Jonathan Edwards and many other ministers in New England as well as in other parts of the world experienced a time of incredible blessing that we today call the Great Awakening. In his testimony of this blessing, Edwards laid out the crux of what he saw in his town as well as the reports sent to him from neighbouring areas. He saw many individuals come to Christ in salvation and the general demeanour of Northhampton change dramatically. People had a real concern for the things of God and for their eternal state.
While reading the account of the Great Awakening, I came by the following section which left me almost speechless:
In all companies, on other days, on whatever occasions persons met together, Christ was to be heard of, and seen in the midst of them. Our young people, when they met, were wont to spend the time in “talking of the excellency and dying love of Jesus Christ, the glory of the way of salvation, the wonderful, free, and sovereign grace of God, his glorious work in the conversion of a soul, the truth and certainty of the great things of God’s word, the sweetness of the views of his perfections, &c.
Why would this leave me almost speechless? When I read through this section all I could say is wow, this seems a little exaggerated. Is Jonathan Edwards seriously telling me that these young people were talking about Christ even outside of their church settings? I found this to be far fetched until I realized that the problem with my “disbelief” wasn’t that this is so far fetched but that I seemingly have a very low view of today’s young Christians. It came to me that I have difficulty seeing such discussions in my 21st century mindset because kids today just don’t think this way. I have attended many churches and I have never heard such conversations among the young people nor the more mature Christians. Generally the conversations stem from the work week, sports or building tips. I have been to churches were one felt awkward to speak of the things of God at church. Try to imagine that these conversations were happening outside the regular church services. I then realized that Jonathan Edward’s experience was far more miraculous than I had originally envisioned. You see the problem is not with the account that Edwards left us but that we have to remember that these happenings in 1734 and on were nothing short of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This is what would bring about such incredible conversations within groups of young people. Nothing short of the regenerating power of the Spirit to take out the heart of stone and put in a heart of flesh would bring about such desire for the things of God.
The question I then posed myself was: Should I just give up and wait for the Holy Spirit to work? The answer to this was no since my beliefs in the cooperation between God and man stems from my compatibalistic view of things. I believe the Holy Spirit’s work is crucial to the sudden desire of Godly conversations and yet I believe that we as believers are required to work towards promoting and producing these types of conversations. We have a responsibility to encourage others in these types of dialogues. How does one encourage such discussion?
To encourage such discussions, we have to be prepared to have a discussion with others on Christ. If Christ is at the center of our thoughts then it won’t be difficult to have a dialogue about the things of the Lord at anytime. If we are truly are captivated by Christ then it will become natural to want to discuss Him. Another point that is worth considering is preparing a small conversation piece prior to meeting with Christians. It can be something we have enjoyed in scripture during the week. If no subject is brought to the church on Sundays, why not discuss the sermon that was preached and have a more in depth discussion on the scripture. I have had much success as well in asking if the person I’m conversing with has enjoyed a good Christian book lately. What was it about the book that they enjoyed and would they recommend it. Other things that may begin a conversation is speaking about how our prayer week is going or a news item that may be interpreted from a Christian worldview.
What we must stress is that these conversations are not only for adults but they may be incredibly useful for young Christians to develop a mindset on the importance of discussing your faith. While they may be more interested in TV shows and the latest technologies, these discussions will being about a means of encouraging them in their faith. If we don’t have these discussions with our kids then one day the world will and they will not be prepared!