Francis Asbury: Lion-Heart

Recently, I was in Washington DC once again for a special ministry assignment.  I made my way just a few blocks north of the White House to sit in the park at the Francis Asbury Memorial.  It was a special time for me to reflect on the life of this lion-heart and revivalist who invested his calling and his soul into the spiritual foundation and DNA of the United States of America.  Asbury sits high on his tired and battered horse.  He's dressed as a frontiersmen, in his riding boots, hat and cape holding his Bible and messages in his hand.  The inscription on the Statue reads:




On the back of the statue you find these words:


In studying revival history, you will find that Francis is considered the father of the American "circuit riders" who helped shape our Christian culture. The circuit riders were the powerhouse itinerant preachers on horseback that carried the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the wilderness terrain of America's colonies.

Through the ministry and leadership of John Wesley, Methodism was a burning torch during England's dark and immoral age.  The Wesley's spread spiritual renewal and revival throughout England, Scotland and Ireland. John and Charles Wesley along with their friend George Whitefield became catalysts in spreading the Great Awakening to America. The Wesley brothers had a profound impact upon young Asbury.  In August 1771, John Wesley rose in their Annual Conference in the City of Bristol looking for young lions to commission as he shouted, "Our brethren in America call aloud for help. Who will go?" A young British preacher only 26-year-old courageously stood to answer the call of a missionary.  Francis Asbury's decision that day would launch him into lifelong call that would dramatically impact the spiritual destiny of America.

The call of God required Francis to leave his family, his childhood friends, his girlfriend and his fellow workers in the intense iron-working region in the midlands of England.  His assignment was cross the Atlantic Ocean and to preach the Gospel to the thirteen American colonies. In time, his itinerant preaching became a regiment that included more than six-thousand miles on horseback every year. In his forty-five-year ministry to America he covered more than a quarter million miles on horseback through the wilderness. It's hard to fathom this kind of passion and intensity – and literally impossible without the holy burnings of God freshly ablaze in your heart.

The life on the evangelistic trail for Asbury was not filled with plush hotels or hot showers, Uber services, generous preaching honorariums or great meals and hospitality.  This revivalist faced the open frontier with the dangers of wolves, extreme weather, eaten up by chiggers and ticks and he often survived on bread and water alone.  This circuit rider shared the company of his horse and trusted the Holy Spirit to keep him alive to preach the Gospel.

Inside the saddlebags of Asbury and the circuit riders you would not only find their Bibles, their hand-written sermons and hymnals – but you would also find the petitions and legal forms for the freeing of slaves.  For the circuit riders, being a revivalist and abolitionist was one in the same. It was no contradiction for them to approach both church and state issues openly with the life giving power of the Gospel. They burned with a desire for emancipation for the oppressed.  They were not afraid to engage the cultural fight for true liberty and biblical justice.

Across the United States, you will find towns, cities, hospitals, homes and schools from Maine to south Georgia and beyond with the name Francis Asbury attached to their identity.  This pioneer carried the burning message that God's love can be experienced by everyone; and that once it becomes experiential, the Holy Spirit takes up residents in your life.

Not only was Asbury a forerunner of the Gospel and revival, he carried the mantle and passion of a true abolitionist. One of the haunting questions our founding fathers wrestled over was the issue of slavery.

God raised Francis up as a prophet of truth and righteousness to condemn the injustice and oppression of slavery.  Few realize the pivotal role that he played. Francis once met with President George Washington, urging him to sign an emancipation for slaves. His leadership on the slavery issue was instrumental in forming and advancing the abolitionist movement in the nation. Think about this...God, who is not limited by time or space could see a brutal and bloody Civil War coming in America's near future that would claim the lives of more than 600,000 people – and nearly destroy our new nation. The abolitionist prophets like Francis Asbury were God's mercy strategy, providing an opportunity to avert bloodshed and disaster.

Time and time again, the Holy Spirit has highlighted to me and some of my closest ministry friends the unmistakable similarities between how the American church and the nation as a whole has dealt with the issue of slavery and how we are presently dealing with the issue of abortion.

Our culture has dehumanized the unborn.  The death culture of abortion has become a money-making industry disposing of more than 55+ million human souls and destinies.   We have ignored the silent screams, torture and pain of our own children.  They've been denied a voice.  America had to come to understand that slavery and acts of racism is such a deplorable crime against humanity.  How we ever got to the decision that allows women to take the lives of their own children through abortion is still baffling to me.

Just as slavery had to be condemned and banished, there must be a moral outcry against inhumane and the repulsive murder of innocent children.  Let me go on the record here: My prayer is that in our lifetime we will see abortion abolished and the curse of innocent bloodshed removed from our Nation.  I further believe that this tipping point will become a catalyst for national reformation.

The measure of impact that Francis Asbury's life as a revivalist and abolitionist will never be fully realized until the light of eternity.  We owe a great debt to this pioneer.  His legacy has deeply impacted me and calls out to this generation afresh. I believe with all my heart, we are entering a true Third Great Awakening.  I believe that God desires to raise up modern-day revivalists and abolitionists who will burn with the same fervor and convictions as Asbury.
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