Francis Asbury (1745-1816) was the ringleader for all things Methodist in the USA. His philosophy on preaching was, “Lord, keep me from preaching empty stuff to please the ear, instead of changing the heart.” Asbury knew the need was not more self-esteem, but a change of heart only Christ could bring.
He lived his life this way and was passionate about preaching the gospel – believing it was truly a matter of life and death! He told his preachers to “Preach as if you had seen heaven and its celestial inhabitants, and had hovered over the bottomless pit, and beheld the tortures, and heard the groans of the damned.”
It was a reality to him! Asbury lived out his preaching life by faith in a “prayer-hearing, soul-converting, soul-sanctifying, soul-restoring, soul-comforting God.”
Francis Asbury volunteered to go to America after having preached in England for four years with Wesley. He said, “Whither am I going? To the New World. What to do? To gain honor? No, if I know my own heart. To get money? No: I am going to live to God, and to bring others so to do.
He was appointed Wesley’s assistant and from there grew in leadership, eventually assuming the title of bishop. He required every one of his preachers to travel a circuit and he himself crossed the Alleghenies 60 times and traveled an average of 5,000 miles a year on horseback. The early growth of the church was largely the result of his strenuous efforts; when he arrived in America there were only three Methodist meetinghouses and about 300 communicants. By the time of his death, there were 412 Methodist societies with a membership of 214,235! He once quipped, “My soul is more at rest from the tempter when I am busily employed.”
His balance of work ethic and understanding of grace can be understood in this quote from him, “We should so work as if we were to be saved by our works; and so rely on Jesus Christ, as if we did no works.”