The gospel is about good news, then bad news, then even more good news. The good news of God’s loving creation of the world is followed by the bad news that human beings decided to reject the relationship with God and one another for which God created them. The Good News is that God broke into human history in Jesus Christ and made it possible for the members of flawed and fallen humanity to be reconciled to God and hence to one another.
Telling that story, living the story, working for the transformation of human lives by the story–that, says Robert Tuttle, is what evangelism is all about. In this new history of evangelism, Tuttle introduces the reader to the broad sweep of the church’s witness to the gospel. The familiar figures are all here–Paul, Patrick, Boniface, Columba, Luther, Wesley, Carey, and the like. Yet Tuttle knows that the story of the church’s ministry of evangelism has been a world-wide endeavor, drawing on the talents and commitment of women as well as men, lesser-known figures as well as famous ones. And so this is the first history of evangelism to tell the story from a truly global and inclusive perspective.
Tuttle organizes his material into particular historical periods or moments, introducing each one by way of three points of presentation. First, he tells the setting, the various cultural factors (social, political, religious, and the like) relevant to establishing the need for evangelism in that time and place. Next he introduces the speaker, an evangelist uniquely fitted to present the word of the gospel to the time under consideration. Finally he assesses the impact of the speaker and others who ministered in that context. Here he discusses the results of the overall evangelistic effort—some well done, some not so well done—and points toward the needs and context of the next period.