldwide church that has been formed that orthodox, led in this country by Foley Beach.
Because of that statement, when I went to do a mission at a school a couple of months ago, there were gay pride posters all over the school. There were protests by the pupils. Do you know, when you’re 11, you walk around and you think, “Everyone’s thinking about me,” but it’s not true. I was 52 and I thought, “No, they really are all thinking about me.”
Then last week, I waws going to speak at Parliament at Christmas at their Easter service, and again the invitation was withdrawn because of what I’ve said online. I’m trying to self manage in all of this. How do I do that?
Well, first of all, in my thinking as I’m trying to lead myself as the conflict gets bigger. In my thinking, what I’ve got to do is make sure that the gospel is wonderful. I ask myself these four questions. Could you jot them down? Question one in my identity, question one, I ask myself, when was I converted? First thing in the morning, I’m getting my heart up. I’m getting my thinking right. When was I converted? The answer is of course Ephesians 1:3-4, before the beginning of time. I was converted before … Do you think that makes you valuable? Every morning, I say to myself, “Rico, you fat ape, when were you converted?” I was converted before the beginning of time.
Do you know, it makes me blub this, honestly. I find it amazing, but it is Ephesians, isn’t it? Ephesians 1:3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who’s blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ, for he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us for adoption to sonship.” It’s amazing, isn’t it?
Before Isaiah, before the beginning of time, he wrote my name on his hands. I was full against him, absolutely self obsessed, and he sent his Holy Spirit, turned me around, bought him to himself, filled me with his Spirit, has given me worthwhile things to do, and one day I’ll stand before God and he’ll say, “Rico, it’s good to see you. You’ve been on my mind a very long time.” When I was converted? Before … Do you know, that never fails to lift me.
Second question to ask, how does God feel about me? Answer, he’s delighted with me. Why is he delighted with me? Oh, brothers and sisters, because he’s delighted with Jesus, and I now relate to God through Christ’s performance, not my own.
Martin Luther, you know the story. He went into the monastery and he said, “I hated God, because he demanded a righteousness from me, and all I saw was wickedness.” Then he had his tower experience with Romans 1:16-17, and he suddenly realized now a righteousness from God is revealed. He said, “I saw that the essence of the Christian faith was not a righteousness we give to God. It’s one we receive from him.”
Here we go. This is something that I constantly have. I don’t know if you can see this. This is a diary, and it’s everything that I’ve ever done wrong. I wonder if you can see, every page is blank, because Christ just die for my sin. He also gives me his life of righteousness.
Gresham Machen on his deathbed, do you remember what he said? “I thank God for the obedience of Jesus.” Therefore, in my life, as I’m rejected, please jot this down, I don’t live for approval, but from it. I don’t live for approval, but from it.
Number three, why is today a better day than yesterday? Today’s a better day than yesterday because I’m a day’s march closer to heaven, to seeing Jesus face to face. For the non-Christian, it’s a worse day, brothers and sisters, because they’re a day’s march closer to hell. That’s reality. But I’m a day’s march closer to seeing him face to face. Won’t that be a joy?
Then the next one, why is today a great day? Why is today a great day? Romans 8:28-29. Why is it a great day? Today’s a great day because God has planned today for my good, and if it’s good for God, it’s good for me.
What is my good? It’s working all together things for my good, Romans 8:29, that he’s going to conform me to the likeness of Christ. Whatever happens to me today, God has planned it to make me more like Christ.
My father just died of dementia about 18 months ago, but he had violent dementia, so at one point he had a police escort from an old people’s home. It was brutal. I could just feel the Lord transforming me as I cared for my dad in his dementia and his lostness. But in all things, he’s working together for my good.
There are only two things in the Christian life. Number one, I’m going to heaven, where I’ll see Jesus face to face and be in the new creation. On the way, I’ve got to be godly. Whatever situation I’m in, whatever hits my circumstances, Parliament saying, “You’re not coming to speak,” or whatever it is, kids at a school putting up LGBT posters all over it, whatever it is, it’s for my godliness. What does it mean to be godly now? Lord Jesus, please show me. Help me.
Those are the four questions I ask myself each day as I’m going out. The model here is Charles Simeon. John Piper’s book on Simeon is great, the little volume he’s written, The Roots of Endurance. Now, Simeon was a single pastor in Cambridge about 150 years ago.
Just to say just how much endurance he needed, the pews in his church were shut in the morning for the first 12 years because the pew holders were so offended by the gospel. They rented the pews, they kept them, but they wouldn’t sit there, wouldn’t let anyone else. If you visited, you had to sit in the aisle. In the afternoon, the pews were opened, but they paid another man to go and preach in his church. 12 years of that.
At one point, one of the dons from Cambridge, from his college, walked around the quad with him and Simeon said, “I couldn’t believe he associated with me.” So hated was he. At another point, a mob were there to stone him, probably to death, and he fortunately left by the back door. He was constantly ill. He had a collapse health wise after 25 years, but he stayed.
His brother left him a vast amount of money. He gave it all away. By his death, 12% of the clergy of England, 12% had come through his hands. Amazing.
How did he endure? Here’s the phrase. He said, “I grow downwards.” In other words, in his morning quiet time … Now, this is how we cope under pressure. He went down into his sin. He went down, down into his depravity and he saw his sin, and then he saw the goodness of grace in God, and then he was overwhelmed with joy. You see the joy of the Lord is my strength. If I lose my joy, I lose my strength.
Then he’d come out the next day, having been smashed all day the previous day, he’d come out and he would be full of bonhomie and love for people around him. The young men saw it and they were converted in droves.
I’ve got a mate of mine who’s a missionary in Japan, and he asked one man, he said, “Why are the young men not becoming clergy? Why aren’t they becoming pastors?” The guy replied, “Look at the old men. They’re miserable. The old pastors are miserable.” Our weapon is our joy.
This is where John Piper’s been so good. You read the life of Wilberforce, again overwhelming joy amidst unrelenting opposition. But that happens because, brothers and sisters, we plunge down into our own depravity each morning, we see the goodness of God, we’re reminded of the gift of righteousness, we’re filled with joy by the Spirit. The biggest problem you’ve got is if you forget how sinful you are. That’s how you start to fail, if you harden your heart to that.
This is Alf Stanway. He’s preaching in this country, an Australian bishop, to some young ordinands in Pittsburgh in 1950, but he said this. “If other people knew you like God knows you, all your faults, all your vain thoughts, all your sins, all the things in your heart, all the wrong thoughts you ever had, would you trust you with the kind of work God trusts you with? Here is the supreme confidence that God has in his own grace. He’ll take the like of you and me and give us the privilege of being his saints.” It’s amazing he trusts us with gospel work when I think of the depravity.
If you could see how my heart worked, you would not bother listening. And if I could see how your heart worked, I wouldn’t bother speaking.
You remember Jack Miller? If the pastor is not the chief repenter, sin becomes a theoretical issue for theoretical sinners, should there be any present that Sunday morning. I can’t because the kindness of God to allow me to have a ministry when I think of my depravity and self-centeredness.
Simeon wrote this in his memoirs. “With this sweet hope of ultimate acceptance with God, I’ve always enjoyed much cheerfulness before man. But I have at the same time labored incessantly to cultivate the deepest humiliation before God. I’ve never thought that the circumstances of God’s having forgiven me was any reason why I should forgive myself. On the contrary, I’ve always judged it better to loathe myself the more in proportion as I was assumed that God was pacified towards me. There are but two objects that I’ve ever desired for these 40 years to behold. The one is my own vileness, and the other is the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Piper writes, “Beneath the form of his endurance was a life of prayer and meditation that drew resources for battle from some deeper place. But his prayer and meditation were essentially to tap the grace of God.” “One of the marks of our time,” Piper writes, “Is emotional fragility. We pout and mope easily. We blame easily. Our marriages break easily. How do you survive and thrive in a face of opposition and criticism? Answer, Simeon would say, go to the valley of humiliation.”
Here’s the cycle that will sustain me as I keep going. I see my sin. I see God’s grace. I’ve overwhelmed with joy. I go out to train and disciple. The disaster is if I just get up to train and disciple without doing this first. It’s absolutely disastrous.
In London, we find there are three questions we’ve got to ask all Christian workers. Number one, do you have a daily quiet time? Where do you go to rejoice afresh in the grace of God? Please pray for me that I’ll read my Bible. I find it a struggle. It never happens automatically. I’d covet your prayers I do that.
Not least because I’ve got a three year old called Mercy. She lives under the stairs. We don’t have enough room in our two bedroom flat. We’ve got three kids, so she’s under the stairs like Harriet Potter. She’s under the stairs. In the morning, she puts out her head. What is it, quarter past six, “Morning, Daddy. Daddy, daddy.” My wife, she never wakes my wife, because my wife is so good at playing dead, she could work for the CIA. She puts it out there. Do you know, she’s a bit like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. She puts her head out, “Morning, Daddy.”
Try to read your Bible before that. I mean, as I sit and say that, please pray I’ll be reading my Bible. We’ve got to read our Bibles.
It’s funny calling her Mercy of course. It means on the street, I go, “Mercy, where are you? Bring Mercy here.” It’s a ridiculous. Welcome if you’re called Mercy. Lovely to have you.
Simeon was invariable arose every morning, though it was the winter season, at 4:00. After lighting his fire, he devoted the first four hours of the day to private prayer and devotional study. You know, it’s amazing. Ive got to do that.
The next thing I’ve got to do on my feelings here is I’ve got to know the archeology of my own brokenness. As I look at the people in England who have capitulated, I think they’re not aware of their own bustedness and their idols. We’ve got to do our own idols.
For the first 10 years at All Souls when I was on staff with John Stott, it was great to be on staff with him. He was a great man. He got up at 10 to five each morning and slept for half an hour each afternoon. I myself adopted one of those two habits.
This issue of working with him, what I found was for the first 10 years at All Souls, I would lie to people, barefaced, about whether I’d done something, because I wanted to be seen as a fine Christian worker. Fine Christian workers are efficient. They’re godly. They get back to people. I wasn’t efficient. I was the first person at All Souls who was an assistant to be given a full time assistant. She’s called Grace, so I’m literally saved by Grace, but anyway.
You’d say to me, “Rico, have you done it?” and I’d say yes, and I hadn’t done it. I’d run off and do it before you found out. Why was I doing that? Because my idol was to be seen as a fine Christian worker, which is a good thing. But it became a God thing.
Now, we’ve got to know what our idols are. How do we do that? Jot the two questions down, please. This is what diagnoses our evangelism. Number one, what are my daydreams? Secondly, what are my nightmares? They will reveal our idols.
So often in our churches, I mean Keller says this, doesn’t it, our faith isn’t in God. Our faith’s in our agenda for God. I remember standing at the back of All Souls 10 years ago. A woman came running out and she said to me, “Tell my daughter. Tell my daughter to apply for Oxford University.” I looked at her, and the daughter came out, and we exchanged a look, which was, “Your mother’s a nutter. She’s a nutter.” What had she been praying about for the last hour and a quarter in church? If you don’t have your idols sorted out, you are going to capitulate under pressure. You’ve got to know where they come from.
My dad grew tobacco in Africa. We were in Chile first, then Africa. My brother and I came over to boarding school in Britain when I was eight. I then got converted when I was 16. After I got converted, the pressure at the school was enormous on the Christians. There were 10 of us. They would write magazines every month that attacked us personally. I actually don’t have the emotional capacity to read it. But they laid down some stuff in my head in terms of pressure, and there are bombs in my head, and I know when they go off. My wife knows when they go off when I’m under pressure. In terms of down here, my feelings, I’ve got a map and my wife has a map on the busted stuff.
If you go to an English boarding school for 10 years, they teach you three things. Number one, you’re not good enough. You’re away from the unconditional love of home. It’s conditional love. You’re not good enough. Prove yourself. It’s a dangerous world. I knew it was a dangerous world. The prefect in my dorm when I was eight got into bed with the prefect in the nextdoor dorm. I know the archeology of that. I know where I’m busted. I’ve done work on anger and things like that. So many of the pastors that break haven’t done the work internally.
When I was 21, there was a Scottish psychiatrist at the church I was working at. I was a church student worker. He said to me, “You’ll need to see me in your late 30s. You’ll be fine till then.” When I’m 37, I have a disastrous broken engagement, which conservatively speaking was 95% my fault. I went and saw him, but what was amazing was he’d put himself in place for me to see him then. I unpacked so much stuff that means now when the pressure’s on, I’m aware of it.
Brothers, sister, are you? Does your partner know what the archeology is, where you go under pressure? Because we’ve got to know that stuff.
I found this book here by Padesky, Mind Over Mood. Just what happens, situation moods, automatic thoughts, evidence that supports hot thoughts, evidence that doesn’t support them, alternative balance thinking. I’m getting the gospel into that thinking.
The next thing if, of course, is that when we’re under pressure, we’ve got to work at our own personal godliness. On choices here, there are two areas I’m constantly aware, because the tone is so important. First of all, anger. Every morning in my Bible in a Year … I don’t know where I’ve put it. Here we are. I’ve got my Bible in a Year, and I have the verses here on anger. I go through them each morning. “Blessed are the merciful, for they’ll be shown mercy.” “In your anger, don’t sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger while you’re still angry.” “Like a city without walls is a man who lacks self control.” I pray in those verses.
Then I pray in other verses about lust. “Be sure your sin will find you out. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” “Do you know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? You were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body. You’re not your own.” “He who sins sexually sins against his own body.”
I go through those two. On anger, I have an AAR call, which is A, acknowledge it. First of all, say, “Oh, gosh. I’m quite angry. Something’s hit my environment [inaudible].” Secondly, absorb it. “Okay, Rico, just step back. Why are you cross?” Thirdly, respond. But if I’m going to teach, I can’t afford to be losing my temper, James 3.
How are we self managing on those two areas? Each morning, I have those verses I go through, because the thing is in the battle, it’s personal godliness that is absolutely key in terms of going forward. That’s where I am on that.
Then of course, lastly, physical health up here. Am I taking a day off? Am I having a quiet time? Am I regularly with non-Christians? But thirdly, am I taking a day off?
Brothers and sisters, let me tell you about your day off, okay? This is in terms of maintaining yourself under pressure. We don’t break God’s laws. They break us. If you don’t take a day off, you will be broken. God has given us that low. Brother, sister, do it. Because if you have to pick people up who haven’t taken their day off, it’s just agony.
Roger Carswell, an evangelist in the north of England, said to me, he said, “Rico, I kept on missing my day off, and then you know what happened? I had to take all the days I’d missed together.” Be ruthless on this, on the day off. If you don’t take your day off, it’s an issue of God’s sovereignty. You don’t seem to understand it’s his work, not yours.
There we are. We’ve got to look in the mirror. We’ve got to manage ourselves in those ways. I find wonderful for it all is The Valley of Vision, the Puritan’s book The Valley of Vision. Absolutely fantastic in terms of self leadership on that.
Just as we draw to a close, what I’d like to do is read you a prayer from The Valley of Vision. I find as I read these in the mornings, they’re overwhelming in terms of allowing me to grow downwards into my sin and to come out as someone with real joy, and then I’m longing to look out the window and put my arms around people.
Here it is. “Thou eternal God, thine is surpassing greatness, unspeakable goodness, super abundant grace. I can as soon count the sands of the ocean’s lip as number thy favors towards me. I know but a part, but that part exceeds all praise. I thank thee for personal mercies, a measure of health, preservation of body, comforts of house and home, sufficiency of food and clothing, continuance of mental powers, the delights of domestic harmony and peace, the seats now filled that might’ve been vacant, my country, church, Bible, faith.”
“But, oh, how I mourn my sin, ingratitude, vileness. The days that add to my guilt, the scenes that witness my offending tongue. All things in heaven, earth, around, within, without condemn me. The sun which sees my misdeeds, the darkness which is light to thee, the cruel accuser who justly charges me, the good angels who’ve been provoked to leave me, thy countenance which scans my secret sins, thy righteous law, thy holy Word, my sin-soiled conscience, my private and public life, my neighbors, myself, all write dark things against me. I deny them not, frame no excuse, but confess, ‘Father, I’ve sinned.'”
“Yet still I live and fly repenting to thy outstretched arms. Thou will not cast me off, for Jesus brings me near. Thou wilt not condemn me, for he died in my stead. Thou wilt not mark my mountains of sin, for he leveled all, and his beauty covers my deformities. Oh, my God, I bid farewell to sin by clinging to his cross, hiding in his wounds, and sheltering in his side.”
How do we face opposition and keep going? We grow downwards. We see our sin. We see the wonder of grace. We’re overwhelmed with joy. Then as we meet people, we can one by one celebrate them. God has sovereignly put them on our streets, in our lives. Celebrate them. Ask them questions.
Secondly, serve them. What’s their biggest pressure? That’s the second to do. The rest of the country’s turning their back on individuals. We look to serve.
Thirdly, cross the pain line. Do you want to come to church? Can I look at the Bible with you? How about coming for Christmas? There is that sense of just there’ll be a pain line to cross.
Fourthly, exit. Matthew 10:14, if they’re quiet, you go quiet. Rub the dust of your feet. What does that mean? It means if they go quiet, you go quiet. If they come back because you’ve asked them something, you keep chatting with them. Celebrate, serve, ask a tough question, ask them along maybe to Christianity Explored, but my identity’s in Christ if they accept or reject, and then lastly dust off your feet. Exit. If they don’t want to know, go on going back to celebrate and serving.
Let’s pray as we close. Let’s pray. Father God, we thank you so much for the grace of God. We pray that you would enable us to lead ourselves deeply into what you have done for us, and that we’d then be men and women of profound joy, and then with that joy we’d be able to, like Simeon, bounce out and love the world. Lord, you’ve loved us so much. We pray that you’d fill our hearts with your Spirit and enable us to be great encouragers to the church family and great seekers after lost people. Amen.
Kevin Allen: I think we might have time for one or two questions. But as we’re getting to them, you filled out your surveys, your chance to win a number of great resources here. Pass them off to your left, to the left side, and we’ll pick them up here and then draw for one right away here. Here’s your opportunity.
As those are being passed over, why don’t we have a big question come up here to Rico? Just yell it out.
Rico Tice: Yes?
Speaker 5: What would be an excellent followup or discipleship book or resource that you would recommend for people in the 21st century who are largely unchurched that really do a background about how to read the Bible, how to pray, or the value of [inaudible]?
Rico Tice: Well, look. The big followup thing that we’ve had to do … We started with Christianity Explored 25 years ago, and that was amazing because it does Mark’s gospel in three words. It’s the identity, the mission, and the call of Jesus. You can find that every verse in Mark’s gospel is about either who he is, why he came, what it means to follow him.
But then, listening to Tim Keller in New York and again examining the idolatry in my family, which was good things that become God things, we wrote Life Explored. Now, I think the way in with the millennials is you’ve got to show them how sin is killing them from underneath. They ignore lawbreaking, but if you can do idolatry and they start seeing it, then you create the hunger for grace and the cross.
We’ve done these studies which are films which show people worshiping their idols, and then we do a little outline that goes through the Bible. What I’m trying to do with them is get them to see the desperate nature of their sin when they’re blind to lawbreaking. That’s what I’ve found. I’ve found that if people can start seeing their idols, actually they can start getting hungry. I mean that’s really what we’ve done. We’ve spent loads of money trying to do these films, and then people sit there and they suddenly see themselves in the films. Then we do the studies through the Bible. We do an overview of God’s character. I don’t know if that’s any good, but that’s … We’ll chat again. That’d be great.
Speaker 5: There’s a question right here.
Rico Tice: Yeah?
Speaker 6: Do you have a way at All Souls that you cycle through the courses? I mean, is it the same each year? Do you do like Life Explored in the fall, Christianity Explored in the spring?
Rico Tice: Yeah. Just to say, brother, we do cycle through them, but the big issue is getting people to the series. That’s what’s exhausting. Three times a year, spring, summer, and fall, we have two weeks where the church stops. There are evangelistic services. There are lots of events.
Then obviously, I mean the one I love running is Christianity Explored, because I just love going through Mark’s gospel. I mean I think that you just let the gospel tell the gospel. The trouble is I keep wanting to run it, but I keep getting told we’ve got to do other stuff. Life Explored is great for showing idolatry, but I think the big thing is getting into the DNA of the church, twice a year, maybe spring and fall, or three times a year, we’re going to stop and do it. The battle is always getting non-Christians to come.
Often, yeah, we won’t run two Christianity Exploreds after each other because we’ll put the non-Christians onto the next course. Again, the key there is the individuals who hold onto them and bring them to the course.
Kevin Allen: Okay, before the next question, let’s draw our first thing. Tell us a little bit about Finding More, this book.
Rico Tice: Yeah. These are people who went through Christianity Explored, so it’s just Mark’s gospel. What’s great about this as an evangelistic book is they articulate often the reservations people have got about the church. There’s the same sex attracted person who got converted and her feelings of homophobia about the church. There’s the cynical banker who just thought Christians don’t look at evidence. There’s the person who suffered a great deal. You’ve just got different stories that often incarnate people’s reservations, but that’s much better coming out of a life.
Kevin Allen: James, how much is this?
Kevin Allen: All right. Pick somebody to win this and tell us.
Rico Tice: Here we go. Never trust the English. Oh, it’s my name. How wonderful. Bob Stanberg.
Kevin Allen: All right.
Rico Tice: Bob. Okay. Thanks, Bob. Nice to see you brother.
Kevin Allen: All right, let’s talk about Honest Evangelism. This is the new cover. He was holding up an old cover. This is the Honest Evangelism book. It’s available also at The Good Book Company. Stop by there of course. 40% off.
Rico Tice: Naomi Lopez. Naomi.
Kevin Allen: All right.
Rico Tice: Naomi, well done.
Kevin Allen: Okay. We’ll give somebody a choice of Christianity Explored, Life Explored, or Discipleship Explored. You want to just briefly mention what these are?
Rico Tice: Yeah.
Kevin Allen: Normally $60. They’re $35 right now, $35.99.
Rico Tice: This is the overview of Mark’s gospel. It’s being used by Prison Fellowship. We’re just thrilled they’ve picked up the material in The Prisoner’s Journey in about 120 countries. It just does Mark in three words. Who is he? Why did he come? What does it mean to follow him? There are DVDs and videos. I made sure with the DVDs they digitally removed my double chin.
But again, just a lovely walk through Mark’s gospel. Then you learn that you hear the Bible from the front in a small group, one to one as the leaders chat, and you take it home to read it for yourself. Just getting people really stuck into Mark’s gospel.
This is the Life Explored one I just mentioned, which is the idols. How do you get people to see the idols? “Oh, my goodness. That’s what I’ve been worshiping. That good thing has become a God thing.” It’s an overview of the Bible as we unpack idolatry through scripture.
This is Philippians, which again is about joy in suffering. There’s Paul in prison, but he’s a man of such joy. How do you get that? Just great on discipleship there.
Kevin Allen: Discipleship Explored is a good followup for believers.
Rico Tice: Yeah.
Kevin Allen: Last drawing here.
Rico Tice: Here we go. Matthew [Skitsdat]. Matthew.
Kevin Allen: All right. Which one would you like, Matthew?
Matthew: Life Explored, please.
Kevin Allen: All right.
Matthew: Thank you.
Rico Tice: Can I just finish with one verse just on how I mobilize people? Let’s turn to it. Can we just do that? Otherwise, I’ll just feel terrible that I haven’t done. Then you can close off.
Kevin Allen: Okay.
Rico Tice: But can we turn please? Otherwise what’ll happen, I’ll get on the plane and I’ll be in agony I’ve not given you this verse. This is my key teaching verse for confidence for people, particularly in persecution. Can you turn to Acts 17. Brothers and sisters, I’ve just got to do this. Then I’ll go back to England and you can thank God for the War of Independence. Let’s just do it.
Now, I use this with 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 all the time, because here’s the key. You’ve got to give people confidence. The confidence is we preach Christ, God opens blind eyes. He did it for us. He can do it for them. The confidence is the grace of God. Whether you accept or reject me, that doesn’t make me valuable. What makes me valuable is Christ died for me. Then thirdly as we come here, sovereignty. Have a look down.
Now, if they get this, it transforms their confidence. Acts 17:24. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth, and he doesn’t live in temples built by human hands.” He is the creator. “And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” He is the sustainer. Thirdly, “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth, and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” Thirdly, he is the ruler.
God is the creator, sustainer, and ruler. If that is the case, what is his plan for the world? Next verse, verse 27. “God did this so they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” God divinely organizes who I sit next to on the plane, who my neighbors are, who my work colleagues. He has put them there because he’s the evangelist. Now, once you believe that, it transforms your confidence.
We’ve just had some neighbors move in, and they think they’re in London to work for Shell. They’re not. They’re in London to meet me. They live opposite me, and I’m the most important person they know, because I know Jesus. I hopped over the road to see them, welcome them. But it’s great. God’s put them there to meet me, because he’s the sustainer, creator, and he’s the ruler, and he’s put them there.
Now, can I tell you, brothers and sisters, if people get that, it transforms their confidence. Because the plan of history is people meet Jesus. Once they get it, I find they’re mobilized wonderfully. Kevin.
Kevin Allen: Thanks, Rico.