The Primitive Methodist movement spread rapidly, from ten members in 1810, to half a million people attending their Sunday services, as recorded by the 1851 Census. That is a significant statement of growth in just over forty years.
How did they do it?
In part, the answer is simple – they raised an army. It was an army of lay people who served as local preachers, Sunday school teachers and adult class leaders. The leaders of the movement were experts at talent spotting, recruiting new leaders from their prayer meetings, and other gatherings. They recruited from within the movement.
Some of the most effective preachers were teenage boys. Hugh Bourne’s “lads” were ploughboys, with little or no formal education. One of the most effective adult preachers was John Benton, who was criticized for not being able to construct a grammatically correct sentence. His command of English may have been lacking, but the power of God accompanied his preaching, and his hearers were brought under conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit. Sarah Kirkland became the first full-time female travelling preacher at the age of 21.
When Hugh Bourne died in 1852, he left an army of lay people. There were
9,350 local preachers
6,632 class leaders
and 22,398 Sunday school teachers
If a movement is to expand and grow rapidly, it needs an army.