Maria Woodworth Etter - Herald of The 20th Century Holiness Movement
To keep in line with our blog series on revival, I wanted to introduce a lady by the name of Maria Woodworth-Etter. Maria was a walking revival, winning souls for the Lord everywhere she went. Born in 1844 in New Lisbon, Ohio, her ministry was very prominent from the later 1800’s to the early 1900’s. I had heard of Maria Woodworth-Etter’s story several times but had never done any further research on my own. Her story came to mind a few weeks ago and I felt a nudging from the Holy Spirit to read about her life. I’m so thankful I listened.
A reoccurring verse referenced in Maria’s book Signs and Wonders, is Zechariah 4:6 which says, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit’, says the Lord of hosts.” One of the impressive things about this woman is that she broke through her personal barriers that she had made for herself. She fully gave her life to the Lord and made room for Him to use her as an empty vessel. At the beginning of her ministry she would fight the fear of speaking, but she concluded that if she would just get up and open her mouth, God would fill it. His presence showed up every time. The countless miracles and teachings were not by Maria’s own ability but by the power of God. Her humility was the starting point for thousands to be saved and healed.
Repentance is Key
The thing that has stood out the most as I’ve been reading through her autobiography is the statement, “The fear of God fell.” The constant awareness of eternity and the fear of the Lord were, in my opinion, the key pieces to Maria’s ministry. She didn’t hesitate to call people out when she felt the Lord told her this was their last chance to repent. She would plead with people from the pulpit to repent. Some had hardened their hearts so much that they would leave the meeting pridefully, refusing to repent, and would be hit by a train on their journey home. The importance of repentance is something I’ve been discovering more and more. I am convinced that without repentance and the fear of the Lord, revival cannot happen. It first starts in a person’s heart.
Visions of Heaven and Hell
When she would conduct her meetings, many times the Spirit of God would first fall on those who came to mock what was being taught. The Spirit of God would cause men and women to drop as though they were dead. Some would fall for several minutes, others would be down for hours upon hours. They would have visions of heaven and hell and come out shouting praises to God. This dramatic encounter brought the fear of God strongly in the meeting and people would give their lives over to the Lord after seeing His power demonstrated so boldly in the newly saved Christian. Not only would people drop in the meeting, but people throughout the town where the meetings were held would drop and have visions of heaven and hell.
Not Just Another Meeting
The meetings weren’t just another meeting like we’re so used to today. These meetings impacted communities and invited the presence of God to brood among the people. As she went, Maria and her team would help build a new Church of God in the area. She recounts testimonies of people still on fire for God when she would return years later. It wasn’t just a temporary revival. Her willingness to be used and her obedience brought a long-lasting movement.
She Believed God
As I read about Maria’s life, I can’t help but come to the conclusion that she believed God was a God of power. She believed Him so much that she put her whole life into it. We have a tendency to keep parts of our lives because it’s convenient, comfortable, and normal. In the late 1800’s when Maria began her ministry, it was rare to find a woman speaking about God and performing miracles. She greatly contrasted the normal method of ‘church’ and believed that the God who called her was faithful to heal, deliver, and show up in power. There was nothing convenient about being carried to and from her meetings because exhaustion had overtaken her by means of traveling and speaking. When she felt like she couldn’t keep going, she got up because she believed God could move through her, regardless of her physical condition.
Healing was Common
In her book Signs and Wonders, Maria recounts testimony after testimony of miraculous healings, deliverance, baptisms, and encounters. So many of her testimonies begin with, “Physicians said they could not be cured.” People would travel for miles and days to attend the meetings in hope that the Lord would heal them. There are many stories of people being led to repentance with their physical healing following right after. She saw cancer, blindness, deafness, rheumatism, diseases, and so many other physical disabilities healed. Healing was a very normal thing that took place in the meetings, and many onlookers gave their lives to the Lord after seeing His power heal others.
Stay tuned as we continue our documentation of America's great revivals and revivalists!
-Morgan Dietz - Lead Administrator