Unit 7.11 Asbury … deliberately chose to plant churches in isolated rural settings


 It is an gross oversimplification, however, to say that Methodism on the American frontier went Awhere the people were.@[1] Early Methodism, according to Lovett Weems, Aseemed more at home in rural settings@ and was more successful there.[2] Asbury developed Aa distinct rural orientation adept at expanding into thinly populated areas.@[3] Asbury and his contemporaries deliberately chose to plant churches in isolated rural settings, avoiding even the developing towns as Aalien to Methodist values and >famous for wickedness.=@[4] Eighteen of twenty Methodist chapels in the Delmarva peninsula of Delaware in 1784 were in the countryside.[5] The Western Christian Advocate in 1843 notes that in the Midwest, Athe towns were almost universally avoided by our preachers as places of too much dissipation for the Gospel to obtain a foothold.@[6] Asbury did not go where the people were or would be; Asbury went where there was no competition to holiness from outside influences.[7]

[1]Weems, Leadership In The Wesleyan Spirit, 21-22.

[2]Ibid., 23.

[3]Nathan Hatch, quoted by Weems, Leadership In The Wesleyan Spirit, 22.

[4]Weems, Leadership In The Wesleyan Spirit, 24.

[5]Ibid. For a broader description, cf. William H. Williams, AThe Attraction of Methodism: The Delmarva Peninsula as a Case Study, 1769-1820″ in Russell E. Richey, Kenneth E. Rowe, and Jean Miller Schmidt, eds., Perspectives On American Methodism: Interpretive Essays (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993), 31-45.

[6]Weems, Leadership In The Wesleyan Spirit, 24.

[7]Roger W. Stump, ARegional Migration and Religious Commitment in the United States,@ Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 23, no. 3 (September 1984): 292-304. Stump=s experimental results favor the Aadaptation model’s prediction that religious commitment rises among migrants to regions of higher native commitment, such as the South, and fails among migrants to regions of lower commitment.@ Asbury=s placement of churches in isolated settings, therefore, creates a high expectation environment which will have a higher evangelistic influence on those living nearby; placing churches in town would give the majority of Asinners@ a greater influence over a minority of Methodists. Asbury did not need to locate churches in towns to draw a crowd, be visible or have an influence due to the camp meeting=s ability to draw a crowd during the nineteenth century.

NOTE (my response)



The quote is from Major League Disciple Making: An Overview of the Best Research on the Cell Church, an online course developed for the Institute for Discipleship at www.BeADisciple.com in 2009. Course materials, including these lectures, can be downloaded here: http://www.disciplewalk.com/IFD_MLD_Class_Links.html

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.

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