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February 20, 2016 marks the 40th anniversary of the death of the world-renowned Christian evangelist, Kathryn Kuhlman. Kathryn passed away on February 20, 1976 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, leaving behind both a church and world impacted by her massive ministry. While her life has been well documented, the details of her earliest years, and the battle that almost ended her ministry, remained in obscurity. The details of those early years, however, shine a light on the amazing grace and mercy of God.     

From July 1937 through May 1939, Kathryn both ministered at and presided over Radio Chapel, a grand ministry of evangelism, revival, and salvation located in the Heartland of America. Radio Chapel was a church unlike any other. It was pioneered in Mason City, Iowa, in 1937 by Burroughs Waltrip, the “Louisiana Pulpiteer,” and Kathryn Kuhlman, the “Girl Evangelist,” and quickly became a powerful ministry base of revival and one of the most spectacular non-denominational churches to grace the American landscape of that day.
Burroughs came to the Heartland with a dream of bringing salvation to thousands through his dynamic and unique end-time preaching. Kathryn, meanwhile was making massive strides in the Pentecostal movement as the passionate, yet eloquent pastor of the famed Denver Revival Tabernacle. For a brief time, Burroughs and Kathryn, who would marry in 1938, took America’s Heartland by storm and shook its religious foundations. These were some of the earliest, most obscure and misunderstood years of Kathryn’s ministry. These were known as her Radio Chapel years.     

At the height of Radio Chapel’s success, the church was conducting services six days a week, broadcasting daily over the radio, and hosting both national and international speakers. Attendance at these services could run upward of one thousand people per night with dozens of decisions for Christ following every meeting.
Kathryn was effectively pastoring and preaching at two churches: one in Mason City, Iowa, and the other in Denver, Colorado—frequently traveling the distance of almost 800 miles to serve both congregations. Radio Chapel published its own monthly magazine and routinely pursued evangelistic outreaches in the surrounding states and country. It truly lived up to its label, “The Most Unique Church in the World.”
Radio Chapel’s spectacular beginning was eclipsed only by its thunderous collapse. Saddled with immense debt, a lawsuit, governmental opposition, strife from surrounding churches and souring public opinion, it was over as quickly as it had begun. All of this transpired in a short span of just twenty-three months. It is well known that the marriage between Burroughs and Kathryn later ended in divorce in April 1947. After their divorce, Burroughs quickly faded into obscurity, eventually disappearing and never to be heard from again by either family or friends. As for Kathryn, she went on to achieve international honor and recognition as one of the most influential faith preachers of the Twentieth Century.     

To dismiss Kathryn’s life and ministry before or during her marriage and divorce would be unwise. We would not so easily dismiss the life of Moses before he slew the Egyptian, the life of David before he committed adultery with Bathsheba, or the life of Peter before he denied the Lord Jesus Christ. The greatest lessons to be learned are the ones gleaned from the lives of those who fought the ever-present fight between good and evil, light and darkness, right and wrong. Life can become dark at times, yet great and mighty things can come out of those darkest seasons.     

It has always been the nature of hateful people to attempt to crush the gifts and callings that God has entrusted to His servants, and it will continue to be so until Christ’s return. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.”  (2 Thess. 3:1-2 NASB).

One of Satan’s most effective methods for hindering the spread of the Gospel is to use faithless people to attack and slander the efforts of God’s preachers. Such an assignment was successful against Burroughs Waltrip, Kathryn Kuhlman, and the vision of Radio Chapel in Mason City, Iowa as they encountered overwhelming opposition from both inside and outside the walls of their own church.

As a preacher, it must have been a horrible thing for Kathryn to behold false brethren – perverse and evil people – side with the enemy in order to reject and betray her. Had she succumbed to the fallout of that assault by burying her talents in shame, the world would have never been exposed to her great faith and passion for Jesus Christ. However, like the proverbial Phoenix that rises from the ashes, Kathryn did just the same by overcoming the adversity and dishonor that visited her life. She discovered that rejection and betrayal in one city did not equate to rejection and betrayal in the rest of the nation.

Entrusting herself to the limitless grace and mercy of the Heavenly Father, Kathryn pulled herself back from the brink of ministerial ruin and redoubled her efforts for the Kingdom of God. She would never be content with her talents being buried in the earth; she could never live without knowing what her and God “could have done.”  Paul went on to say, “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3 NASB). Kathryn placed her faith in the strength and faithfulness of God – reengaged – and never looked back. The rest, as they say, is history.

Shane Philpott Ministries
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Shane Philpott
Web site: Shane Philpott Ministries
Shane Philpott is a pastor, speaker, and author who pioneered Christian Fellowship Church in Mason City, Iowa in 1993. He also travels as an itinerate preacher, bringing encouragement to churches and conferences throughout the nation with the purpose of strengthening both leaders and believers. Shane considers it an honor to be the friend of pastors and ministers throughout America, and his highest priority is the edification of Christians.

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