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The Man Who Preached Outside

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 10 Apr 2018

Ros Clarke reviews this picture book for young children about the life and ministry of George Whitefield

Teaching church history for children is a wonderful and important thing, as Robin Barfield explained so clearly in a recent edition of Crossway. We were glad to publish resources for teaching the Reformation to children of all ages last year and delighted with the positive response they received. cover with an illustration of George Whitefield preaching

So it was a pleasure to see this little book about George Whitefield by Rebecca Van Doodeward. It is a board book, suitable for small hands, beautifully illustrated by Blair Bailie and with specific images to look out for as you go through the book. The text is simple but engaging. It begins with, “Mr Whitefield is preaching, but not in a church. Why is he outside?”, and goes on to explain that there are too many people who want to hear him. The story follows Whitefield to America and back again, telling as many people as he can about the Lord Jesus. It would be a lovely book to read to a child beginning to understand that not everyone knows and loves Jesus, to show how we need to go out and tell them.

I did have one concern about the book. In the sections about his time in America, we are told that he preached to cities and towns, to poor but hard-working people, and that he cared for orphans and sick people. All of which is certainly true. But not one of the people illustrated on these pages is black. Whitefield owned slaves and attempted scriptural defences of slavery, while at the same time chastising slave owners for their cruelty to slaves. I’m not suggesting that all of this needed to be included in a book for pre-schoolers. I do think, however, that at the very least the book could have made it clear that both black and white people heard the good news of the Lord Jesus. In fact, there is one black face in the book, in the first crowd scene of Whitefield preaching in England, but this only made it even more noticeable to me that none were included later.

Nonetheless, I hope that this book encourages more parents to teach even the youngest children about some of the heroes of the faith. There are three other books in the same series, featuring Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Susannah Spurgeon, and Katharina Luther.

Ros Clarke is the Associate Director of Church Society

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