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Sovereignty, Integrity, Creativity: A Conversation on Evangelism in Any Context With Rico Tice

By Rico Tice, Jun 4, 2024

Dale Hollenbeck, former MTW missionary and director of our Mid-America Hub, sat down to talk with Rico Tice, a headline speaker for the upcoming PCA Global Missions Conference, London pastor, and co-founder of Christianity Explored. Christianity Explored teaches evangelism to churches, pastors, and missionaries worldwide.

Here are excerpts from their conversation, edited for clarity and brevity.

Q. Dale: How can training for evangelism in the local church propel global missions and help us finish the Great Commission?

A. Rico: Brother, I think all evangelism—everything we do evangelistically—is about three great themes, and it’s why I think 2 Corinthians 4:1–6 is the most important passage on evangelism in the Bible.

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 (NIV)

And here are the three great themes: sovereignty, integrity, and creativity. So, sovereignty: God has to do the miracle and open blind eyes. Integrity: We have to teach the truth. Jesus is Lord,  He’s risen from the dead. … There is a place called hell. We need to be saved from God’s wrath. Repentance is real. But third, creativity: What does it mean to reach people wherever we are? Sovereignty, integrity, creativity. That’s what you take from your local situation to any situation.

So, this is how His sovereignty [plays out] here on my street. When we meet our neighbors, we know the sovereign Lord (Acts 17:24 –28) has put us there. Who are the people around me? God has placed them there. He’s the creator, sustainer, and ruler. How amazing God has sovereignly placed my neighbors here. So that means as I go out to them, they’re not there by chance: God has put them there to hear the gospel. And His aim is that the gospel goes out. We’ve only been here six months, that’s [holds up journal] every house on the street, just about one or two we’re short of. So, wherever I am, as I’m driving by, I say, “Okay, let’s pray.” And then I pray through the names. 

Integrity: How can we tell the gospel truthfully? What do we need to talk about? We need to talk about hope in the face of death. We need to talk about forgiveness. We need to tell people: Actually, you are not what you should be.

Third, creativity. How can we reach them in creative ways? My daughter and I are giving out Easter baskets on the street and asking people to come for a picnic. And then we pray … When [she and I come back from school], as we go past, we say, “Lord, we pray for number two. We pray for number four. We pray for John and Jenny and number 24.” So, we’re praying and reaching out.

So, I would train people with sovereignty, integrity, creativity locally. But wherever you go, even if you end up in Afghanistan, it’s the same three issues. And, find out your neighbors’ names.

Q. Dale: And are there next steps?

A. Rico: There are four I go through. Number one, celebrate people. Second, serve them. What are the needs on the street? When we went at Christmas, there was a woman three doors down whose husband had died suddenly in the summer and we took her some flowers.

Third, cross the pain line and ask a question. For example, “Do you celebrate Easter? Would you come to church? Would you like to do that with us?” Now, I’ll need to have my identity in Christ as I ask that because it is a bit scary, even just a gentle question like that, because we’re the aroma of life to some, and the smell of death to the others.

Fourth, exit. So that means that if they go quiet, you go quiet. But people are thrilled to get an Easter package. And if a Muslim up the street sent me some chocolates at Ramadan and said, “Here’s a book,” I’d [accept them graciously].

I’m not going to risk this unless my identity is in the grace of God. So whether you accept or reject me doesn’t make me valuable. What makes me valuable is the gospel, is God’s love for me. My value is in that, not whether you accept or reject me.

Q. Dale: Why do people still not talk about the gospel?

A. Rico: The answer that I found over the last 20 years is: idols So, if we’re not preaching the gospel, if we’re not going to our neighbors, if we’re not speaking to colleagues, it is idols underneath. The first two commandments are: Don’t have other gods. But that’s true for evangelism, too. That’s what stops us from speaking. So, don’t forget with idols that we love them, we trust them, and we obey them. So if I’m trying to find out your idols, I’d be saying, well, what do you daydream about? What are your nightmares? When do you lose your temper? What are the things most precious? And then you dig those out and then you are aware of the things that often stop you from speaking. And quite often it’s good things that take up all your time. So, for example, the kids’ sports. Now that’s really important, but as I’m doing the kids’ sports, am I looking to reach anyone with the gospel or am I just there for the kids’ sports?

Q. Dale: What is an evangelist?

A. Rico: That’s a great question. And so many people get this wrong! The evangelist in Ephesians 4:11–12 is there to prepare God’s people for works of service. So, the evangelist is not just to be proclaiming the gospel themselves. Yes, that’s true. But their primary role is to equip the church family to proclaim the gospel. So yes, I might say, “Come and hear me speak.” But my biggest job is to go [help others tell and bring a friend along]. All these people think evangelism and say, “I can’t see myself as a great speaker.” They think of Billy Graham in a stadium.

Yes, you do need someone who can preach the gospel, but much more you need someone who’s working through the church family saying, “Dale, let’s talk about your neighbor Cindy and her husband, Max, and what do you think is the next step for them? Can we do a little Easter bag for them? Let’s be praying for them. What are their hobbies? What might they like?” That’s how we’re doing it [in my church].

If you see every situation as a divine appointment, at the heart of evangelism is a real doctrine of God’s sovereignty. Do I really believe Acts 17:24–28, that the One who’s made the world sustains it? He’s the ruler. So, He’s put you in St. Louis, He’s put me [in London]. And that, I think, is when I see a neighbor on the street and I stop and talk to them and I know their name. God has put them there to meet me. So, that’s what I find really exciting because I think God is the great evangelist. If you really believe that divine appointment it makes every day the Super Bowl!

Q. Dale: Why do people at a missions conference need to hear about evangelism?

A. Rico: Well, I want to say we all need to hear about hell again and again and again. So, I think what I’ve found I’m doing, because in the U.K., particularly in the Church of England, they’ve stopped talking about hell. And because of that, they’ve stopped talking about repentance. And how do we escape hell? Well, only through the cross. We need to be reminded of the eternal dimension. And then we need to be reminded that, amazingly, as we preach Christ, God will send His Holy Spirit and do what He did for us, and open blind eyes.

Confidence is what you need. Confidence that the God who saved you could save other people, confidence that the gospel is right, confidence that “this work is absolutely eternal” confidence. That with the [Christianity Explored] methodology we pray, we teach the truth, and creatively we keep reaching for people. And then, how do we best preach Christ? Well, I always say, let’s let the gospel tell the gospel. So, we’ve picked Mark’s gospel, the shortest and simplest gospel. And we say you can go through it with three words: identity, mission, and call.

Every word in Mark’s gospel is either about who is Jesus, why He came, or what it means to follow Him. So you’ve got to give people the confidence to do it.

Q. Dale: So Rico, if there’s one step you would encourage North American pastors to take to lead their churches in evangelism, what would it be?

A. Rico: [Years ago when I worked at All Souls Langham Place], I went to John Stott and said, “What do I say to frantically busy pastors?” Because I knew that if they’re not modeling personal evangelism, the church family won’t think it’s important. And John Stott said, every generation needs to relearn the lesson of Acts 6:1–4, where the work of waiting tables was delegated in order that the work of prayer and teaching of the Word could be done.

What do you have to say no to? Good things: say yes to that. And therefore, I would get your elders to put into your diary half a day a week where you are doing a lovely hobby. So that’ll be good for you creatively. But then you are with non-Christians—on their terms. I’m going to be coaching rugby to the under-10s every week. It’s just their terms. I’m getting to know the parents. So, you’ve got to model it.

The speed of the lead is the speed of the team. That’s what I’d say if the pastor isn’t modeling bringing their friends: The church family doesn’t think it’s important because it’s hard evangelism. It’s the hardest one. It’s the hardest thing to do—to bring people.

So, there are lots of other things we can give our time to [alongside non-Christians]. And then it’s lovely. People from other churches might arrive. Well, that’s a lot easier—having sheep from elsewhere—than finding your own lost sheep. We just reshuffle the sheep. No, we want to find new people who are coming to faith!

Q. Dale: What is the biggest factor for a church being successful in evangelism? If there’s one.

A. Rico: When I go and train churches for evangelism, the first thing I say is, “Are we praying?” We’ve got to preach Christ, but we’ve got to pray that God opens blind eyes. Now it’s very important this, I often say: I can’t turn the light on, only God can turn the light on. But my job is to pray and to preach Christ. Evangelism is always a subsection of faithfulness. My job is to be faithful.

Q. Dale: Is there anything you’d like to say to American pastors to welcome them to … ?

A. Rico: I think my colleagues, my church here in Ealing, the American missionaries from MTW are outstanding. I mean, I really mean it. I’ve been so impressed with them. And there I was on Saturday coming back from the park run and there were five of them. There was Stacy* with her little toddler on the street. Charles,* one of our old elders, Peter, who’s 80, Daniel* giving out booklets on Greenford High Street. And I thought then, they love the church and they get the gospel out. Charles with the Iranians, he’s learning Farsi. Stacy, his wife, is endlessly hospitable. They’re just brilliant. I really mean it. These guys are really making a difference in this part of the world.

Q. Dale: That’s so encouraging to hear. One hope I have is to work in partnership with IPC missionaries so that we can reach even farther and deeper into the world and even closed countries to do that in partnership. And I believe that this work of evangelism is the very foundation to make that effort happen in the future.

A. Rico: And what’s interesting about your note to me, my brother, is everything—sovereignty, integrity, creativity—that clarity. It’s always those three things. Then, you get out Mark’s gospel and it’s always identity, mission, call, but that’ll mean different things in different cultures. And I’ve taught this in North India. It’s different from teaching it in North Carolina. Who is Jesus, why did He come, and what does it mean to follow Him, [it needs to be contextualized], but the core is the gospel. That’s why 2 million people in East Africa have taken Christianity Explored, because the locals get that absolute simplicity.  

Come hear Rico Tice at the PCA Global Missions Conference November 1–3, 2024 in Atlanta. Register at mtw.org/gmc.

*Names have been changed for security reasons.

Rico Tice

Rico Tice is a passionate evangelist and former senior minister of evangelism at All Souls Langham Place in London. He is a member of International Presbyterian Church, Ealing, a partner church of MTW. Cofounder of Christianity Explored Ministries, he is a regular speaker at missions and evangelistic events around the world. He’s the author of two books about understanding the gospel and sharing it with others, “Honest Evangelism” and “Capturing God.”

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