Pod Bhogal talks to Rico Tice, author of the Christianity Explored course about the importance of one-to-one personal work in evangelism, Seeker Bible studies and Uncover, UCCF’s latest gospel project which is now being adopted by local churches.
PB: Rico, you’re a big advocate of personal one-to-one work in evangelism and seeker Bible studies; why is that?
RT: As we head into Passion for Life — or any church-based missional activity — we have to be aware of the significance of one-to-one evangelism. We can’t just put on events and guest services. It’s got to be that, when my friend comes along to an event, the moment the talk finishes we’re able to say: ‘Would you like to look at the Bible with me?’ or ‘Have you ever looked at the original source material for yourself?’ At this point in time people may often feel very intimidated, but something has happened to change things in the last two years and that’s the Uncover suite of resources from UCCF.
PB: Can you explain what Uncover is for those who are unfamiliar with it?
RT: Uncover is six Bible studies, written by Becky Manley Pippert, and a Gospel featuring QR codes that link to evangelistic and apologetic films. It has been developed by UCCF and is staggering in terms of its impact. I have nothing to do with this material.Christianity Explored are not publishing it [but], in the 20 years I’ve been doing evangelism, I’ve never seen anything like it. What is happening in the student world in terms of evangelistic one-to-ones is remarkable. Let me give you an example:
Five years ago I led the mission in Oxford. It was a tough mission, Dawkins was at the fore and only a few people professed. It was a really hard mission run by a faithful OICCU.
In 2013 I had accepted an invitation to lead a mini-mission in Oxford and I kept thinking: ‘This is going to be brutal’. About three months before the mission they got in contact and said: ‘I know it’s a three-day mission, but we’d like you to come for five and we’re going to do lunch time talks as well’. I said: ‘That sounds like a major mission’, and they replied: ‘Oh yeah’.
I arrived for the mission and the numbers had rocketed [from the previous mission]. On the last night, they told me: ‘We’ve got 150 non-Christian students reading Uncoverwith Christian students in the university. Just please preach so that people will repent and believe’. We saw professions all week.
PB: Why was the second mission more successful?
RT: What was happening was that one-to-one work was going on alongside the guest events. You see this is what we’ve [the church] got to get in place. The events we organise for Passion for Life are just the tip of the iceberg. The key thing is what’s going on underneath and that’s the personal one-to-one work. There was a student when I was in Oxford and she was not just the wettest Christian student at Oxford, but was the wettest student. On the way back from the Wednesday night talk, she’d managed to get her friend to come along and she said: ‘Would you like to look at the Uncover materials with me?’ The friend said: ‘Fine’. What’s been staggering is that non-Christians are willing to look at the primary sources in their hundreds.
Earlier this year I went to Preston. There are 21 in the Christian Union and eight of them are reading Uncover with their friends. It’s a sea change in the culture that UCCF has managed. Praise God!
PB: What difference does the one-to-one work make?
RT: Now the guest events and guest services are full of people whom you can really preach to because you know the moment it’s finished, they’re going to invite their friends to a one-to-one Bible study. Talking to Richard Cunningham, Director of UCCF, he just says: ‘I’ve not seen anything like this in 20 years. It has been quite remarkable — the non-Christians are hungry to do it.’
PB: How are you using Uncover in your church context?
RT: People at All Souls whose kids are at university are coming back and talking about reading a Gospel with their friends, and my brother is a case in point. His son, who’s at Bristol, is reading Uncover with three people, and my brother says: ‘If my son’s doing it, I’d better start doing it!’ And I’ll tell you what, in our family we’re thick idiots, so if we can do it, anyone can do it.
The UCCF motto is 5-5-5. Pray for five, give to five, read with five. And at All Souls we’ve been so struck by this that we’ve set a target of having 200 people in the church family reading Uncover. We’re going to run this because we’re so staggered at what God has done in the student world, and we really hope you’ll do it.
Pod Bhogal is head of communications for UCCF
OrderUncover resources for you and your church: thinkivp.com/uncover
Book for an Uncover Training Day at a venue near you with Rebecca Manley Pippert:http://www.uccf.org.uk/uncover-training/