A man who sought to heal racial, denominational divides
Pentecostals and Charismatics emerged in the early 20th century as the fringe and extremist stepchildren of the evangelical movement. A small band of evangelicals committed to Holiness and the prayer language of the book of Acts evolved into the fastest growing Christian community by the year 2000. Today, Africa, South America and Asia continue to experience unprecedented Christian growth via the vehicle we call the Pentecostal Charismatic experience.
Oral Roberts was the senior statesman of the movement. He occupies a patriarchal role in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, similar to what Billy Graham embodies in the no-Charismatic Evangelical community. Roberts, the father of the Healing Revivals, institutionalized the movement in the early 1960's by founding Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
This important development pushed back on the idea that the Spirit-filled movement catered to the uneducated and lower social economic strata of the population. Roberts believed in the holistic and comprehensive relevance of the Gospel message where faith, reason, science, technology and the miraculous stood reconciled in both the church and the academy.
Roberts repudiated all vestiges of racism and emerged as one of the initial advocates of a multi-ethnic Kingdom culture movement. He refused to participate in evangelistic outreaches if African American churches were not represented, a commitment to diversity that preceded the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Roberts also helped to open and broaden the Pentecostal Charismatic movement beyond specific denominations to welcome independent Charismatics, including Catholics.
Critics of Roberts will remember him for an extemporaneous claim that God would take him home if millions would not be raised for his university. But many Christians will remember him as the leader of a movement committed to healing -- not just the body, mind and soul, but communities, nations and a church divided by theological and ethnic differences.
Oral Roberts believed in healing. My prayer is that the Pentecostal Charismatic movement would once again focus on that simple message.
To honor Oral Roberts, the church must focus on salvation and healing rather than a gospel of prosperity, materialism and instant gratification. Let a generation arise committed to Robert's core message: The Kingdom of God is not black or white, rich or poor, male or female, urban or rural, but simply stated, the Kingdom is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.
Posted by: limpscomb | December 17, 2009 7:04 AM
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