Water From the Rock
By Bill Knott
As a young pastor in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, I would sometimes stop by a large and lovely hill on the edge of one of the picturesque New England villages in my sprawling pastoral district. Yes, I had my eye on the property in the wild hope that it might one day come available as a building site for two congregations we were then merging. But more important to me was the massive granite boulder on one edge of the hilltop that bore this weathered historical marker:
Early Methodist Evangelist
Preached from this rock
October 16, 1740
On his first tour of America
Colonial records indicate that nearly 500 people gathered on the hill above Brookfield to listen to the dramatic, soul-stirring evangelist—no doubt to the chagrin of many of the settled pastors in all the steepled meetinghouses in neighboring villages. Whitefield, like the Wesley brothers, John and Charles, with whom he labored for decades, used decidedly unorthodox methods to share the gospel of Jesus: preaching in fields; proclaiming to farmers; once even speaking to a crowd of more than 30,000 on Boston Common—with no amplification—when the entire population of Boston numbered just half that (15,000).
In the twentieth century, pioneering evangelists such as Billy Graham turned to stadium events also televised to national audiences. Thousands, including me, were stirred to give their hearts to Jesus. Adventist evangelists like Mark Finley and Alejandro Bullo´n have likewise preached to tens of thousands in venues that look nothing like traditional churches.
Each of these successful innovators for the gospel at times faced withering criticism from those who believed that their unconventional methods were incompatible with the message they were preaching. And yet the gospel still triumphs, speaking to new audiences in new ways and with undiminished power.
As you read this month’s cover feature, “Arnion: Seeing the Lamb at the Center of Revelation,” pray for a heart open to support new methods, new approaches, and new “evangelists” as they share the “old, old story” in dramatically fresh and exciting ways.