Seven Men – Study Guide for...

William Wilberforce

Physically, William Wilberforce was a small man. He was 5’3″ tall and his chest measured 33″. But where character was concerned, Wilberforce was a giant.


Focus for the Week

Why are networks of relationships essential if leaders are to bring about change?


How did you take action in “everyday” ways during the last week based on the challenges of our study? Remember to be specific!

Did anyone specifically set aside time to dream about how we can be used by God to be catalysts for cultural transformation? Remember: what you thought about on the way to our time together doesn’t count. Did you set aside time?

What is the next step you need to take in being “a catalyst for culture change?”


What age was Wilberforce when his Christian journey began?

In his book, To Change the World, James Davison Hunter has pointed out that great leaders do not act alone. Most often, they are a part of influential networks. This was certainly the case in the life of Wilberforce. Metaxas wrote:

Because Wilberforce and Pitt were already famous, all doors were opened to them. During that trip they visited the ill-fated couple, King Louis XVI and his queen, the young Marie Antoinette, who found Wilberforce especially charming. Wilberforce also met the Marquis de Lafayette, who had recently been a tremendous help to Washington and the American cause for freedom. While he was with Lafayette, Wilberforce also met Benjamin Franklin, then the US minister to France. It’s interesting to think that the seventy-seven-year-old Franklin, who was a lonely voice against slavery in the United States, should shake the hand of the twenty-four-year-old Wilberforce, who had yet to take up the battle in Great Britain. But Wilberforce’s life was a catalog of meetings with the rich and famous. Many years later— in 1820— when Wilberforce was sixty-one and she only a toddler of eighteen months, Wilberforce had the honor of meeting the future Queen Victoria. It seemed that he met everyone and anyone of and anyone of importance or celebrity in his lifetime.

How important was Wilberforce’s network was for his success as a leader? What are the implications for those who aspire to make a difference for Christ?


Read Luke 6:12-16.

What was Jesus’s first step in building his network?

Have you followed Jesus’s example in this regard?

Is the fact that Jesus built a network significant?

Engage and Execute

God’s work in Wilberforce’s life began with the influence of a Christian aunt and uncle when he was a child. How can we act today to influence young people with the gospel? Should we expect an immediate return in the lives of young people?

If you called three people this week regarding the initiative God has placed on your heart, who would they be? Will you follow Christ’s example in praying before you call them?

Watch Wes Lane share his story of how William Wilberforce has challenged him about the call to reach Oklahoma City. The section on Wilberforce begins shortly after the 4:40 mark.

For Further Study

Belmonte, Kevin. Hero for Humanity: A Biography of William Wilberforce. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002.

Hunter, James Davison. To Change the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Mextaxas, Eric. Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery. New York: Harper Collins, 2007.



Tim Johnson is a Regional Vice President for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Leader of Pinnacle Forum for Central Illinois.