“The colonists came to America because they heard it was a free country. They came from neighborhoods that had problems,” says Nathan, age 7.
I wonder if you’re thinking of Australia instead of America.
“Early American colonists came to America for freedom, God and gold,” says Jenny, age unknown.
Legends of gold cities lured some of the earliest Spanish conquistadors to the Americas, but Natalie, 12, says many early American colonists risked hardship and deprivation for religious freedom: “In their countries, it was illegal to practice religion the way they wanted to. They had to do what their leaders ordered.
“This posed a problem since those beliefs were not their own. When they came to America, they established colonies where they could worship freely. The dream of freedom is what brought them to America.”
Any view of America’s founding that omits the longing for spiritual freedom does not adequately explain why people left their homes for this new land. Question: In the four decades that preceded the signing of the Declaration of Independence, name the man who spoke to the most Americans: George Washington, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin or Samuel Adams.
None of the above.
Have you ever heard of George Whitefield? I never had until I read about the Great Awakening, which Whitefield led on two continents (North America and Europe). Some church historians compare this spiritual awakening to the spread of the good news in the days of the early church when Jesus’ apostles took the Gospel to every corner of the Roman Empire.
Whitefield, 22, began preaching the necessity of being born again by believing in Jesus Christ alone for eternal salvation. Beginning with coal miners near Bristol, England, Whitefield took the message to the common people by preaching outdoors. As he preached, the crowds grew.
On Sunday, March 25, 1739, it’s estimated that 23,000 people in Bristol heard Whitefield preach.
When Whitefield came to America on the first of seven preaching tours, he preached from the courthouse steps in Philadelphia. Franklin became fascinated with the carrying power of Whitefield’s voice. He estimated that 30,000 people could hear him. Although Franklin resisted Whitefield’s public and personal urgings to become a Christian, he became a lifelong friend of the famous evangelist and even printed his sermons.
From 1736 to 1770, Whitefield preached more than 18,000 sermons, averaging more than 10 a week. Dr. Rimas J. Orentas described the impact: “Through the universal experience of the Great Awakening, we began to realize that we were a nation. This national identity was rooted in the conviction that we were a people chosen by God for a specific purpose.
“In the earliest prayer of the Puritans was the idea that their colony could be a city on a hill. Through the experience of the Great Awakening, the entire nation became a citadel of light in a darkened world.”
The power of the Gospel hasn’t diminished, but its impact is often diluted by Christians who fail to share the good news with others and live out its implications in their lives. Can you imagine the result if every Christian in America told just one person a month about the saving power of Jesus?
Being a light on a hill as a nation begins with individual Christians becoming lights at home, at work and in their communities. Don’t settle for letting your light shine for only an hour on Sunday morning. Live the adventure of taking the light of the Gospel into dark places, where it shines brightest.
By Cary Kinsolving