"It would be very easy to prove that revivals of religion have usually been accompanied, if not caused, by a considerable amount of preaching out of doors, or in unusual places." C.H. Spurgeon
There is rising within my soul a sense of true revival in the people and ministries of Emmanuel. Exhibitions of real, agape love; spiritual unity, a hunger and desire for Christ to be preeminent in all things; brokenness over sins and corresponding recovery by God's grace are all signs of what I am seeing God do in our lives. The above quote by Spurgeon has caused me to think a little about the history of revivals and the uniqueness of preaching in them.
Peter Waldo was a wealthy businessman in Lyons, France during the 1300's. When Waldo came under conviction of the Holy Spirit, he sought the way of salvation and was told that he should "sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow Christ." Waldo literally did this and gave away all of his personal wealth. He and others with the same passion began to travel two by two through the countryside, preaching in the streets, reading passages of Latin Scriptures which they translated into the street French spoken by the common man. Foxe's Book of Martyrs declares that The Inquisition originally began with the Roman Catholic Church seeking to stop the "Waldensians" (slang for Waldo's men) from preaching the Scriptures in the common language. Many Baptists see their spiritual heritage in the Waldensians.
John Wycliffe (1330-1384) is called "the morningstar of the Reformation." Wycliffe is the man credited with translated the Latin Vulgate into English. Those who were discipled by Wycliffe were called Lollards. The Lollards went throughout England proclaiming Christ in the streets and places of business. Again, Foxe's Book of Martyrs speaks of a great revival arising from the bold proclamation of Christ from of the Lollards.
During what we call the Protestant Reformation, many of the great evangelistic meetings were held outdoors because, as Spurgeon writes, all the churches were controlled by Rome. William Farel (1489-1565), the man who cleared the way for John Calvin to enter Switzerland, and the one has been called "the pioneer of Protestantism in Western Switzerland," was himself a street preacher. It was said of Farel, "He turned every stump and stone into a pulpit, every house, every street,and market-place into a church."
John Knox (1513-1572), founded the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, but he started out as a bodyguard for a street preacher named George Wishart. John Knox accompanied him on his preaching tours, sword in hand, to protect him from violence. All the preaching occurred in fields because Wishart was barred from preaching in the churches. After Wishart was murdered for his gospel preaching in 1546, Knox became the leader of the Scottish reformation.
George Whitefield once stated: "I believe I never was more acceptable to my Master than when I was standing to teach those hearers in the open fields... I now preach to ten times more people than I should, if had been confined to the Churches."
The Methodist John Wesley once began a great evangelistic meeting by preaching on top of his father's tomb out in an open field. He said of that meeting, "I am well assured that I did far more good tomy Lincolnshire parishioners by preaching three days on my father's tomb than I did by preaching three years in his pulpit."
I know the world has changed a great deal, but the gospel of Jesus Christ is being shared in new, creative ways by evangelicals who seem to be experiencing real revival. From all night prayer and worship meetings in a business warehouse districts, to Internet worship services being held via the web, to iPod messages being listened to as people run on the treadmill, to small groups involving recovery from both chemical and non-chemical addictions, to other creative ways--Christ is being proclaimed in unusual places and by unusual means. We may well be on the cusp of genuine revival in this world. It is also to be observed that every move of God has also brought with it a new style of worship and a new repertoire of songs.
In His Grace,