The legacy of the ministry of William Branham

The critics allege that Bro. Branham is an obscure figure with no legacy outside of the Branham movement. This is one of their key allegations in trying to establish that the gospel he preached was unimportant. In this article we will examine their claims and the truth, and show just how wide reaching and impactful the legacy of William Branham really is.

Does obscurity matter?

Many men who had wide impact on Christianity are hardly known. Even men of great and critical importance are almost without any fame today. The average Christian could not name more than five of the apostles, let alone men like Iraenus or Polycarp. As you read this article, think about it: could you name all twelve apostles without looking them up? But you see, none of them are important in themselves. The only one who is important is Jesus Christ and his message of truth. Men are just carriers of the gospel message. Their personal legacy is irrelevant, just as it is with Bro. Branham. It is the legacy of the message of truth, the Gospel of Christ, which is important. The men who preached it are only important insofar as it furthers our relationship with Christ. The same principle applies to Bro. Branham. 

Comparing Bro. Branham to the apostles

Here is an example of a criticism:

Compare [William Branham] to the ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus was not known outside of Israel at the time of his death, but within 30 years after his resurrection, the new Christian church came under the direct persecution of the Roman emperor Nero in A.D. 64. Paul and Peter were both killed by Nero. Christians were known throughout the Roman Empire [in] less than 50 years. But over 50 years after WMB died, he has been forgotten by virtually all of Christianity.

To his followers, William Branham is the most important person since Jesus Christ (and to many, he is even more important). But to the Christian and non-Christian world, he is virtually unknown. That is his true “vindication” and something that cannot be said of Jesus Christ or every true prophet or apostle in recorded history.

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Let us review the spread of early Christianity. There were estimated to be 40,000 Christians in the year 140 AD, about 100 years after the ministry of Christ began.1 A high percentage of early Christians faced martydom, so although many people were converted, many people were also being killed. The killing focused  especially on the clergy and leadership of the church.

Now review the spread of Bro. Branham’s Christian message. According to Voice of God Recordings and the William Branham Evangelical, there are over three million people who receive Branham related message material. So to compare the spread of the gospel as a result of William Branham’s ministry to the spread of the gospel under the apostles, we can safely conclude the spread and acceptance of Bro. Branham’s teachings actually has happened at a much faster and rapid pace. This was accomplished in just under 100 years (1930-2018).

If we consider the impact of Bro. Branham’s teachings outside of the Branham Movement, the impact is even larger.

While some of us may disagree with the direction many have taken with the teachings of Bro. Branham, the impact of his ministry has been profound, for better or for worse.

Bro. Branham’s impact outside of the Branham Movement

It might be easy to overlook the impact of Bro. Branham’s teachings on Christianity, but he has left a lasting legacy in Charismatic Christianity. Charismatic Christianity accounts for about 25% of all Christians and is the fastest growing segment of Christianity. The Charismatic movement was born out of the healing revivals that Bro. Branham led at the peak of his popularity. It was the men who gained fame campaigning during the healing revival who began the Charismatic movement. Bro. Branham’s teachings had deeply influenced many of those men.

Bro. Branham himself is not solely responsible for the Charismatic movement, but he was the central figure in defining one of the key doctrines Charismatics widely believe: Christian Restorationism. Let’s see what some academic sources have to say about that.

Of all of Branham’s doctrines, his teachings on Christian restorationism have had the most lasting impact on modern Christianity. Charismatic writer Michael Moriarty described his teachings on the subject as “extremely significant” because they have “impacted every major restoration movement since”. As a result, Moriarty concluded Branham has “profoundly influenced” the modern Charismatic movement. Branham taught the doctrine widely from the early days of the healing revival, in which he urged his audiences to unite and restore a form of church organization like the primitive church of early Christianity. The teaching was accepted and widely taught by many of the evangelists of the healing revival, and they took it with them into the subsequent Charismatic and evangelical movements. Paul Cain, Bill Hamon, Kenneth Hagin, and other restoration prophets cite Branham as a major influence; they played a critical role in introducing Branham’s restoration views to the Apostolic-Prophetic Movement, the Association of Vineyard Churches, and other large Charismatic organizations. The Toronto Blessing, the Brownsville Revival, and other nationwide revivals of the late 20th century have their roots in Branham’s restorationist teachings.

The teaching holds that Christianity should return to a form mirroring the primitive Christian church. It supports the restoration of apostles and prophets, signs and wonders, spiritual gifts, spiritual warfare, and the elimination of non-primitive features of modern Christianity.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_M._Branham#Restorationism

The power of a Branham service and his stage presence remains a legend unparalleled in the history of the Charismatic movement.

Sims, Patsy (1996). Can Somebody Shout Amen!: Inside the Tents and Tabernacles of American Revivalists. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0813108865. p. 195

Take another look at the ministry of William Branham, for in the thriving culture of contemporary independent charismatic religion, Branham’s legacy is alive and well. […] For an uneducated “Holy Ghost” healer and preacher, Branham’s influence amazingly endures. 

Prof. David Edwin Harrell in the forward of Doug Weaver’s book
Weaver, C. Douglas (2000). The Healer-Prophet: William Marrion Branham (A study of the Prophetic in American Pentecostalism). Mercer University Press. ISBN 978-0-865-54710-0.

Branham can justly be called the father of modern faith healers.

Sheryl, J. Greg (2013). “The Legend of William Branham” (PDF). The Quarterly JournalPersonal Freedom Outreach33 (3). ISSN 1083-6853.

Branham’s teaching on the restoration of the church is extremely significant, not only because it was picked up by the Latter Rain movement, but also because it has tremendously impacted every major restoration movement since.

[…]

The life and ministry of this obscure evangelist covered the entire globe. His unusual doctrines and practices nourished the ecstatic movements of his day and have crept down to our generation, finding acceptance in charismatic churches all over the world. Positive confession charismatics – for example, Kennth Hagin – consider Branham to be one of the greatest prophets of the twentieth century.

[…]

Without a question, the ministry and teachings of William Branham have profoundly influenced the charismatics of our day.

[…]

Probably more than anyone else, William Branham has shaped and influenced the “new” restoration teachings prominent in today’s charismatic circles.

Moriarty, Michael (1992). The New Charismatics. Zondervan. ISBN 978-0-310-53431-0. p. 53-56, 123

Beyond this major doctrinal impact on Charismatic Christianity, Bro. Branham’s style and methods were widely copied and emulated. Doug Weaver records how the most prominent modern Charismatic faith healers, like Benny Hinn, “frequently endorse the ministry and teachings of William Branham.” Charismatic televangelist Don Stewart in his 1999 book Only Believe credited Branham as major mentor and influence. Bro. Branham, his teachings, and his prophecies are still regularly mentioned on the Trinity Broadcast Network by televangelist Jim Bakker and others.2

There is widespread evidence that Bro. Branham’s legacy outside of the Branham movement is alive and well, and that his ministry left a profound impact. To ignore this fact is to ignore reality. But ultimately what matters is not his own legacy, but the gospel of Christ which he taught. Bro. Branham was not the message.

Complete copy of our dialog with the editors of BelieveTheSign on this topic.

  1. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/evangelical-history/how-many-christians-were-there-in-200-a-d/
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsxvbPsLYo0

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