By Roscoe Barnes III
Author, F.F. Bosworth: The Man Behind Christ the Healer
Copyright (c) 2018
Bosworth experienced his own Pentecost with the evidence of speaking in tongues in 1906. Two years later, he wrote about Pentecostal experiences he witnessed in revival meetings in Plymouth, Ind. His report of the meetings appeared in the December 1908 issue of The Latter Rain Evangel.
Reporting from Texas
In 1911, Bosworth suffered a brutal beating for preaching the “full gospel” to a black audience in Hearne, Texas. He wrote a detailed letter about the persecution that was published in a number of Christian outlets. Bosworth had preached about Pentecost in services for the blacks and whites when the beating occurred. He wrote:
Bosworth’s reporting of the incident spread far and wide as an important statement on Pentecostalism and race relations in the segregated south. The story later appeared in his official biography by Eunice M. Perkins, Joybringer Bosworth: His Life Story, and other publications.
Because the local/secular media gave little attention to the meetings, “it was left up to the writers friendly to the Pentecostal movement to chronicle the meeting for their contemporaries in other parts of the country,” Warner explained in his book, Maria Woodworth-Etter: For Such A Time As This: Her Healing And Evangelizing Ministry. He suggested “the one best suited for the writing task seemed to be the host pastor, Fred Bosworth.”
The revival in Dallas would last nearly 10 years. While it may not have been the biggest event in Pentecostal church history in the United States, historians acknowledge it was certainly a high point for the movement. Historian P.G. Chappell suggested: "This revival became a key Pentecostal rendezvous."
In discussing the role that Bosworth played in promoting Pentecost, it is important to note that his views on evidential tongues did not line up with the views of some classical Pentecostals. In 1918 he resigned from the Assemblies of God because he did not believe that speaking in tongues was the only evidence of Spirit baptism. Like Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses, Bosworth penned a detailed letter on the topic and published it as an article in Word and Witness and as a booklet. The letter, a polemic on the Pentecostal doctrine of speaking in tongues, also appeared in his biography. He titled it, Do All Speak with Tongues?: An Open Letter to the Ministers and Saints of the Pentecostal Movement.
Historian Kimberly Ervin Alexander has noted the importance of Bosworth's position on tongues in Pentecostal church history:
Radio pioneer and advisor to post-WWII revivalists
During the 1920s, Bosworth saw tremendous growth in his ministry as a healing evangelist. During that time, he held meetings that drew thousands of people. Despite his extremely busy schedule, he found time to write and publish on the topics that mattered to Pentecostals and evangelicals.
In 1927, when he began publishing his own magazine, Exploits of Faith, he continued to report on Pentecost, but he focused more on his own ministry, which included the works of his brother, B.B. Bosworth. Unlike the early days of his ministry, speaking in tongues was not generally highlighted. Still, he wrote, and he did so continuously, using proven methods to spread the flames of Pentecost and divine healing, while cementing his place in church history.
Bosworth also became a pioneer in Christian radio through which he shared regular reports on his revival meetings and healing testimonies. "In a few years his radio ministry processed more than a quarter of a million letters," according to historian David Edwin Harrell Jr., author of All Things are Possible: The Healing and Charismatic Revivals in Modern America.
When the post-World War II healing movement began in the United States, Bosworth had retired from ministry. However, in 1948, when he was 71 years of age, Bosworth came out of retirement to work with William Branham and Gordon Lindsay. According to P.G. Chappell, "Bosworth added enormous prestige" to their salvation-healing ministry that developed into The Voice of Healing. Despite facing the limitations of aging, Bosworth continued his work as a reporter of Pentecost. His article, "Gifts of Healing Plus," provided a ringing endorsement of William Branham. It was published in The Voice of Healing magazine and also in Branham's biography. Bosworth's book, Christ the Healer, remained an important text on divine healing for many revivalists of the 1940s and 1950s. According to David Edwin Harrell Jr., Bosworth "was an important advisor to postwar revivalists, and his knowledge of revival techniques and healing theology was widely sought."
The nature of his writings
Bosworth's writings consisted of letters that were published as meeting reports as well as "Letters to the Editor." Additionally, he published articles that originated as sermons. Not a few of those messages saw print in the form of tracts and booklets. His crowning achievement as a writer, however, was the publication of Christ the Healer in 1924.
His writings were reportorial when he sought to promote revival meetings. Sometimes he published works that were autobiographical. Testimonies of healing were a staple of his ministry.
His published sermons covered a wide range of topics, including key doctrines of the Pentecostal movement. His messages tended to be simple and straightforward. Although some were evangelistic and devotional in nature, many were instructional, especially those on divine healing, prayer, revival, and financial prosperity. The messages had a self-help/how-to quality about them. Because he found himself defending his teachings on divine healing, some of his writings were polemical and apologetic in nature. Whether in live face-to-face debates, or through his letters and printed sermons, he boldly took on debates and answered his critics using Scripture, testimonies, and church history.
Bosworth desired to reach all people with the gospel. He sought to work with a host of different church groups and denominations. Because of the inclusive nature of his ministry, it could be said that his writings were ecumenical. While it is true that he felt at home with Pentecostals, he was equally comfortable with evangelicals in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, as well as those associated with Moody Bible Institute Monthly. In his reporting, he regularly highlighted the diverse backgrounds of the people that participated in his meetings.
This article has highlighted Bosworth's contributions as a promoter and reporter of Pentecostalism in the 20th century. It has shown how he worked with respected Pentecostal leaders and drew them together for a common cause. It can be argued that his influence as a healing evangelist grew, in part, because of his networking skills, as well as the proliferation and wide circulation of his writings. Bosworth died in 1958, but because of his writings, his legacy lives on. While his book on healing continues to inspire students, preachers, and individual Christians in Pentecostal and charismatic circles, his unpublished papers, letters, and out-of-print publications provide a treasure trove of material for on-going research. Perhaps at some point in the near future, a school will recognize him by creating a class, department, lecture series, institute, library or special research collection that bears his name. That would be another great moment in church history.
Alexander, Kimberly Ervin. "A Response to 'Experience as a Catalyst for Healing Ministry: Historical Evidence and Implications From the Life of F. F. Bosworth'" by Roscoe Barnes III. Presented at the 36th Annual Meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Cleveland, TN, March 1, 2007. (See ffbosworth.strikingly.com)
------. “Confirming the Word by Signs Following -- Jesus Saves, Heals and Baptizes. Some Hear in the Language Wherein They were Born: What God is Doing in Plymouth, Ind., U.S. A." The Latter Rain Evangel, December 1908. (See ifphc.org)
------. Do all speak with tongues?: An Open Letter to the Ministers and Saints of the Pentecostal Movement. Brooklyn, NY: The Christian Alliance Publishing Company, [1920s?] (See ifphc.org)
Chappell, P.G. "Healing Movements." In Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, edited by Stanley M. Burgess and Gary B. McGee. Waxahachie, TX: Regency Reference Library, 1988.
Harrell Jr., David Edwin. All Things are Possible: The Healing and Charismatic Revivals in Modern America. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1975.
Warner, Wayne E. “Maria Woodworth-Etter: A Powerful Voice in the Pentecostal Vanguard.” Enrichment Journal . Accessed September 25, 2018. http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/199901/086_woodsworth_etter.cfm
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