The Reverend George Whitefield preaching in a mural of him…He died in the saddle, so to speak, while preaching behind a Sunday pulpit in New England...
That is not a bad way to go, for a Christian minister anointed by God…
I read about the life and ministry of George Whitefield when I was a young man, and again about 1992, when I studied him intensely. I have done the same with other Evangelical and Pentecostal preachers. I have a good size personal library of Charles G. Finney and there is probably little that I have not read of Finney. I also read a good bit all that is available on an obscure Pentecostal healing Evangelist, that I admire, a Carl (Hjersman) Henry.
I admire these three men greatly. I haven’t thought about it much, but they are definitely all in my top five, or seven, or ten, of the Christian ministers who are sort of my heroes.
Yeah, when I was a kid I collected baseball cards. My favorite player and card was Ken Boyer. I was thrilled when I got him out of my Topps card and gum wrapper. His card went into an old cigar box with dozens of other baseball player cards. Now, that I am a mature man, really not much that way has changed greatly. If preachers were on baseball cards, or “preacher cards,” I would have a collection of them.
And these three would be in my collection.
I will write more about him one of these days. He was quite the specimen of the Healing Movement and Revival in the early to mid 20th-century. Some of his healings were astonishing. Something must have happened to him though after about the year, 1950. He had published two books beforehand filled with testimony of miraculous healings, and his messages of faith, one of which was published just the year before. But after this date, he went into obscurity. He passed away in 1977 at the age of 79 years. His wife survived him but passed away in 2011. I found and called her in 2009, after an intensive person search, and tried to talk with her briefly, but her mental process was poor and she could barely talk above a whisper. As a result, I received no information about Carl, except “that was a long time ago,” and then she trailed off in which I could not ask any further questions.
I can only surmise that Brother Henry, who did visit our family home around 1948 or so, before I was born, must have suffered a stroke or some illness that limited his physical capacity, or…
….that the Holy Spirit… just lifted off of him in ministry.
This can happen.
This has happened to a lot of ministries.
It happened to my father and his ministry.
My father was a heavily anointed preacher in “his day,” approximately about 1936-1958. He still could wax eloquent at sundry intervals after this time, but by the age of 85, his mental faculties were not adequate for much further preaching. I did see him have a moment of divine unction at the age of 91, in which he did preach well. I will talk about that occasion another time.
My father, M.W. Spickard, and I, after a Gospel meeting near Springfield, MO in 1991. He preached one more time after this, just a few days later. He was 91 years old. I will write on this particular sometime.
I have been told by those that heard my father preach, that no one preached as he did, in his heyday. I have been told that he was a “walking Bible,” who could quote long passages out of the scriptures, and who could weave obscure texts into his subject to the amazement of the hearers who never understood these Bible verses before.
Obviously, my father had several ministerial gifts. One, was a word, or gift of knowledge, in his ability to interpret, display the knowledge of the Scriptures, and to divide the word of truth correctly.
In Charismatic ministry circles (neo-Pentecostal phenomenon) today, this gift of the word of knowledge is completely misinterpreted mostly due to the ministry of William Branham, and some others, of a copycat variety. Branham apparently had some ability to “read” people and tell them intimate details of their life. Jesus, in fact, did the same in the account of the Woman at the Well in the Gospel of John. But the Samaritan woman correctly identified the nature of Jesus’ gift. The Samaritan woman called Jesus a prophet, and his ability to perceive things in her life, as part of the gift of prophecy.
Such insights, are not the Word of Knowledge, as the Word of Knowledge is a ministerial teaching gift such like as the Word of Wisdom, as cataloged in the 12th chapter of the first book of Corinthians. Such insights into a person’s life, are but a facet of the gift of prophecy and to some degree the gift of discerning of spirits.
My father also had a gift of prophecy, particularly in being able to interpret recorded Bible prophecy, as well as the gift of prophecy to preach under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. My father, to my recollection, never used notes but relied completely on the inspiration and unction of the Holy Spirit to speak. My father felt, as several Pentecostal preachers at that time, that one should preach by direct inspiration or unction of the Spirit. This type of faith and practice put my father outside of organized Christendom and their denominational network. He established his own ministry using the foundation of my grandfather’s house ministry. I covered my grandfather in a previous post.
My father was converted as a very young man and was an early Pentecostal pioneer who knew of, met, and fellowshipped personally several of the principals of the Pentecostal.
Here are some of them, who are a “who’s who” of the early Pentecostal Movement:
Mother Barnes; Mother Moises; Agnes Ozman, the first recipient of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in the 20th century; E.N. Bell; Maria Woodworth-Etter; D.C.O. Opperman; Howard Goss; William Branham; Oral Roberts; Jack Coe; A.A. Allen; Bill Britton; William Hawtin; William Sowders, among others.
Top left, left to right, from top row: Agnes Ozman, whom my father met; Mother Moises, whom my father shared her hospitality; Daniel Opperman, who baptized my father in Arkansas; E.N. Bell, whom my father was acquainted with; Howard Goss, whom my father met and fellowshiped on a passenger train in Missouri, I believe en route to Hot Springs, AR; Bill Britton, a Latter Rain figure that my father was acquainted with. This Latter Rain Revival took place soon after the Second World War; Brother William Sowders, somewhat of an obscure figure that had influence stretching beyond his immediate support base. My father had some interesting run-ins and interactions with him and his group, the Gospel Assembly, a very obscure group today; and William Branham, well known in the 1940’s and 1950’s Pentecostal healing revivals, who was also connected with Sowders, as they both made interesting claims of being “End Time Messengers.” Branham got this idea from Sowders from most indications.
Yet about the time that my father turned 60 years of age, the Spirit had lifted off of his ministerial endeavours.
This has a counterpart in the Bible when Elisha was groomed to replace Elijah. God was done with Elijah, except for one additional instance, eight years later, where Elijah sent a letter to the King of Judah. Apparently, Elijah was living in an area just outside of Palestine. Elijah had been previously “caught away” in the Spirit in a “whirlwind,” “surrounded by chariots of fire and horses of fire,” much like Philip the Evangelist was caught away by the Holy Spirit after testifying to the Ethiopian eunuch as recorded in Acts 8. It says in the Codex Alexandrinus that “the Angel of the Lord snatched away Philip.” It is about the same difference.
Philip was found at Azotus. Azotus is some thirty-four miles away from where Philip had just been!
Elijah went back to being obscure, after the letter writing, as he had done years earlier when King Ahab’s men had been scouring the countryside looking for Elijah during the time of extreme drought that Elijah had predicted. First, Elijah spent about a year and a half by the Brook Cherith, where he was fed miraculously by ravens. Then, he went a good distance north, also about forty miles coincidentally, to Zarephath, thirteen miles north of Tyre on the Mediterrean Coast and rented a room above in the home of a widow and her son. There Elijah spent a near identical length of time, when he was told to make himself known again to the Kingdom of Israel.
I guess that Elijah could have stayed north of Tyre the rest of his life if he had wanted to. Who knows, if he didn’t go back there? I mean, the “whirlwind” of the Spirit took him some place and not too far away, as Elijah was pretty much informed about what King Jehoram was doing. And, the mail service was suspect in that day, so the letter could not have been sent too far away… think about it.
But I digress.
This type of the Spirit lifting off of ministers and their ministries also has been duplicated in Evangelical Church history.
Charles Finney was one of the greatest revivalists in Church history when he ministered in the early to mid-19th century. Yet, he later sort of retired from this work and became a University President at Oberlin University. The Spirit had lifted off of him, and he went to train Christian ministers as he could in an academic setting. And, in addition, for all his unique revival ministry, Finney had a difficult time in finding financial support. His family suffered want, which was a shame. This also played into Finney’s decision for opting for a regular income.
Evan Roberts, who was pretty much credited with orchestrating or being used of God mightily in the 1904 Welsh Revival, was another example of this. Once the revival fires waned, the Spirit of God started to lift off of Evan. He tried to live up to the expectations of the Revival with his own talent and time, but as he did so in more and more of his own strength, he suffered a physical and emotional collapse. He kept his faith, despite this breakdown, but never ministered again in his original calling. Instead, he turned to a ministry of prayer, Christian discipline, and intercessory prayer in an obscure role. He even went to live in England to get away from any preaching demands in Wales. Yet, the Spirit of God could still burn in him, as many years later at his father’s funeral in Wales, his simple eulogy brought in a “mini-revival,” which he left and went back to his ministry of solace and prayer. This Evan continued to his death in 1951 at the age of 73, in near complete obscurity.
Charles Parham was yet another example of someone that was used of God powerfully, and then, when the Spirit started to lift off of him, and he fell into apparent temptations and became physically and mentally exhausted from his original calling and work. He never embarked again in the same capacity. He was done.
Other ministers used greatly of God, just passed away suddenly. Howard Goss’s first wife, Millicent, was a very powerful preacher, but she was taken off the scene, dying following childbirth.
Another minister used of God, Daniel Opperman, was taken off the scene in a car accident. There are other instances of this same phenomenon. They always had a powerful testimony up to their time of being taken.
Other preachers and workers of God had similar bouts with obscurity after their initial ministries and callings were fulfilled. One of these was Glenn Cook, who was a pioneer at the 1906 Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, and another of the same work, was Frank Bartleman.
These, and many others of the company of faith, were powerfully used by God. Then, the ministry and Spirit of God upon their gifts, lifted off of them. Some of them got offended a bit, for a short while, but were shown by and by, that they had fulfilled their course, and their life was then spent on prayer and one of the most special ministries of all:…
…waiting on God…
Another example of this, is in the Gospels, where John the Baptist was cast into prison. The Baptist knew the drill. He had predicted that he would recede, and that the one who succeeded him would gain preeminence. Yet, after being imprisoned for a while, the Baptist got discouraged. He sent disciples to Jesus and asked him if he, Christ, was surely the Anointed, or Messiah. Jesus did not rebuke this unbelief. Jesus understood it. Here was the Baptist, a national religious icon or celebrity, now banished into a dark cell and into obscurity. Here was someone who had been filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, but now, the Spirit was not leading much.
No one was interested in him anymore.
What Jesus did then was to unleash a singular use of miraculous and healing power.
The Jesus Traveling Miracle, Healing, and Deliverance Show was unveiled in its practical entirety. Infirmities and plagues were healed; those who had evil spirits were delivered; the blind saw; the deaf heard; the lame walked; the lepers were cleansed; and a couple of dead were also raised for the occasion, and more importantly, the Gospel of the Kingdom was preached.
Jesus finished this tremendous demonstration by telling the disciples of the Baptist, that John be not offended. He would soon be delivered from his predicament. The Baptist, who had the Spirit of God from his mother’s womb, and one of the greatest ministries that God ever gave a prophet, and who had the Spirit of God lifted off on him, and placed into obscurity, would soon be sealed with a prophet’s testimony.
I have written here at length, about having a ministry, and in the operation of ministry. In these several examples, when God is done with a calling or ministry of an individual, God just starts to lift the Holy Spirit off of the individual. The individual sometimes has failures of moral capacity, or maybe is exhausted by the rigors of the ministry, or retreats into obscurity, as an Elijah did.
Their faith and convictions may still be intact and just as strong as ever. However, the Spirit has gone on. They are still left with their faith, in most all instances, and they now have to live by this faith alone... without the operation of the Holy Spirit that had brought them into some fame, persecution, notoriety, or recognition.
It is then, that the real work of individual personal salvation of the minister can be made more effectual without the bright lights, and the press of the crowds, and the clamor for more ministry.
It is this type of ministry that we see in the Gospel of Luke with Simeon and Anna in the Temple. They were both prophets. They had been laboring in obscurity. They were associated with one of the several Messiah cults that existed at that time, waiting on the promise of Israel, the birth of the Messiah.
More importantly, they WERE MINISTERING UNTO GOD by prayer, and WAITING ON GOD.
You never hear of such ministries in the popular church.
Well, first of all, it doesn’t pay well. The hirelings have to collect their mammon.
Secondly, it is not for those who have a superficial calling from God.
It is for those individuals who have been called by God, and then separated unto Him for individual service and ministry unto God.
The funny thing is, you will always find such people at the start of every great revival. It takes this type of ministry to start the work of God and the works of the Holy Spirit. Charles Finney, for instance,… had his Father Nash.
Nash could pray down a revival in a moment’s time.
The Azusa Street Revival had its Frank Bartleman.
His main ministry was that of elevated prayer.
My Dad had his brother, Herbert. Herbert had a ministry of prayer.
A ministry of prayer is pretty selfless. There are no crowds, bright lights, and press of people… wanting more ministry… usually,… the loaves and fishes… variety.
But, to go on, would be another topic for another day.
Suffice to say, for those who are still reading this, and are spiritual, this is how that God can and will operate.
We will see it all again….
The Latter Rain Revival is coming…
It won’t be without its “heralds,” who will come on the scene first… before the Great Revival falls.
Watch for them. They will those who have been waiting on God and ministering in obscurity….Then, after they have fulfilled their course, they may just head back into obscurity….
You won’t know them now, but they are out there.
God has a witness in every generation.
Thanks for reading.
Copyrighted. Joseph Spickard, 2015. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this intellectual property without prior permission from the author is prohibited.