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Fred Francis Bosworth -- Reporter of Pentecost

He 'Kept the News Flowing'

By Roscoe Barnes III
Author, F.F. Bosworth: The Man Behind Christ the Healer
Copyright (c) 2018

#FFBosworth
#BosworthMatters

A sampling of publications by F.F. Bosworth

Note: You can read this article in a different format on the Roscoe Reporting blog. See it here.

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In his excellent article, “Publications,” which appears in the Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, historian Wayne E. Warner discusses the importance of the printed page during the early days of the Pentecostal movement.

“The Pentecostal and charismatic movements, like other religious organizations, have looked at the printed page as perhaps the most effective medium to reach not only their own constituencies but also prospective converts,” Warner writes. “Numerous accounts are documented in these movements’ literature of people who have been either converted and/or inspired through periodicals, tracts, books, or other printed matter. This was especially true during the first half of the twentieth century, when there was no television and only limited use of radio.”
Fred Francis Bosworth, who began preaching in the early part of the 20th century, understood the need for the literature. He also knew of its power. A Pentecostal pioneer in his own right, Bosworth effectively used the printed page in many forms, such as news articles, advertisements, tracts, books, etc., to promote Pentecost.
Bosworth is widely known as the famous healing evangelist who wrote the classic, Christ the Healer. He is correctly remembered as an associate of William Branham and Gordon Lindsay, and mentor of T.L. Osborn and other evangelists of The Voice of Healing. But during the early days of his ministry, Bosworth stood out as one of the significant promoters and reporters of the Pentecostal movement in the United States.
“Bosworth was … a prolific writer,” noted Josh McMullen in Under the Big Top: Big Tent Revivalism and American Culture, 1885-1925. “His articles on divine healing and revivals appeared constantly in religious periodicals.”
In his early writings, Bosworth told of people being saved and dramatically healed of many types of sickness and diseases. His writings captured the excitement of revival meetings that included people falling under the power of the Spirit. He wrote of people having visions and speaking in tongues that were understood by listeners. His reports appeared in both independent and denominational magazines. He brought national attention to a number of leaders who believed in – and practiced – the ministry of divine healing.

Bosworth experienced his own Pentecost with the evidence of speaking in tongues in 1906. Two years later, he wrote about Pentecostal experiences he witnessed in revival meetings in Plymouth, Ind. His report of the meetings appeared in the December 1908 issue of The Latter Rain Evangel.


Reporting from Texas
 

It was in Dallas, however, where his writings caught fire and swept throughout the United States and other countries. Bosworth and his family had moved to Dallas in 1909. He planted a church that would become the First Assembly of God Church. He began his work with prayer, evangelism, and revival meetings. The meetings would intensify in terms of crowd size and spiritual activity that included reports of dramatic healings and great numbers of people being saved. Thousands of people came to the meetings.

In 1911, Bosworth suffered a brutal beating for preaching the “full gospel” to a black audience in Hearne, Texas. He wrote a detailed letter about the persecution that was published in a number of Christian outlets. Bosworth had preached about Pentecost in services for the blacks and whites when the beating occurred. He wrote:

The white people urged the Col. Leaders to send for some white Pentecostal teacher to come and help them into the Baptism. And so to accommodate these white citizens, I was sent for and of course went to the campground and on Saturday night preached to two large audiences, one white and one black. God gave unusual liberty and blessing in teaching and explaining the truths for which this movement stands, both audiences receiving the truth with great enthusiasm.

Bosworth’s reporting of the incident spread far and wide as an important statement on Pentecostalism and race relations in the segregated south. The story later appeared in his official biography by Eunice M. Perkins, Joybringer Bosworth: His Life Story, and other publications.

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‘Pen of a ready writer’

F.F. Bosworth has been quoted profusely in scores of publications. His writings have appeared in many periodicals. Publications that featured his work include The Latter Rain, Triumphs of Faith, Word and Witness, The Christian Evangel, Confidence, Herald of His Coming, Herald of Faith, Moody Bible Institute Monthly, Healing Waters, The Voice of Healing, Bread of Life, The Weekly Evangel, Pentecostal Evangel, Alliance Weekly, Kenyon’s Herald of Life. His tracts have been published by Gospel Publishing House, Pilgrim Tract Society, and Osterhus Publishing Company. His writings also appear in Healing the Sick by T. L. Osborn, William Branham: A Man Sent From God by Gordon Lindsay, and Maria Woodworth-Etter’s autobiography, A Diary of Signs and Wonders.

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Bosworth’s reporting on the Dallas revival sparked a wave of attention that attracted some of the biggest names in the Pentecostal movement. In 1912, Maria Woodworth-Etter, a famous healing evangelist, preached for six months (some sources say five months) in the revival meetings. During that time, Bosworth unleashed a flurry of press reports about the unusual events that occurred during her ministry.
Wayne E. Warner, former director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, noted Bosworth’s literary efforts in the article, “Maria Woodworth-Etter: A Powerful Voice in the Pentecostal Vanguard,” which appeared in Enrichment Journal:

One of the calls [Woodworth-Etter] accepted came from Fred F. Bosworth, a young pastor in Dallas, who later became a well-known evangelist himself. Despite the fact that the 1912 meeting proved to be a key Pentecostal meeting, the Dallas newspapers practically ignored the thousands who were meeting daily and nightly for almost 5 months. Bosworth, however, kept the news flowing into Christian publications around the world.

Some of the biggest names in Pentecost

Because the local/secular media gave little attention to the meetings, “it was left up to the writers friendly to the Pentecostal movement to chronicle the meeting for their contemporaries in other parts of the country,” Warner explained in his book, Maria Woodworth-Etter: For Such A Time As This: Her Healing And Evangelizing Ministry. He suggested “the one best suited for the writing task seemed to be the host pastor, Fred Bosworth.”
It wasn’t long before prominent Pentecostal leaders caught wind of the meetings. Many, after reading or hearing about Bosworth’s reports, found themselves traveling to Dallas to see for themselves what was going on. Warner noted:

Pentecostal editors around the world picked up Bosworth’s Dallas reports, and then other writers relayed to their constituency the exciting happenings in Dallas. The list of influential Pentecostals who flocked to Dallas reads like a “Who’s Who” of early Pentecostalism.


The revival in Dallas would last nearly 10 years. While it may not have been the biggest event in Pentecostal church history in the United States, historians acknowledge it was certainly a high point for the movement. Historian P.G. Chappell suggested: "This revival became a key Pentecostal rendezvous."

In discussing the role that Bosworth played in promoting Pentecost, it is important to note that his views on evidential tongues did not line up with the views of some classical Pentecostals. In 1918 he resigned from the Assemblies of God because he did not believe that speaking in tongues was the only evidence of Spirit baptism. Like Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses, Bosworth penned a detailed letter on the topic and published it as an article in Word and Witness and as a booklet. The letter, a polemic on the Pentecostal doctrine of speaking in tongues, also appeared in his biography. He titled it, Do All Speak with Tongues?: An Open Letter to the Ministers and Saints of the Pentecostal Movement.
Historian Kimberly Ervin Alexander has noted the importance of Bosworth's position on tongues in Pentecostal church history:

... [I]n Pentecostal studies, what Bosworth has been most noted for is his departure from the cardinal doctrine of initial evidence, resulting in his separation from the Assemblies of God in 1918. This was the second major theological challenge that the AG faced within its first five years of organization.

Radio pioneer and advisor to post-WWII revivalists

During the 1920s, Bosworth saw tremendous growth in his ministry as a healing evangelist. During that time, he held meetings that drew thousands of people. Despite his extremely busy schedule, he found time to write and publish on the topics that mattered to Pentecostals and evangelicals.
In 1927, when he began publishing his own magazine, Exploits of Faith, he continued to report on Pentecost, but he focused more on his own ministry, which included the works of his brother, B.B. Bosworth. Unlike the early days of his ministry, speaking in tongues was not generally highlighted. Still, he wrote, and he did so continuously, using proven methods to spread the flames of Pentecost and divine healing, while cementing his place in church history.
Bosworth also became a pioneer in Christian radio through which he shared regular reports on his revival meetings and healing testimonies. "In a few years his radio ministry processed more than a quarter of a million letters," according to historian David Edwin Harrell Jr., author of All Things are Possible: The Healing and Charismatic Revivals in Modern America.
When the post-World War II healing movement began in the United States, Bosworth had retired from ministry. However, in 1948, when he was 71 years of age, Bosworth came out of retirement to work with William Branham and Gordon Lindsay. According to P.G. Chappell, "Bosworth added enormous prestige" to their salvation-healing ministry that developed into The Voice of Healing. Despite facing the limitations of aging, Bosworth continued his work as a reporter of Pentecost. His article, "Gifts of Healing Plus," provided a ringing endorsement of William Branham. It was published in The Voice of Healing magazine and also in Branham's biography. Bosworth's book, Christ the Healer, remained an important text on divine healing for many revivalists of the 1940s and 1950s. According to David Edwin Harrell Jr., Bosworth "was an important advisor to postwar revivalists, and his knowledge of revival techniques and healing theology was widely sought."

The nature of his writings

Bosworth's writings consisted of letters that were published as meeting reports as well as "Letters to the Editor." Additionally, he published articles that originated as sermons. Not a few of those messages saw print in the form of tracts and booklets. His crowning achievement as a writer, however, was the publication of Christ the Healer in 1924.
His writings were reportorial when he sought to promote revival meetings. Sometimes he published works that were autobiographical. Testimonies of healing were a staple of his ministry.
His published sermons covered a wide range of topics, including key doctrines of the Pentecostal movement. His messages tended to be simple and straightforward. Although some were evangelistic and devotional in nature, many were instructional, especially those on divine healing, prayer, revival, and financial prosperity. The messages had a self-help/how-to quality about them. Because he found himself defending his teachings on divine healing, some of his writings were polemical and apologetic in nature. Whether in live face-to-face debates, or through his letters and printed sermons, he boldly took on debates and answered his critics using Scripture, testimonies, and church history.
Bosworth desired to reach all people with the gospel. He sought to work with a host of different church groups and denominations. Because of the inclusive nature of his ministry, it could be said that his writings were ecumenical. While it is true that he felt at home with Pentecostals, he was equally comfortable with evangelicals in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, as well as those associated with Moody Bible Institute Monthly. In his reporting, he regularly highlighted the diverse backgrounds of the people that participated in his meetings.

Closing thoughts

This article has highlighted Bosworth's contributions as a promoter and reporter of Pentecostalism in the 20th century. It has shown how he worked with respected Pentecostal leaders and drew them together for a common cause. It can be argued that his influence as a healing evangelist grew, in part, because of his networking skills, as well as the proliferation and wide circulation of his writings. Bosworth died in 1958, but because of his writings, his legacy lives on. While his book on healing continues to inspire students, preachers, and individual Christians in Pentecostal and charismatic circles, his unpublished papers, letters, and out-of-print publications provide a treasure trove of material for on-going research. Perhaps at some point in the near future, a school will recognize him by creating a class, department, lecture series, institute, library or special research collection that bears his name. That would be another great moment in church history.

References:


Alexander, Kimberly Ervin. "A Response to 'Experience as a Catalyst for Healing Ministry: Historical Evidence and Implications From the Life of F. F. Bosworth'" by Roscoe Barnes III. Presented at the 36th Annual Meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Cleveland, TN, March 1, 2007. (See ffbosworth.strikingly.com)

Bosworth, F.F. "Beating in Texas Follows Ministry to Blacks: F.F. Bosworth's 1911 Letter o His Mother." Assemblies of God Heritage, Summer 1986. (See ifphc.org)

------. “Confirming the Word by Signs Following -- Jesus Saves, Heals and Baptizes. Some Hear in the Language Wherein They were Born: What God is Doing in Plymouth, Ind., U.S. A." The Latter Rain Evangel, December 1908. (See ifphc.org)


------. Do all speak with tongues?: An Open Letter to the Ministers and Saints of the Pentecostal Movement. Brooklyn, NY: The Christian Alliance Publishing Company, [1920s?] (See ifphc.org)

Chappell, P.G. "Healing Movements." In Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, edited by Stanley M. Burgess and Gary B. McGee. Waxahachie, TX: Regency Reference Library, 1988.


Harrell Jr., David Edwin. All Things are Possible: The Healing and Charismatic Revivals in Modern America. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1975.
 

McMullen, Josh. Under the Big Top: Big Tent Revivalism and American Culture, 1885-1925. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015.


Warner, Wayne E. “Maria Woodworth-Etter: A Powerful Voice in the Pentecostal Vanguard.” Enrichment Journal . Accessed September 25, 2018. http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/199901/086_woodsworth_etter.cfm

------. Maria Woodworth-Etter: For Such A Time As This: Her Healing And Evangelizing Ministry. Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 2004.
------. “Publications.” In Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, edited by Stanley M. Burgess and Gary B. McGee. Waxahachie, TX: Regency Reference Library, 1988.

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For more information:
Visit the F.F. Bosworth page here. Questions about the research and commentary on F.F. Bosworth may be directed to Roscoe Barnes III, Ph.D., via email at doctorbarnes3@gmail.com or roscoebarnes3@yahoo.com. For updates on F.F. Bosworth history, simply follow this blog or @Roscoebarnes3 on Twitter. #ChristTheHealer

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