Tuesday, September 7, 2010


The fourth parallel between the church in Acts and the Primitive Methodist movement is persecution.

After the stoning of Stephen, a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the surrounding regions. (Acts 8:1). Paul and his companions met with persecution in Antioch (Acts 13:50), Iconium (Acts 14:5), Lystra (Acts 14:19), strong opposition from Jewish groups and violent mobs in Philippi (Acts 16:22), and in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5), and there was a great riot in Ephesus on account of their message (Acts 19:23).

The early Primitive Methodist pioneer preachers faced two particular forms of persecution – the mob and the magistrate. Violent mobs of angry men and women pelted their preachers with stones, rotten eggs and vegetables, mud, excrement, as well as verbally and physically assaulting them. Some preachers were lucky to escape with their lives. Verbal assault apart from the usual cursing and swearing also included calling them “Ranters”, a term of derision and offence.

Many a preacher found himself in court or in prison as the result of trumped up charges, such as obstructing the highway, or intention to cause a riot. It was not infrequently that they picked up “the Go to Jail” card.

It is the experience of many preachers of powerful Christian movements to go to jail. Examples include Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany and Martin Luther King in Birmingham jail. It often seems to be part of God’s plan. As our western society moves from being post-Christian to being increasingly anti-Christian, it may be the lot of modern-day preachers to be sent to prison for preaching the Gospel, as well.

See also Five Characteristics of a Church Planting movement

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pentecostal power

The second parallel between the New Testament church and the Primitive Methodist movement, is the power of the Holy Spirit.

On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came in great power. There is some evidence that the Primitive Methodists were Pentecostals, a hundred years before the Azusa Street revival in 1905. They were a movement of the Holy Spirit where the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit were taught and experienced. Both of the founders of the movement, Hugh Bourne and William Clowes, experienced personally powerful experiences of being filled with the Spirit.

There were times when there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the believers. Hugh Bourne recalls one particular service held at Tunstall on Sunday September 24th, 1820. There was such an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the whole congregation that it resulted in a “revival of the work of the Lord.” The next evening he preached and many were converted to Christ.

Towards the end of his life, Hugh Bourne regularly preached on ‘the Pentecost’.

The books of Acts has been called “the Acts of the Holy Spirit”. It seems obvious that a movement of God is inspired, directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. As it was for the New Testament church, and for the Primitive Methodist movement, so it is for a contemporary movement of God – it must be a movement empowered by the Spirit of God.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dynamic prayer

The first and most obvious parallel between the New Testament church and the Primitive Methodist movement, is the central role of prayer.

In Acts, 120 believers were “constantly in prayer” in the upper room, after Jesus had ascended to heaven. (Acts 1:14-15). When Peter was imprisoned by Herod, and on trial for his life, many people gathered in the house of Mary to pray for his release. (Acts 12:12). Barnabas and Saul were commissioned for the first missionary journey in Antioch after fasting and prayer. (Acts 13:3). Being gathered for prayer was at the heart of New Testament ministry.

Prayer was at the centre of ministry for the Primitive Methodists. Their meetings were legendary in North Staffordshire, England, where they began. They were known for being demonstrative, passionate, zealous and powerful gatherings. They were dynamic meetings, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Hugh Bourne called those who were zealously committed to prayer, by the quaint title of “pious praying labourers”. To them, prayer was core business. Today we would call them prayer warriors. They were earnest in their passion for God and for the conversion of their friends. There was an expectation that every convert would become part of the prayer meeting.

I want to suggest that our modern-day church needs to encourage and expect new converts to be part of a regular dynamic prayer meeting. In such a prayer gathering, new believers catch the DNA of the movement, and learn to become bold and passionate about making disciples.

When was the last time you went to a dynamic prayer meeting? Do you need to start one?

See also Practicing a Shout, Dynamic Prayer Meetings Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.