Guest / Limited Access /

Oral Roberts is dead at age 91. If he had died earlier, say at the height of his career around 1970, the media would take much greater notice. As it is, however, the original televangelist and healing minister is long past his prime and almost forgotten by many Americans. Most of my young seminary students have never heard of him.

My interest in Roberts stems from childhood, when he was an icon in our Pentecostal home. My stepmother gave me comic books about his life and healing ministry published by his Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association. More than once I got into playground brawls over our Pentecostal hero when he was derided by classmates.

By the time I graduated from a Baptist seminary and continued my theological education toward a Ph.D. in religious studies, I had largely moved away from my earlier awe of America's leading "full gospel" evangelist. He had, after all, joined the Methodists while retaining his Pentecostal flavor. Meanwhile, I had left my Pentecostal roots and joined the evangelical mainstream.

After completing a year of study in Germany, I accepted a call to teach theology at Oral Roberts University. I finished my doctoral dissertation while teaching there from 1982–1984. For me it was the best of times and the worst of times. I was somewhat exhilarated by working so closely with my childhood idol, and yet disillusioned by much of what I experienced.

Oral was a larger-than-life figure on the American religious landscape, comparable to earlier revivalists such as Billy Sunday and Aimee Semple McPherson. He became a national celebrity due to his Sunday afternoon nationally broadcast healing services and his later religious-themed hour long prime time variety shows. Few people were indifferent about ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueThere’s No Crying on Social Media!
Subscriber Access Only
There’s No Crying on Social Media!
Young adults are desperate not to let peers see any signs of weakness or failure.
RecommendedUnder DeVos, the Real School Choice Christians Face
Under DeVos, the Real School Choice Christians Face
The future of public education will depend on the church.
TrendingWhy Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Hundreds of Evangelical Leaders Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban
Why Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Hundreds of Evangelical Leaders Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban
Regardless of court fight’s final outcome, fewer persecuted Christians will make it to America under president’s plan.
Editor's PickChallenging the Narrative: How Race Complicates the Latest LifeWay Debate
Challenging the Narrative: How Race Complicates the Latest LifeWay Debate
Black Southern Baptists weigh in on the issues around removing Sho Baraka’s album.
Christianity Today
God's Man in Tulsa: The Life and Ministry of the Original ...
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

December 2009

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.