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EPISODE 31: Hope

Our world desperately needs hope - and the gospel is the absolute best source of this scarce commodity. Christianity Explored has put together a helpful resource to point lost people to the Savior who provides hope.

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Welcome to Questions That Matter, a podcast of the C.S. Lewis Institute. I'm your host, Randy Newman, and I am delighted today to have as my conversation partner Rico Tice. Rico serves with Christianity Explored in London, overseas work all around the world for Christianity Explored, and he and I have had the great joy and privilege of working together on a number of different projects and speaking at conferences. Rico, welcome to Questions That Matter.

Thank you very much. And if I may say, my dear brother, your book on evangelism and C.S. Lewis, Mere Evangelism, is just outstanding. And I really mean that, for those listening, I'm not just plugging it. I found it warmed my heart and equipped me. So, let me start by saying that, from the old country, there's one from London for free.

Communicating the Gospel

Well, Rico, thank you for your kind words about my book. I was very grateful for how the Lord enabled me to pull all those thoughts together. But let's talk about evangelism from the Christianity Explored vantage point, if I may. I very often find when I'm talking to Christians, when I'm speaking at churches and conferences here in the US, sadly, Christianity Explored is a best kept secret. And that should not be. It should not be a best kept secret. More and more people need to know of this great ministry as a tool for reaching out to their friends. So, give us a snapshot. What is Christianity Explored?

Well, Randy, it's very interesting. If you watch the movies, the only people that you're still allowed to persecute are people who speak like me, middle class Englishmen. They’re always the ones that kill everybody. But I want to now say something arrogant from a middle-class Englishman, and that is that if the Lord was here and we said to Him, “What’s the best way to do evangelism?” “There are lots of ways to do it. What's the best way?” I think He would say… now wait for it. I think He’d say, “Let’s let the gospel tell the gospel. I've given you these four biographies of My Son, yes, written by men, but inspired by God.” Now just go through them. And all we've done in Christianity Explored is that we have looked at the life of Jesus in the shortest gospel, Mark's gospel.

We found that just about every verse of Mark's gospel is either about the identity of Jesus, who He is, the mission of Jesus, why He came, the call of Jesus, what it means to follow Him, and then over seven weeks, we just go through Mark's Gospel and talk about the really big things in the identity, mission, and call of Jesus. And as we preach Christ, we trust God to open blind eyes. And the simplicity of it is what's amazing.

I mean, the lift test is: Here’s Mark’s gospel. It’s about identity, mission, call. There you are. That's it in 4 seconds. And we found that leaders and gatekeepers, when they know Mark's Gospel go, “Yeah, that is all it's about.” And then they feel… and here's another key thing, Randy… “I can do that. I could do that.” You know, you've got to make evangelism tools transferable. And because Mark's gospel is so basic, just about every verse is identity, mission, call, they feel they can then teach it.

I love it.

And so that’s what we've done. We've just said, “Here’s Mark's gospel.” I give a little bit of an introduction to it, but I basically just take people through. Who is Jesus? Why did He have to come? Our sin. So, we're very big on teaching sin because we know that the issue in evangelism is not getting people saved, it's getting them lost. They've got to see how serious sin is. And then the cross, the resurrection, grace, and then repent and believe. It's just very simple. Those are the great themes in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And we teach that. And the other thing we do, which is a model, Randy, is that we go…. We’re going to do a little talk from the front, we’re going to meet in a small group to discuss Mark’s gospel, we’re going to talk one-to-one with people about it, on our table groups, we meet in groups, and then we're going to go home and read it for ourselves. And Bible churches are to do Bible ministry at those four levels, from the front, small group, one to one, and at home. So, we get the DNA of what it means to meet in an authentic Bible church into non-Christians as they meet. They just go, “Oh, well, I expect I'll have a talk from the front, I'll be in a small group, I'll chat one to one, and I'll read it for myself at home. And that's the heart of what it means to have a Bible ministry.

I love it. I love it. Thank you. So, people come together because their Christian friends have invited non-Christians to come together. It's eight weeks long, once a week. You come together, and you left out a crucial part, Rico, of people eat food first. They eat dinner together, or at least that's my understanding of it and that's the reason I would go. They eat together around a table, then they see a presentation, a short video, usually from you, talking about a passage in the Gospel of Mark, and then they sit around the tables discussing it. So now you have a new thing, a new tool.

Can I say a couple of things on that ?

Yes, yes, yes.

It is that people's questions are really important. And so, yes, we do look at Jesus in Mark unashamedly. But we begin the course with, “If you had a question for God, what would it be?” So, we really want to hear people. Often people have a view of church that, “I'm not allowed to ask my questions.” But we begin by saying, “We want to listen. What are your questions?”

So, we come together for the meal. Actually, there's a point at the start where people's home study, if they've read a couple of chapters of Mark, if there are any questions they've got. Then we have the talk. Then we follow up the talk with any reflections people have got. Then we finish the evening formally, and then we hope people will chat one to one, exactly as you say. And then at the end of the evening, I say…. I said it on Monday night. I said, “We’ve now got Mark 6-8 to read. So just read the next bit. If you don't read it, don't worry. When you come in, there's a small passage we can look at if you haven't got questions.” But that theme of, “Bring your questions. No question is too simple. No question is too hard. Please bring them.” That's a huge theme as well.

Oh, and that is such an important theme. And I hate to admit this, but I think, in my early training as a young Christian, I learned how to answer questions quickly, shallowly, and I hate to admit it, but dismissively. It was, “Oh, here's your question,” and the way I was trained to answer questions, it was almost like, “I can't believe you're asking that question.” Or, “Why would you ask such a silly question?” Or, “Well the answer to that question is obvious,” and that was terribly disrespectful to both the question and the questioner. And there needs to be, as Peter says in 1 Peter, that we need to do this with gentleness and respect. We always need to be ready to answer those who ask with gentleness and respect. And my exposure to Christianity Explored is that they do try to embrace that or incarnate that gentleness and respect. I think it's important for people to be able, not just to feel the freedom to ask the question, but the sense from the answerer of, “Oh. Yeah, that makes sense that you would ask that question.” It helps if we ourselves had some of those same questions before coming to faith or even now still. So that's really, really important, I think.

And I think, Randy, what's again, another aspect of that is the journey with other people with similar questions. You're wanting to tell the story of the Lord Jesus and the big story we're in, but actually you're also wanting to hear the different stories around the table.

Oh, great, good.

And I think that is an incredibly meaningful experience for people as they…. They might be, you know, classic yuppies, as we’d say in London. They’re twenties to thirties and suddenly they're on a table with a 62-year-old whose lost, as I had on a recent table, two sons, and she's asking questions. So, you're sitting there with someone who's 40 years older than you, who's got these questions, who's also searching. Well, that is the most profound and deep experience that 20-year-old will have that year, listening to the non-Christian ask her questions.

Yes, yes.

So, I think that's a wonderful thing, too, that if you can get the trust on the table with that opening question of, “If you had a question for God, what would it be?” And people go around, Randy. Look, I've got a funeral card here of Paolo, who we played with during lockdown. He's nine. He died of cancer. His mother is heartbroken. I went to his funeral on Monday. I've got Christians. I'm saying, “Lord, this is an agony that we lost this dear little boy. Look at his white hair. That’s from the chemo he had. And my kids loved him, and we lost him,” and so, brother, it's not that we stop asking questions as leaders.

Oh, my goodness, yes.

I think that reality of us all asking questions together, but unashamedly looking at Jesus, who asks over 300 questions Himself in the gospels. We’re all there saying, “Let’s have the journey.”

You know, I subscribe to a number of different newsletters, and I read about what God is doing around the world. And frequently, repeatedly, I see and hear pleas for the need for discipleship all around the world. That is the crying need of our time, and that is the specific focus that God has placed on the C.S. Lewis Institute. So, we're so very grateful to be involved, and have been for decades, in something that could very well be the greatest need of our world today. So please consider becoming a financial partner with us. It would be at the very core and centrality of what God is doing in our world today.

Very good. Well, you have a new tool out, Hope Explored. Tell us what it is and why did you add this to your toolkit?

Hope Explored

Yeah, thank you. Well, a couple of reasons: Number one is that Christianity Explored is seven weeks, and it's lovely, but it's quite a long time for people to commit to. And Christmas and Easter… certainly in England, a lot of people come to church at Christmas and Easter, and to say we've got a seven-week course is a long time. To say you've got a three-week course is much more feasible. To say, “Look, come Monday nights in January, come on the 10th, 17th and 24th. Please come.” And so, we found it easier to ask them to a short course, knowing that it would then perhaps be a ramp to a longer one, because we found loads of people, because All Souls, my church here in central London, we're just a laboratory, we try it out. So we tried it for three years, and we found that loads of people, if they come for three, will stay for another seven. Secondly, the reason we picked “hope” was the pandemic. We were running this, but putting it together in the pandemic. And, of course, where now all over the world debt salient, mentioning death three years ago was thought to be a power play. Now you're just being realistic.

So, hope is… it's that. But a lot of Christians as well, they don't know: What is hope? And hope is a radiant promise of the future based on true events in the past that changes everything in my present. So, it's this joyful expectation of the future. But how do I know I've got it? Because Jesus rose from the dead. And that past event is the guarantee that the coffin is not an exit-less box. If He got through death, He can get me through. He can deliver the new creation. And then how does that change now? Because I may be facing some terribly tough things. I'm holding Paolo's funeral card. But how does that hope change now?

And it was that sense of really explaining what hope is, based on the resurrection of Jesus, and if I can just throw out was we wanted to show how Jesus had fulfilled prophecy, so we went for Isaiah 9:6. Everyone knows the verse, if they're in Christian circles. Here is the Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Father. Here is the mighty God, and we show how He is those things in Luke's gospel.

Oh, okay.

He’s a mighty God, because in a day He calms a storm, He raises a dead girl, He casts out the devil. He's the everlasting Father because He rises from the dead. Like a good Dad, He sorts out death, that problem. He's the Prince of peace because He dies on the cross. We show how He’s the fulfillment. And if He’s fulfilled Isaiah in Luke, He can then fulfill the new creation. If you can trust Him for that 700 years, you can trust Him for the next 2,000. So it's that sense of the facts in Luke's gospel, the fulfillment from Isaiah to Luke, and then lastly, the third thing we're looking at, Randy, is felt needs, unashamedly. The Bible says, “Where do you go for peace?” And we can find peace in Jesus. We long for peace. It's a felt need and brings peace both vertically and horizontally, as we forgive people. Purpose. The resurrection…  Corinthians 15, is always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because nothing is in vain. It gives you purpose every day. And of course, hope. In the light of death. This felt need of where do I find it? So those are the three great themes of it over the three weeks. We're looking at felt needs, we're looking at the facts, and we're looking at the fulfillment.

I love it. I love it, I love it. So, it's three weeks. And by the way, I think you're exactly right. I mean, asking somebody for a seven- or eight-week thing too much, but three weeks. And of course, as a Jewish believer, I'm very excited that you dug into the Old Testament. I think that's great. I've often thought… I mean, I've had some interactions with friends who serve with Jews for Jesus and Chosen People Ministries, and I thought we need to put together a Messiah Explored series, very similar to what Christianity Explored does, looking at different messianic prophecies. Maybe there already is something like that.

I don’t think there is. And honestly, that sounds really exciting.

Yeah. All right, so after we're done with this podcast, let's talk about that. No, I think that can be really, really great. I just love that, because it is so powerful. And you know, it's funny, a lot of Gentile Christians think Jewish people have read the Old Testament and they really know the Old Testament. The vast majority of them haven't. So, to expose them to Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 7:14, Micah 5:2, Isaiah 53. Oh my!

Okay, but going back to Hope. . . Go ahead.

I remember seeing Psalm 22. “A band of evil men have encircled me. They've pierced my hands and my feet. They cast lots for my garments.” I mean, 300 years before the Carthaginians invented crucifixion. What do you make of that? You know, and it's no wonder with the Dead Sea Scrolls, you know, that shepherd voice throws a rock down into a cave. Here's the clank. They find them, and they find that when they thought, in Isaiah 53, it was a Christian interpolation, it's not. It was there. But because it's so clearly Jesus, it does your head in. So I think that when you explain that, people start seeing the divine authorship of scripture, yes with many authors, but it's one Author behind it. And again, how do you know it's God, Isaiah 41? Because the future is fulfilled. If I can tell you who's going to win the Super Bowl final in 2030, who scores and in what round, of course, Brady will still be playing at 55, I expect. But nowhere in the Quran does that happen. But it happens with Jesus 300 times in the Old Testament. What do you do with that? And the number of fulfilled prophecies. So, yeah, incredibly powerful.

So, this is a three-week thing. It's got a video component. It’s got a discussion component. Do people do this in their home? Can they invite friends over to their home?

Well, I think two things to say on that. First of all, the really big thing that's happened with lockdown is that people are now doing courses together online. So if you're in Atlanta, and you've got a brother in Nevada, and he won't go to anything except for with you, I think you've got a brother like that, actually, Randy, yourself.

Not Nevada, but yes.

He can now come with you. We had a woman at All Souls who brought her mother from the West Country down in Devon, 300 miles away. And now it's amazing! Online, you can bring your loved ones and friends on board and if they don't like it, they can just shut the lid. So, we found far more people are coming because they feel safe. So, one, you can do it online, but it is lovely doing it in person together. But you're right. It’s a small group.

What we actually begin with on the felt need front is we say, “Look, when you think of peace, what do you think of do you think of? Do you think of a beach? Do you think of no turmoil in the family?” And we get people to say what their view of peace is, and then we unpack that at the start of the evening. So, there's a little bit of a… there are some pictures of what's your view of peace? Or what's your view of history? Is it going around and round? Is it getting better? Is it getting worse?

So we help people start examining their worldviews, and that's the felt needs bit, and then we move into the facts and fulfillment. So we have an opening talk that hooks people. We chat about the different pictures and where you are on peace or purpose or hope, and then we move into the facts. And then we have the Bible study that shows how this is a fulfillment. Again, those things, of felt needs, facts, fulfillment. That's the rhythm in all that we do.

All right. So, I want to underline two things. One is, in our show notes, we're going to put some links to Christianity Explores website, so people can explore how they might host one of these Hope Explored courses online or in their home or in their church.

God's Word

The second thing: I just want to talk just a little bit more of the core of all that you do is allowing the Bible to do what the Bible does, setting the Bible before people, letting them look at it, and let the Bible be the two-edged sword that it is. And how we've left the Bible out of evangelism so much is almost horrifying. So, it's just bringing people to, “Let's take a look at this book,” and, “What does it say?” and, “What did Jesus say about Himself?” And, “What does the text say and what does the text do?” And those are crucial components in evangelism. And, again, we've somehow not tapped into the power of the scriptures.

Yeah. And, brother, you know, it's very interesting, but just as you run it, people want to look at the text for themselves. The heart of faith is you get the information, then you get the meaning, and then you act on it. There are three parts to faith: Information, meaning, and then assent, trust, act. I must say I quite enjoy looking at the Quran. Someone said, “Well, let's look at it.” It's not so much what I think, but what's the book saying? And have I interacted with it properly? And it was interesting yesterday, with a taxi driver, I was asking him, I said, “What are the five pillars of Islam? How do you practice them?” And it was so interesting because he left out your heart. He only gave me four, and I happen to know there are five. And so that was quite an interesting thing that… I then didn't say, “Look, why have you left one out?” Because I was just wanting to listen.

Particularly that one.

Yeah. Well, exactly! What does that one mean? You want to look at the text. And it was very interesting: When I was 22 and working for a church, and I gave a bit of my own story, and there was a 45-year-old tough businessman, and he looked at me, and he said, “To be honest, I don't really care what you think,” because he could see I was a 22-year-old privately educated, arrogant, middle class boy who knew nothing. And he was right. If I'd have said, “Can we look at Mark 2:1-12 and see what Jesus says to a paralyzed man?” that is compelling.

Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

And as I finish that, just let me say one of the things is, when it comes to evangelism, brother, just to say all to the listeners, can I say this to you? You have to decide where you think the power is. Where's the power to change people's lives?

Oh, we'll go for this, yeah.

Power’s in the Word. You get the Bible open, and as you do that, God sends His Holy Spirit and opens people's mind eyes. So, if you think the power is somewhere else, do that. But we're saying power is in the Word, so let it let people look at it.

Are you a fisher of men? Do you want to be a fisher of men? Do you struggle with this call that Jesus places on us to be fishers of men? Discipling others is also a significant part of that whole enterprise, and it's a way to abide in Christ. It's a way for us to know Christ more fully, become more like Him, and participate in His work of building His kingdom. So, as we disciple, we become coworkers with Jesus. As He helps us mature, He allows us to help Him mature others and nurture them towards reproduction and expanding of His kingdom. And so, we have many free small group resources on our website, many different things to help you in this discipleship process, both to grow as a disciple and to disciple others. So please check out our Study Courses.

Oh, that's so important. That's so important. And I love the way you asked it: Where do you think the power lies? First of all, it's worth exploring inside your mind and your thought. And if you're honest with yourself and you really think, “Well, the power lies in my ability to persuade,” or whatever. No, no, now you need to be really honest about that. I do. I very often think the power lies in my ability to be winsome and friendly and funny. And so, I need to repent of that, because it's an idolatry and it's, “Okay. Lord, I was worshiping my cleverness, instead of relying on the power of the scripture, set me free from that idolatry. Help me to trust far more in Your Word and the power of the gospel message itself.”

Yeah. A couple of things on that: The first is that my job, biblically, is to preach Christ. So, I've got to present it. I mustn't take responsibility for the results. But with the right tone, I've got to say, “This is my job.” God will open blind eyes, but my job is to make sure I've been clear and gracious. So, my job is not to convert them. That's the Holy Spirit's job. We're not into that. And that's why I tell the truth. That's why I say, look, first week of Christianity Explored, if I'm asked, and they say, “What about same-sex relationships?” I'll say, “Look, the only place for sex in Christian orthodoxy is within marriage between a man and a woman.” Now, the only reason I'll say that is I believe the Holy Spirit is compelling and calling people as I say that. But I'm not trying to defend the Bible. I'm just trying to say what it says.

Yeah, yeah.

There is apologetic angle. So that's the first thing. The second thing is: Remember the parable of the sower. As we speak of Jesus, there's going to be, for the sower, disappointment, there's going to be delay, and there are also going to be dramatic results. But some of the seed fell on the path. Others, Satan plucked away. Other seed grew up quickly. It’s not that they're going to be all the time the results we long for, but there's also going to be a dramatic harvest. So, I've got to understand, as I sow the word, sow the seed, it's power in weakness and there's going to be failure. It's going to be disappointing and heartbreaking. At the same time, there’ll be a great harvest. And I think where we go wrong is that we're trying to avoid disappointment and delay.


Avoid disappointment in a success culture, avoid delay in an immediate culture, and we're having to say, “No! We’ve got to wait to let the Word do its work.” And often pastors and churches don't understand that, and so they go somewhere else for the power. I've got to say, “No, it's the Bible, but I've got to let it do its work and let it take time.”

Well, you know, as you're talking, when you said you could do this Hope Explored online with people, I'm thinking, “You know what? I feel bolder,” and I use that word tentatively, but I think I could email and text a whole bunch of people and say, “Hey, listen, I'm going to try this thing. We would do it online.” Now, if there are people who live close enough, say, “And you know what? A group of us are going to gather at my house as part of this, but if you're in Nevada or California, well chime in on Zoom, and we'll make this work.” I also love the fact that you talked about… I would pronounce it laboratory. You said laboratory. But that's because you guys always sound fancier. But lab, laboratory. I think we need to experiment and try things. Let's see what happens. Let's invite a half a dozen people, try it out, and maybe it'll go better than we think, or not as good. I think it's worth a try.

A brilliant idea. As you try it, and as you… and I don't know how the States works on this, but as you do it, so say you invite 40 friends. The parable of the sower says you're going to get a one in four hits. So, ten, they say yes, and 30 who like you, you know, associates and friends, they say, “I like you, but I don't want to know.” So, expect, you know, that the parable of the sower tells me that there's going to be disappointment. Talking Jesus is a survey that was done of what non-Christians think of Christians in Britain. And what we found was 67% of people in Britain have a Christian friend they like. And of that 67%, 20%, one in five, would like to know more about Jesus. So even though they like you, 80% of people are going to reject. They don't want to know.


But that still leaves, in Britain, 7.5 million people who, if asked, would like to come along to something or to know more or someone to talk to them. But the issue is, I don't know who the 20% are. I've got to get through the 80%, so I'm going to get a four out of five-rejection rate, an 80% rejection rate, even with people that like me. There’re loads of people that don't like me.

Being rejected is going to happen. And therefore, as you send out the email, as you send out the text inviting people—Christmas is a great time to be thinking about doing this.


Remember your identity is in Christ, so that whether they accept or reject you doesn't make you valuable. What makes you valuable is Christ died for you. And so, when they go no or they don't answer the text—in England, they don't even answer. They just won't answer you.


When three out of four do that, just keep going, keep celebrating and serving them and loving them, but expect there's going to be disappointment and delay, as well as dramatic results.

Oh, man! Preach it! Well, Rico Tice, I'm so very sorry that we had nothing to talk about and that we couldn't get a conversation going here. You're usually so withdrawn, and it's hard to draw you out. But… I'm kidding. I'm joking. But here's the crazy thing: I'm so technologically inept that I only set up this recording to go a certain length of time, and we're going to get disconnected any second, so I have to end this podcast. I'm really sorry about that. I'm going to do a better job next time, and I'm going to try to invite you back because, I don't know, we might have one or two other things that we could possibly talk about.

I'd like to come back, and just as I leave, Randy, I would just like to formally apologize for the War of Independence. I'd like to pass that on to all of you. I am so sorry. And with that, I'll probably leave it.

I don't know where to take that. I guess I'm glad to hear it, although from our perspective, we think that worked out pretty well for us. Although there are times…. Never mind. We need to go. Please check out the links that we have on the show notes about Christianity Explored, Hope Explored. I want to encourage all of you: Let's give this a try. Let's make this a three-week experiment in our laboratory of Zoom and try this out in January. I think let's invite people to church for Christmas, and then as a follow-up, whether they came or not, whether they win or not, let's give this a try. Please also check out our Website, with lots of resources. We've just recently highlighted several resources about evangelism. None of us think it's easy, but we know that God uses us in absolutely miraculous, supernatural ways. So, may the Lord bless you as you seek to love Him with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love your neighbors as yourself and tell them the good news of the Gospel.

Brought to you by the C.S. Lewis Institute and the Questions That Matter Podcast with Randy Newman.

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