You are well known as an evangelist and yet, the first words you wrote in your book Honest Evangelism were “I find evangelism hard”. How do you keep yourself motivated to tell people about Jesus?
I was much helped by Bishop Frank Retief from South Africa, who made his clergy put a mission statement at the top of their year planners. It was simple but clear: People without Christ go to Hell. Bishop Retief ’s call was for us to organise our diaries around that statement. I sometimes read through what Jesus says about Hell in Matthew’s Gospel:
Matthew 5:22, 5:29 & 30, 7:13, 8:10-12, 10:26-28, 13:42, 13:49, 18:8
I take it that you, like me, believe Jesus to be the most loving man that ever lived, and yet this is the only Jesus there is. This Jesus, who is the theologian of Hell. So it means that if we don’t speak to people, we either don’t believe it or we don’t love people, because at its heart the gospel is being saved from Hell, through the cross, for Heaven. And because I come from a non-Christian home the people I love most are in great danger of eternal torment. I find that it keeps me motivated.
John Stott said, “We need to weep more, and once we’ve wept we need to pray more.”
Christmas is supposedly a great time to tell people about Jesus. However, it is often intimidating and awkward to bring up the topic with our work colleagues, at our family get-togethers or with our neighbours. It’s easy to get involved in the exciting Christmas programs at church but much harder to speak with our friends and family one-to-one.
Do you have a favourite conversation starter (or two) to begin a chat about Jesus at Christmas time?
Just to say I think Christmas is a great time to tell people about Jesus, because it is still culturally acceptable to say ‘Do you celebrate Christmas?’. And then to say, ‘Part of the way Christians celebrate it is we have carol services. Please come to one and afterwards we’ll have mulled wine and mince pies.’
Having said that, as with any evangelism I have to have my identity secure in the grace of God. So when I ask I’ve got to know that whether they accept or reject me doesn’t make me more or less valuable. What makes me valuable is Christ died for me.
Nevertheless it is the easiest ask of the year and I often say to people when they’re new to the job, OK your first opportunity is going to be Christmas. Why not start praying that you’ll be able to ask colleagues to a carol service?
Your new Christmas evangelistic booklet So This Is Christmas shares the gospel by contemplating the walls that are in our life. There is a wall between ourselves and God and walls between ourselves and those around us. Family get-togethers at Christmas can sometimes have walls a-plenty with tension and potential conflict just around the corner.
How can we bring the gospel to bear on the potentially stressful conversations we have with family at Christmas time?
I wrote the evangelistic booklet, ‘So This is Christmas’, because I noticed that when I finished carol services with a prayer around Colossians 3 verse 13: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you”, and then said, OK this Christmas, let’s pray for our ability to say sorry and our ability to forgive, the room would then go very quiet, and the most confident London City people would be humbled as they thought of a cycle of blame and pain in their family life that needed the two phrases, ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I forgive you.’ So I think the application of this is, make sure in your family you are modelling the joy of being a forgiven sinner.
I’m not sure we want the potentially stressful conversations, but perhaps give out the booklet which talks about the walls in our lives and then after Christmas see if they’ve read it and ask what they thought about it when there is perhaps a private moment.
Finally, why does evangelism matter?
The most important reason to do evangelism is because of the glory of God. It honours Him to announce the centrality of His Son to His world.
The great thing about doing evangelism for God’s glory is that we’re not primarily concerned about the results; we honour God as we seek to make His Son an unavoidable issue. This really keeps me going at Christmas because I’ve quite often preached my heart out and had people say to me at the door, ‘That was lovely, see you same time next year.’ And it’s quite obvious they’ve no intention of following up the message. That can be so dispiriting but I’m much comforted that I’ve tried to glorify Christ and He will be glorified in both salvation and in judgement.
The key is that in evangelism He is honoured, though wonderfully 2 Corinthians 4 verses 5 and 6 reassure us that as we preach Christ, verse 5, God opens blind eyes, verse 6.
by Rico Tice
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