I listened to Michael Green preach on Sunday at St. Andrew’s, Oxford. I last heard him, oh 25 years ago, as an undergraduate. I remember dropping in to St. Aldate’s when I was feeling overwhelmed because a lot of my friends went there. I wouldn’t have called myself a Christian, though his sermons did make perfect sense to me, and sort of inspired me to do the right thing.
He spoke on the next chapter in the book of the Bible we were going through, Nehemiah 2. I thought it was excellent–a combination of good vivid story telling, a magnetic personality which encourages one to pay attention, and the ability to draw practical spiritual inferences from a historic text.
What was my “take-away”? That God is sovereign even when everything seems to be against us. That an arrow prayer straight from our heart to God’s can change things at any time. That nothing is hopeless as long as God is around. That God can penetrate and change human history.
Michael Green is 81. I would love to be so fresh and green, bearing fruit at 81. And so, I guess I need to do two things–make sure I eat healthily, and exercise now. And FAR more important, I need to put my roots into the stream of God so that I will be able to draw nourishment from his living waters when I am old. (Psalm 1, Ezekiel 47).
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And so, at home, I googled Michael Green as one does these days!. He was converted –along with John Stott, David Watson and Nicky Gumbel by a man I had never heard of–unlike his list of converts. Someone called EJH Nash, or Bash who ran a camp ministry at Iwerne Minster. David Watson is meant to have attended 35 camps in five years.
Nash focussed on reaching “the best boys from the best schools.” He devoted his life to preaching a simple evangelical gospel at the top 30 public schools. He also influenced the University Christian Unions a particularly good example being the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union “where between 1935 and 1939 all CICCU’s presidents were ‘Bash’ campers, and the union was marked by his methods: a very simple evangelical gospel; meticulous preparation; a wariness of emotions or intellect and assiduous “personal work” before and after conversion.” He was famous for his sense of humour, and his ability to create a happy atmosphere.
Wow! It strikes me that the man must have really loved Christ to devote his life not to speaking, writing and media appearances as so many of today’s Christian superstars do, but to training the next generation of Christian leaders, who in turn will influence the next generation or two.
It was a highly focussed strategy: “the best boys from the best schools.” It was not Jesus’s strategy, though. Jesus appeared to take riff-raff who had tough characters–but hey, who can argue with success.
The mystery of influence! Billy Graham was converted by a travelling preacher called Mordechai Ham. Ham was tired, and weary and almost did not want to go on. His journal shows his despairing cries to the Lord for fruit. On the next night, Billy Graham came to his tent.
Our lives belong to Christ. Whether we hold up the torch of our own work to shine brightly–or pass it
on to another–does not really matter.
And interestingly, I could not easily find a reliable image of the man. When I typed his name, I saw images of Michael Green, John Stott, and David Watson. “Bash,” with his famous sense of humour, may have enjoyed this!!