Friday, January 29, 2016

Saddlebag Sermonizing

Friday, January 29, 2016


While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers.  “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them.  “No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”  “Then what baptism did you experience?” he asked.  And they replied, “The baptism of John.”  Paul said, “John’s baptism called for repentance from sin.  But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.”

As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied.  There were about twelve men in all.

Then Paul went to the synagogue and preached boldly for the next three months, arguing persuasively about the Kingdom of God.  But some became stubborn, rejecting his message and publicly speaking against the Way.  So Paul left the synagogue and took the believers with him.  Then he held daily discussions at the lecture hall of Tyrannus.  This went on for the next two years, so that people throughout the province of Asia—both Jews and Greeks—heard the word of the Lord. Acts 19:1-10(NLT)

A defining characteristic of 18th century Methodism was its’ circuit-riding preachers.  John Wesley sent Francis Asbury to watch over the spread of the movement:

In 1771, Francis Asbury answered founder John Wesley’s call to bring the Gospel to America’s untamed frontier.  For 45 years, the premier bishop of American Methodism travelled the back country from Maine to Georgia.

Thousands of miles.  Through treacherous conditions.  Shunned by those who did not want to hear about God.  But, along the way, Asbury saved souls…planted parishes…and mobilized ministers. 

October 14th, 1803, Francis Asbury wrote:

“What a road we have passed!  Certainly the worst on the whole continent, even in the best weather.  Yet, bad as it was, there were four or five hundred crossing the rude hills while we were.  We must take care to send preachers after these people.”

And, Asbury sent saddlebag sermonizers across the land.[2]

Paul was a saddlebag sermonizer.  One of my favorite sayings about Paul came from a seminary professor (who probably stole it from someone else):  wherever Paul went he started a revival or a riot – sometimes both!

From the first century ministry of Paul, to the eighteenth with Wesley and Asbury, and on down to where we are today, the Word of God will produce revival and riot; it’s all up to the hearers.

Paul had the joy of seeing about a dozen men come to Christ in Ephesus (and in all likelihood their families also).  Then, for two years he stayed with them and spread the word in the surrounding communities.  With the revival came the riot of resistance in the temple, so Paul moved out. 

John Wesley did that as well.  Wesley preferred the established church buildings and all the refinement of liturgical ceremony and order.  What dashed that was the staid and stuffy resistance from his peers in clerical robes.  So, Wesley (like Paul) was forced into the streets to preach to the people, and the movement was born.

What we should never forget is that the saddlebag sermonizers, were never alone – the people went with Paul; the people welcomed the circuit-riding Methodist preachers.  And in each case, the combined efforts of preacher and people bore fruit.

Francis Asbury wrote:  “If I can only be instrumental in the conversion of one soul in travelling round the continent, I’ll travel round till I die.”[3]

This was the commitment of a movement.

For You Today

Are you involved in a movement?  Or do you put your time in going to church?

You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…and have a blessed day!

[1] Title image: Rembrandt, via Wikimedia Commons & Giovanni Paolo Panini, via Wikimedia Commons[both Public domain]
[3] Ibid.

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