Global Christianity George Whitefield
(1714 - 1770)
Global Christianity

Anglican preacher of the awakenings in Great Britain and its 13 Colonies.

George Whitefield preaching
(click to enlarge)

Born in Gloucester, England, to a family of very modest means, Whitefield worked his way through school and was early attracted to drama and theater. At Oxford he worked with Charles and John Wesley in the early stages of Methodism. In 1735 Whitefield experienced a long period of despair, followed by conversion. Ordained in the Church of England, Whitefield began to experiment with "open air preaching." He would "itinerate" or go from place to place gathering large crowds in fields, market squares, or mines, reaching many who were outside of the traditional parish system of the Church of England. Beginning in 1740 Whitefield made several preaching tours in the American Colonies. Jonathan Edwards welcomed Whitefield, the "Grand Itinerant" whose emotional, dramatic preaching fanned the sparks of the Great Awakening into flame. Whitefield's message was the New Birth in Christ, and he aimed the message for the "heart" or emotions of his hearers. His theology was firmly Calvinist--all glory for the work of salvation goes to God. Whitefield pioneered modern mass evangelism, using publicity, drama, and controversy to gather and to move audiences. He also denounced the cruelties of slavery and gathered funds for works of charity. Whitefield's style and strategy inspired many imitators in his own day and continued to influence nineteenth-century evangelicalism.

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Hand tinting by Gary Gnidovik; Courtesy of Billy Graham Center Museum.