Oral Roberts: Healer, Educator, Architect

Oral Roberts: Healer, Educator, Architect

Author’s Note: Another paper that I wrote in my Spirit-Empowered Ministry class at Oral Roberts University. I recommend reading The Ultimate Voice by Oral Roberts.

Introduction

Ministry development in leadership has gone through noteworthy changes since God commissioned Moses to Israelites out of Egypt. God developed Aaron, in the Book of Leviticus, to become the first priest of a group called the Levites. They were spiritual leaders and wrote laws for conduct as God’s people.

Two of the most significant examples of ministry development leadership in the New Testament times, Jesus and Paul, had different styles. Jesus took twelve ordinary men and developed them to spread His ministry to every nation. Paul’s ministry was to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, train others, and built churches along his journey.

In The Making of a Leader (Clinton 2012), he discusses four phases of ministry development. Ministry foundations examine the entry and training stages of development (65-84), general ministry looks at relational learning of insights and the discernment of processes and challenges that the leader will face in ministry (85-107), focused ministry seeks guidance in divine contacts, divine affirmation, crisis, and conflicts (133-151), and convergent ministry influencing others to achieve greater things than they ever did. Within the first three phases are boundary events. Clinton suggests that a leader will face three to four boundary events and that knowing them will reduce the stress and trauma (235).

Of all who have made their mark in modern ministry development, Oral Roberts stood out as the leader that achieved above the standards in ministry. Born Granville Oral Roberts in Oklahoma on January 24, 1918, his mother made a vow, three months before his birth, that if God allowed her to heal a sick child, she would dedicate Oral to God for ministry (Voight 1988, 123). God allowed her to heal the child, and when Oral was born, she dedicated him to God for ministry as she promised (123-124). Roberts’ ministry started as healed to the healer, from evangelism to education, and finally prime time to an architect of a city.

Healed to the Healer

Roberts’ parents had an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. His father was a preacher and his mother a housewife. He tried to run away from home at 15 to fulfill his dreams of becoming a lawyer and governor of Oklahoma (Voight 1988, 124). He did not run away because God had a different plan for him, but tragedy struck first.

During a basketball game, Roberts collapsed and diagnosed with tuberculosis or TB (124). There was no miracle cure, so most people died. In The Ultimate Voice (Roberts 2018), he states, “Food lost its taste, and I became a pile of skin and bones on a six-foot, one-inch frame” (58). In 1935, with his father praying at his bedside, Roberts gave his life to Christ (66) but not healed yet. His older brother Elmer took him to a healing preacher named George Moncey (70). God spoke to him, “Son, I am going to heal you, and you are to take My healing power to your generation” (71). When Moncey placed his hands on Roberts, he felt a tingling in his lungs, and God healed him (72).

Roberts calling from God was to preach and evangelize. From 1935 to 1947, he was preaching and teaching, but he felt that he needed more education and training. After healing a deacon while a pastor in Georgia, headed back to Oklahoma, and started preaching, attending one college, and teaching at another college (85). One day, Roberts heard again from God the same message that he heard when George Moncey healed him. God was challenging his faith. Clinton calls this a faith challenge, which God is challenging them to leap of faith in their ministry (Clinton 2012, 101). God again spoke to Roberts in a Sociology class, “don’t be like other men; be like Jesus” (Voight 1988, 126). Roberts obeyed, and this was when the battle began.

From Evangelism to Education

Clinton describes ministry affirmation as a special ministry assignment or experience that God confirms to the leader (Clinton 2012, 103). Roberts confirmed God’s declaration when he felt strong healing power in his right hand (Roberts 2018, 105). He knew it was time to obey God and take it to his generation.

Tent crusades, in the late 1940s, were becoming popular with preachers that were called to evangelize. Billy Graham started his tent crusade in Los Angeles, California in 1949, which lasted six weeks. Oral Roberts launched his tent crusade a year earlier in Durham, North Carolina (117). His campaigns grew phenomenally that larger tents were purchased to accommodate the thousands of people coming to hear Roberts speak and heal. He started to use other avenues of communication to get the Gospel to others around the world.

In 1954, Roberts became a pioneer in the world of Christian broadcasting by conducting television broadcasts by filming the crusades and holding weekly radio broadcasts (121). His popularity grew with each show. Then he started two monthly magazines, Healing Waters and Abundant Life (121). The crew got together in the late 1950s and began a quarterly publication, Daily Blessing (121). According to Roberts, “By the 1960s, we were printing more than a million copies each month of Abundant Life magazine and more than four hundred thousand copies of Daily Blessing” (121). Once again, God speaks to Roberts on education.

God led Roberts to the place to build the university that He spoke to him about, but there was one obstacle to overcome. The owner of the property, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, refused to sell until God spoke to Roberts and the owner. The land for Oral Roberts University or ORU was purchased (135). Buildings started, and Roberts surrounds himself with a group of people that held doctorates to build a curriculum that concentrated on spirit unlike other universities (135-136). In 1965, ORU opened its doors to over three hundred students, and a dedication ceremony conducted by Billy Graham (Voight 1988, 128).

Prime Time to Architect of a City

As his ministry grew, Roberts pondered over some tough decisions. As much as Roberts did not want to scale down or stop broadcasting, the time came to move in a different direction and broadcasting ceased (Roberts 2018, 158). It was devastating for Roberts and his ministry. A friend introduced him to Dick Ross, who was the founder of Worldwide Pictures and was interested in producing a new religious television program (159). This opportunity launched Roberts into a prime-time slot with specials every quarter (159). It was terrific for the ministry to host specials with the top people in entertainment and to be able to reach over fifty million viewers (160). Once again, the pioneer is back on television, bringing the Word of God, to all the world.

ORU was flourishing by the mid-1970s with hundreds of new students applying every year. God spoke to Roberts in 1966, gave him two separate messages, and the Statement of Purpose for ORU was adopted in 1970 (140-142). ORU also started schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing, business, theology, and law in 1978 (170). Medicine, as a part of healing, became a priority with Roberts, as God spoke to him again.

As he sat one evening, he heard God’s voice again, and the City of Faith was born (172-173). He would be the architect of a medical center facility that would combine prayer with medicine, training for medical students and nurses, and research. Roberts and his group hurled many obstacles, but The City of Faith doors opened on time in 1981 (185). As the years went by, the City of Faith was producing quality medical personnel, and prayer with medicine was catching on in other hospitals. When the American Medical Association conducted their annual audit, they found that many changes were beyond the control of any one (196). The City of Faith closed in 1989. Roberts felt like he failed until Dr. Harry Jonas said, “Reverend Roberts, do not think you have failed. You have forever changed medicine and the way the medical world looks at it” (Roberts 2008, 199).

Conclusion

In conclusion, Roberts had gone from being healed to a healer by hearing and obeying God speaking to him. He gave his life to Christ and then soon healed by a tent preacher. He was preaching and teaching the Word of God, but not using the healing gift, until God spoke to him again the same words the night he was healed.

Roberts became one of two evangelists to have large tent revivals. As the crowds grew, so did his tents. Roberts became a pioneer in Christian broadcasting by televising his crusades and weekly radio broadcasts. He also ventured into printed media by organizing two monthly and one quarterly magazine to get out the Word of God to everyone worldwide. His greatest achievement so far is the obedience to God shown in the purchasing of land to build his namesake university.

Finally, Roberts held primetime Christian specials with the top in the entertainment industry. ORU, under his guidance, grew in attendance with many additional graduate and professional schools started. He architects a medical facility that combined prayer with medicine, trained medical personnel, and conducted research.

References

Clinton, J. Robert, 2012, A Making of a Leader, Second Edition, Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development, Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Roberts, Granville O., 2018, The Ultimate Voice, Acton, MA: XanEdu.

Voight, Robert G., 1988, The Complete Perfect Salvation in Christ Jesus, Tulsa, OK: Oral Roberts University.