During the Revolutionary War all the preachers of the Church of England went back to England for safety. Methodists preachers were part of that group. Only one stuck it out, a man names Francis Asbury. He often had to hide during the war, so he wouldn’t get hurt. It was after the war was won that John Wesley realized if Methodism was going to continue in the USA, it would have to be separate from the Church of England. So it became the Methodist Church for the first time.
Francis was a leader and one of the first bishops in the Methodist Church in the United States. He oversaw the ministry of circuit riders. Circuit riders would be over a number of different churches, including an area that had no church in which they planted a church. Harry Hosier was a great preacher that rode alongside Asbury on many journeys.
The circuit riders would ride from church to church. Some churches were just a small group meeting in someone’s home. But when a circuit rider came to town to preach that small group would share the news and invite the whole community to come here their preaching. Circuit riders had to ride a horse from church to church and trust that someone would take them in at night. Sometimes they had to sleep out in the wild. They often were very young men and women.
Because the circuit rider wasn’t always there, a local leader would lead the church in their absence. That is why lay leaders are still an important part of our church. Also, some preachers decided to settle in one place. Now, these preachers are called Local Licensed Pastors. Our current-day circuit riders are called Elders. While many of them don’t serve a whole circuit, they still commit to being willing to move around to wherever they are needed. Just like Asbury did, bishops still appoint pastors (local licensed and Elders) to a church, rather than the church “calling” a pastor. Sometimes that is hard, like when the bishop decides a pastor we really like is needed elsewhere. However, it has benefits too like the local church doesn’t have to go through a long process to find a pastor. Many churches with a “calling” system will be without a church for years before they find the right person. Because it takes so long, often times they will stick with someone who is a bad match because they don’t want to do the process over again. In our appointment system, we often are only without a pastor for a couple weeks.
1. Compare our system today with that of Asbury’s day. What are the pros and cons of the differences?
2. The Circuit Riders made for a perfect event to invite friends to church for. What events do you think are the best ones to invite friends to?
3. If you were going around to churches every week like Francis Asbury, who would you want to be your Harry Hosier?