Before Tom Hanks, Justin Bieber, or Taylor Swift, there was George Whitefield. In the 18th century, George Whitefield was the most well-known person in the American colonies. Whitefield was truly the first American celebrity.
Whitefield made 13 trips across the Atlantic Ocean, between England and America, to give preaching tours along the Eastern Seaboard, starting from 1739 until his death in 1770. At times, as many as 10,000 people would travel for miles, on foot or on horseback, to hear the evangelist share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Though an Anglican minister, George Whitefield was known as an intinerant evangelist, preaching most of his messages in the open air. Along with John Wesley, the name of George Whitefield was synonymous with the First Great Awakening, in the English speaking world, one of the greatest periods of revival in world Christian history.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was one of the most well-known British Bible teachers, during the 20th century, and a great admirer of George Whitefield. In the following documentary by the MLJ Trust, Dr. Lloyd-Jones tells the story of George Whitefield, in 14 minutes:
John Wesley (1703-1791) and George Whitefield (1714-1770) were the most well-known Christian leaders in the English-speaking world of the 18th century. They struggled with each other regarding some significant points of Christian doctrine, and through their dialogue they introduced the notion of “agreeing to disagree” into Christian discourse.
Sometimes “agreeing to disagree” with fellow believers can be difficult. I know. I have been there. But first, let me give you some historical background…
In 18th century England and America, two of the most celebrated figures were George Whitefield and John Wesley. Whitefield and Wesley would travel up and down the American Eastern seaboard and across the British Isles preaching in the open air. The first “Great Awakening” can largely be attributed to how God used these two men to lead many thousands into a relationship with Jesus Christ, perhaps one of the greatest spiritual revivals in the history of the church.
“There are many doctrines of a less essential nature … In these we may think and let think; we may ‘agree to disagree.’ But, meantime, let us hold fast the essentials…”
Since that remarkable sermon, Christians over the years have recalled Wesley’s words that he at times exchanged with his colleague Whitefield about “agreeing to disagree.” Though these men still had their points of conflict, in the end, they were able to consider each other not as enemies but rather as friends, as brothers in Christ, despite their disputes over some points of doctrine.
It is a lesson that the evangelical church today still needs to hear. Continue reading