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Glad tidings he brings

03 January 2012

Sarah Hillman values an evangelist’s look back at his experience


Compelled by Joy: A lifelong passion for evangelism
Michael Green

IVP £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9

RIGHT at the start of chapter one, Michael Green explains that he was asked by his publishers to write a book on “reflections of a lifelong evangelist”. This is that book.

Green’s passion for sharing the good news of the gospel is what underpins every chapter. He was a man who used his considerable gifts in this area to build up an effective ministry. In the first chap­ter, he gives some of his own early story, and tells of how a normal happy teenager, baptised and confirmed, familiar with school chapel, was introduced to the living Christ through a group of fellow pupils at Clifton College who met on a Sunday afternoon. The leader of this group, Richard Gorrie, helped Green towards a point of decision, and then nurtured him afterwards.

The passionate desire to share the “treasure” he had discovered grew and developed during his remaining schooldays. From early days, he was a committed evangelist, though he does not like that word, which he finds misleading and restrictive.

The first is the most biographical chapter, though the rest of the book is peppered with stories and anecdotes from his life. Though he is clear about his own theology and the central place of the cross, I was reminded that it is only too easy to assume a stereotypical view of someone from what one has heard or read.

Green is not narrow-minded; he recognises that there are many types of evangelism. Four are particularly picked out: preaching, the sacra­ments, healing and deliverance, and visions and other surprises.

In many ways, his approach is that of a classic evangelist; so I was encouraged that he recognises not just scripture and preaching, but the healing power of the eucharist. He even gives the example of someone who came to Christ through a service of Benediction — not what I had expected.

Throughout, he explains how he approached his ministry, and his thoughts often lead to numbered points that he wishes to make — for instance, 12 characteristics of the early church in Antioch, seven ways to motivate congregations for evangelism, 12 contem­porary trends that he welcomes, and so on.

Each chapter has a main theme. He lays out what the gospel is, how the church can spread the Good News, and writes about university outreach — an arena in which he has much experience. Other sections look at the need to be careful in the language one uses, relating to modern culture, apologetics, and preaching with a call for decision.

His final thoughts remind us all that no one can be effective in this ministry without “the activity of God the Evangelist”. Who can disagree with that?

I enjoyed discovering what motivates this well-known man who has clearly had an effect on the faith of many people, not least students. Yes, he is an Evangelical, but those of other traditions will also learn from his wisdom, which is relevant for anyone seeking to be inspired in evangelism. He is adept in accepting that his is not the only way, but thanks God for the ministry he has been given. I thank Green for sharing his insights.

The Revd Sarah Hillman is Priest-in-Charge of Puddletown, Tolpuddle and Milborne with Dewlish.

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