Book Review:  Evangelism Through the Local Church, by Michael Green (Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, 1992. 574 pages)

 

Introduction

The dust jacket calls Evangelism Through the Local Church “a comprehensive guide to all aspects of evangelism”.  It is every bit of that.  Green deals with the apologetic task, the theology of evangelism, philosophical, social, cultural and religious trends and issues as well as providing detailed, step-by-step guides for evangelistic groups and meetings.  It is thorough and exhaustive.

Major Points

There are four parts to his book.  In the first, “Issues for the Church”, Green establishes his subject by clarifying theological issues such as the nature of human beings, the meaning of baptism, the propriety of evangelizing other religions, the kind of church God uses in evangelism, etc.  Part II is about apologetics.  Here he points out the vacuity of postmodern culture and the problems and issues it creates in the lives of individuals.  He looks at pluralism, secularism, agnosticism, and so forth, but he also includes a chapter on the emotional needs of people today–something I’ve never encountered in a book on evangelism.  Part II, “Church-Based Evangelism”, is basically a series of practical, “how-to” chapters on preaching, individual evangelism, discipleship, using venues other than the congregation, preaching missions.  He finishes this section with two issue-focused chapters.  One assessing the value of Arminian vs. Calvinist approaches (following Simeon, Green concludes that one should “pray like a Calvinist and preach like an Arminian”)  The second, which recaps the book’s title, offers a via media between Charismatic and Evangelical approaches, in which he acknowledges the strengths and weaknesses of both.  Part IV is a series of eight Practical Appendixes in which he and other contributors provide actual course outlines, methods for organizing, planning and executing evangelistic missions, as well as sports ministry and how peace and justice ministry is a place where evangelism can take place.

Theological, Pastoral, and Personal Relevance

I wish I’d read this book years ago!  For eleven years in pastoral ministry, I struggled with evangelism and renewal, never having read or studied anything that brought it home to the practical day-to-day life of parish ministry.  I had read extensively in power evangelism, revivals, parachurch methods, and so forth, but never had I encountered such a clear presentation of all aspects of the subject.  Green’s special qualities are his ability to combine clear and profound intellectual background in his apologetic and theological sections with uncompromising commitment to the welfare of the individual–both the believer (in team ministry training and equipping) and nonbeliever..  He is not a “church growth” expert.  His book has none of the graphs, charts, principles and sociometrics so characteristic of that school.  Rather, he focuses on the believer’s evangelistic interaction with the inquirer, in a spirit of love, energy and positive excitement.  Green’s focus is on the local church.  The painstaking detail in which he shows me, the parish minister, just how to go about this kind of thing, makes Green’s book very valuable.   Yet this is not a book that advocates programs of any kind.  For example, Green devised and has used what he calls “Discovery Groups” for years, but there is no published material, and the appendix in which he presents the material only suggests sequence, issues to be covered, and so forth.  In the chapter in which he introduces the Discovery Groups, he describes the way the meeting goes, and offers a little dialogue to suggest how leaders might direct the conversation.  In other words, it’s not Alpha, or EE or  Serendipity.  Green provides no videos, booklets, or three-ring binders; only outlines and suggestions for how these groups might go:  one beggar telling another beggar how to give the third beggar bread.  Underlying Green’s approach is his faith in God to do through the reader and the Church what he said he would in Jesus.  Green’s book is a wonderful guide to evangelism as the parish lifestyle.

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