Revivaltime: How Radio Helped Shape Assemblies of God Identity

Revivaltime

C. M. Ward at microphone, with Revivaltime Choir in background, 1958.

This Week in AG History — December 11, 1960

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 12 December 2019

Revivaltime, the Assemblies of God weekly radio program broadcast from 1950 until 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.

The broadcast, established in 1946 as Sermons in Song, was renamed Revivaltime in 1950. In 1953, Ward became the first full-time speaker, and the program began broadcasting on the ABC radio network. 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 Dec. 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 Dec. 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: iFPHC.org

2 Comments

Filed under History, Music

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

  1. Louis Venditti

    Great memories of my days listening to C M Ward. It shaped my Christian life like nothing else. His voice still rings in my ears today. … I love the A of G, I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. …

  2. David E. Palmer

    Thank you so very much about sharing about my late great uncle, C. M. Ward. C.M.’s wife, Dorothy Mae Hymes Ward was the sister of my grandmother, Esther Deane Hymes Palmer. My grandfather was Rev. Leonard Palmer. They were all married Christmas Day, 1929 in Kansas City, MO. Rev. Fred Vogler was the minister who officiated.
    I am also related to Jesse and Hattie Palmer, Charles and Hazel Deane Hymes, Margaret and Earl Bond, Bob and Eleanor Palmer, Clyde King, Emil Lassegues, Max and Hannah Johnson, Frieda Palmer, Rick Zander Phyliss Comstock, Jack Booze, Larry and Judy Booze, and more.

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