Gospel Witness Through the Ages, by David M. Gustafson (Eerdmans, 2022, 467 pages)
When we think of the history of the expansion of the church, we can often lose sight of the mechanisms through which God gave that growth. This includes the ministry of evangelism. David M. Gustafson wants us to be more proactive in thinking about the history of evangelism as a subset of church history and to not just assume that it must have happened in the background. The purpose of ‘Gospel Witness Through the Ages’ is, therefore, to present us with a history of the proclamation of the gospel throughout church history.
As might be expected Gustafson begins with the early church, showing how some of the principles and strategies laid down during this period should still be foundational to evangelism in the 21st century.
The rest of the book takes us on a long and exciting journey through the history of the church. We have the opportunity to think about the facts and strategies behind a diverse range of evangelistic approaches, including monastic evangelism, reformation evangelism, revival evangelism, urban evangelism etc. As a student of church history, I found this approach both refreshing and enlightening. Most of us are indeed very familiar with the people and events being described, however our gaze is constantly turned towards the evangelistic implications of what happened or was being said.
Gustafson’s book is more than just a dry retelling of the bare facts of the history of evangelism. Instead, one of his stated aims is to help 21st century Christians to be more faithful and informed in their evangelism in the 21st century. To this end, he spends a significant amount of time looking at global trends and in applying the principles gleaned from earlier ages to the evangelistic calling of the present-day church.
I would strongly recommend this work to anyone who is keen to be challenged in their practice of evangelism. It is also a book that can strengthen us in our faith as we observe how our sovereign God used the efforts of His people for the extension of His Kingdom.