Evangelism through the Local ChurchWritten by Michael Green Reviewed By Stephen Leeke
I write as a country vicar who considers evangelism his first priority but hardly ever manages to get round to it! Slightly lower down my list of priorities comes—Keeping up to date with theological reading. Needless to say, I don’t do much of that either. And when I was presented with this book, my heart sank. It is so big!—574 large pages. But the minute I opened it, everything changed. Just a dip into this amazingly readable book quickly helped to sort out my priorities.
The central chapter, ‘The Church God uses’, compares today’s churches with those of Acts, stressing the need for openness in 10 different areas of church life. It amounts to a powerful vision of effective witness by every member. It summarizes many of the ideas Professor Green has published before, but with a directness and enthusiasm which are particularly timely at the start of the Decade of Evangelism. His stress on the great need for training in the local church challenged me particularly.
Dealing with evangelism in a multi-faith society, the author groups the kaleidoscope of religions under the headings: Occult Religions, Imperial Religions, Ascetic Religions, Genital Religions, Bourgeois Religions, Prophetic Religions and Revelatory Religions (Judaism and Christianity only). He deals with the rise of Islam and the New Age movement and restates with clarity the unique nature and claims of Jesus Christ.
Michael Green’s four chapters on practical apologetics—‘The Secular Challenge’—are a description of the way most Western people think these days, and a collection of answers to the ‘hard questions’ we may be faced with. Sometimes they are almost standard ‘knockdown’ replies; some are more useful analyses of the trends in recent thinking and lack of it. The evidence for the resurrection is dealt with at length. The approach is supremely confident, thoroughly Bible-based, and politely assertive. He never loses sight of the imperative to love the non-believer, stressing the need for local churches which are attractive to the outsider and which will genuinely welcome him or her into their fellowship. There are helpful chapters describing Person-to-Person Evangelism, Missions, and Christian Nurture.
This is an enthusiastic, practical, down-to-earth guide to the process of sharing the Good News with others. Sometimes it may appear slightly simplistic; but those who are inexperienced in evangelism will value simplicity, and those with more experience will bear with a retelling of the ABCD of conversion. The style is very didactic and to some it will jar to be told (in the section on preaching), ‘As you invite people to the front, avoid any sense of pressure. Be laid back about it. But train your congregation to ask their visitors, at this juncture, “Would you like to join a Discovery Group?” ’ However, as with all Green’s books, it is heavily spiced throughout with a widely eclectic seasoning of tasty, apt and useful quotations.
This is a handbook, meant to be read and to be used for reference. The author doesn’t just suggest that the local church should consider a course for Enquirers, he provides a week-by-week syllabus (Appendix A). He does likewise for Groups for New Christians. Leading Missions and Training Teams, Using Drama and Movement (Jane Holloway), Leading Worship (Neale Fong), Sports Ministry (Andrew Wingfield Digby) and (a possibly token footnote) Social Justice (Ron Dart, eight pages)—eight mainly very practical Appendices.
Each chapter ends with a bibliography of further reading, often divided into ‘popular level’ and ‘more advanced level’. There is a complete bibliography at the back of the book.
Michael Green has provided ministers with another clear, crisp and authoritative tome which shares his enthusiasm and methods for church-based, classical evangelism. If we adopted this as our handbook for the Decade of Evangelism, it would do our local churches a power of good and enable us to grow both in maturity and in numbers.
Warboys Rectory, Huntingdon, Cambs