By Shane Roley
George Whitfield is one of the most dynamic men of God in all of history and, personally, my favorite preacher of all time. He stood in the face of his coldly-normalized culture and proclaimed the beauty and glory of God to the multitudes. George Whitfield was first mass evangelist in human history, but it didn’t start there. George had a rough up bringing to put it lightly. The young Englishman grew up in the hood, lying cheating, and stealing his youth away. His real dad died at a young age and he grew up not knowing the love of a father. At age 17 the cold-hearted youngster left home for Oxford University and it was there that God got a hold of his heart. He was swiftly set on fire by the Holy Spirit and began to burn with the message of the gospel alongside John and Charles Wesley. Together they started the famous ministry, “the holy club”. John, Charles, and George would go on to become some of the most famous saints who ever walked the earth!
George Whitfield’s message was not a popular one. In fact, his message was so earth shattering that he was banned from most churches; mind you, a religious spirit among the people of God was the order of the day. George didn’t let the tide of culture silence him, he took to the streets. He began preaching in market places, coal mines and pretty much anywhere people would congregate. George’s preaching style was revolutionary, he was arguably the first person to use drama & emotion as means to communicate the gospel! This was wildly popular among the poor and broken in the street while despised by the church. Sound familiar? The anointing of God often times will shake the foundations of the religious pillars of culture that we have become accustomed to. God has anointing he is ready to pour out on his people that will be an offense to those who are not rooted in his ways. Get ready.
Through Georges revolutionary “art-preaching” his popularity began to sky-rocket, the power and anointingof God was leading the way. He grew in favor and stature with man and God. So much so that the great Benjamin Franklin went on the record saying that George Whitfield is the greatest man in the world. George and Ben became very good friends, Ben would seek George's opinion on various issues from time to time. NBD.
God breathed on George's preaching and art and a phenomena followed. In his book “I Am Your Sign” Sean Smith summarizes The Philly Awakening saying “Whitfield preached without notes, and it allowed him to uniquely connect with people. Benjamin Franklin spoke of the "over-the-top" effect Whitfield had on the city:
"It was wonderful to see the change so soon made in the manner of our inhabitants. from being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk through town in an evening without having psalms sung in different families of every street-- Ben Franklin estimated that Whitefield could be heard by 30,000 people with no microphone!"
George would preach to crowds of tens of thousands WITH NO MICROPHONE. Some say that as many 100,000 people listened to a gospel message in Glasgow Ireland WITHOUT A MICROPHONE. Multitudes came to Christ through George's preaching throughout western Europe during the first great awakening.
If God can use one man's preaching and artistic gifting to do all this, what could He do with yours?
Our self absorbed culture has cornered artist all over the globe with a self-focus and self-promotional lie. Jesus is looking for ones who will lay all of themselves down for the glory of One greater. Artists, will you cast aside the entitlement of you-centric work and adopt a gospel-centric call? Will you swim up the river of our culture and pay the cost to glorify The One who paid the ultimate cost? God gave you dynamic gifts and a call, He is eagerly waiting to release a new wave of anointing on your gifts that will surpass those of Whitfield. Will you bring your gifts to the feet of Jesus and cast your oil down before Him?