By Dave Meyer
Have you heard about Francis Asbury? Mr. Asbury happens to be one of the greatest figures in American history…yet, many people don’t know who he is. In fact, Francis Asbury is an inspiration to all Christians, and the life he lived reflects God’s purpose for America.
You might be thinking, God’s purpose for America? What is that? Let’s take a look at the life Francis Asbury led and how his legacy helped put God’s purpose for America in motion.
The Revolutionary War has just ended. Hope is in the air. Americans now have complete religious freedom according to their new Constitution. As Americans begin building this new nation, a vast frontier awaits them to the west. Several million people are living in the forests and prairies that spread out over thousands of miles. It is the late 1700s, and 95 percent of the American population lives in places with fewer than 2,500 residents— meaning most do not have quick and easy access to a church or the clergy. Our pioneering ancestors had spiritual needs with few to zero witnesses for Christ out there on the plains and in the forests. This need in early America helped create a new form of evangelism—the circuit-riding preacher.
On a Mission
Francis Asbury, a devoted Methodist minister from England, came to America after hearing about these spiritual needs. Francis Asbury is one example of many other circuit-riders who were used by God to spread the Good News throughout the fledgling nation. What makes Asbury an American hero as well as a hero of the faith was his passion for evangelism— a passion so intense he willingly gave up everything for Christ.
He never got married. He never bought a home. All his possessions were carried in two saddlebags strapped to his trusty horse. Asbury risked his own life to spread the Gospel throughout the thirteen colonies, traveling more than 270,000 miles and preaching over 16,000 sermons. His self-sacrifice enabled him to see thousands of people accept Christ as Savior.
Visualize this: The circuit-riding preacher trots into a town, hot and thirsty…or maybe cold and hungry, depending on the season. He takes out an old parchment to tack up his invitation to a meeting. Then, unless the arrangement was made in advance, he needs to fi nd a house, schoolhouse, barn… someplace to hold a meeting. Remember, this is a community without television, radio or any other entertainments of today. Eventually, as the word spreads about the meeting, people grow more excited. This could be the most exciting thing these people have seen in weeks…or longer! People run home, clean up and put on their best clothes for the occasion. If the circuit-rider wasn’t able to find a Christian family to spend the night with, he would sleep outside. Often, people were honored to host a preacher who came into town to serve them. The preacher would pray with those he stayed with, help them read the Bible, and was even a good source of news from the “outside” world. Through rain, sleet, snow or scorching sunshine, the circuit-rider didn’t stop. It was common for them to travel 200 to 500 miles every two to six weeks.
Dynamic Piece of Americaʼs Christian Heritage
The circuit-riding preachers are an awesome part of America’s Christian heritage. What a legacy they left—changing the frontier with their innovative methods of gospel-sharing as God’s powerful Spirit helped them overcome the challenging conditions experienced in early America. They planted seeds throughout the frontier that grew and formed into many churches and helped thousands of pioneer families build a tradition of Christian service.
Their brave dedication to sharing the Gospel, even at the expense of their own personal comfort, helped lay the groundwork to one of God’s primary purposes for America: taking the Gospel to the far corners of the earth. The gritty determination shown by the early circuit-riders has continued through America’s history—carried on by today’s modern-day “circuit-riders” who risk their lives serving the
Lord as missionaries in far off lands.
Lord as missionaries in far off lands.
from Enjoying Everyday Life, A Joyce Meyer Ministries (JMM) magazine December 2011 issue
Dave Meyer is Vice President of Joyce Meyer Ministries and has been married to Joyce for over forty years. He passionately shares the truth about our rich Christian heritage in conferences nationwide, encouraging people to get educated pray and take action.
1. “Francis Asbury: Methodist on Horseback” http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/131christians/
denominationalfounders/asbury.html accessed July 8, 2011.
2. Bill Bright and John Damoose, “Red Sky in the Morning,” NewLife Publications, Orlando, FL, 1998, p. 67-68.