Rev. Dr. Michael Green (1930-2019)
Winsome and joyful pastor, theologian, and evangelist
by Dan Rutherford
Many Christians across North America will reflect with sad fondness to the news of the death of Michael Green.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s, Green was Professor of Evangelism and New Testament at Regent College in Vancouver where he inspired great numbers of Christians to joyfully embrace and proclaim their faith through his many community missions and speaking events. He was never one to simply teach arid concepts about theology or evangelism in a classroom but infectiously drew others along with him in the promotion of the gospel in the wider world. As one who personally participated in two mission teams with him in Canada, it was inspiring to see how his contagious joy and confidence in the gospel would inspire others to join him in his boldness. No doubt there are many people who were Regent College students, or from the region, who will look back on the era of his tenure at Regent College as a time when they came to faith or began to advance the Christian faith with greater boldness and confidence.
Green not only cast a long shadow in Western Canada and North America but, had a substantial influence that emanated from his homeland in England. For more than 60 years his ministry inspired the Christian church to confidently proclaim the truth of the resurrection power of Christ through his teaching, preaching, and writing. Ultimately, he wrote more than 50 books, which grounded the gospel in relevant language that is still accessible for many today.
Green had “an unconventional approach to evangelism which was entirely in keeping with a man who was fond of saying that ‘the job of an evangelist is to electrocute the fence that someone is sitting on.’” His book, Evangelism in the Early Church, established his reputation as a first-class theologian who was able to write and influence church and theological circles at a high level. One colleague commented, “rare for many theologians, Michael comfortably straddled the practical world of spreading the Gospel and the academic world of understanding it.”
Following his time at Regent College, Green returned to England and Oxford in 1992 to serve with Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey’s Decade of Evangelism. He also had a variety of roles that provided guidance to the national Anglican church in the UK. When most would have retired, Green joined Wycliffe Hall in Oxford to teach evangelism and apologetics and continued to be very active in his ministry, including leading many missions in universities in the UK and abroad.
As an interesting connection back to his time in Canada, Green wrote in his biography, Adventure of Faith about a special friend who many Canadian Christians will remember, fellow evangelist, Terry Winter. “For many years I was friends with Terry Winter, the Canadian evangelist who had a remarkable television ministry. I did three programs with him shortly before he died suddenly and unexpectedly. His last program was on resurrection and in it he said, ‘You will hear one day that Terry Winter is dead. Don’t you believe it. He will be more alive than ever’. That program was aired, in its regular scheduling, two days after he died. I could not have expressed it as well as he did, but I share his confidence as I look to the ‘tomorrow’ of my own life.”
While we feel sorrow for our loss of a great friend and mentor, we rejoice in the Christian Hope that Green is “more alive than ever”! He would certainly direct us to the confident words of scripture in 2 Corinthians 5, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened – not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”
Green is survived by his wife Rosemary, four children – Tim, Sarah, Jenny, Jonathan – and many grandchildren.
Dan Rutherford, is an apologist and businessman, and had the privilege of encountering Michael Green at St. Aldates Church in Oxford and joining him occasionally on Mission teams.