T.L Osborn, the great missionary evangelist, received his heavenly reward on Feb. 14. He will be remembered as the “father of crusade evangelism.” He preached face-to-face before millions of people around the globe and his books were given away by the ton. Because of his example, I became an evangelist and began traveling to the nations to preach the gospel. Here are seven lessons I learned from Dr. Osborn.
1. Be Humble
Osborn was a humble man full of confidence in a great God. He knew who he was in Christ, but he downplayed his own importance. He said, “God needs me; God chose to use me. The world needs me; I choose to go to the world. You know, if He had smarter people, He would use them, but we are all He’s got.”
2. Preach a Simple Gospel
Osborn preached a simple message. He said that every message needs four parts: God’s creation; Satan’s deception; Christ’s substitution; and our restoration. It was this simple message that impacted lives on every continent.
3. Lift People Up
Osborn’s preaching lifted people up and made them feel valuable. He preached, “You are valuable! Never put yourself down. How can you crawl when you are the child of a King? How can you beg when you have the wealth of the universe? How can you burn out when God is the strength of your life? How can you moan when God has put a song in your heart? How can you die inside when Christ is your life?”
4. The Power of a Book
I once was in Congo, Africa, preaching in a mud hut packed full with over 200 people. Chickens pecked their way across the dirt floor as the congregation enthusiastically praised the Lord. I glanced over at the young pastor and noticed he was holding his Bible and another dog-eared book that was carefully covered in gray duct tape.
”Show me what you are reading,” I asked. When he handed me the book, I recognized the title; it was written by T.L. Osborn.
I asked, “Where did you get this book?”
He replied, “Twenty years ago, Dr. Osborn came to my nation. My father got saved at his meeting and decided to become a pastor. Dr. Osborn gave him this book and for 20 years my father preached his sermons from this book. Last year my father died and I became the pastor of this church. Now I preach from the same book.”
5. Miracles Prove Jesus Is Alive
A great part of T.L. Osborn’s success was his beloved wife, Daisy. They were married in 1942 when T.L. was 18 and Daisy was 17. Shortly afterward they committed to travel to India for five years as missionaries, only to return to America after just one year, disappointed they were unable to convince anyone to be a Christian. They showed the people in India the Bible and in return the people showed them a different holy book. When the Osborns were unable to prove which book was true, they gave up and returned home in defeat.
Osborn was changed after he had four encounters with Jesus. One morning at 6, Jesus appeared to him. On another occasion, Osborn saw Jesus working though another preacher who was praying for the sick. Then, Osborn experienced Jesus working through his own prayers. Finally, Osborn saw Jesus in the pages of the Bible. Because of these revelations about Jesus, T.L. and Daisy returned to the mission field and eventually traveled to more than 90 nations over a half-century of ministry and led millions of people to Jesus.
Osborn often started his sermons by telling the story of a man who had been healed in one of his services. Then he told a story about one of the miracles Jesus performed in the Bible. Then he prayed for the sick. Across the field, cripples lifted their crutches into the air as they were healed. A blind boy was suddenly able to see. A deaf man’s ears were opened. Testimonies flooded the stage as God touched people.
Miracles became the proof to Osborn that Jesus is alive and the Bible is true. The banner on his crusade platform usually featured Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He explained the differences between Christianity and other religions: “Jesus is the only one who offers proof, the only one who lives today, the only one who can heal the sick.”
6. Words Are Powerful
Osborn came over to my home on three occasions to address a group of preachers on evangelism. We carefully prepared a list of questions. We asked him the first question and he took 3 1/2 hours to answer.
He taught us, “How did God create the world? He used His words. Everything God
does, He does by His words. In the Bible, we have His Word. His talk. We can use our words the same way God uses words. He talks. We have the same ability to talk. Do people get saved, blessed and healed when you talk? They do when I talk. You are like God. You have the ability to speak. God’s Word is seed. When you speak God’s words, they will work.”
7. Jesus Paid the Price
“Is there a price to be paid to be in the healing ministry?” one preacher asked Osborn. The young man wanted to discover how much prayer, fasting and Bible reading it would take to be successful in ministry.
“Yes! There is a very high price to be paid,” Osborn responded, but immediately
followed with, “But Jesus paid it all on the cross!”
In one sentence, Osborn completely changed my theology. When I was beginning in ministry, I desperately wanted to see miracles happen when I preached. I spent many long hours focusing on developing spiritual disciplines. But because of Osborn’s comment, I realized that no matter how much I fast, I will never be able to heal someone though my own effort. By myself, I cannot heal a little toe, let alone cancer or HIV. Neither can I force anyone to get saved. Healings, miracles and salvations never happen because of my effort; they happen because of what Jesus did on the cross.
Dr. Osborn’s insight took the responsibility for miracles off our own self-effort and put the responsibility directly on Jesus. Man likes to think he has paid a price to be anointed but in reality, Jesus already paid the full price. It was this revelation that made Osborn a mighty man of God.
Daniel King is a missionary evangelist who has visited more than 60 nations preaching the gospel. His goal is to lead 1 million people to Jesus every year. His new book The Call of the Soul Winner is available at kingministries.com.