Previous Methodist Revivals


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I believe all believers can learn much from the Methodists in the 1700’s and 1800’s. The Methodists did not preach the false gospel of easy believism. They had a strong emphasis on turning from sin, depending on the Holy Spirit and living a holy life. Their preaching to the unsaved was very direct in that it aimed to result in unbelievers being heavily convicted of their specific known sins as a preparation to receiving Jesus as Lord and Saviour. The Methodists emphasised training all their people in evangelism and ministry. Also they made great use of various types of small discipleship groups. They disciplined church members who refused to turn from blatant unknown sins. Their evangelism was often accompanied by great generosity to needy unbelievers.

While not everything the Methodists taught and did were correct, they were the pace-setters in revival and church planting in England, Wales, the United States and Australia especially in the 1700’s and 1800’s. Here is some statistical proof:


Methodist growth in England and Wales – 1738 to 1851


John Wesley began his revival ministry in 1738. He died in 1791. By 1851, there were 1,385,382 Wesleyan Methodists in England and Wales out of a population of about 17,928,000 (This is not far from the present population of Australia). This means the Wesleyan Methodists had grown to about 7.7% of the whole population of England and Wales in only 112 years. [1] Note these figures do not include 151,046 Welsh Calvinistic Methodists and the 29, 679 Methodists in the Lady Huntingdon’s Connexion (who were also Calvinists). If we add together Wesleyan and Calvinist Methodists in 1851 in England and Wales, they formed 8.7% of the total population.


·         The numbers of places of worship for Wesleyan Methodists had the following rates of increase:

                             Year                                Place of Worship                     Rate of increase
                                                                                                                          at each period

                                1801                                        825                                          -

                                1811                                        1,485                                       80%

                                1821                                        2,748                                       85%

                                1831                                        4,622                                       68.2%

                                1841                                        7,819                                       69.2%

                                1851                                        11,007                                     40.3%


The Methodist rate of growth was far above the Baptist or Congregational rates. The largest Baptist increase in numbers of places of worship in the above periods occurred between 1821 and 1831 with a 37.9% increase from 1,170 to 1,613 places of worship. The largest Congregationalist increase happened between 1821 and 1831 with a 35.2% increase from 1,478 to 1,999 places of worship. The 11,007 Methodist places of worship in England and Wales in 1851 averaged 126 members each.


Enormous Methodist growth in the U.S. – 1776-1850


In the United States, statistics for the Methodists were as follows:


Methodism began in the United States in 1769. The membership figures were [2]:


Year                                         Total Members

1780                                        8,504

1790                                        57,811

1803                                        126,523

1810                                        174,560

1820                                        256,881

1850                                                            1,208,110


Note the population of the United States in 1855 was about 27,000,000. [3] In 81 years, the Methodists won about 5% of the American people to the Lord. (Note also the conditions for membership in the Methodist groups in those days were strict.) In 1776, the three largest Christian denominations in America were the Congregationalists, the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians. These three groups had 55% of all American church members. But by 1850, these groups had reduced to 19.1% of the total American church members. This is despite the fact that the number of church members in America had doubled from 17% in 1776 to 34% in 1850 of the entire U.S. population.

In 1776, the Congregationalists had 20.4% of American church members whereas in 1850 they had only 4%. The Episcopalians fell from 15.7% of total church members in 1776 to only 3.5% in 1850. The Presbyterians declined from 19% in 1776 to 11.6% in 1850.

By contrast, however, the Methodists grew from only 2.5% in 1776 to 34.2% of total American church members in 1850. The Methodists grew from 65 churches in 1776 to 13,302 churches in 1850. The Baptists grew from 16.9% of total American church members in 1776 to 20.5% in 1850. [4]


Methodist growth in Australia


The Methodists also had great success in evangelism and church planting in Australia. In 1851, 5.6% of the whole Australian population claimed to be Methodists, in 1861, this grew to 7.8% and in 1871 to 11.8%. [5] Of this 11.8% in 1871, 89% were regular church attenders. [6] This meant 10.5% of the entire Australian population of 1,700,888 were regular churchgoing Methodists in 1871. [7]

In Victoria, between 1857 to 1864, the number of practising Methodists increased from 27,196 to 46,511. This was an enormous increase of 72%. [8] The total population of Victoria only increased by 8.5% from 521,072 to 617,791 in the years 1857 to 1864. [9] In 1857, the Methodists comprised 5.2% of the total Victorian population. By 1864, the Methodists had grown to 7.5% of the total population of Victoria.

The present churches in Australia, the U.S., Europe and other parts of the world need a sustained revival over many decades like the Methodists experienced in the 1800’s in England, the U.S. and Australia.


[1] (Figures obtained from Horace Mann’s Report of the Census of Religious Worship, 1851. Mann was a barrister appointed by the Registrar General of the British Government to do this census. The census did not include Scotland or Northern Ireland.)

[2] Keith Hardman, “The Spiritual Awakeners”, Moody Press, Chicago, page 106, and for 1850 figure: “New Catholic Encyclopedia” Volume 9, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1967, page 738.

[3] Timothy L. Smith, “Revivalism and Social Reform on the Eve of the Civil War”, Peter Smith,        , 1976, page 17.

[4] The source of these figures about America above is Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, “The Churching of America: Winners and Losers in our Religious Economy”, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, N.J., 1992, page 17.

[5] Hans Mol, “Religion in Australia”, Nelson, Melbourne, 1971, page 5.

[6] Ibid, page 11.

[7] Australian population figures were obtained from C.M. Clark, “Select Documents in Australian History, 1851-1900”, Angus and Robertson, London, page 665.

[8] J.Edwin Orr, “Evangelical Awakenings in the South Seas”,Bethany Fellowship, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1976, page 56.

[9] Clark, page 664.

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