Often I hear things like: “we can’t do it that way anymore”, “that would never work today”, or even “God won’t do it that way anymore”. Times have changed, we’re told.
As someone who does not go in for innovation for innovation’s sake, this line of reasoning doesn’t quite sit with me. And not just for the sake of the theological principle that God can do whatever pleases Him. For historical reasons as well. Consider that in 1946 the dean of Harvard Divinity School had counted the tradition of large-scale evangelistic preaching to be discredited entirely. It was the realm of hucksters and hacks. The very idea of evangelism was loaded with images of charlatans who used big tent revivalism for personal gain.*
And then a few short years later, a young Billy Graham rose up in the public eye. His ministry could at the very least be described as, ahem, fruitful.
The lesson? No one gets to tell God who He’ll use or how He’ll use them. And no one gets to say what is over and that God can’t or won’t work that way again.
*see page 35 of Ross Douthat’s excellent book Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics