A Voice for Us

“He sensed that mighty changes were on the horizon in America and that time was running out. He had to finish his work, raise up the leaders, and fulfill his duty to his beloved America.”   Speaking of George Whitefield 1745

Since the age of 3-4, I have been fascinated by preachers who have vision for the masses. George Whitefield, one of the first Methodists and friend of the Wesleys has been at the top of that list. He invented mass evangelism. When in his early twenties, he preached to 80,000 people in England’s Hyde Park. Not only was his voice capable (as proven by his friend Benjamin Franklin), he spoke with such power it was said that actors would weep when he said the word “Mesopotamia.”

Writer Stephen Mansfield calls Whitefield America’s “Forgotten Founding Father.”

“Had Whitefield never gone to America, the great revival there might never have happened. And, had there been no great revival, there may well have been no American Revolution.”

This preacher was different. He began every sermon with a joke and told stories. Pulpits were closed to him, so he went to where the people were. He preached in open fields and went to the mines when miners were getting off work and early mornings when they were headed for work. One of my favorite images is from his preaching to miners in Kingswood, England.

“Hundreds had gathered with their coal-blackened faces peering back quizzically at the young preacher. He continued not knowing what to make of their silence. Then he noticed something. There were white streaks appearing on the faces…the miners were weeping. Repentance followed and soon laughing and singing.”   (Forgotten Founding Father, Stephen Mansfield, (c)2001, Highland Books, page 77)

When Whitefield arrived in the colonies, there was nothing to unify then into anything that could be called “United.” That changed. The unifier was his preaching. From Georgia to New England almost every resident heard Whitefield preach.

“Whitefield was the ‘first inter-colonial event.’ For the first time, the American colonists had a common experience that gave them a sense of corporate life they had never had before.” (Mansfield page 110)

His method was “preach and return.” He would preach and plant the gospel. He gave no altar call. He left that locale and after giving the “seed” time to germinate he would return to preach again and to invite people into the Kingdom. Those who responded were placed in small groups or communities for Christian growth. That was not just for Bible study, but for fellowship. They would share their own growth and see others being transformed by Jesus. The populace had followed England into debauchery and drunkenness. The fellowship groups gave the converts an alternative to gin houses on Friday nights.

The second piece of the plan was to share his vision for good work. He told stories of those very people feeding the poor, building schools and caring for orphans. There was deployment into significant ministries.

“He did this because he wanted more than just revival: he wanted a spiritual revolution, a transformation of society by the power and truth of God’s kingdom.”

I see parallels of the days leading to the American Revolution and the days following with our own. That makes these days quite open to revival and awakening that will heal and transform. If some visionary can see what is attempting to manifest—I like what Mansfield says:

“Already a man on a mission, now (Whitefield) had a method to match his call.” The evangelist said, “Field preaching is my plan….”

So, we pray for the right person to hear from heaven and discover 21st Century field preaching.

Before Whitefield’s first tour of America, he was not sure whether he should stay in England and attend to the monstrous crowds and nurture of converts or go to the new country. While wrestling with his life purpose, a letter came from John Wesley who was already in Georgia. Wesley spoke of great opportunities for the gospel and the “harvest that awaited the bold and the willing.” Wesley closed his letter with the challenge, “What if thou art the man, Mr. Whitefield?”

I cannot hear the daily news and the images of a culture on the verge of destruction without being prodded by Wesley’s question: “What if thou art the man?” The question is not about preaching to 80,000 or millions, but where I (you) fit in the promises of 2 Chronicles 7:14.


©2016 D. Dean Benton       Benton Books & Blogs       Bentonministries.com

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