February 9, 2005
Francis Asbury rode 6,000 miles per year on horseback for nearly half a century.
Despite ill health, he pushed himself tirelessly. Constantly on the move, Asbury sustained himself with venison jerky—one of the few foods that would not spoil during his extended travels.
As a young Englishman, Asbury had been recruited by John Wesley to do missionary work in the New World back in the 18th century. He believed that people were lost without Jesus, and that conviction drove him on a daily evangelistic quest. Rising early in the morning, he would ride his horse to places where he could preach in houses, schools, jails, and the open air.
After years of trial and error, Asbury perfected the “circuit-riding preacher” concept for capturing the frontier for Christ. But he didn’t just evangelistically “hit and run.” He built believing congregations to carry on the work after he had left. These fellowships became spiritual lighthouses in remote areas.
Because both Asbury and Wesley were so methodical in the way they did their ministry, they eventually were called “Methodists.” Next time you pass through a small town in rural America, keep an eye out for a Methodist church. More often than not, you will find one there. This is evidence of preachers on horseback who believed no town was too small to deserve a gospel hearing.
At the close of Francis Asbury’s ministry, he had recruited over 700 traveling preachers to spread the gospel of Jesus. In 1771 when Asbury arrived in the colonies, there were only 600 Methodists in America. Forty-five years later, there were 200,000. The number had increased from 1 in 5,000 to 1 in 40 of the total population!
The days of the “circuit-riding preacher” have come and gone. But the spiritual principle of spreading the Word to our friends, relatives, and neighbors is still our Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).
Posted: February 9, 2005 12:12 AM