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Mars Hill Church began in the fall of 1996, one week before I turned 26 years of age. At that time, nearly everyone in the church was young. Today, there is thankfully a growing range of ages, though I am admittedly starting to feel old. I often pray that Mars Hill will not simply be a church that grows old together. Rather, we should seek to always welcome young people, see their lives transformed by Jesus, and encourage them to serve Him wholeheartedly. In the history of the church, much has been accomplished by Christians who were young. Perhaps Paul’s words to the young Timothy are the most pertinent, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (I Timothy 4:12). Curiously, throughout church history God has chosen to use young people like Timothy for significant kingdom work. The following are a handful of such examples that have greatly encouraged me and I pray they do likewise for you.
Jonathan Edwards is the greatest theologian America has ever produced. Additionally, the Great Awakening began in 1734 in his Northampton, Massachusetts congregation with the young people who had drifted away from the church, but suddenly wanted to begin meeting with him about his sermons. Edwards began his life of ministry at the young age of nineteen.
George Whitefield is the greatest preacher America has ever seen. He preached 18,000 sermons to over ten million people during the Great Awakening. He planted 150 churches in New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. He preached in open air with crowds as large as 30,000 people at a time. Amazingly, he preached to such crowds without a microphone and would cough up blood from the strain on his throat. It is estimated that most Americans heard him preach at least once. His farewell sermon on Boston Commons drew more people than Boston’s entire population and was the largest crowd ever gathered in America at that time. Whitefield began his life of ministry at the young age of twenty-five.
David Brainerd is one of the greatest missionaries America has ever had. His passion was to convert the Americans Indians scattered throughout New York and Pennsylvania. He traveled more than 3,000 miles on horseback, preaching the gospel faithfully until he died at the age of twenty-nine, after a lengthy sickness brought on by his constant time spent in harsh winter conditions. Brainerd began his life of ministry at the young age of twenty-four.
Methodist Circuit Riders
The Methodist Circuit Riders were devout evangelists who traveled across the country on horseback to lead people to Christ by preaching of the gospel and establishing local congregations of believers. Amazingly, four questions were asked in the selecting of a potential Circuit Rider:
- Is this man truly converted?
- Does he know how to keep our rules?
- Can he preach acceptably?
- Has he a horse?
Due to the harsh conditions of living in the woods and traveling on horseback, the average life expectancy of a Circuit Rider was only thirty-three years of age. Most of the Circuit Riders began their ministry while they were in their twenties.