The Story of Evangelism: A history of the witness to the Gospel by Robert J Tuttle Hr.
Abingdon Press, 2006, 435 pp £16.00 ISBN 9780687352036
The marvellously named Professor Tuttle teaches evangelism at Asbury Theological Seminary. He writes with short sentences and never misses a cliché. This history of evangelism moves fast, across countries, with quickly sketched characters and events; a single page can offer, ‘Cross the Channel to the Netherlands … Once in Scandinavia … In the meantime, the Russia of Peter the Great… North America is of interest’ (page 286).
I wanted to welcome this comprehensive and global history of evangelism wholeheartedly but I can’t. Its breathless style jarred; it was unrelenting. While I discovered names and moments in the history of evangelism that were new to me, the presentation placed before me political and religious figures and events without discrimination or deep reflection. Some of the information was bizarre; ‘Melchior Hoffman (c1498-1544) a Swabian-born furrier of Livonia, wandered widely along the Baltic …’ Is this useful incidental detail or the saplings obscuring all view of the wood? His intent was ‘to tell the story … to motivate you to do evangelism yourselves’. The Professor as preacher often takes over from the historian in this text and I ultimately found its, ‘get up and go like all these other guys and gals from history’, style wearisome, if genial.
Broken into 13 periods from creation to today, all but one period has a general political setting to introduce the era; an autobiographical and reflective piece on one character from the era and a concluding section on the impact of the period. Each period closes with an un-annotated, up to date bibliography. Too detailed as a first text and too shallow as an advanced one, I agree one back cover comment that there is a need for a comprehensive account of evangelism that includes non-western narratives but fear this is not it.
Reviewer: The Revd Ian Smith, Priest in Charge of St Paul Wordsworth Avenue, Sheffield and Diocesan Mission Coordinator
metconnexion, Autumn 2008, p.27