The Circuit Rider vs The Televangelist
by Michael Edds
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In my continued research on the "old wells of revival" I have
discovered some incredibly contrasting bits of information. One of the
top televangelists in the nation was recently invited to preach in
Baltimore, Maryland. His terms for coming were:
#1. That a limousine at the airport must pick him up.
#2. That he must have $1,000 spending money.
#3. That he must be guaranteed at least $10,000 in offerings.
This same televangelist/ pastor lives in a multi million-dollar
mansion, eats in the finest restaurants and wears the most expensive
tailor-made suits. His writings and speaking engagements have garnered
millions of dollars. He brags that he is a role model of the
prosperity message of our day. He pastors a mega church, appears on
national and international television, has authored many books and
draws tens of thousands to hear him. To his credit, he is a powerful,
commanding speaker. However, please contrast this to the following
life and ministry of the great circuit rider, Francis Asbury in the
late 1700s and early 1800s.
While still in his 20's, Bishop Francis Asbury left his home and family
forever in England to come to a wilderness called America. He came to
be a traveling preacher/evangelist in a nation with little
infrastructure such as roads, decent housing, few hotels and
restaurants, poor sanitation and dangerous drinking water, few medical
professionals and limited law enforcement. The nation had recently
plunged into a violent war of independence against Asbury's native land
of England. The American frontier was also ablaze with war between the
colonist and Native Americans tribes.
Asbury was not greeted upon his arrival by a limo. He had to purchase
a horse on which he traveled 8,000 a year for over 40 years. His
financial reward was $60 a year, much of which he gave away or sent
back to England to help his parents. He wore hand-me-downs not tailor
made suits. He had no retirement, no insurance, no dental plan, and no
401 k. He set no fee for his ministry.
What he did receive, he often gave away. He traveled on "roads" on
which his horse sank many times knee-deep in mud. If a road did not
exist, he would lead his horse over the steep, rocky inclines of the
Appalachians to reach a pioneer community. Many times, his feet and
legs were bloodied and bruised by the horrific journey. When he came
to a river where there was no bridge or ferry, he would swim his horse
across. Numerous times, he was nearly drowned by an angry, swollen
stream. His "hotel" on many occasions was on a dirt floor in an
overcrowded, rat-infested frontier cabin. Often times he slept in the
woods, on a mountain ledge or in damp cave. Many days he would travel
over 60 miles with nothing to eat. The paths and roads he traveled
were full of dangers from murderers, thieves, wolves, bears, poisonous
snakes and roaming bands of Native Americans with whom the frontiersmen
were at war. If he met someone who needed a cloak, food or money, he
would take what he had and give it to the person in need. Asbury
sought out the forgotten, hidden places of early America. He traveled
from New England, to the Midwest, and to the Deep South spreading the
Gospel of Christ. When he would meet a person who was ill, he would
minister to their physical needs with the last medication he had. He
demanded nothing of others in order to come into a community. The
demands he made were of himself. Frequently, his body would be racked
with pain, illness, fever, hunger and weakness. His physical being
would cry out for rest and nourishment. However, his spirit ruled his
body. When truly unable to travel, he would mount his horse and ride
for 8 hours or more through blinding snowstorms, torrential rain or in
He too had been invited to Baltimore. In 1816 he was traveling by
buggy through Virginia headed to the annual conference in Baltimore.
However, he was dying. His last sermon was preached in Richmond. He
had to be carried into the meeting room. He commented, "I am too weak
to walk but not to preach." They sat him on a small table and he
ministered the Word for the last time. He made it as far as
Spotsylvania twenty miles north of Richmond. He body was rapidly
failing. He stopped at a friend's house on Saturday. Shortly before
he left this world he was asked, "Do you feel Jesus precious?"
Summoning his last remaining strength, the great circuit rider raised
both hands in victory. Minutes later he laid his head on a friend's
hand and gently slipped away to be with the Lord. He owned no mansion,
no land, and no bank account. His net worth was what he wore on his
body. He was buried in a borrowed grave plot.
When Asbury came to America, there were few Methodist believers and
fewer preachers. At the end of his ministry, there were over 200,000
Methodist believers and almost 8,000 ministers. He affected lives of
thousands upon thousands. He changed the very course of American
history. Among his converts were poor farmers, merchants, Governors of
several states, frontiersmen, slaves, Native Americans, State Supreme
Court Justices, attorneys, physicians, housewives, children, youth and
people from all walks of life. He gave all he had. He sought nothing
for himself. His passion was to bring salvation and the Light of the
Gospel to those in darkness of sin. He loved a nation and made it his
own even though he was not her native son.
Quite a CONTRAST between the CIRCUIT RIDER and the TELEVANGELIST!
One was selfless, the other selfish. One was people-centered, the
other ego-centered. One was a Kingdom builder, the other an empire
builder. One drew souls into the Kingdom of God; the other drew the
masses into an arena. One demanded of him, the other demanded of
others. One gave freely, the other commanded a price. One was a
servant, the other a celebrity.
Hebrews 11:32-38 speaks about the real heroes of the faith: They
were..."tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a
better resurrection. Still others had trial of mocking and beatings,
and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were
sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered
about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted,
tormented... they wandered in deserts, and mountains, in dens and caves
of the earth.... of whom the world was not worthy."
How long are we going to tolerate the "superstar syndrome" in the
church? How long are we going to feed the ego and pocketbooks of these
self-seeking charlatans, regardless of how articulate they are? How
long will we continue to pack their arenas and buy their CDs, DVDs and
books? How long will we pick them up in limos, and line their wallets
with thousands and thousands of dollars to spend on self? How long
will we tolerate apostasy?
My God, how far we have fallen! God is calling on us as His people to
repent and turn from our wicked ways. He is calling us to seek HIS
face. I am praying that God will help us to return to the faith of our
fathers and will fulfill Jeremiah 3:15 and give us shepherds after His
own heart... just like the beloved Francis Asbury, humble servant of
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