Thirty Years That Changed The World: The Book Of Acts For Today, by Michael Green
Let me state at the outset that this is not a perfect book. When one is reading a book, particularly when the author believes that he is following the Bible and seeking to let it speak, as much as possible, rather than seeking to use the Bible as a source of proof for preconceived notions and personal agendas, it is easy to look for faults and to reject the book because it has them. This book has some flaws—the author clearly does not obey God’s laws with regards to the Sabbath or food laws, and even jokes a good deal about both, and he clearly has some flaws in his view of the Holy Spirit as being “personal” rather than “sub-personal.” Even so, a charitable reader looks at a book for what can be appreciated from it and what is worthwhile and praiseworthy about it, and this book, at nearly 300 pages of passionate and mostly sound discussion about the application and contemporary relevance of the Book of Acts for believers, has a lot that can be applied, appreciated, and praised. It is worth stating that at the outset, for the author has a lot to say that will come as a stinging critique both to those who seek to be a one-man spiritual band apart from any sort of larger fellowship of believers as well as those who lead spiritual institutions but are more concerned with titles and offices than with meeting the spiritual needs of brethren. This book is rather fierce in spirit, clearly claims the example of the early apostolic leadership like Paul as a model for his ferocity of spirit, and the natural tendency of those whose egos are bruised is to find fault rather than to accept rebuke. This tendency should be resisted as much as possible when reading a book like this.
The contents of this book are well-organized and very pointed in their application to contemporary Western Christendom. The author begins with a discussion of the thirty years that changed history in taking the message of the Kingdom of God to such a spread that it could not be stopped despite Christian imperfection and centuries of persecution. The author then thoughtfully discusses both the bridges and ditches of first century society, seeking to provide a look at the advantages that first century evangelists had as well as their deficits in dealing with contemporary worldviews and preconceptions. The author then looks at Luke and his friends, before spending the rest of the book asking and answering a set of important and worthwhile questions: What of their approach? What of their lifestyle? What of their message? What of their apologetics? What of their methods? What of their church planting? What of their pastoral care? What of their church life? What of their leadership? What of their hardships? What of the Holy Spirit? What of their priorities? The result is a book that provides a string of contrasts between the attitude and approach we find in the Book of Acts and that which is commonly practiced. This book is a critique written for well-educated seminary graduates and ministers that is meant to provoke repentance and change.
Is it successful in its efforts? On the one hand, the book does have a lot to offer when it comes to a thoughtful explanation of some of the Greek expressions in Acts and in providing backup for the author’s thoughts on many matters. The author does not mince words, but neither is he deliberately harsh or cruel. He shows a great deal of sympathy and understanding for believers, and points to the high ethical demands, including the demands of overcoming barriers of ethnicity and gender, that are placed on believers. He rebukes charismatic excesses while showing a far higher view of the contemporary debate on various “gifts of the spirit,” including speaking in tongues, than many believers possess. He places a great deal of importance on unity, especially in the divide between bookish teachers and scholars (people like this reviewer) and those who are of a more prophetic focus , and laments our tendencies to divide so easily. The target market of this book is made up of leaders within Christian churches and institutions, a message that balances praise as well as critique, like most of the letters in Revelation 2 and 3. Whether the readers of this book have ears to hear is another matter. This is the sort of book that appears likely to receive a lot more praise than it receives application, and for the most part, that is a great shame.
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