Oral Roberts: An American Life

Oral Roberts: An American Life

Oral Roberts: An American Life

Oral Roberts: An American Life


"This book may give you the best opportunity of deciding the truth about me and the ministry I hold so dear." -- Oral Roberts

"Among several biographies of Oral Roberts, the most recent, most accurate, and best documented is Oral Roberts: An American Life, an objective, impressive study... " -- New York Review of Books

"Oral Roberts: An American Life is more than the story of a well-known evangelist and educator. It is the story of a part of the American religious life that not many Americans know or understand.... Dr. Harrell has researched thoroughly and written superbly." -- Billy Graham

"... a first-rate biography, one which should give pause to Roberts' supporters and critics alike.... Roberts' first scholarly biographer has done a beautiful job." -- Allen Boyer, Newsday


Oral Roberts has been one of the most influential religious leaders in the world in the twentieth century. I did not set out to prove that point; I finished this book convinced that it was true. Of course, such judgments are risky and subjective at best, depending as much on the future as on the past, but it is altogether fitting that this remarkable story--filled with unlikely and startling turns--begin with the assertion that Roberts has influenced the course of modern Christianity as profoundly as any American religious leader.

That judgment rests on three roles Roberts has played. First, and probably most important, are the leadership and publicity he has given to the pentecostal and charismatic movements since World War II. Pentecostal religion, with its joyful worship and emphasis on the miraculous, surged around the world in the decades after the war; the charismatic movement, pentecostalism's glamorous offspring, has had a profound impact on both mainstream Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. While such claims must be taken guardedly, a pentecostal spokesman in the 1980s claimed that fifty million people throughout the world had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and predicted that by the end of the century, half of the world's Protestants would be pentecostal.

Of course, the pentecostal and charismatic movements were not the creations of Oral Roberts. The pentecostal churches, the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International, and, among individuals, David du Plessis played catalytic roles in the spread of spirit-filled religion. But Roberts stands nearer the head of the amorphous movement than any other man, commanding respect throughout it. He was the leader of the generation of dynamic revivalists who took the pentecostal message of healing and deliverance around the world in the years after 1947. He sensed the far-reaching significance of the charismatic stirring in the mainline churches in the early sixties and brought traditional pentecostals and charismatics together in a series of dynamic conferences to explore the theology of the Holy Spirit. In the mid-1980s he stood as a figure uniquely honored and listened to in the fragmented pentecostal and charismatic world.

In his nearly four decades of healing revivalism, Oral Roberts has personally touched over a million human beings; several million more have answered his call to "accept Christ"; tens of millions more have heard him preach and pray on radio, television, and in films; hundreds of millions of pieces of literature have been mailed to every corner of the globe from his headquarters in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has ministered to, and sometimes influenced, an astonishing variety of celebrities, leading many into the baptism of the Holy Spirit and . . .

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