Maria Woodworth-Etter: A woman who walked with God

Maria Woodworth-Etter in 1880 began her dynamic ministry, despite the fact that she had little formal education and didn’t start preaching until she was age 35.

She had a husband who didn’t share her call to the ministry and wanted nothing more than to stay on their Ohio farm.

Even though very few women were in the pulpit at the time, Maria didn’t doubt her call.

She had gone coast to coast at least three times by 1894. In her earlier ministry she emphasized conversions and was very successful in meetings sponsored by Methodists, United Brethren, Churches of God, and other groups. Then in 1883 people in her meetings began going into trances similar to what happened in the Early Frontier meetings.

She was soon dubbed the “Trance Evangelist,” though she believed the experience was the baptism in the Holy Spirit or “receiving the power.”

During an 1883 meeting in Fairview, Ohio, Maria wrote that the people confessed sin and “prayed for a baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire.” Fifteen people came to the altar screaming for mercy and fell over in trances. Even at that early date, Maria called it “the Pentecostal power,” adding that “these outpourings of the Holy Ghost were always followed by hundreds coming to Christ.”

In a huge meeting in Alexandria, Indiana, Woodworth reported that the power of God took control of about 500 of the 25,000 people, causing many to fall to the ground. “The Holy Ghost sat upon them,” she wrote. “I was overpowered.”

By 1885 she had developed a theology that included salvation, holiness, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, healing, and the imminent return of Christ.

She was also big on prophecies, part of the excitement that helped fill an 8,000 seat tent from city to city.

An 1887 newspaper quoted Maria in an Illinois meeting, giving her a powerful voice before the beginning of the Pentecostal movement.
“The power which was given to the apostles in their day had never been taken from the church. The trouble was, the churches had sunk to the level of the world and were without the unlimited faith that will heal the sick and make the lame to walk. She prayed for the return of the old days and more faith in Christ among the people.”

May God raise many like her in our generation.

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