Aimee Semple McPherson: Biography
Aimee Semple McPherson was an evangelical leader in the 20th Century. McPherson was determined to spread her Pentecostal faith, developing followers from all over the United States and Canada. A recognized religious leader in American history, McPherson has long been the subject of films, poems, novels and songs. Despite being known as one of the most influential evangelist of her time, McPherson was also a complex, uncontainable and contentious public figure. She was a woman advanced of her time, defying traditional roles for women. McPherson established an evangelistic ministry, wildly known worldwide as the Foursquare Church. Perhaps one of McPherson’s appealing characteristics was her ability to identify with ordinary people, drawing myriads of loyal followers throughout her evangelical journey.
Born in a farm on October 1890 in Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada, McPherson was brought up in a devoted Christian home. Her father, James was a farmer and her mother Minnie worked with the poor in Salvation Army soup kitchens. When Darwinism was introduced in her school during her teenage years, McPherson began to question the Bible. When she was seventeen years old and still in high school, she attended a revival service conducted by Pentecostal evangelist Robert Semple, where she heard the message of repentance and a born-again experience. Although she resisted the message, the Holy Spirit continued to speak to her heart, convicting her of the sin in her life and of her need for a Savior (Foursquare Church). Semple helped McPherson strengthen her faith and both fell in love with each other. The two married and became missionaries in China. Unfortunately, Semple died in China of dysentery, leaving McPherson with a one-month old child (Robertson). Upon returning home, McPherson remarried to a grocery clerk, Harold S. McPherson, but the marriage ended after five years. Subsequently, she began to pursue her calling as an evangelist despite her lack of training. McPherson’s health began declining, and God continually asked her, “Now will you go? Being convinced that it was either “go” into the ministry or “go” through an untimely physical death, she answered, “yes” to God's call. Almost immediately, she was healed, and she never again questioned the call of the Lord to preach the gospel (Foursquare Church).
Devoted to obeying her promise to God, McPherson became an itinerant evangelist, preaching tent revivals in the East Coast. Her tent-show triumphs would bring an evangelist corporate power, and responsibility she did not desire (Epstein). Her preaching style was not “fire and brimstone,” which was typical in her days, but rather she showed people the love of God and His unconditional love for people. According to Edith L. Blumhofer, author of Aimee Semple McPherson, McPherson became increasingly popular in both the west and east coast of the United States: By the early 1920s, the allure of the Golden State attracted her to Los Angeles, where her flair for publicity and blend of piety and pageantry drew crows by the tens of thousands. Calling for a return to a simply biblical Christianity, McPherson strongly identified with ordinary folk, and they in turn remained passionately loyal to her. At the same time, she intuitively understood the advertising and media revolution that was transforming California and the nation. The first American woman to hold a radio broadcast license, Sister Aimee used everything from speaking at boxing matches to sponsoring floats in the Tournament of Roses Parade to stimulate interest in her message. McPherson possessed great charisma and stage presence that engaged her crowd. She welcomed everybody in her meeting, encouraging people to offer their lives to Jesus Christ to experience true satisfaction in life. She did preach to the social elite of the day, but she also reached out to the poor and to the disenfranchised members of society. She evangelized in the...
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