Jesus’ sent his disciples out in twos to preach the Kingdom of God and heal the sick. Early Christians fanned out across the Roman Empire to invite people into the Kingdom of God on earth. Early Friends saw themselves as living Primitive Christianity revived. The Valiant Sixty were women and men with gifts of carrying the good news of Christ-led movement they called the Children of the Light. Those who carried these gifts were later named by Quakers “Gospel Ministers”. These early Quaker
Gospel Ministers believed it was just as important to preach and offer vocal prayers by direct divine inspiration rather than by advance preparation as it was in speaking during “retired meetings” of Friends. These extemporaneous messages could, however, be very lengthy. It seems unlikely that those preaching in pubs, market places, barns, or open fields to largely non-Quaker listeners remained for long periods of silent waiting before speaking.
Even though Quakers were often described as “Quietest” in the 18th century, those called to Gospel Ministry often continued to preach to public gatherings of non-Friends, encouraging them to become Quakers. This was particularly true of those traveling widely in the ministry – often referred to as Public Friends.
During the 19th century American Quakerism experienced several major schisms. The large scion that came to be known as “Guerneyite” (for the English evangelical Quaker preacher, John Joseph Gurney) not only were influenced by Protestant revivals to begin planning worship in advance and hiring pastors, but also were influenced by the evangelical approach of Methodism and other movements sweeping the U.S. during the 19th century.
Both Conservative (or “Wilburite”) and Hicksite (unprogrammed, less Christian Friends) have tended to be put off by evangelical approaches to sharing about Quakerism with non-Friends. The assumption is that an evangelical approach is based on an assumption that one’s own faith and spiritual practices are the only right path to God, and are incompatible with belief that God speaks to many hearts and many faith communities in different ways.
Toward a Rethinking of the Quaker Message is a 1979 Friends Journal article by Kenneth Boulding.
Elise Boulding explores how part of our call to change the world may lead us to working closely with those with very different values from our own in her article God’s Ordinaries.