Book Review: 'Michael Green by his friends'
Canon Michael Green (1930–2019) was a persuasive evangelist and leading theologian who loved CU mission and was much loved by the CUs. Here, Plymouth CU Staff Worker Andrew Larkin reviews his authorised biography.
In the foreword, the evangelist J John comments, 'In the pages of any "tribute books" there is a sad air of closure, for the passing of an individual has brought an end to his or her significance. There is none of that here. Michael’s influence continues to grow and spread. Indeed, in the very best sense, this is an unfinished book.' Dedicated for the new generation of evangelists, this, as well as all the books by Michael Green, mean that even though he is dead, he still speaks. There is even one chapter by him, 'The talk that was never given', prepared for an events week at Birmingham University – proof that he kept going right until the end.
'Michael Green by his friends' is edited by Julia Cameron, the Director of Publishing for EFAC (Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion). In 21 chapters, it contains some 35 contributions from various people in Michael's past, alongside three appendices, a timeline of his life, and a glossary of terms.
The chapters are relatively short, ranging from two pages to just over 10 and the book itself divides into four parts: 1 - The Formative Years, 2 - A Man of Many Talents, 3 - Return to Oxford and ‘Retirement’, 4 - Last Few Weeks; And Following Michael’s Death.
As well as the sections on his ministry, I personally enjoyed reading about his sporting exploits and such extra-curricular activities, such as The Gunpowder plot (read the book if you want to know more!). The book took me, at times, to a place of being humbled and, occasionally, discouraged by the sheer breadth of gifting, energy, passion and devotion for Christ which leave most of us in the dust.
'It took me to a place of being humbled'
But as I kept reading I felt strengthened, energised and inspired by Michael’s example to, not so much imitate for that would be impossible but, give my all in these different areas and go deeper in my love for Jesus, His people and the lost.
A light on his character
The book does not present Michael as a saint or come across as hagiography. The difficulties in his marriage are not whitewashed, nor some of the challenging moments in his life and ministry, nor the tensions of 'his inner struggle to enthrone Christ above human ambition' as his son, Tim Green, comments.
Reflecting on Michael Green in light of this book, he comes across as a man with a generosity of spirit, a broadness of character and an ability to hold things together in tension which others would end up being contradictory in. An individual, but not independent; a leader, but a team player; a New Testament expert, a popular level writer; theologian and evangelist; Anglican but not to the exclusivity of the wider church body; and one who believed, taught and modelled the range of the Holy Spirit’s gifts whilst being thoroughly immersed in biblical teaching.
A book for all
A book like this is deeply personal for each contributor. They knew Michael through different experiences they'd had with him, such as army days, church work, evangelistic outreach, student mission, the Anglican communion and, family. As such, different chapters will be of particular interest to different people - but it contains a broad sweep of his talents and interests as well as chronologically working through his life. Anyone who has been influenced by Michael Green would enjoy this book as a tribute to him as well as anyone who, maybe from reading his books or hearing him speak, wants to get a better sense of the man. Anyone who also wants to understand some of the changes and developments over the past 80 or so years, or have more insight into someone God used mightily, will also enjoy it.
'A man with a generosity of spirit'
The last word goes to Bruce Gillingham, chaplain at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and who was a student under Michael at St. John’s College, Nottingham, who, in his chapter, wrote:
'There are many other missions that Michael led that are not recorded in this chapter. But these are written that you may know that Michael Green was a pioneer in theological evangelism, and that, in following his example, many more will find eternal life in Jesus Christ, our dying Saviour and our risen Lord.'
Yes, and Amen. As J. John said, 'This is an unfinished book'.
To buy a copy of 'Michael Green by his friends', you can visit IVP books here: https://ivpbooks.com/michael-green