John Finney, DLT, 2004, 178 pp, £10.95, ISBN 0 232 52496 3
Bishop John Finney, perhaps best known for his seminal analysis Finding Faith Today, is one of an influential group of Anglican gurus on post-modern evangelism. Church House Publishing has excelled recently in their books: Evangelism - which way now? and Evangelism in a spiritual age as well as others in its Explorations series, and of course the Mission-shaped church report (reviews of all are on the Headway website).
However, the prominence of CHP’s titles may just have overshadowed somewhat Finney’s release through DLT. Also, it is noticeable that quite a few books on this topic cover more or less the same ground and this is also true of parts of Emerging evangelism. It has chapters on what evangelism is today, on the change to a post-modern world and ways of evangelising, overviews of evangelism before and after 1990 including Alpha, Emmaus and other courses, and a chapter on evangelising Athens-style. Finney has his own distinctive ‘take’ on all of these, but it risks being a little déja vu for those who have already read the rest.
What makes the book rather different and, in my view, well worth digging into, are chapters on less usual aspects that are knitted-in carefully with the more familiar coverage. Finney has written fascinating titles on topics such as historic patterns of Christian renewal and Celtic and monastic evangelism. It is as if he dips into all the topics he has researched and written on, and drawn them all together to analyse the emerging patterns of evangelism. It almost looks like a ‘swan-song’ but I hope it isn’t!
For me, the most enlightening chapter is on how the gospel was transmitted in New Testament times, not only through kerugma (content) and evangelion (preaching) but mysterion (mystery). The pros and cons of each are wisely analysed and Finney draws out the key role of mysterion in going beyond the ‘forest of verbiage’ that the other two can produce, to the rediscovery of the place of mystery in post-modern evangelism.
His later chapters on ‘A New Monasticism’ and ‘Ritual and relationship’ build on this theme. The former draws from one of Finney’s favourite topics: ‘the rebirth of the monastic community’ which is spiritual, incarnational, networked, focused and evangelistic. Like his colleague Canon Robert Warren in The healthy churches’ handbook, Finney moves on from the mechanistic and activist models of church and church growth, to the more touchy-feely qualitative models: more ‘what we are’ than ‘what we do’.
What I found made Emerging evangelism so worth reading was the way in which all these sideways angles on the subject not only have their own things to say, but also give new and useful lateral insights into the more usual topics that recur so often in the other titles on today’s evangelism. I hope it therefore gets the exposure that it so well deserves.
Reviewed by Charles Freebury, Vice-chairman of the Cliff College Committee and Emmaus Course consultant in south-west England
Headline, Autumn 2008, p.28-29