Book: Turning the world upside down

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The Primitive Methodist movement was founded by Hugh Bourne (1772-1852) and William Clowes (1780-1851). Bourne was the organisational genius, overseer, master strategist and tactician. Clowes was the leading missionary and apostle of the movement, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to tens of thousands, usually in the open-air, and was possibly the greatest preacher in his generation.

On May 31 1807, Hugh Bourne organised the first English “Camp Meeting”, an open-air all day service, at Mow Cop in North Staffordshire. As a result of involvement in these meetings, Bourne and Clowes were expelled from the Wesleyan Methodists and a new movement was formed. Subsequently they took the name "Primitive Methodists".

Primitive Methodism was a movement amongst working class people during the industrial revolution. The transformation of individuals, families and communities was often dramatic. Known as “Ranters they were persecuted by hostile mobs and gangs, they were brought before magistrates and a number of their early preachers went to jail. Ranters were well known for their lively singing, shouting and powerful preaching.
The movement grew rapidly and by the centenary year of 1907 they had established over five thousand churches, gathered eight hundred thousand members and followers, enrolled nearly half a million children in their Sunday Schools, and spread across the world to the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Africa and beyond.

In the early years of the twentieth century the movement began to plateau, and after merger with other Methodist groups, the slow process of decline began.

This book helps us learn from this radical movement of God and apply the lessons to our cultural context in the twenty-first century. The story of the Primitive Methodist movement gives us hope that what God did in the difficult and challenging conditions of the 1800s, He can do again in our day and generation. Context and culture may change, but the life transforming message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is as powerful as ever.