Rico Tice was the main speaker at this year's Evangelism Conference on 9 and 11 October in London and Manchester. Here are some of his thoughts on how to share the gospel persuasively.
According to Talking Jesus, one in five adults, and one in six young people, we speak to about Jesus is open to an encounter with him. What an opportunity! But how do we find these people and start conversations? And how do we develop resilience in the face of rejection from all those who don't want to know?
For my wife Lucy and I, one of the best opportunities we have is getting to know our neighbours.
As I step out onto our street, I remember Acts 17.24-28. This passage gives me great confidence that God, the creator, sustainer and ruler of the world has a plan for it, and that evangelism is at the heart of this plan. This means that every person we know has been put into our lives by God. I like to say that for my non-Christian friends, I am the most important person they know! This isn't anything to do with me, but because I can introduce them to Jesus. So I am excited to meet my neighbours, knowing that I have been divinely appointed.
I also remember that they have been made in God's image, and I want to celebrate them and enjoy how God has made them.
Lucy and I have discovered that it's difficult to go straight from meeting people to inviting them to an event, so we have a calendar for the year where we plan in opportunities to get to know and celebrate our neighbours. For example, we'll organise golf evenings and a trip to the summer fair, or a day out at a rugby match, where we are able to build commonality and find out all about them.
Then, as part of that calendar, and in the context of doing life with them and celebrating them, we invite them to Christian events, like carol services and Prom Praise.
"Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." 1 Peter 2:12
Look out for ways to serve people. When we meet new neighbours we start off by telling them where recycling is!
We look for opportunities to connect with them, to be friendly, to find out what stresses they have and how we can help, to care for them.
Even if people don't like what you believe, they see you doing good and it opens up opportunities for telling them the gospel.
When one of our neighbours went into hospital, the first people they called were the Christians on our street.
As Christians we are often good at celebrating and serving, but we struggle to cross the pain line to tell people the good news because we fear rejection.
"Do you celebrate Christmas?" is a great place to start. It's still socially acceptable to ask people to a carol service and a good way to begin conversations about what people believe.
The first year we lived on our street, we invited all our neighbours for mulled wine and mince pies and carols, and one person came.
It helps to remember it is a gradual process, it takes time! But we have found it easier the more we have celebrated and served.
"If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet." Matthew 10:14
Often Christians don't tell because they don't know how they are going to get out of the conversation if they get rejected.
I find if they go quiet then I back off, but if they are interested I keep asking questions. If they are not interested, go back to celebrating and serving and perhaps there will be another opportunity to ask them further down the line.
We have known one lady on our street for years, and she has never been interested in the past. However, her father sadly died recently, and she has since agreed to read the Bible with us, but with a caveat: "As long as I can bring a friend with me!"
We will need real resilience to keep doing this and I pray we will cultivate soft hearts and a thick skin.
Being in a team is so important - be rooted in your local church.
Look in the mirror - keep up your quiet times, fight bitterness and resentment in your heart, be motivated only by Jesus and the gospel, establish your identity in Christ, believe the gospel is both true and wonderful, remember your sin and stay humble.
Look to Jesus - the perfect example of resilience during Holy Week. Hard as nails as he heads towards the cross yet even on the cross he cries 'Father forgive them!'
Isn't it amazing that God in his grace will allow you to be one of his saints and involve you in his great plan for the world?
The full talks will be available to listen to shortly on the Evangelism Conference website.
Did you come to the conference? Let us know what you thought in the comments below