The Oral Roberts Ministry Website announced today that after an injury Yesterday and subsquent hospitalization, Oral Roberts has died at age 91.
The Tulsa World launched an article yesterday announcing briefly and with undetailed accounts how the Famed Televangelist and Icon of “Healing Ministry” had been hospitalized. He died from complications due to pneumonia, which he’d had before going in to the hospital yesterday. His son Richard was with him when he passed.
Most famous for his teachings on the goodness of God, and the “miracle of seed faith,” Oral was a visionary whose hard work and dedication to his faith were evident in what He built. He built the school where I attended undergraduate studies, Oral Roberts University, as well as a medical school which while no longer in operation was a tremendous feat for its time.
Many Pentecostals and Charismatics owe their entire ministries and styles of ministry to the work of Oral. This is simultaneously a good and bad thing. While Oral himself was humble and taught seed faith in humility there have been abuses since its popularization, and it has come to be equated with “name it and claim it” theology as well as a general apathy towards divine transcendence on a personal level. Yet, despite these things the work of Oral himself was a blessing to many of us, and while his life like any life is riddled with complications, He did his best to be faithful and we will remember him fondly.
Pentecostals around the planet are indebted to this man, who created televangelism almost singlehandedly, and expanded not only Pentecostalism but a whole generation of various faith movements in Evangelical Christianity. While we’ve seen the abuses and cheap greasy hair that has come out of imitations, the work of Oral Himself attempted to be to the greater glory of God at all times.
Many Pentecostals like Dr. Jack Hayford say that Oral almost singlehandedly created the Pentecostal/Charismatic renewal that was the protestant answer to America’s increasing secularism. While today many remember his late 1980’s money raising efforts that might have partially shamed him in the public eye until today, I think history especially Christian history will look favorably on him, and his work. It is my prediction that what we call the pentecostal/charismatic renewal will eventually be categorized as a continued sort of great awakening, and that Oral Roberts will be the defining figurehead of 20th century Christianity on the pastoral level. Maybe the third or fourth “awakening”, i don’t know who keeps track anymore.
Dr. Jack Hayford has said of Him: “Oral shook the landscape with the inescapable reality and practicality of Jesus’ whole ministry. His teaching and concepts were foundational to the renewal that swept through the whole church. He taught concepts that spread throughout the world and simplified and focused a spiritual lifestyle that is embraced by huge sectors of today’s church.”
It’s true that much of the Pentecostal explosion in the third world, including some strains of word faith and general Charismatic ecumenical movements could not have happened without the presence and impact of Oral Roberts in the Twentieth century, paving the way.
Oral Roberts has said of his life’s mission that God spoke to him and told him “Build Me a University. Build it on My Authority, and on the Holy Spirit,” and “Raise up your students to hear my voice, to go where my light is seen dim, where my voice is heard small, and my healing power is not known, even to the uttermost bounds of the earth. Their work will exceed yours, and in that I am well pleased.”
So, to all the faithful, let us remember God’s call not only to Oral, but to us. We are those people who must be the healing power of Jesus in the world. Through our works towards justice, mercy, healing and reconciliation of the world to God in and through Christ Our Lord.
To all my fellow ORU students and alumni, do not let your hearts be troubled, “God is a good God”. While we have lost two men who have shepherded our school in times of need, Pastor Billy Joe, and now Oral, we know that our work has not yet ceased.
Our lives are called to be light, guidance for the world, preservation and flavor where it is in need of our presence, and yeast, slowly spreading to overtake the darkness with God’s incalculably glorious presence and light. Let us remember what we were called to in Faith, and let us hold fast the confession of our hope. Christ is Lord, and our task is His glory.