The Founding Fathers' Preacher

"It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor the preacher."

George Whitefield


One of the greatest preachers of the religious revival that historians refer to as The First Great Awakening, was George Whitefield. After preaching for years in England, Whitefield went to America and preached to huge crowds that numbered in the thousands. Benjamin Franklin conducted an experiment while Whitefield preached in Philadelphia in which he estimated that Whitefield's voice was such that as many as 125,000 people would have been able to have heard it at one time.


But it was not the volume that inspired our forefathers and mothers, it was his message. Whitefield was able to rouse a spiritually sleepy people because he brought a message of power and of personal responsibility. And while many preachers today are scared to death of offending their listeners, George Whitefield had a firm belief that if the Gospel offended, it was up to the people to change, not the Gospel.


George Whitefield has been given credit by historians as being one of the main catalysts of the Revolution, not because he preached revolution, but because he was not afraid to preach the Gospel. And, to the occasional dismay of people in power, the Good News can shed the light on corrupt leaders in such a way as to make those who are led very, very, very dissatisfied.


I think about Whitefield and about his understanding that sometimes a good sermon needs to give offense. Many modern day preachers refuse to preach on the Bible-based topics like sexual immorality, abortion, drunkenness, and greed because they are afraid it will displease their hearers. Sometimes these same men are afraid to preach on such topics because their elders (or other authorities who write their checks) would be displeased.


So we find ourselves in a nation where the schools teach that sexual perversion is normal, and the preachers say nothing, where the social events that the people like to go to support drunkenness, and the preachers say nothing, where we are forced by an evil government to help pay for abortions of the wicked, and the preachers say nothing, and where boys and girls are living together and making babies out of wedlock, and the preachers say nothing.


I don't know if the American Revolution would have ever occurred had our modern day preachers been the voice of the Gospel in the 1700's. I don't think that most would have had the courage to offend their hearers.


"I give you this charge: Preach the word, be prepared in season and out of season, correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."

II Timothy 4:1-3, NIV