Evangelism: Learning from the Past – Michael Green

Evangelism: Learning from the Past by Michael Green
Series: Eerdman's Michael Green Collection
Published by Eerdmans on September 28, 2023
Genres: Academic, Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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Beyond his prolific academic career, Michael Green is fondly remembered for his commitment to sharing the gospel with everyone. His passion for evangelism, the heart of his life and work, shines through in Evangelism: Learning from the Past, his last manuscript before his passing in 2019.

Green narrates how evangelists spread the good news, starting with first evangelist, Jesus, and his apostles. He then moves through the early church, the Middle Ages, the Reformation, and Revival movements. The book culminates with Green’s reflections on his own decades-spanning career in evangelism and how he adapted the timeless truths of the gospel amid the major cultural shifts of the twentieth century. Throughout the narrative, he focuses on what we can learn from evangelists through history to inform our own practice today. To this end, each chapter concludes with questions to encourage reflection.

Those who have been moved by Green’s work will treasure this deeply personal final addition to his extensive oeuvre. Evangelism: Learning from the Past will offer inspiration and encouragement to all evangelical Christians looking to revitalize and contextualize their work in proclaiming the good news to all.

The late Michael Green was a British evangelist and theologian whose work is even more relevant today in the United Kingdom than it was during his years of ministry. Eerdmans has been publishing his writing under the name of The Michael Green Collection, gathering all of his work in one place to allow his legacy to live on. There are ten books in the series with this one serving as a rather brief and straightforward history of evangelism.

Evangelism: Learning from the Past is divided into twelve chapters, working chronologically through the history of evangelism. Each chapter comes in at between 8-16 pages, making this volume a quick and concise overview of each era. The first three chapters cover the early church of the first to fourth centuries. Chapters 4-6 cover the Middle Ages. Chapter 7 is the Reformation. Chapter 8 the evangelical revival. Chapters 9-11 move from the eighteenth century to the twenty century. Then, finally, Green closes with a reflection of his own sixty years in the work of evangelism.

This book is fine. The information is rather perfunctory, Green functions more as a historian than a commentator with only the information he chooses to include and the end of chapter discussion questions giving any evidence of his personal thoughts on certain trends. That lack of bias, while admirable, leaves the reader feeling as if they are reading a Wikipedia page or an encyclopedia entry. Perhaps that was the intention, but the end result is a lot of information without much tying it to the present day. The end of chapter questions try to make the content relevant, but seem disconnected from the work as a whole. It’s a history without any connection to Green’s personal thoughts based on his lived experience or academic insight and, as such, it left me feeling robbed of would have made this book stand out.

The information in Evangelism: Learning from the Past is information I could get anywhere—likely in more depth. What made this book interesting was its author, but Green writes this particular volume in such a way that, excepting the final chapter, his voice seems almost absent from the book. I felt like this book had its genesis as research notes for a university level evangelism class where the historical aspect was only part of the teaching. The discussion questions reveal the potential for great insight and discussion that are absent from the book alone. I would use this book as a teaching tool, but it needed more to stand on its own.