Revivaltime: How Radio Helped Shape Assemblies of God Identity

Revivaltime

Revivaltime broadcast, circa 1958. Bartlet Peterson announcing for Revivaltime; C.M. Ward (seated at table on left); Cyril McLellan (directing Revivaltime choir); C.T. Beem (standing behind piano)

This Week in AG History — December 11, 1960

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 10 December 2015

Revivaltime, the Assemblies of God weekly broadcast heard on the ABC radio network from 1953 to 1995, was one of the Fellowship’s most successful national ministries. Its hosts, C. M. Ward (1953-1978) and Dan Betzer (1979-1995), became two of the best-known Assemblies of God personalities, known to millions of listeners “coast to coast and around the world,” as the program’s familiar introduction intoned.

Ward established the 30-minute program’s format. Each program began with the song, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” sung by the Revivaltime choir. The song became so ingrained into the program’s identity that some have called it the “unofficial anthem” of the Assemblies of God. The reading of a biblical text and a sermon came next, followed by an invitation to kneel at the “radio altar” while the choir sang Ira Stanphill’s “There’s Room at the Cross for You.”

The program saw almost immediate success. For decades, over 10,000 letters from listeners poured into the Revivaltime offices each month. By 1960, church officials estimated that Revivaltime’s U.S. radio audience was 12 million people — 12 times as large as the Sunday morning attendance at Assemblies of God churches in America. Add to that the numerous Revivaltime broadcasts in other countries, and the magnitude of the program’s influence quickly becomes obvious.

Ward and Betzer engaged audiences with sermons employing simple, direct language and powerful illustrations and human-interest stories. They also modeled the charismatic gifts on the air, sometimes exercising a “word of knowledge” — communicating messages under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to specific unknown listeners. Countless thousands of people wrote in and credited Revivaltime for playing a role in a relative’s salvation, a healing, or other divine interventions.

Revivaltime and other national ministries — such as Christ’s Ambassadors (the ministry to youth and young adults), Royal Rangers (the Scout-like boys ministry), and Missionettes (now National Girls Ministries) — helped to give the Assemblies of God a sense of national identity and branding. While the focus in the Assemblies of God remained on the local church, these national ministries provided generations of Assemblies of God members with a sense that they were a part of a larger community of believers.

The December 11, 1960, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel celebrated the seventh anniversary of Revivaltime, featuring C. M. Ward, D. V. Hurst (national secretary of Radio), and Bartlett Peterson (Revivaltime executive director) prominently on the cover. Together, these three men and hundreds of others labored to develop Revivaltime into a ministry that not only helped to evangelize and disciple believers, but also helped shape the identity of the Assemblies of God.

Read articles about Revivaltime’s seventh anniversary on pages 2 and 12 of the December 11, 1960, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Security of the Believer,” by Myer Pearlman

• “Predestination: What Does the Bible Teach about this Mysterious Subject?” by Ralph M. Riggs

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Listen to classic Revivaltime radio episodes by clicking here.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

3 Comments

Filed under Church, History

3 responses to “Revivaltime: How Radio Helped Shape Assemblies of God Identity

  1. Dan Swearengin

    I shall never be able to thank God and that incredible man enough for the considerable mentoring and personal friendship Dr. Ward arbitrarily chose to share with me.and my wife over the several years during and post Revivaltime airing. Uniquely proficient at mixing God’s power, personal intellect, current events, and humor. Loved him dearly!

  2. I will never forget meeting C.M. Ward at North Central Bible College in 1970 and Dan Betzer at Campmeeting later. Those radio broadcasts helped me grow in the Lord and encouraged my faith greatly. I later worked in two Christian radio stations myself, broadcasting the Gospel in the Detroit area.

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