Saturday, November 27, 2010

Early Preaching Whitefield - Evangelist

I hope you enjoyed the little extract about Whitefield's conversion. I loved the sense of thirst and what that translated for him. I do get a little nervous by the modern charismatic definition of spiritual thirst. It seems so subjective, disconnected from scripture, connected rather simply to manifestations. His thirst was directly linked to the wonder of the gospel and the biblical consequence it brings.

Today's quote comes from that section which speaks of Whitefield as an early preacher. Remember, he was a highly intelligent man who gave himself to study, reading the scriptures in Greek...

"I began to read the Holy Scriptures upon my knees; laying aside all other books, and praying over, if possible, every line and word. This proved meat indeed and drink indeed to my soul. I daily received fresh life, light and power from above. I got more true knowledge from reading the book of God in one month, than I could ever have acquired from all the writings of men.

[In spite of his age and counter the rules of the day which said that one could not be ordained before the age of 22, he was ordained at the age of 21 on June 20, 1736]

In preaching that men, of all ages and conditions must be 'born again' or never 'see the kingdom of heaven' though there were some in the land who believed it, he found himself practically alone, going forth as a herald of a doctrine which the public agreed to consider as new; but which he felt, God had made known to him that he might proclaim it to others, and thus revive the power of Christianity in the land. And as God had raised him up and enlightened his mind for the work, he doubted not that God would be with him in the performance, and make his strength equal to his day. He went, therefore, fearlessly as well as earnestly and affectionately, about his work.

Moved in his inmost soul by the sight of his fellow-men, ready to perish and yet ignorant of their danger, he could not fetter himself with the rules by which ordinary men were taught to construct dull sermons; he must pour forth the desires of his heart and the convictions of his mind. And he did pour them forth, in a style natural and clear, animated and pathetic [sic], which sometimes the intensity of pathos rendered truly sublime. He poured them forth in a voice of wonderful flexibility, compass and power and accompanied with the most graceful, impressive and appropriate action.

In look, attitude, gesture, intonation - in all that constitutes the manner of an orator, the world probably never saw his superior, perhaps, never his equal... but it was his ardent love for souls that were perishing, his sense of the unutterable importance of the truth, which God had raised him up to proclaim to a world that had forgotten it, and his firm assurance that God was with him to give that truth success, that was the fountain of his power. When he proclaimed that truth and besought men to hear it and think of it, that their souls might live, they could not refuse. They were interested; they were affected, they were alarmed. They were persuaded, that they must 'strive to enter in at the strait gate'; that if they continued to neglect salvation, they should not escape final ruin..."

I have loved reading of an evangelist in full flight. In a day of generalists, coaches, mentors, and generic teams, I do wonder if we are losing the wonder of the evangelist. Their raw gutsy power, their rich theology shaping a gospel appeal, and the role they play in opening nations is so pivotal and yet seconded to the fringes of the Jesus journey as we seek to be contextual, current relevant. I would love to enter into convos with those evangelists whom the Father is raising up for this next decade...

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