A Book Review
Editor, Thomas P. Johnston, along with 21 contributors collaborated in the production of A History of Evangelism in North America from Kregel Academic. This is an encouraging book about God’s work of using men and women to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. It’s also an informative book that surveys their methodology for disseminating said good news.
Covering the likes of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Henrietta Mears, and Billy Graham, this book abounds with stories of how God used everyday people for the sake of His name. Chapters vary in their presentation of biographical details, sermon excerpts, and application for sharing the gospel. On the aspect of application, some significant themes emerge. Godliness, prayer, and confidence in God are all essential qualities and activities for the work of evangelism.
The contributors strive to balance the biographical treatments of their subjects with analysis of their respective evangelistic methodologies. Most succeed. I can sympathize with contributor Matt Queen for not having a human subject to balance out the data in his chapter, “Southern Baptist Personal Evangelism Methodologies, 1970–2000.” But with the rare exception, this book treats its subjects warmly. Chapters rarely fail to mention relevant controversies, but often do so in the lightest manner possible, trending more towards tributes. And I have no problem with that. Readers can pursue further study on their own. Although they do so without the benefit of suggested reading from the contributors apart from bibliographic notes.
Recommendations for further reading on each subject would have been a welcome addition. I also felt it would have been worthwhile to expand the book’s introduction to define evangelism and evangelist. Without clarification, the reader is on their own to figure out why John Piper, for instance, made the cut. One might also wonder why the book claims to cover the history of North America when it only does so for the United States. Evangelists and evangelism in Canada and Mexico do not figure into this work.
Apart from those simply interested in this book’s subject, pastors and students would also benefit from reading this book. It would also work well for assigned reading in a college course on evangelism. A History of Evangelism in North America fills the unique gap of an up-to-date history of Christians who carried out the Great Commission in the United States on a large scale.
Special thanks to Kregel Academic for providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding this work.