Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Healing Evangelist T.L Osborne 1923 - current


Today is the third day I have profiled a particular evangelist that I have enjoyed studying. As we look back at the past we can draw inspiration from some of the great evangelists that God has used to win many to Christ. Each has their own peculiarities and methodologies.

One of thirteen children, Osborn was raised in the poverty of a depression farm in Oklahoma where he learned a deep trust in God. In 1937, when he was fourteen, he believed that God spoke to him and told him that he would preach. Although he finished only the eighth grade, he became a minister in the small Pentecostal Church of God. In 1946, he spent a discouraging year in India as a missionary. He returned sick and disappointed and settled into a small local church in McMinnville, Oregon. At best, Osborn's early years as a minister were a limited success (Harrell 1975, 63).

In the summer of 1947, he attended a meeting conducted by William Branham and this was the turning point in his life. He wrote, "As I watched Brother Branham minister to the sick, I was especially captivated by the deliverance of a little deaf-mute girl over whom he prayed this: 'Thou deaf and dumb spirit, I adjure thee in Jesus' name, leave the child', and when he snapped his fingers, the girl heard and spoke perfectly. When I witnessed this there seemed to be a thousand voices speaking to me at once all in one accord saying over and over, 'You can do that.' “(Harrell 1975, 64). Powerfully influenced by what he saw, and strengthened by a call to the healing ministry, he began to minister as an itinerant evangelist.

In his first five years he conducted crusades in eleven countries and preached to millions. Because of the extremely large crowds that attended his meetings Osborn developed the technique of praying for the sick "en mass." The healings and miracles that took place in his campaigns were often sensational, although the major publicists of the revivals felt that he was a scrupulously honest reporter (Harrell 1975, 65-66).Like most of the healing ministers, Osborn was the object of criticism, particularly for the expense involved in the building of his stylish headquarters in Tulsa.

In the early seventies Osborn underwent a major change in his approach to the ministry. He turned his attention from missions abroad to ministry to the youth in the United States. Osborn adopted the language of the young and used the "one way" slogan that came to be the mark of a national youth revival. He urged his old-time followers, "Think young in your faith." Even the appearance of the evangelist changed. In 1969 the former Pentecostal missionary lengthened his hair, and dressed more modishly. Still a youthful man in his mid-forties, T.L. Osborn came on as "hip" to the youth scene; he had moved with the revival to appeal to a quite different audience (Harrell 1975, 170). Perhaps that is one of the reasons for his continued success—the willingness to change in order to minister to the needs of the time.

Osborn's record by the early 1970's was impressive. Still under fifty, he had preached in nearly fifty different countries noted Daisy Osborn in his magazine. He had pioneered the support of native preachers and had supported such missionaries in nearly fifty thousand villages and areas. "More than one new church a day is established and becomes self-supporting through this one outreach alone," she wrote. "Over 400 PER YEAR!" (Harrell 1975, 171). Certainly, Osborn was not an overnight wonder, as many of the healing evangelists have been labeled. The ministry of church planting along with the large campaigns have ensured long-term fruit bearing.

One last comment reveals something of the measure of T.L. Osborn's character. He remained more than Roberts, Lindsay or the other important ministers, in touch with the young evangelists still conducting campaigns. When he went to Miracle Valley, Arizona, in 1971 to aid young Don Stewart after the death of A.A. Allen, he was probably the only successful pioneer revivalist who would risk associating his name with the ghost of A.A. Allen. More obviously than most of the large and successful deliverance evangelists, T.L. Osborn remembered where he came from (Harrell 1975, 172).

**Harrell, David Edwin. All Things Are Possible : The Healing & Charismatic Revivals in Modern America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975

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