“The effective Christians of history have been men and women of great personal discipline. The connection between the words disciple and discipline is obvious. To be a true, effective disciple of Christ we must seek to discipline our lives and endeavor to walk even as He walked. The thing that has hindered the progress of the church is not so much our talk and our creeds; but it has been our walk, our conduct, our daily living. We need a revival of Christian example, and that can only come when professed followers of Christ begin to practice Christian discipline.” ― Billy Graham
I was raised Baptist but my Dad started his Christian walk as a Methodist. He always said a Methodist was just a Baptist who could read. (That’s still funny). No, he was a Methodist because of this man, Brother Hoffer who was a Methodist Circuit Rider. Although the organization of these traveling ministers of the Methodist Episcopal Church largely waned in the late 1800’s a number were still traveling through rural Texas just after the turn of the century when this photo was taken.
These were tough, hearty men who preferred mules due to their durability and ability to endure harsh weather and terrain. Dad said it wasn’t unusual for Brother Hoffer to hitch his mule to their plow for extra help on Monday after a Sunday meeting. I can’t imagine anyone who could bring a more credible Gospel message than a man like this.
It’s helpful to think of men like Brother Hoffer when I’m struggling to drag my sleepy head to church on Sunday, much less roll-up my sleeves for an honest day’s work on Monday.
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
2 Timothy 4:1-2
A traveling Methodist circuit rider, from Harper’s Weekly.
Apostles on Horseback
Francis Asbury & the Methodist Circuit Riders—Covering America with Spiritual Awakening – Preaching the Circuit
The first reason for the incredibly rapid spread and growth of Methodism in America was the circuit system, which Wesley had developed in England.
Asbury began to direct his traveling preachers as a general moves his troops. He built up a small army of truly courageous men, largely unlearned, but well fitted for their job. Their enthusiasm and disregard of hardship became famous.
The second major factor accounting for the wide acceptance of Methodism was its theology. On the frontier what was preached was straight and simple, and it placed a big responsibility on the listeners to respond to the message immediately. This message was usually coupled with strict rules concerning moral issues, including prohibitions against slaveholding and liquor.
The third major factor in the spread of Methodism was the camp meeting, which Asbury greatly favored and promoted. Camp meetings were gatherings of people in the wilds to hear evangelistic preaching. Large crowds would travel distances and set up tents for housing. More than 20,000 people could be effectively reached at once, and they would attend eagerly. In addition, camp meetings required few preparations, as the preachers simply sent out the notice that one would be held at the stated time and place. Asbury wrote of them, “I pray to God that there may be a score of camp-meetings a week, and wonderful seasons of the Lord in all directions.… I rejoice to think there will be perhaps four or five hundred camp meetings this year.” In Tennessee in October 1800 he gave a vivid description of such a meeting:
… The ministers of God, Methodists and Presbyterians, united their labors and mingled with the childlike simplicity of primitive times. Fires blazing here and there dispelled the darkness and the shouts of the redeemed captives, and the cries of precious souls struggling into life, broke the silence of midnight.…
The stern demands Asbury placed upon himself and his preachers produced results. The decade of the 1780s showed spectacular gains: in 1780 there had been 42 preachers and 8,504 members; by 1790 there were 227 preachers, and 45,949 white and 11,862 black members. In 1820, by which time Asbury had died, there were 904 preachers, and 256,881 members.
from “Apostles on Horseback,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 23: Spiritual Awakenings in North America (Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 1989).