Fred Francis Bosworth (1877-1958) was an evangelist, an early religious broadcaster, and a 1920s and Depression-era Pentecostal faith healer who was later a bridge to the mid-20th century healing revival. He was born on a farm near Utica, Nebraska and was raised in a Methodist home. His Methodist experiences also included salvation at the age of 16 or 17, and a spontaneous healing from major lung problems a couple years later. Bosworth's life after that was one that followed Christian principles, though His church affiliation changed several times over the years. Several years after his healing he attended Alexander Dowie's church in Zion City, Illinois, then came into Pentecost and attended Pentecostal services. Most of his later ministry was associated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance church.
When Bosworth came into a pentecostal experience in 1906, he had an intense desire to preach the gospel, leaving his business pursuits and stepping out in faith for his subsistence. Approximately 1909 he moved to Texas, and in 1910 he started a church in Dallas which was loosely affiliated with the Alliance church. He was one of the founders of the Assemblies of God in 1914 and was with them until 1918 when he had a disagreement on the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost and withdrew. He then started another church in Dallas, affiliating with the Alliance church again, and his revival meetings in the 1920s were sponsored by the Christian and Missionary Alliance church. During the 1920s he was known for his "big tent revival" and large auditorium meetings and his advocacy of faith healing, with people from all denominations attending. He was with the Alliance church until around 1934, then affiliated with them again in 1944. Starting around 1930 he began one of the early successful gospel radio ministries. Today he is best known for his book Christ the Healer which went through 7 editions in his lifetime and now has over 500,000 copies in print.
F. F. Bosworth was one of five children, grew up living on prairies in Nebraska
in a devout Methodist home, and appears to have had a normal childhood. His father was a Civil War
veteran (part of an Illinois company), who would have moved to Utica Nebraska some time after the Civil War was over, but before FF Bosworth was born. When FF Bosworth was about 8 or 9 years old he accompanied his father to a soldier's reunion, where he first saw a cornet
being played. Bosworth had been given a baby pig by his uncle, he raised it, traded a couple of animals, and was eventually able to trade for a cornet of his own. From that point he worked on becoming a self-taught musician. One source says he began playing in the juvenle village band, then played in the senior village band. When Bosworth was around 10 or 11 years old, his parents moved from Utica to University Place, Nebraska (an educational place for the Methodists in the region), Bosworth became a member of the local band, eventually becoming good enough to be a member with a leading part in the Nebraska state band and to play for the local literary societies. At the start of the summer of 1893, at the age of 16, he left home to make his way in the world.
In late 1893 or early 1894, while at a visit in Omaha, he attended a revival meeting with female friend, she convinced him to go to the altar with her, and at that altar he made a decision for Christ, a great wave of joy swept over him, and he could not keep from laughing. More details of this, and on his early life, are provided regarding his conversion and his early life in the booklet "Bosworth's Life Story" and the book "Fred Francis Bosworth - His Life Story"
Healing & Health
Bosworth initially developed lung problems when he was 10 or 11 years old, shortly after his parents moved to University Place, Nebraska. This occurred when he got overheated in a hot room helping with a friend's operation, then went to the cold outside and got a chill. The lung problems continued for the next eight years, getting significantly worse when he was a young man (age 18 or 19), when the doctors diagnosed tuberculosis
and said that he would soon die. Bosworth then went from Nebraska to his parents' new home in Fitzgerald Georgia for a last visit and arrived in a near-death state. While there he attended a religious meeting and was approached by an older Methodist
"Bible woman" who "used to walk the hills of Georgia
and the Carolinas
selling Bibles and preaching the gospel
." The account written by Bosworth's son in a later printing of "Christ the Healer" says: "She prayed for him, he got up, and he was instantly healed."
Another account, published many years earlier, adds further details to this healing. It says "Miss Perry told him how lovingly ready God was to make him well ... and laying her hands on him she prayed that he might be healed. From that self-same hour Fred began to mend, until, ere many days, his lung trouble was already a thing of the past."
While one article implies Bosworth never had any illness over the course of his life, it appears this was an impression many received (probably due to his preaching on "divine health") rather than actual fact. Bosworth himself attributes his faith after his conversion in part to his healing of a major health problem, and in an early published sermon, he described two times after his initial healing when he had illness that he had battled by faith. William Branham, in sermons from the 1950s, also records a couple health related incidents from which Bosworth was healed.
Around 1895, after Bosworth had left home, his parents moved from Nebraska to Fitzgerald, Georgia, where a Union Soldiers colony had been started. In late 1895 or early 1896 Bosworth's health was rapidly growing worse and the lung problems, which began shortly after his family moved to University place (eight years before), were getting worse. Doctors said he did not have long to live, so he took what he though would be his final trip to see his parents. His mother nurtured his health back to a point where he could get around, and in Fitzgerald he went to a religious meeting where he was pointed to God as a healer, he was prayed for, and he was healed. According to Joybringer Bosworth
, after his healing Bosworth became an active member of the community in Fitzgerald, buying then operating a barber shop for some time, working assistant postmaster for over a year (less than two years), then he was elected as City Clerk (a position he held for two years). In Fitzgerald he married at the age of 23 (his wife was the daughter of another Civil War veteran), and right after he was married he ran ran afoul of local politics by supporting someone else who was running on a prohibition platform, resulting in his not being re-elected as City Clerk at an election held shortly after his marriage. After this he became a bookkeeper, then a teller, at the new bank in the city, then worked for a mercantile company owned by the bank. In Fitzgerald, Bosworth had begun and directed a band, and had gained the respect of the band members to the extent that they tried to apply Bosworth's values to their lives.
A year or so after they were married, after seeing copies of Dowie's newsletter, Bowsorth and his wife moved to Zion, Illinois
(then called Zion City), a newly formed town which was started as a place where religious values could be applied in the community as well as the home. Prior to moving to Zion City he had given up operating his band because some of the situations created conflicts with his beliefs. When he went to Zion City, he began to play his cornet again, this time in John Alexander Dowie
's church, where he was soon made the band director. It appears that he first met John G. Lake
at Zion City, and it is possible that Bosworth was the minister Lake had ministered with in Indiana before after Lake left Zion, before he went to South Africa (the timing of both of them ministering in Indiana concides). Through the influence of Dowie's writing and preaching (which they had read and begun to follow before their moves), Parham's presentation of pentecostalism (which included divine healing), their own private study of the Scriptures, and their own personal experiences involving divine healing, the two both began to learn about and practice divine healing. It was at Zion that both Bosworth and Lake first came to a pentecostal experience, and it was from Zion that they both began their eventual ministries. While one recent theologian, in providing a background on Bosworth, commented that Bosworth and Parham were "soon acting as competitors for the hearts and minds of the city," this does not appear to be supported by any of the contemporary accounts. No dispute or contention is mentioned in Parham's biography, in any biographical material on Bosworth, or in the book which summarizes the events in Zion. To the contrary, it appears that Bosworth fully cooperated with Parham, and that it was Viola (who ran the City after Dowie's demise) who competed for the minds of the people. The available documents show that Bosworth was one of half a dozen people whose homes became meeting places for the early pentecostal believers, that Bosworth was referred to as their "bandmaster" (not as a preacher), and Bosworth was not viewed as a threat by Viola (shown by the lack of character slurs in the local paper). Bosworth was at the time growing in his ministry, beginning with personal witnessing, then doing evangelistic work with another experienced minister, before stepping out into his own independent ministry.
Development Through Trials
After embracing pentecostalism, Bosworth went through a number of trials that helped form his character. He started by leaving his business ventures and stepped out in faith with no financial backing, creating times when needs were supplied at the last moment. He immediately began by getting a job selling pens, using this as an opportunity to testify. By early 1907 he was on the field working with another minister, and his first article telling of meetings he was holding was published in the Latter Rain Evangel in 1908. In 1911 he responded to a call to preach at a brush arbor in Texas, and was badly beaten up by a couple of groups who felt he had crossed racial barriers....". He started a church in Dallas
and the trials continued. Even though he was preaching divine healing, his young son died, and later (in 1919) his wife also died, apparently as a result of overwork, then influenza
, and finally pneumonia
After his wife's death, Bosworth went into full time evangelism, and several years later he married again.
In 1906, while still in Zion, Bosworth embraced Pentecostalism
in meetings with Pentecostal pioneer, Charles Parham
. The Pentecostal message met resistance from the administration at in Zion City, making it so community facilities were not available for holding meetings. As a result, for weeks they met nightly in the living room of Bosworth's home, as well as in several other homes, with Parham going between the homes, prior to a large tent being erected for services.
From the time Bosworth received his pentecostal experience, Bosworth felt driven to share the new life he experienced. One early account says he immediately took a job selling pens so he could have an opportunity to testify to others. By April 1907 he was into the ministry full time, joining Cyrus Fockler in the meetings he began to hold in Milwaukee. His ministry continued, and the December 1908 issue of Latter Rain Evangel records meetings he was holding with Fockler in Indiana. From there he held meetings in Fitzgerald Georgia, Conway S.C., then several cities in Texas. Dallas was the final city in his Texas tour, and the meetings there were in the later part of 1909. Following Bosworth's Dallas meetings, Bosworth he started his first church church in Dallas in 1910. The church began as an independent pentecostal work which had a loose affiliation with the Christian and Missionary Alliance organization. In 1914 Bosworth was involved in the starting of the Assemblies of God, and was one of their first directors. In the process, he brought his church into the organization. In 1916 the Assemblies of God formalized their doctrine that the initial evidence of the Baptism with the Holy Ghost was speaking in tongues. Bosworth did not agree with this and tried to get them to change, presenting his arguments at one of their conventions. When it became clear in 1918 that they would not change their position, Bosworth quietly withdrew from the Assemblies of God and started a separate Christian and Missionary Alliance church. in Dallas. It was around this time (1918) that Bosworth published his pamphlet "Do All Speak With Tongues".
Full Time Evangelism & Healing Ministry
Even when pastoring his church in Dallas, Bosworth would hold meetings in other areas, and his ministry always had an element of praying for the sick and divine healing. When his wife passed away in 1919, he arranged for someone to look after his children, then went started larger scale evangelistic meetings. It appears the turning point for Bosworth's healing ministry were meetings in Lima, Ohio in August 1920. The pastor there asked Bosworth to preach on Divine healing. While Bosworth had previously believed in Divine Healing, and had prayed for the sick, he had not previously preached Divine Healing. Bosworth writes that he went to the Lord and asked "'suppose I preach on Healing and the people come and don't get healed?' The Lord said 'If people didn't get saved, you wouldn't stop preaching the gospel.'" Bosworth studied the question, prayed about it and saw that it was God's will to heal as well as save people. In the Lima meetings Bosorth stepped out on the Word, preached Divine Healing, and stated that healing of the body was as much a part of the gospel as salvation of the soul. He invited the sick to come and hear the word of healing for their bodies. The people responded, they were healed, it led to more who came for salvation, and the rest is history.
In 1924, Bosworth published the first edition of Christ the Healer, a book that contains many of his sermons on the topic of faith healing and his responses his critics (this edition included 5 sermons). Prior to Bosworth's death, the 7th edition had been expanded to include 14 sermons. He was also the author of dozens of other tracts, printed sermons, and articles, some of which were later condensed and included in subsequent editions of Christ the Healer. One example is "The Christian Confession" (chapter titled "Confession"). A number of other tracts and pamphlets are in the Assemblies of God Archive (www.ifhpc.org) and listed on www.Worldcatlibraries.org. Probably his most controversial pamphlet was "Do All Speak With Tongues? An Open Letter to Ministers and Saints of the Pentecostal Movement" .
F. F. Bosworth held a number of evangelistic and healing meetings across the United States and Canada in the1920s, with thirty-nine extended meeting locations in the six-and-a-half years mentioned in Joybringer Bosworth. One of the larger of the meetings took place in Ottawa, Canada, and had roughly 12,000 conversions.
Contact With Other Ministries
Bosworth had contact with many of the pentecostal and holiness ministers of his generation, and was both influenced by them and influenced them. Prior to coming to his pentecostal experience, Bosworth spent several years under the ministry of John Alexander Dowie, where he would have heard many of Dowie's ideas on divine healing. From Zion City he knew John G. Lake, Charles Parham, and a number of other pentecostal pioneers. In approximately 1907, Bosworth, Lake, and one other Zion preacher visited the Azusa Street Revival
and made contacts there. (One photo shows them with Seymour). He was associated with many of the early pentecostal ministers, had Marie Woodworth-Etter hold several months of services for him in 1912, and knew the early leaders of the Assemblies of God. Bosworth also knew many of the ministers associated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance church, including A.B. Simpson and both Paul and Luke Rader. While in the Chicago area, Bosworth also met E. W. Kenyon
. It is unclear whether his meeting with Kenyon was before his move to Texas, since he had returned to the Chicago area by 1924. How close a relationship the two men had and the degree Kenyon may have influenced Bosworth's early thinking are unclear. Bosworth's 1930's booklet "The Christian Confession", which was later condensed into a chapter of the 1948 edition of "Christ the Healer", mentions that many of the thoughts in that booklet / chapter came from some of Kenyon's writings and were used with permission. One researcher, who looked at Bosworth's other works to determine if any were influenced by Kenyon could find no other link, and the 1924 edition of "Christ the Healer" does not contain the chapter that is in the 1948 edition.
When The Great Depression
hit in 1929, money for large-scale meetings become scarce. According to Bosworth's magazine "Exploits of Faith", it appears he still had large campaigns away from home through 1931, but after that his campaigns were closer to home.
Bosworth was friends with Paul Rader, one of the first radio evangelists, and Paul Rader was broadcasting on Chicago radio stations prior to 1929. The first add in Bosworth's magazine for a Bosworth radio program was in January 1930, indicating that his radio evangelism started in either late 1929 or early 1930. He began with a program called the "Sunshine Hour". Bosworth eventually established "The National Radio Revival Missionary Crusaders" as a nonprofit corporation in Illinois. By the early to mid 1930's he was broadcasting regularly over radio stations in the Chicago area, including WJJD. Bosworth's increased radio ministry in Chicago appears to coincide with Paul Rader's reduced broadcast frequency. Due to financial problems, Paul Rader's last evangelistic broadcasts in Chicago were in 1933. Bosworth continued to broadcast well into the 1940s. There is a general gap in the information available on F.F. Bosworth and his radio ministry from the early 1930s to the mid 1940s, with the one available magazine of his from 1942 indicating that he was broadcasting from several stations across the country, and a 1963 article providing a general overview of Bosworth's radio ministry.
During the 1930s and 1940s, it appears he also conducted many healing campaigns all over North America as finances permitted. (see last chapter in 9th edition of Christ the Healer). F. F. Bosworth, as of 1950, commented that he had more than thirty years of great evangelistic campaigns, and fourteen years of this time conducted the National Radio Revival, and during which time received about a quarter of a million letters.
As mentioned by his son, R. V. Bosworth, in the final chapter of the 9th edition of Christ the Healer, Bosworth found it difficult to travel during World War II due to gas rationing, but also found it difficult not to preach. Shortly after WWII he thought his ministry might be over and he retired to Florida.
During the gap in information from 1934 to 1944, it appears Bosworth accepted at least some elements of British Israel theology and left the Alliance church, not to return until 1944, when he was welcomed back into the Alliance, was asked to preach at one of their conventions and along the way publicly apologized for having been in error.
While some who follow British Israelism claim that F.F. Bosworth maintained a British Israel view of prophecy until his going home,
they do not offer any evidence to support this other than radio one sermon by Bosworth, which does not go to the extremes many do with that doctrine.
It appears that some elements of British Israel thought were present in the preaching and writings of some of the people who both influenced Bosworth and who Bosworth associated with at the time, including Alexander Dowie, Charles Parham, Luke Rader, and Charles Benham. Bosworth's focus on the scriptures in the one sermon available, and the overall lack of racism in his ministry, indicate that he probably held a more moderate view of British Israelism when he was involved with it. And his 1944 public apology, with no reference to this doctrine in his later ministry, indicates that he was not involved with it after 1944.
In 1948, Bosworth joined up with William Branham
's ministry, which had begun a new revival by 1947. The two of them worked together through the end of the revival in 1956 and were close friends. He had met Branham in late 1947, and there is a short audio recording from November 1947 where both speak and Bosworth plays his cornet. (tape titled "Fellowship", November, 1947, available from Voice of God Recordings, Jeffersonville) Other ministers picked up an inspiration from Branham's ministry and said "I can do that too". Some of these ministers, including T.L. Osborn, looked to Bosworth as a mentor for their healing ministies, resulting in some historians commenting that Bosworth was a bridge between the healing ministries of his generation and the healing revival of the late 1940s and 1950's.
Africa & Other Overseas Ministry
In late 1951, at the age of 74, Bosworth went with Branham to Africa to continue their work. The book, William Branham, A Prophet Visits South Africa
records their time there, as does a book titled William Branham Sermons
, both of these books include a sermon of Bosworth's, and a number of William Branham's sermons refer to his time and experiences with Bosworth. After the campaign with Branham, Bosworth returned to Africa several times between 1952 and 1955, also holding campaigns in Cuba (1954) and Japan (1955 and possibly 1957), and accompanying Branham on a campaign in Switzerland and Germany in (1955). Through at least 1956, it appears that when Bosworth was not overseas, he worked with Branham on a number of campaigns. (Bosworth's location and evangelistic activities at the time were documented on a number of William Branham's recorded sermons from that era, as well as on a 1954 recording by Bosworth, and the last trip to Japan is documented by Bosworth's son in the 9th edition of "Christ the Healer"
In 1957, when Bosworth's family thought it was his time to go, Branham visited his bedside, prayed with him, and was greatly encouraged by his testimony. Bosworth recovered his strength and it was not until several months later, in 1958, when he eventually died, again with an outstanding testimony. According to his son's description in the 9th edition of "Christ the Healer", the family was gathered around Bosworth's bedside talking, laughing, and singing about three weeks after Bosworth was in bed full time, Bosworth then looked up, never saw the family members present, and began "to greet and hug people - he was enraptured ... He did this for several hours", then with a smile on his face he laid back and went to sleep. When Bosworth died, Branham was asked by the family to come to preach his funeral
but was unable to attend because he was in the middle of a campaign (the events concerning Bosworth's passing are documented on several recorded sermons Branham preached at the time and in "Christ the Healer" - 9th ed).
During the course of Brother Branham’s ministry, there were many great men he spoke of. But there were few he spoke as highly of as Brother F.F. Bosworth.
The life of Brother F.F. Bosworth was one that has been recognized and remembered since the early part of the 20th century until even now. His ministry began as a young man and carried on through his old age. He witnessed the Azusa Street Revival, where he first embraced Pentecostalism, and met many of the great evangelists of that time. He was part of the vast healing movement that swept the nation and the world during the 20’s. He was a founding father to the Assemblies of God church. For four decades he preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ and traveled the world teaching Divine healing. He was an internationally known and renowned man of God. Countless lives were added to the glorious Kingdom of God through his life and ministry. It is said that during one of his meetings he had over 12,000 conversions. Truly, he was a witness of God and a soldier of the cross.
Brother Bosworth didn’t come in contact with Brother Branham until the later part of his life. He had just retired at the age of 71 in Florida. It was here that God allowed their paths to cross. Brother Branham had just received his commission from God and was getting ready to start his world-wide ministry. He came to Miami, Florida for a healing meeting, and Brother Bosworth attended. Brother Bosworth had been teaching Divine healing for forty years and had retired to get away from all the fanaticism that had entered the country. He was a bit skeptical about Brother Branham at first, thinking he was just somebody else preaching Divine healing. He watched attentively throughout the meeting and quickly found that it was Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever being proved through a man.
Brother Bosworth made this statement concerning Brother Branham:
"During the past few years, I have often wept for joy over God's recent gift to the Church, of our beloved brother,William Branham, with his marvelous "Gift of Healing." This is a case of God doing "exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think." (Eph.3:20), for I have never seen or read of anything to equal the healing ministry of William Branham.
He immediately joined in with Brother Branham and became a supporter of his healing ministry. He traveled with him abroad, both in the States and around the world, as his manager. It wasn’t long before he and Brother Branham became very close friends. Brother Bosworth remained Brother Branham’s manager and companion on the battle field until shortly before his death in 1958. As he was on his death bed, he made this statement to a question Brother Branham asked him;
And I--I said, "Well, Brother Bosworth," I said, "I'd like to ask you something. When was your best time?" He said, "Right now."And I said, "Yet you know you're dying?"He said, "I can't die." Said, "I died about seventy years ago," he said. He said, "I--I'm a new creature in Christ." And he said, "Brother Branham, all that I have lived for, for the past sixty years, has been the Lord Jesus. And, any minute, I'm looking for Him to walk in the door and go with Him for Eternity."
He was dear to Brother Branham’s heart, and it was a hard thing to see him part. There were many that mourned over the death of Brother Bosworth. He certainly lived a life that was a witness and example to countless others.
A parting prayer in respects to Brother Bosworth by Brother Branham:
“O blessed God, as Christians we bow our heads to the dust from where we was taken and someday we shall return if Jesus tarries. There is one who has walked among us and preached to us, Thy humble and holy servant, Brother F. F. Bosworth. Tonight his body lays in a casket, but his soul is with Thee, O God. And across the border as he was coming down to the river the other morning, and the waves was a flying high in the air at the old Jordan, we know that there was many friends to meet him, by preaching the Gospel, that by that cause, he had brought them to a saving knowledge of Thy dear Son, and they were there to meet him. We trust that You'll bless his gallant soul. And let us remember by his life, and his examples, and his teaching and how firm he stood on Thy eternal Word until he lived to be a ripe old age, way many years over the 'lotted time. We pray for Sister Bosworth, for his daughters, and his son. We feel that our loss will be heaven's gain. And let us now press hard in the battle, for a great officer of this army has been taken. In Thy wise providence Thou has granted this. And we pray that'll it make us, now seeing that we're one less, that we may buckle on the full armor of God, and fight until Jesus comes.”
THE QUEEN OF THE SOUTH–58-0125
Website run by the son of F. F. Bosworth.
[Note: An audio recording of F.F. Bosworth preaching "Be Ye Doers of the Word," can be listened to, free of charge, by clicking on "Rare Recordings" at www.brothermel.com.]