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F.F. Bosworth and the Role He Played in the Ministry of T.L. Osborn: An Interview with Dr. LaDonna Osborn

F.F. Bosworth (1877-1958)

F.F. Bosworth (1877-1958) was a central figure in the Pentecostal movement of the early 20th century and the Post-World War II healing revival. His impact as a famous healing evangelist was unmistakable, and his book, Christ the Healer, remains a popular text on divine healing. Pentecostal church history would be incomplete without his story. One of the most prominent evangelists to serve as his protege was Tommy Lee “T.L.” Osborn (1923-2013), who became a world-renowned missionary evangelist and the famous author of the classic, Healing the Sick.

T.L. Osborn (1923-2013)

As I sought to learn more about Bosworth and his relationship with Osborn, I reached out to the one person who would know more about their time together than any other source. That person was Osborn’s daughter, Dr. LaDonna Osborn, who graciously took time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions about her father. The interview was conducted by email in February 2016. It presents questions and answers about the influence of Bosworth on the life and ministry of T.L. Osborn. Other topics include Osborn’s views on Spirit baptism and tongues as the initial evidence of the Spirit baptism.

Dr. LaDonna Oborn is a well-regarded Christian leader. She currently serves as president and CEO of Osborn Ministries International, the world missionary organization founded by her parents in 1949.  As noted on her webpage, “She is founder and overseer of the International Gospel Fellowship (of churches and ministries), which includes more than 60 ministries, over 1,000 churches in more than 50 nations globally.” For more information on her work, visit her official website: https://osborn.org/about/ladonna-osborn

Roscoe Barnes III, Ph.D.

 

ROSCOE BARNES III: Your father has been quoted as saying: “Old F. F. Bosworth used to share a lot of secrets with us.”  What are some of the secrets that Bosworth shared with him?

Dr. LaDonna Oborn

LADONNA OSBORN: My father did not go into great detail concerning what exactly F.F. Bosworth shared with he and my mother. From various general comments and reflections, I believe that Brother Bosworth was a great encouragement in the areas of faith and praying for the sick in mass. During many of the events that were organized by Gordon Lindsay, where various healing evangelists were present to preach and pray for the sick, he had Brother Bosworth teach in the mornings. This strategy was significant in helping people to understand the biblical validity of divine healing. This was especially true when Brother William Branham prayed for the sick. Because of his unique gift and style, G. Lindsay felt that people needed teaching so that their faith would be in the Word of God, rather than in a person. As I look back on this, I thank God for this wisdom. Brother Lindsay did much to facilitate the healing revival that was spreading across the States during the late 1940’s and 1950’s.

 

BARNES: In his book, Healing the Sick, your dad wrote that someone gave him a copy of Two Kinds of Faith by E. W. Kenyon. Who was the person that gave him this book and introduced him to Kenyon?

OSBORN: I do not remember my father ever saying who gave him the first Kenyon book.

 

BARNES: Did your father and mother ever speak in tongues in the way that is taught by classical Pentecostals? In other words, did either of them have the experience where they spoke in tongues as the initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit?

OSBORN: My father was saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit in a Pentecostal revival meeting near his farm home in Oklahoma. He later traveled with a Pentecostal Church of God evangelist for three years (age 15-18). My mother was saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit in an Assembly of God church where she attended as a young girl. Both of my parents were saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit at the age of 12. Although we were out of the country most months of each year, we always had a home church in Tulsa. It was an Assembly of God church. Yes, both of my parents’ early spiritual experiences were in the classic Pentecostal context. Yes, they spoke in tongues, as was usual in the Pentecostal tradition.

 

BARNES: If they did speak in tongues, did they continue to do so or did they stop at a certain point?

OSBORN: Yes, my parents always spoke in tongues. My brother and I were raised in the classic Pentecostal tradition and I am proud to identify with those who understood the power of the Holy Spirit and the emphasis on witnessing of Christ with effectiveness.

 

BARNES: Is there a written record of their Spirit baptism? If not, can you provide a time frame for their experience?

OSBORN: I remember both of my parents telling the stories of their Spirit baptisms, but I’m not recalling if these details were included in their publications. Actually, I don’t remember additional details of their conversion either. Of course, within our family, we grew up hearing the stories of the dramatic changes that took place in their lives when they were born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit. I do recall that their Spirit baptisms were not on the same day as their conversions, but rather a few days after. So both would have been baptized in the Holy Spirit at the age go 12.

 

BARNES: In your father’s book, The Purpose of Pentecost, he did not advocate evidential tongues as is taught by classical Pentecostals. What exactly was his position on this topic?

OSBORN: My father wrote The Purpose of Pentecost during a time in which the issue of tongues was causing great division within the Body of Christ. The focus had shifted from the role of the Spirit-filled believer to witness of Christ, to a rather Pharisaical attitude of boasting of speaking in tongues while doing nothing with that divine equipping to fulfill the mission of Christ on the earth. My father wrote the book to re-focus believers on the priority of evangelism for every Spirit-filled believer. If you read this book again in the historical context in which it was written, you will see this clearly. When the need for that emphasis ended, we discontinued publishing that book.

 

BARNES: Who or what influenced his views on the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues? Was he in anyway influenced by F.F. Bosworth or E.W. Kenyon?

OSBORN: The views of my father and mother (and myself) on the Holy Spirit were influenced by the Pentecostal environments in which we were saved and also from the Scripture. It is normative for the New Testament Christians to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to witness of Christ. I do not remember anything being said about Bosworth or Kenyon’s attitude regarding tongues. The influence of Bosworth was on the biblical foundation for divine healing; the influence of Kenyon was the redemptive work of Christ at the Cross. These redemptive truths were not understood so clearly prior to E.W. Kenyon’s teachings. Again, he made a great contribution to the Body of Christ at critical time.

 

BARNES: Many evangelists during your father’s time wrote about Bible prophecy, gifts of the Spirit, and other topics. However, it seems that your father focused on topics related only to salvation, healing, evangelism, and prosperity. Is this a true assessment of his writings? If so, why do you think he avoided other topics?

OSBORN: My father was an evangelist. Everything that he wrote and did was to bring people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. He did the work of an evangelist always in cooperation with the local churches, and he made it clear that it was their responsibility to teach new believers additional truths after their conversion. He never preached on the Holy Spirit, Bible prophecy, the gifts of the Spirit, or such other things that are important to the believer. He recognized that the gift of the evangelist is a gift to the Church. The gift of the pastor and teacher are also gifts to the Church. He was an evangelist and he fulfilled his part in bringing people to Jesus and directing them into local churches to receive guidance and further biblical instruction. Of course, he had personal views on every biblical topic. But his public ministry was evangelism.

I would say that a true assessment of his writings is that his life focus was to help people to see Jesus and to recognize that Jesus wanted to live in each of them in order to continue His work through them. That, in essence, was my father’s passion and all of his messages and writings reflect that. I would not say that he avoided any topic, but rather he was totally focused on the person, the work and the continuing ministry of Jesus Christ.

 

BARNES: How would you describe the level of influence that Bosworth had on your father’s ministry?

OSBORN: Brother Bosworth was on the scene during a very critical time, in the early healing movement in the United States. No doubt, he influenced all of the young healing evangelists and kept them focused on the Word of God as the final authority concerning God’s will to heal. His book, Christ the Healer, was likely the primer on the topic. There is no way to estimate the extent of his influence through his teachings, his example, and his encouragement of a new generation.

 

BARNES: William Branham once said that he introduced your father to Bosworth. He mentioned this in his sermon, “Faith,” which is posted here: http://www.williambranham.com/faith-56-0427/. Have you heard this story?

OSBORN: While I don’t remember this exactly, I do know that under Brother Lindsay’s influence, my father, Brother Branham, and Brother Bosworth were all involved in the same conventions.

 

BARNES: A friend of mine, Rev. Ryan Miller, shared a letter from your father in which he seems to suggest Bosworth encouraged him to write books. Do you know if your father offered such encouragement?

OSBORN: Yes, Bosworth encouraged my father to write. It was another man who edited my father’s first manuscripts and taught him how to write properly and also to read editing symbols. Of course, as you know, writing and publishing has long been a central passion of this ministry.

 

BARNES: Did your father attend Bosworth’s funeral in 1958?

OSBORN: I do not believe my father attended Bosworth’s funeral. During 1958, we were overseas in some of our historic crusades in East Africa.

 

PR

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Category: Church History, Fall 2020

About the Author: Roscoe Barnes III, Ph.D., is a prison chaplain, former award-winning journalist, and independent scholar of church history. He holds a doctorate from the University of Pretoria, South Africa, a M.A.R. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, and B.S. and A.S. degrees from East Coast Bible College, Charlotte, N.C. He is the author of numerous books including F.F. Bosworth: The Man Behind “Christ the Healer” (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), The Guide to Effective Gospel Tract Ministry (Church Growth Institute, 2004) and Off to War: Franklin Countians in World War II (White Mane Publishing, 1996). His articles have appeared in Refleks Journal, The Journal of the European Pentecostal Theological Association, The Africa Journal of Pentecostal Studies, and in numerous newspapers and popular magazines. He blogs at Roscoe Reporting and shares his F. F. Bosworth research at FFBosworth.strikingly.com. Professional: Roscoe Barnes III. Twitter: @Roscoebarnes3

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