George Whitefield and the Re-evangelization of America

In this week’s blog, Dr. Joe Thomas explains the class he will be teaching this spring:

“George Whitefield and the Re-evangelization of America” is a course specifically designed to help the church think through its approach to evangelism today by reflecting on Whitefield’s diverse evangelistic ministry during the 18th century. George Whitefield is often considered the preeminent preacher of the American Great Awakening. What is not so well known is the revival methodology he developed for reaching the spiritually lost and bringing them to Christ. More than just a great preacher, Whitefield was strategic in outlining his evangelistic work in America. Whether it was taking advantage of the burgeoning print media, understanding the cultural shift towards commerce, developing close friendships with key people, or reaching out to the poor and marginalized, Whitefield’s core Christian convictions all became a part of his widely successful ministry. Much like today the 18th century was a fast moving time when culture was changing rapidly. Some had rejected the Christian faith outright – elevating reason above the Scriptures – many more had succumbed to a cultural Christianity that needed reviving. Whitefield accepted the challenge to call the American colonists back to their Christian roots. This he did effectively through God’s grace. But it wasn’t all good times. In his suffering, be it from persecution or simply the travails of evangelistic ministry, we discover many timeless lessons about the cost of evangelism. It is the goal of this strategic study to help the church and its leaders reflect on a more effective evangelistic outreach approach for today. Whitefield’s life and work is an excellent example of such a strategy that holds hidden gems for those who will take the time to study it