George Whitefield

Wear Out Or Rust Out

Whitefield

George Whitefield, on this day, September 30, 1770, woke at 2am with an the beginning of breathing problems that he suffered from for some time and thought was asthma. He decided to take 2-3 days off of preaching to recover. Then soon after decided it would be better to preach that day. "A good pulpit sweat today may give me relief. I shall be better after preaching."

Richard Smith, his assistant, responded, "I wish you would not preach so often, sir."

Whitefield: "I would rather wear out than rust out."

He sat up in bed, praying. When finished, he went back to sleep for an hour and then awoke at 4am barely able to breathe. That morning George Whitefield died, fighting for each breath, until he met his Savior face to face.

George Whitefield: How To Listen To A Sermon

George whitefield post headerGeorge Whitefield offers keys for getting the most out of what the preacher says...

  1. Come to hear them, not out of curiosity, but from a sincere desire to know and do your duty
  2. Give diligent heed to the things that are spoken from the Word of God
  3. Do not entertain even the least prejudice against the minister
  4. Be careful not to depend too much on a preacher, or think more highly of him than you ought to think
  5. Make particular application to your own hearts of everything that is delivered
  6. Pray to the Lord, before, during, and after every sermon

Read more of Whitefield's thoughts on listening to a sermon.

The Secret of Whitefield's Success

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The Secret of George Whitefield's Success, five points (via)...

1. Natural eloquence -- a gift from God - used by the power of God's Holy Spirit.
2. Fellowship with God -- Whitefield gives us a glimpse in his Journal of his walk with God. 'Early in the morning, at noonday, evening and midnight, nay, all day long, did the blessed Jesus visit and refresh my soul. At other times I would be overpowered with a sense of God's Infinite Majesty'.
3. Godliness -- 'Above all he was a great saint, and Wesley and others bore tribute to this during his life and his death. This was the ultimate secret of his preaching power' (Lloyd-Jones).
4. Concern for the lost and the conviction that sinners are in danger of an everlasting hell
5. Wholehearted commitment to God -- 'If ever a man burnt himself out in the service of God, it was Whitefield. He was tireless and relentless in his efforts to win souls. Throughout his life he enjoyed the presence of God in his preaching. Even on his last day in this world he preached, though he was very ill. He was a man whose sole desire was to preach Christ crucified' (Nigel Clifford, Christian Preachers, Bryntirion Press).

Read the rest of the article/short bio at Banner of Truth. Check out my George Whitefield Resources page.

New *George Whitefield Resources* Page

I just launched a George Whitefield Resources page. As I searched the internet I found various, helpful resources in various places. I hope this page will serve you well by trying to bring all the links and books and journals and letters to one place. Check it out and let me know what you think.

George whitefield post header Resources 2

The Sermons of George Whitefield

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Lee Gatiss has edited George Whitefield's original 57 published sermons into two large volumes (976 pgs, Crossway). You can get the hardcover set for $40+ from WTS or $33+ from Amazon...OR $9.99 FOR KINDLE! That's a deal! From Crossway...

Gatiss includes careful and extensive footnotes detailing the historical and theological background to Whitefield’s preaching, which puts the man and his messages into context for a new generation of readers. The text has also been updated for the twenty-first century with modern grammar, spelling, and punctuation - revised in a manner that leaves Whitefield’s distinct voice intact and coherent for today’s reader. 

A Hymn to the Holy Ghost

From George Whitefield's A Collection of Hymns for Social Worship...

A Hymn to the Holy Ghost

(Extracted from the Ordination-Office.)

COME HOLY GHOST, our Souls inspire,
And lighten with Celestial Fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
Who dost the sev’nfold Gifts impart.
Thy blessed Unction from above
Is Comfort, Life, and Fire of Love,
Enable with perpetual Light
The Dullness of our blinded Sight.
Anoint and cheer our soiled Face,
With the Abundance of thy Grace.
Keep far our Foes, give Peace at Home!
Where thou art Guide no Ill can come.
Teach us to know the FATHER, SON,
And thee, of both to be, but One;
That through the Ages all along
This, this may be our endless Song;

Praise GOD, from whom all Blessings flow,
Praise Him all Creatures here below;
Praise Him above ye heavenly host,
Praise FATHER, SON, and HOLY GHOST.

Emotions That Correspond With the Weight of Reality

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John Piper on George Whitefield again, on the acting of preaching as "real acting" (bold is mine)...

If a woman has a role in a movie, say, the mother of child in a burning house, and as the cameras are focused on her, she is screaming to the firemen and pointing to the window in the second floor, we all say she is acting. But if a house is on fire in your neighborhood, and you see a mother screaming to the firemen and pointing to the window in the second floor, nobody says she’s acting. Why not? They look exactly the same.

It’s because there really is a child up there in the fire. This woman really is the child’s mother. There is real danger that the child could die. Everything is real. And that’s the way it was for Whitefield. The new birth had opened his eyes to what was real, and to the magnitude of what was real: God, creation, humanity, sin, Satan, divine justice and wrath, heaven, hell, incarnation, the perfections of Christ, his death, atonement, redemption, propitiation, resurrection, the Holy Spirit, saving grace, forgiveness, justification, reconciliation with God, peace, sanctification, love, the second coming of Christ, the new heavens and the new earth, everlasting joy. These were real. Overwhelmingly real to him. He had been born again. He had eyes to see.

When he warned of wrath, and pleaded for people to escape, and lifted up Christ, he wasn’t play-acting. He was calling down the kind of emotions and actions that correspond with such realities. That’s what preaching does. It seeks to exalt Christ, and describe sin, and offer salvation, and persuade sinners with emotions and words and actions that correspond to the weight of these realities.

If you see these realities with the eyes of your heart, and if you feel the weight of them, you will know that such preaching is not play-acting. The house is burning. There are people trapped on the second floor. We love them. And there is a way of escape.

Read or listen to the rest of Piper's powerful talk on Whitefield. A great example and explanation of what preaching should be like. I don't think we do this well, not nearly well enough. Maybe this kind of preaching would change the face of Christianity in America and the western world today. Maybe it's not just the *how* of preaching but the *where* that would enact this change.

What do you think?

Whitefield Wouldn't Let The Devil Alone

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From J.C. Ryle's "George Whitefield & His Ministry" as a brief bio in the front of Select Sermons of George Whitefield (also found here), we get a picture of his open-air preaching and the church culture that pushed him toward it (bold in the text is mine)...

Two months after this Whitefield began the practice of open-air preaching in London, on April 27, 1739. The circumstances under which this happened were curious. He had gone to Islington to preach for the vicar, his friend Mr. Stonehouse. In the midst of the prayer the churchwardens came to him and demanded his licence for preaching in the diocese of London. Whitefield, of course, had not got this licence any more than any clergyman not regularly officiating in the diocese has at this day. The upshot of the matter was, that being forbidden by the churchwardens to preach in the pulpit, he went outside after the communion-service, and preached in the churchyard. ‘And,’ says he, ‘God was pleased to assist me in preaching, and so wonderfully to affect the hearers, that I believe we could have gone singing hymns to prison. Let not the adversaries say, I have thrust myself out of their synagogues. No; they have thrust me out.’

From that day forward he became a constant field-preacher, whenever weather and the season of the year made it possible. Two days afterwards on Sunday, April 29th, he records: ‘I preached in Moorfields to an exceeding great multitude. Being weakened by my morning’s preaching, I refreshed myself in the afternoon by a little sleep, and at five went and preached at Kennington Common, about two miles from London, when no less that thirty thousand people were supposed to be present.’ Henceforth, wherever there were large open spaces round London, wherever there were large bands of idle, godless, Sabbath-breaking people gathered together, in Hackney Fields, Mary-le-bonne Fields, May Fair, Smithfield, Blackheath, Moorfields, and Kennington Common, there went Whitefield and lifted up his voice for Christ.

FOOTNOTE: The reader will remember that all this happened when London was comparatively a small place. Most of the open places where Whitefield preached are now covered with buildings. Kennington Oval and Blackheath alone remain open at this day.

The gospel so proclaimed was listened to and greedily received by hundreds who never dreamed of going to a place of worship. The cause of pure religion was advanced, and souls were plucked from the hand of Satan, like brands from the burning. But it was going much too fast for the Church of those days. The clergy, with a few honourable exceptions, refused entirely to countenance this strange preacher. In the true spirit of the dog in the manger, they neither liked to go after the semi-heathen masses of population themselves, nor liked any one else to do the work for them. The consequence was, that the ministrations of Whitefield in the pulpits of the Church of England from this time almost entirely ceased. He loved the Church in which he had been ordained; he gloried in her Articles; he used her Prayer-book with pleasure. But the Church did not love him, and so lost the use of his services. The plain truth is, that the Church of England of that day was not ready for a man like Whitefield. The Church was too much asleep to understand him, and was vexed at a man who would not keep still and let the devil alone.

Speak Dramatically...Because It's Real

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John Piper on George Whitefield and his dramatic preaching...

But the question is: Why was Whitefield “acting”? Why was he so full of action and drama? Was he, as Stout claims, “plying a religious trade”? Pursuing “spiritual fame”? Craving “respect and power”? Driven by “egotism”? Putting on “performances” and “integrating religious discourse into the emerging language of consumption”?

I think the most penetrating answer comes from something Whitefield himself said about acting in a sermon in London. In fact, I think it’s a key to understand the power of his preaching—and all preaching. James Lockington was present at this sermon and recorded this verbatim. Whitefield is speaking.

“I’ll tell you a story. The Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 1675 was acquainted with Mr. Butterton the [actor]. One day the Archbishop . . . said to Butterton . . . ‘pray inform me Mr. Butterton, what is the reason you actors on stage can affect your congregations with speaking of things imaginary, as if they were real, while we in church speak of things real, which our congregations only receive as if they were imaginary?’ ‘Why my Lord,’ says Butterton, ‘the reason is very plain. We actors on stage speak of things imaginary, as if they were real and you in the pulpit speak of things real as if they were imaginary.’”

“Therefore,” added Whitefield, ‘I will bawl [shout loudly], I will not be a velvet-mouthed preacher.”

This means that there are three ways to speak. First, you can speak of an unreal, imaginary world as if it were real—that is what actors do in a play. Second, you can speak about a real world as if it were unreal—that is what half-hearted pastors do when they preach about glorious things in a way that says they are not as terrifying and wonderful as they are. And third is: You can speak about a real spiritual world as if it were wonderfully, terrifyingly, magnificently real (because it is).

Read or hear John Piper's entire bio of George Whitefield from the 2009 Desiring God Pastors' Conference.

The Gospel in the Open-Air Again

This is first post in a series. Here are links to posts that follow.

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Something has been burning in my belly. I can't shake it. I have a picture in my head of movement of preachers that, I believe, will shake up the culture and change the face of American Christianity in a myriad of good ways. I have much more to say about it, but let me start simply.

John Bunyan Open-Air Preaching

What if evangelicals hit America with 200, or 500, or 1,000 theologically strong, gospel-centered pastors who start preaching in open-air and public places in their cities, beyond their Sunday morning worship services, at least once a week for the rest of 2011? What would happen? What if even more did it, or what if it was done more often (Whitefield preached an average of 20 times a week for 34 years)? This idea has been on my mind in some form since my first few weeks as a new Christian (almost exactly 17 years ago). It continued through seminary as I did many outdoor evangelism projects and wrote a paper in seminary on open-air preaching. I've discussed it over the past few years with Joe Thorn. In the last few weeks I believe God has pressed this idea into me. I'm compelled to put it out there knowing many will probably think I'm stupid or crazy, and I'm ok with that.

In my opinion and in no particular order, here are some things that will probably happen if a movement of solid preachers would take to the open-air in America...

1. The Gospel would spread, maybe in an unprecedented way, across our land. It would be heard by people who would never set foot in our churches. It would spread in other ways explained below.

2. Our pastors and our people would be forced to learn to explain the Gospel simply, answer objections, etc. This would spark more training in theology, evangelism, apologetics, etc, but this time with a sense of need rather than something we too often learn for our "personal growth" only.

3. A *buzz* would grow among our neighbors. Suddenly it would be hard to miss seeing and/or hearing the Gospel where we live and in the places we go. People will stumble across it sooner or later, and probably more than once, and it will shake people up. Instead of being the odd guy down at the outdoor mall, it will be respected, calm, thoughtful, theological, loving people doing it. It will open a conversation as to "why" this is suddenly everywhere.

4. Persecution of one form or another (or all forms) would naturally increase. We are mostly left alone in our buildings, but when we preach with biblical power in the open-air the Devil will not be pleased.

5. The stereotype would change of open-air preaching and open-air preachers as the "turn or burn" and "sandwich board" folks would be drowned out by good, biblical, evangelistic preaching. It would come across as more normal because good preachers are doing it, yet it would still shake things up.

6. The media would take notice and start asking us what's going on, and we'd get free airtime to talk about Jesus. It would spark a growing public conversation about things on our agenda instead of merely getting asked to chime in when we fit in with the world's agenda. 

7. Dozens, hundreds of doors for personal evangelism would open up in every place public preaching is done because some of our people will attend and strike up conversations with those who stop to listen. In other words, we create a clear pathway for immediate personal evangelism. The preachers cast nets to draw them in, our people cast hooks, and together we work out our different roles in evangelism.

8. We would begin to pray with a new fervency, boldness, and deep need like in the end of Acts 4.. We would find ourselves relying on God in ways we've ignored because we take few risks. Our prayer meetings would, without question, see less "pray for aunt Sally's leg" and see more prayer for salvation, for strength, for the words to speak, for courage and boldness, for the many different issues that will result from the preaching, and so on.

9. Our churches would immediately start to see more visitors. The seeker kind. The skeptic kind. The curious kind. This would come because of the people who want to hear more from the preacher and the people who have connected personally with Christians during public preaching. They will come because this is the preacher who doesn't play well with others, and this time not because they spew judgments but because they won't stay away in their safe, warm buildings.

10. Christians will be separated from "Christians." Dead churches and denominations, the ones that don't have nor preach the Gospel, will start to look clearly different from evangelical ones. Our preaching will force the issue because people of various "Christian" groups will hear and react differently. Christians without Christ will be challenged to leave their Gospel-less churches and denominations. It will create a challenge to the peaceful, live-and-let-live relationship happening among all groups called "Christian" in our cities and it will reopen a necessary discussion on issues of Gospel, truth, theology, heresy, etc... and all in a much more public way.

I'm sure you can imagine that doors would open for a hundred other things. We don't know all that would happen as this has essentially been left untried. I don't believe there is even a need to discuss whether or not this is biblical. If anything preaching only in our buildings is what needs to be biblically challenged. Spurgeon wrote on page 254 of Lectures to My Students...

No sort of defense is needed for preaching out of doors; but it would need very potent arguments to prove that a man had done his duty who has never preached beyond the walls of his meeting-house. A defense is required rather for services within buildings than for worship outside of them. 

I believe that if in the next couple of months hundreds of preachers in America would embrace this, and public preaching started happening all over the place, especially with the spring and summer months coming as the perfect opportunity, that we would see amazing things happen by the hand of our good and gracious God. I believe we would see mighty works by the Holy Spirit. I believe it would be amazing, but we would have to do it in order to see it.

A lot of questions remain, I know. A lot of doubts. You may be skeptical that it can work. You may be wondering where you could even do it in your particular community. You may have fears of doing it and desire to stay in the comfort of your pulpit. I hear you, but I think there are good answers and motivations for all of this. More soon.

My prayer as this goes up is that God will stir in us by His Spirit a movement of preachers who preach the Gospel publicly, beyond the walls of our buildings. I'm praying first for myself, then for many of my friends and pastoral acquaintances by name, and then for a number of well-known pastors who I think God has put in places of influence for their theological strength and solid preaching of the Gospel. I believe we need older, mature pastors to lead us in something like this. God help us to preach the Gospel boldly and publicly.

Faces Set Like Flints

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It was as blessed day when Methodists and others began to proclaim Jesus in the open air; then were the gates of hell shaken, and the captives of the devil set free by hundreds and by thousands.

Once recommenced, the fruitful agency of field-preaching was not allowed to cease. Amid jeering crowds and showers of rotten eggs and filth, the immediate followers of the two great Methodists [Whitefield & Wesley] continued to storm village after village and town after town. Very varied were their adventures, but their success was generally great. One smiles often when reading incidents in their labours. A string of packhorses is so driven as to break up a congregation, and a fire-engine is brought out and played over the throng to achieve the same purpose. Hand-bells, old kettles, marrow-bones and cleavers, trumpets, drums, and entire bands of music were engaged to drown the preachers' voices. In one case the parish bull was let loose, and in others dogs were set to fight. The preachers needed to have faces set like flints, and so indeed they had. John Furz says: "As soon as I began to preach, a man came straight forward, and presented a gun at my face; swearing that he would blow my brains out, if I spake another word. However, I continued speaking, and he continued swearing, sometimes putting the muzzle of the gun to my mouth, sometimes against my ear. While we were singing the last hymn, he got behind me, fired the gun, and burn off part of my hair." After this, my brethren, we ought never to speak of petty interruptions and annoyances. The proximity of a blunderbuss in the hands of a son of Belial is not very conducive to collected through and clear utterance, but the experience of Furz was probably no worse than that of John Nelson, who coolly says, "But when I was in the middle of my discourse, one at the outside of the congregation threw a stone, which cut me on the head : however, that made the people give greater attention, especially when they saw the blood running down my face; so that all was quiet till I had done, and was singing a hymn."

Lectures to My Students | Charles Spurgeon

Books on Revival

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Here's a list of books I own on revival that I'll be using in one way or another for my current sermon series Revival: Longing for a Surprising Work of God.

I tried to list them in the order of how much I expect to use (or depend on) each one for this series. I'm referencing a number of other things as well (articles, audio, websites) but this list is for books alone.

UPDATE 2.8.11: I added some new books at the bottom, and a few comments in parentheses where I have something to say, so far.

Additions as of 1/20/2011...

Additions as of 2/8/2011...

I'd love to hear your suggestions for other books on revivals or about revival. I also assume as I peruse my personal library I could add a few to this list that I overlooked.

The Public Square & Open Air

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Help me think about the "Public Square." I have a lot of this stuff in my head and I want to get it out there and see where I'm wrong, right and what to do about it. 

A public square, or particularly a "town square", is a place, historically an intersection of important crossroads for trading of goods as well as the sharing of ideas. 

I live in a town square city. If you visit my city, Woodstock, IL, that's the place to visit. It's quaint, beautiful, historic, and well organized. If you showed up on a random day you might find a farmers market nearly all the way around the square, or a wedding or band concert in the gazebo, or a group of youth hanging around on a bench, or a fair that brings in people from some distance to visit and shop, or a family having a picnic in the shade, or a Groundhog Day celebration at dawn, or a car show, and on and on it goes. And that's just the center park area. Around the outside are permanent stores, the Opera House, an art gallery, restaurants and more.

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After 6+ years here there's one thing I haven't found in our public square: The Gospel.

A lot has changed both with goods & ideas. The public square of goods is now mostly at Wal-Mart (a drive away, but everything you need is there, not just specialty items at the farmers market). The public square of ideas is TV or the Internet where the talking heads (of whatever sort) give their side of the story, or deliver their breaking news, and so on. 

Even local stuff is discussed more and more on Facebook than through actual interaction with friends and neighbors. We've learned about local concerns, missing/runaway kids, meetings, etc often on Facebook first. Our local newspaper tries to create this a bit by having comments under each article, but the anonymity of it creates a culture of sniping rather than thinking or caring or doing something in response. 

John-Wesley-preaching-at-his-fathers-grave

There are some great stories of how Christians have used the public square in the past. Biblically, guys like Paul go into the marketplace where he can interact with all sorts of folks. That leads some of the local philosophers to bring him to the Areopagus (Mars Hill) for a more intellectual presentation as someone with a new idea. We tend to think of the Areopagus as the public square, but it isn't. It's more of a private, formal forum for certain intellectuals. The public square was the marketplace, the less formal place, the everyone-passes-through-here place.

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Back in seminary I remember reading and hearing stories of missionaries to the American frontier and circuit rider preachers and evangelists. I was so taken I wrote a paper on open-air preaching. I'm sure you've heard grand stories of the public preaching and impact of men like George Whitefield and John Wesley. The public square and open-air was a crucial space for these men and their ministries. It wasn't always a place of acceptance, as tomato stains would testify. Those are some great stories too.

Now some, surely, will be concerned over a re-imagining of using the public square because of how a few have used it. Some of you are not eager to be associated with Kirk Cameron or the mimes who trap themselves in a box only to show that Jesus is the way out. I hear you. But I can't help but to think that someday we will look back at TODAY as a come-and-see, affluent, hidden time in American Christian history. That we will wonder why we didn't take the good news and release it through public heralding sooner. That we will study how this was the time when our public preaching was through advertising and marketing and little more.

I'm not sure the answers, but I think the questions are important. I think there's something we're leaving to the "crusades" and quacks that we aren't supposed to leave to them. I think that our disdain for what goes for "public preaching" nowadays isn't enough to keep us from figuring out how to do it better, how do it right.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Read my follow-up post: "The Kids Downtown."

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

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Crossway has put out a wonderful, small book for Advent called Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas . It contains 22 4-8 page readings from sermons and works of dead folks (like Martin Luther, J.C. Ryle, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, and more) and living folks (like Tim Keller, J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, Joni Eareckson Tada, John Piper, and others). Pick it up.

Here's an excerpt from Tim Keller's chapter, "The Gift of Christmas"...

When September 11th happened and New Yorkers started to suffer, you heard two voices. You heard the conventional moralistic voices saying, "When I see you suffer, it tells me about a judging God. You must not be living right, and so God is judging you." When they see suffering they see a judgmental God.

The secular voice said, "When I see people suffering, I see God is missing." When they see suffering they see an absent, indifferent God.

But when we see Jesus Christ dying on the cross through an act of violence and injustice, what kind of God do we see then? A condemning God? No, we see a God of love paying for sin. Do we see a missing God? Absolutely not! We see a God who is not remote but involved.

We sometimes wonder why God doesn't just end suffering. But we know that whatever the reason, it isn't one of indifference or remoteness. God so hates suffering and evil that he was willing to come into it and become enmeshed in it.