During the Great Awakening in England, God used faithful preachers to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Today, Stephen Nichols introduces us to several prominent figures from this period of church history.
Welcome back to another episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, and we are on location in the city of London. We are sitting here in a beautiful park, and I want to tell you about the story of the Great Awakening here in this city. Now, the Great Awakening in England begins with the story of John Wesley and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield when they were all students at Oxford together, and they formed what they called the Holiness Club. And together, they thought they could achieve holiness by adhering to a strict discipline. And they all committed to following a strict method of discipline, and they were referred to as the people of the Methodist Way. Well, eventually, as they were reading the Scripture and they were hearing what was being preached in Anglican churches, they realized that there was a great divide, and both Whitefield and the Wesleys started preaching a sermon entitled “The Almost Christian.”
So, they’d be invited to an Anglican church. They’d step up into the pulpit, and they would begin their sermon, “The Almost Christian.” Do you know who the almost Christian is? Well, it’s you, they would preach. You thinking that because you were baptized as an infant or because you come to this church, you are a Christian. No, they said. You want to know who is a Christian? The one who is born again. And so, they were preaching the Gospel and Gospel transformation and preaching for conversion. Well, you can imagine after preaching a few sermons like that, they found themselves uninvited from these Anglican churches. So, what did they do? Well, they would just go outdoors and preach to great crowds. There’s a place here in London, it’s a park, it’s called Kennington Park or Kennington Commons. Up back in the seventeen hundreds, it had a number of cricket fields and also had places where public orators, speakers, would just come and give their speeches. Well, in 1739, George Whitefield, John Wesley, Charles Wesley, all preached there at Kennington Commons to crowds of over 30,000 people. Well, as you can imagine, the news of the Great Awakening is spreading. Whitefield had been to the colonies to Georgia in 1738, briefly for three months, but after news of what was happening here in London and across England and the United Kingdom, Whitefield was invited back to America in 1740 to 1741.
Again, he was in Georgia, but he made his way all the way up to the New England coast. And that was the era of the Great Awakening. When Whitefield came back to England in 1741, they built for him a tabernacle called Moorefield’s Tabernacle, a grand wooden structure from which Whitefield could preach when he was here in the city. The building no longer remains. It was taken down. There were some stones as part of the foundation, and those stones have found their way into some of the buildings in that area. But after Moorefield, they built another tabernacle for Whitefield that was even bigger to accommodate more crowds. And when Whitfield died back in the colonies and buried in the colonies, nevertheless, there were a number of memorial services held for Whitefield here in London. And in Whitfield's Tabernacle, John Wesley preached George Whitefield's funeral sermon. So, we think of the Great Awakening as this significant moment in American religious history, really a defining moment for American religious history in the 18th century that continued to have impact for the following centuries of the American church. And so, it is of the Great Awakening, and so it is of the legacy of the Great Awakening here in London. And how God used preachers like Whitefield and the Wesleys to bring faithful Gospel proclamation to literally tens of thousands of people. Well, that's the Great Awakening in this city of London. And I'm Steve Nichols, and thanks for joining me on location in London for 5 Minutes in Church History.