Steven J Lawson. The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust, 2013. 156 pp. $16.00.
Church and Ministry
Little will stir the soul of a pastor and challenge him to press forward in ministry more than a good biography. Biographies often aim to champion the character and legacy of a person. The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield (here forward Evangelistic Zeal), does much more. This book from Reformation Trust is part of the A Long Line of Godly Men Profile series. Series Editor, Dr. Steven J. Lawson, both a professor and pastor, expertly weds biography, theological formation, and pastoral exhortation into a single package.
As a biography, Evangelistic Zeal provides a comprehensive look at George Whitefield’s life and itinerant preaching ministry. Whitefield is widely considered the one who blew to flame the match that Jonathan Edwards set to the Great Awakening. His fervor for the gospel and his enduring fortitude for travel permitted Whitefield to preach 18,000 sermons, over the course of a thirty-four year ministry, crossing to America seven times for preaching tours.
Regarding Whitefield, Lawson confesses, “I have been captivated by his unmatched zeal in proclaiming the gospel message to the ends of the earth” (xvi). Whitefield is characterized for his ardent devotion to Christ, uncompromising preaching of the gospel, and his Spirit filled passion for the lost. All of which drove him to boldly preach his convictions worldwide in the face of hostility, assassination attempts, and the threat of dangerous sea travel. This gospel he preached in churches, street corners, and fields. And he preached it to every people regardless of class or color. Reading Evangelistic Zeal will provide much greater detail about this captivating man than I am able to offer in this brief paragraph.
Evangelistic Zeal is not just biography; it is an exercise in theological formation as well. Lawson delivers a distillation of Whitefield’s most cherished views of doctrine. He particularly highlights Whitefield’s position – a position that brought great tension between Whitefield and his longtime friend John Wesley – on the doctrines of grace (chapter four). This chapter helps us see how Whitefield’s view of God’s sovereignty was not just a distinguishing mark of his doctrine but a stimulus for his fervor in the pulpit.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
One of the chief purposes of Evangelistic Zeal is to exhort pastors to reproduce the zeal of George Whitefield. Lawson writes: “May the sovereign Head of the church, who possesses all authority in heaven and earth, give to His church such Spirit-endowed messengers.” This is the greatest benefit of Evangelistic Zeal.
Pastor, as you hear about Whitefield’s pious devotional life, animated preaching, confidence in the gospel message, and enthusiasm for seeing lost souls come to Christ, you too will feel fire rekindled in your soul for the ministry. It will flame to new heights.
This book is primarily for you and your heart. If you haven’t read a biography recently, start here. It will be sweet for your soul. You can share it with your church family. You can share it with men who sense an internal call to ministry. Indeed, it will fan into flame gospel zeal for these people. But you need this book most, pastor.
And if you’ve never read a sermon from George Whitefield, Crossway has published a one-volume collection of his sermons worthy of purchase. I encourage you to get a copy of The Sermons of George Whitefield, edited by Lee Gatiss, as a companion to the Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield sparks vigor for the work of gospel ministry.