Oral Roberts went home to be with the Lord on Tuesday, 15th December 2009, age 91. When my wife told me, I was not surprised, because I knew he was quite old. He was one of my Pentecostal heroes in the early years of my Christian life.
He first came to my notice through his magazine, “The Abundant Life.” It was a magazine that was distributed free of charge and delivered to my home. From there I wrote in for his free books. One of them is titled “The Miracle of Seed Faith”.
Oral Roberts knew how to share truths powerfully. The truths he taught were simple and practical. I was inspired and instructed by his teaching on the Holy Spirit as your helper, and the edifying use of the “prayer language.” I also accepted and practiced his teachings about miracle seed faith. Looking to God as a source; seeding for your need; and expecting a miracle everyday – these were a part of my life in those days.
I read his autobiography, “Expect A Miracle” and still have the copy in my bookshelves. I never could give it away in my regular cullings when I selected books to give to friends in Bible school. He was a captivating personality, a visionary charismatic Pentecostal leader. Being Pentecostal at that time meant “Stone Age” methodology, and uncultured presentation. Oral Roberts changed that perception through his visionary, outside the box, forward thinking and methodology, like his harnessing of television for the gospel.
My interest and following waned when his TV programs became more entertainment oriented, and when he tried to raise funds with controversial tactics. In particular, when he claimed that Jesus would take him home if he does not raise $8 million within a year, and pleaded with the readers and audience to help prolong his life. That was too difficult to swallow and from then on, I was disappointed, and stopped following and reading his magazines. Further news about the problems with the City of Faith and other university financial misdemeanours by his son Richard sort of confirmed I was right to feel disenchanted.
Now he is dead and as I read some online articles about Oral Roberts I have to admit he is a man sent by God, a man with flaws and faults but nevertheless, like the imperfect heroes of faith in Hebrews chapter 11, he deserves to be reinstated as a Pentecostal hero in my heart.
Here are some interesting articles from Chritianity Today.com about Oral Roberts:
Why Oral Roberts Obituaries are Wrong
Q&A: Mark Rutland on Oral Robert’s Legacy.
Fund Raising: Did Oral Roberts go too Far?
Here is an old clip of him praying for the sick in the healing crusades in the 1950’s:
Pastor John MacArthur wrote an excellent review “Measuring Oral Roberts’ Influence” : http://www.shepherdsfellowship.org/pulpit/Posts.aspx?ID=4482
Commenting on the published obituaries following the passing of Oral Roberts on 17 Dec 2009, Pastor John MacArthur clearly set the straight facts on Oral Roberts’ infamous contribution to developing the tragic legacy of Seed-Faith perversion of the Gospel:
“Tragically, the Seed-Faith message usurped and utterly replaced whatever gospel content there ever may have been in Oral Roberts’ preaching. In all the many times I saw him on television I never once heard him preach the gospel. His message–every time–was about Seed-Faith. The reason for that is obvious: the message of the cross–an atoning sacrifice for sins wrought through Jesus’ sufferings–frankly doesn’t mesh very well with the notion that God guarantees health, wealth, and prosperity to the righteous. Our fellowship in Jesus’ sufferings (Philippians 3:10), and our duty to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:20-23), are likewise antithetical to the core principles of prosperity doctrine. The prosperity message is a different gospel (cf. Galatians 1:8-9).”
“One thing all the obituaries agree on is that Oral Roberts paved the way for all the charismatic televangelists and faith-healers who dominate religious television today. He did more than anyone in the early Pentecostal movement to influence mainstream evangelicalism. He parlayed his television ministry into a vast empire that has left a deep mark on the church worldwide. In many places today, including some of the world’s most illiterate and poverty-stricken regions, Oral Roberts’ Seed-Faith concept is actually better known than the doctrine of justification by faith. The message of prosperity is now the message multitudes think of when they hear the word “gospel.” Countless confused people worldwide think of the gospel as a message about earthly, temporal, and material riches rather than the infinitely greater blessings of forgiveness from sin and the eternal blessing of the believer’s spiritual union with Christ.“