Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March 31 - Francis Asbury, Missionary, Circuit-Rider, Preacher

Francis was well-acquainted with the highways and byways of the British Colonies in North America. This wasn't because he was native to the land. No, Francis had been born in England--Staffordshire to be precise--to parents who were associated with the fledgling methodist movement within the Church of England. He only moved to the colonies after he had become a minister and accepted a calling and commission to be a missionary there. His familiarity with the many roads and paths in the land that would eventually be called the United States of America was not due to his social status within the territories. He did not simply sit back and look at maps and engage in artful political maneuvers. Throughout his life and ministry he was forever moving and always about the business of God. When he was asked what his approach to ministry was, he said "I'm going to live for God and get others so to do." Instead, Francis' familiarity with the highways and byways of the nation were due to use and due to the many miles he committed into God's hands as he traveled ceaselessly to preach and minister.

Francis wasn't the only methodist minister at work in the colonies but as the altercation that would later be called the "Revolutionary War" began to heat up and spill over into bloodshed, British ministers returned home for fear of reprisals. Francis, however, stayed where he was even as every other methodist minister returned to England. Eventually, he was the only one of his kind in the territory. This added to his workload but did not deter him from his mission. As worldly powers waged war over money, territory, and pride, Francis was proclaiming the Kingdom of God every night and every day as he rode horseback from meeting to meeting. While war was waged with bullets and blades, Francis engaged in spiritual guerrilla tactics in a world that opposed the Gospel he preached and professed. He preached anywhere that could hold the larger and larger crowds that flocked to him and often found himself preaching one of his powerful sermons in a field.

Francis Asbury traveled an average of 6,000 miles a year on horseback to preach and proclaim a faith that had clearly gripped him and motivated him to reach out to a world in need of good news. He was bishop to many ministers and spiritual director to many of the faithful. After his ministry, the number of people who could point to Francis as a spiritual father, guide, or mentor was nearly 214,000. This was up from the 1,200 or so that claimed methodist influence before the war. Methodism had grown in and even found a home on foreign soil. Though Francis had been the only one to stay through the war, there were over 700 ordained methodist ministers in the United States of America when Francis died. Francis Asbury died a leader and bishop of God's people in a land that was not his own by birth or blood but that had been claimed with every fall of his horse's hooves.

1 comment:

pennyyak said...

A great, seemingly tireless man - a Paul in America.