Better to wear out than to rust out
No, that isn’t a saying originated by Neil Young (“it’s better to burn out than to fade away”). Indeed, this aphorism is attributed to quite a few people, but one of those people who firmly believed it was George Whitefield (1714–1770), an 18th century Anglican clergyman who was one of the founders of Methodism and the evangelical movement, “The Great Awakening.”
It is said that Whitefield preached at least 18,000 times to perhaps 10 million listeners in Great Britain and the American colonies. Impressive.
He is honored today, together with Francis Asbury, with a (lesser) feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church.
Francis Asbury (1745 – 1816) was one of the first two bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States. In 1784 John Wesley named Asbury and Thomas Coke as co-superintendents of the work in America. This marks the beginning of the “Methodist Episcopal Church of the USA.”
For the next thirty-two years, Asbury led all the Methodists in America. Like Wesley, Asbury preached in all sorts of places: courthouses, public houses, tobacco houses, fields, public squares, wherever a crowd assembled to hear him. For the remainder of his life he rode an average of 6,000 miles each year, preaching virtually every day and conducting meetings and conferences. Under his direction, the church grew from 1,200 to 214,000 members and 700 ordained preachers.
Holy God, who didst so inspire Francis Asbury and George Whitefield with evangelical zeal that their faithful proclamation of the Gospel caused a Great Awakening among those who heard them: Inspire us, we pray, by thy Holy Spirit, that, like them, we may be eager to share thy Good News and lead many to Jesus Christ, in whom is eternal life and peace; and who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Boy oh boy, both the Episcopal Church and the Methodist Church could really use these two today.