Roberts Starts the Healing Waters Ministry Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

By establishing his Healing Waters ministry in 1948, Oral Roberts began a contemporary movement of evangelistic ministries that later set the stage for televangelism.

Summary of Event

The 1948 founding of the Healing Waters ministry, magazine, and radio show by Oral Roberts catalyzed a particularly American approach to religion, one that has grown into a multimillion-dollar business of spreading religion throughout the world by means of the latest telecommunications technologies. The Oral Roberts ministry established a precedent of employing radio and television to reach out to audiences of millions and thereby created a culture of celebrity preachers who were known around the world and occasionally exercised influence over heads of state. Evangelism Healing Waters ministry Christianity;clergy [kw]Roberts Starts the Healing Waters Ministry (1948) [kw]Healing Waters Ministry, Roberts Starts the (1948) [kw]Ministry, Roberts Starts the Healing Waters (1948) Evangelism Healing Waters ministry Christianity;clergy [g]North America;1948: Roberts Starts the Healing Waters Ministry[02280] [g]United States;1948: Roberts Starts the Healing Waters Ministry[02280] [c]Religion, theology, and ethics;1948: Roberts Starts the Healing Waters Ministry[02280] [c]Organizations and institutions;1948: Roberts Starts the Healing Waters Ministry[02280] Roberts, Oral Roberts, Evelyn Roberts, Richard Smith, Ron Bush, Al Robinson, Wayne

Roberts was born in 1918 in Oklahoma to Ellis and Claudius Roberts, poor farmers who were involved in Pentecostal religion. Ellis Roberts Roberts, Ellis became an itinerant preacher, traveling extensively to spread the beliefs of the Pentecostal Holiness Church. This church was one of the more conservative churches within the Pentecostal Christianity;Pentecostal churches Pentecostal churches tradition, which differed in four main ways from mainstream Protestant churches. Pentecostals were separated from others by their major belief that speaking in tongues was the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Second, they believed in divine healing. Third, they believed in “entire sanctification,” which occurred as a separate work of faith after a person initially was “saved.” Fourth, they believed in the imminent, personal, premillennial second coming of the Lord. Pentecostals were especially known for their exuberant, emotional expression of faith.

Oral Roberts was the youngest of five children. He had no intention to become a preacher until experiencing a serious bout with tuberculosis that he believed was cured miraculously. This led to his conversion experience. He became a Pentecostal preacher, married Evelyn Lutman Fahnestock, and became a pastor at several churches during the 1940’s. In 1947, he experienced a major spiritual crisis, and after praying and fasting, he became convinced that the Lord was calling him to have a healing ministry. He decided at that time to leave his pastorate and strike out on his own to establish an evangelistic, revivalist ministry.

Roberts moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and established Healing Waters, a healing ministry. He also published a magazine, had a radio Radio;religious programs program, and began nationwide revivalist campaigns. In its early years, the ministry had only local appeal, but once Roberts went on the road with his huge tent to hold revival meetings, the public became more aware of and interested in him. An incident in which an irate man shot into his tent focused national attention on the ministry. Several dramatic healing events further cemented the public’s interest. His revivals were not always a success, as evidenced by a huge revival in Australia in 1956 that met with almost violent public outrage and sent Roberts back to the United States to reassess his entire ministry.

During the 1950’s, Roberts began televising his tent revival meetings and became a media hero. Those were the early years of television Television;religious programs , in which the medium was just beginning to define itself. Roberts was the first to use television to reach millions of Americans with the message of Pentecostal healing. Roberts’s use of the medium of television began with professionally written and Hollywood-produced thirty-minute programs entitled Your Faith Is Power. Your Faith Is Power (television program) Roberts was not pleased with the programs and expanded the use of television to cover his tent revival meetings.

Television quickly became a spotlight for celebrities, and the televising of Roberts’s meetings placed evangelism right in the middle of the spectacles that the American public was quickly getting used to. That public demanded that its spectacles be increasingly elaborate and flashy, influencing Roberts’s ministry. The years 1957 to 1960 witnessed the largest crowds in his ministry, and he became known as the nation’s “faith healer,” although he always rejected that label as pejorative and inaccurate. His revivals exposed millions of non-Pentecostal people to healing revivalism. They were watched by an entourage of curious reporters and gave Roberts personal contact with Americans who came to know him as a television celebrity.

In 1957, Roberts changed Healing Waters, Inc. into the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association , Inc. He expanded into a multifaceted ministry emphasizing the message of the Gospel more than healing. In the mid-1960’s, Roberts made the decision to stop his television show because he thought that the medium was no longer useful to his ministry. In the late 1960’s, however, he decided to return to television. In 1968, he came up with the idea of the “television special” and made a decision to completely change his use of television to a format of singing and prayer, using top guest singers and an entertainment format featuring the World Action Singers. In 1969, Roberts initiated a Sunday morning half-hour program under the name Something Good Is Going to Happen to You Something Good Is Going to Happen to You (television program) . It included the World Action Singers World Action Singers .

The reaction to Roberts’s new entertainment-oriented format was mixed. Many traditional Christians were appalled at his use of the worst of the media to express a religious message. Financially, however, the approach was extraordinarily successful. Rating services estimated that nearly ten million people viewed the first special. In the years from 1969 to 1975, Roberts’s television specials included an impressive array of Hollywood talent, initially those with a Christian commitment but eventually including those with star power but little commitment. Political personages also appeared on the show, seeing it as profitable for their careers and ambitions.

Roberts shocked the world when he left the Pentecostal church in 1968 and became a Methodist minister, a move that put him back in the mainstream of Protestantism in America. The move gave Roberts an opportunity to introduce the charismatic movement into a major denomination and also gave him more freedom to pursue his television format, which had caused significant controversy in the morally conservative Pentecostal church.

Throughout the 1970’s, Roberts’s image became much more sophisticated and much more mainstream. He gained the respect of religious and political leaders and began to spend more time leading the Oral Roberts University in Tulsa. His son Richard took an increasing leadership role over the ministry.


Oral Roberts’s establishment of Healing Waters had a significant impact on Christian practice and on the use of television to spread the Christian message. Roberts’s ministry led to the emergence of televangelism, a concept in which television and evangelism are merged into a flashy, miracle-oriented style. Roberts established a tradition that has been continued by famous televangelists such as Jimmy Swaggert, Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Kenneth Copeland. Televangelists have also influenced the style of more conservative evangelists such as Billy Graham, who, although never embracing the emphasis on flashy miracles and tear-jerking healing, have added singing and dramatic enactments to their televised revivals.

Roberts’s establishment of Healing Waters and his interest in divine healing have had a far-reaching impact on Christianity in the United States and led to a number of churches investigating the role of healing in the Christian faith. Many churches have issued statements regarding their position on the contemporary healing of individuals by prayer and the laying on of hands, as a direct result of the televised healings of Oral Roberts. Many churches established healing ministries, and the laying on of hands has become a more widely accepted concept. The role of Christ in the healing of Christians received more research and discussion. Many contemporary Christian psychologists came to rely on Christ to play a major role in healing processes. In addition, Roberts’s healing ministry made the public much more aware of the role of emotions and spiritual health in illness and health, leading to a much greater emphasis on healing approaches that stress psychological and spiritual well-being in addition to and complementing physical well-being.

Roberts’s ministry also had a major impact on the Christian charismatic movement in the United States. This movement stresses speaking in tongues, healing, and the role of faith in healing. The charismatic movement was significant in the Episcopal and Catholic churches, as well as in other denominations. Roberts had a major impact on a consensus charismatic view of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the spirit. Roberts in particular believed that speaking in tongues was a “prayer language” with a practical use and was not symbolic evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

In the late 1970’s, Roberts’s ministry built a huge hospital and research center in Tulsa called the City of Faith City of Faith hospital . This center was dedicated to the goal of merging prayer and spiritual healing with the most advanced technology of modern medicine. Roberts’s particular concern was to engage in cancer Cancer;Oral Roberts and[Roberts] research. He was convinced that cancer resulted from demonic sources and was intent on applying the latest in scientific research to find a cure for it. In addition, he was devoted to the concept of worldwide “healing teams” that would spread out throughout the world to bring spiritual and medical help to people everywhere.

Televangelism has been touted as a particularly American phenomenon and has been highly criticized as a distortion of the Christian message and as a glossy package for the Gospel that, many believe, perverts the message of the meekness of Christ. Critics maintain that televangelism panders to low American culture, which is influenced by high technology, embraces personality cults, worships success, and stresses individual experience, as opposed to the community involvement of joining an actual, as opposed to televised, church.

Televangelism is affected by the medium of television itself, a medium that stresses flashy scenes, high drama, and the creation of illusions by the tricks of the trade. Television is also expensive, which means that televangelistic ministries have to raise enormous sums of money to support themselves. Television also captures its audience by its stress on the “television personality,” one likely to dominate the content of the Christian message. As critic Quentin Schultze notes, televangelism substitutes entertainment for nurture and sorcery for evangelism, transforms believers into an audience, tells viewers what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear, turns the Gospel into a product and evangelism into marketing, equates spiritual faithfulness with financial support, and sets ministry against ministry in competition for audience share. Constantly in the limelight, televangelists are also exposed to enormous power and temptations of fame. This also distorts the Christian message and can give the public a negative view of Christianity, as illustrated when televangelists Jimmy Swaggert and Jim Bakker were caught in immorality and deceit.

Televangelists mostly come from Pentecostal religious traditions that stress flashy conversions and spotlight “miracle moments.” Most televangelists are independent of established denominations and hence do not have a church structure to temper their behavior. Moreover, televangelists thrive on inflated claims of success. Unfortunately, the demands of television have often made sincere televangelists sometimes not seem sincere. Oral Roberts was a deeply committed man with deep conviction, but the “image of television” and the televangelism that resulted led some to question him.

Despite the fact that it has become a new faith shaped by secular norms, televangelism has had an impact on traditional Christian churches. People have become used to turning on the television and seeing the flash and glitter of the world of the televangelist, and although they may not agree with the style or beliefs of this world, they are still influenced by it. Exposure to this world has resulted in building up people’s expectations for charismatic leadership, dramatic and entertaining worship, and reassuring messages in their own churches. Televangelism has, in conclusion, become an important contemporary American industry and has stirred controversy among Christians and non-Christians alike. Evangelism Healing Waters ministry Christianity;clergy

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bruce, Steve. Pray TV: Televangelism in America. New York: Routledge, 1990. Offers a critical overview of the televangelistic movement in the United States and what this movement says to the world about American culture.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Frankl, Razelle. Televangelism: The Marketing of Popular Religion. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987. Raises many serious issues regarding how televangelism has adopted many of the high-tech, slick tactics of contemporary American culture and in so doing has tainted the religious message that many evangelists sincerely want to convey. The emphasis of the ministries on the “hard sell” and media gloss has negatively affected much of the television audience.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hamon, Bill. Prophets, Pitfalls, and Principles: God’s Prophetic People Today. Shippensburg, Pa.: Destiny Image, 1991. Looks into the personal lives of many television evangelists, examining some of their major mistakes and the problems their approach has created for religion in America.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Harrell, David E., Jr. Oral Roberts: An American Life. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985. This fascinating biography of Roberts provides an in-depth look at the man who catalyzed the contemporary charismatic movement and televangelism. Follows his life from the beginning to the 1980’s and explores all facets of his ministry and personality.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hayford, Jack W., and S. David Moore. The Charismatic Century: The Enduring Impact of the Azusa Street Revival. New York: Warner Faith, 2006. Study of the pentecostal movement in the United States; includes a chapter on Roberts. Bibliographic references.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Peck, Janice. The Gods of Televangelism: The Crisis of Meaning and Appeal of Religious Television. Cresskill, N.J.: Hampton Press, 1992. Another critical look at televangelism and whether it is a positive aspect of religion in America. It looks closely at what religious beliefs are proffered on television and how these compare with mainstream religion.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Roberts, Oral. How I Learned Jesus Was Not Poor. Altamonte Springs, Fla.: Strang Communications, 1989. Provides a thorough review of his life and beliefs and offers marvelous personal insights into a man who arose from dirt poverty to international fame. The book tends to indicate that Roberts’s beliefs and motives were sincere.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Schmidt, Rosemarie, and Joseph F. Kess. Television Advertising and Televangelism: Discourse Analysis of Persuasive Language. Philadelphia: J. Benjamins, 1986. A linguistic analysis of televangelism, comparing it with advertising and showing how the language that televangelists use is meant to sell and to convince the hearers.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Schultze, Quentin J. Televangelism and American Culture: The Business of Popular Religion. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1991. Sets out to expose televangelism as the new modernism and its message as a new religion. Schultze claims that major television ministries are supported by audiences, led by personalities, and oriented toward entertainment.

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Categories: History