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Encouragement in history’s pages

27 March 2015

Jeremy Crossley finds that a look at past revivals inspires hope

When God Breaks In: Revival can happen again
Michael Green
Hodder & Stoughton £13.99
Church Times Bookshop £12.60

OVER the years I have read most of the books that Michael Green has written, and have never regretted buying any of them, I certainly wasn't disappointed by this one: it is a deceptively slim and excellent book. Its subtitle is Revival can happen again, and even if you didn't believe this when you started the book, you are likely to think differently by the time you finish it.

From the start, Green doesn't try to play down the fact that "worldwide secularisation is proceeding apace", but he is also clear that, outside Western Europe, belief in God is growing, and those who call themselves Christians have proved ready to stand firm for their beliefs in the face of opposition and persecution.

Green is convinced that one of the means that God uses to encourage his people when times are bleak is to get them to read of those moments in history "when He broke through in a remarkable way and transformed the situation".

So, in an astonishing tour de force, Green takes us on a journey from Pentecost through the Reformation, the Awakening of the 18th century under the Wesleys and Whitefield, the 19th-century social crusades of Wilberforce and Shaftesbury, together with the extraordinary life of Charles Simeon; then through the Charismatic renewal; and finally the revivals in Mongolia, Singapore, and China. Green's excitement and transparent faith in God are infectious, and I found mine growing as I read the book.

Green is intellectually confident in his assessment of the New Atheists, and detailed in assessing the impact of various people and movements; he writes the most mature assessment of the Toronto Blessing which I have come across, and is rightly generous in his treatment of the Oxford Movement. His admiring analysis of the revival in the Province of South East Asia in the second part of the 20th century shows how effective episcopal leadership, such as that displayed by Moses Tay, can release revival.

Green concludes by "outlining several preconditions on the human side that seem to make these times of special growth and blessing". They make salutary reading. I felt I should reflect on them regularly as a kind of spiritual-fitness manual.

This is an excellent book, and should be read by everyone who longs for revival, and perhaps particularly by those training for ordination, as they prepare for ministry in a complex and rapidly changing world, but one in which God remains faithful, and ready to break in afresh.

The Revd Jeremy Crossley is the Rector of St Margaret Lothbury and St Stephen Coleman Street, London.

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