Rex Humbard (1919 – 2007) was an American evangelist who became the world’s first televangelist. His first TV broadcast was in 1949, but he had a weekly nationwide TV show, Cathedral of Tomorrow, that ran from 1952 through 1983.
Humbard, (Alpha) Rex (Emmanuel) (1919-) Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, to an itinerant evangelist and his wife, Rex Humbard became an itinerant preacher himself until he and his wife, Maude Aimee, settled in Akron, Ohio, in 1952. There he formed a nondenominational church that would eventually be called the Cathedral of Tomorrow. Influenced by Kathyn Kuhlman, with whom he sometimes conducted revival meetings, Humbard was one of the first preachers to make a foray into television. Maude Aimee, a gospel singer who began singing publicly at the age of nine, appeared regularly on the telecasts.
Humbard’s background and theology were vaguely pentecostal, and he preached healing through prayer and anointing with oil, although he did not emphasize the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and refused the designation “pentecostal.” Questions were raised in 1973 about Humbard’s handling of funds, but the church and the television ministry survived. He resigned the pastorate of the Cathedral of Tomorrow in 1983 in favor of Wayne Jones, his brother-in-law.
– Source: Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism, Randall Balmer. Baylor University Press, Waco, Tx. 2004, page. 347
He was known for having a huge emphasis on money (that is, your money to be sent to him). Like many other televangelists he used an array of marketing gimmicks, such as “prayer cloths” and “faith nails” — all designed to get people to send in their donations.
For instance, a March 1984 mass mailing signed by Humbard included a pewter, old-fashioned nail, with the text:
“So here’s what I want you to do:
- Write out every need in your life on the enclosed prayer request.
- Push the nail through your prayer requests as an act of faith. Pray about your special requests and then remove the nail and keep it as our point of contact.
- Place your best sacrificial Easter gift for God’s work in the enclosed offering envelope.
- Send the offering envelope and your prayer requests in the return envelope I have provided.
A year earlier a donation to his ministry would get you a ‘free’ vial with a few drops of ‘annointing oil,’ along with this message:
“Open this anointing oil. Don’t waste a drop. The spirit of Jesus is represented by this faith oil. Make a cross on your forehead with it, then by faith, go into a room by yourself and take out any money you have and make a cross on each bill. Do this in faith for God to head your money problems. Anoint your check book if you have one. Believe God to multiply your money according to Luke 6:38. Remember Jas 2:20 says that faith without works is dead. Do this as an act of faith. If for any reason you can’t do this please return this oil and I’ll mail it to another family.”
Humbard also mass-mailed ‘prayer clothes,’ along with a ‘personalized’ letter that said, “Here I loan you my faith handkerchief in Jesus to start a miracle in your live.”
The letter, which promised financial rewards throughout, ended with:
Rush this scripturally based “faith handkerchief” back to me, for I must write something which I feel about you in the spirit as I pray for you. Non, when I get this “faith handkerchief” back from you, with your name printed in it, I an going to pray a special prayer for a special miracle for you. This handkerchief is going to represent you in this special prayer. I ask you, right non, to get out the largest bill or check you have and give it to the work we are doing for God through this ministry. It may be $10.00, $15.00 or $20.00. Give it as an act of faith. I feel in my heart that I must pray for you right away. I don’t know if something has happened, is happening non, or is about to happen. I just know the spirit of the Lord is in this faith letter, speaking to you as you read these words. Please obey the holy spirit and let God’s blessings be bestowed upon you. I’m waiting for you to return to me this “faith handkerchief”, with your name and the name of a loved one printed in the center of it. You are holding a handkerchief belonging to a man of God, a man who believes God is about to answer prayer for you and me as we pray together. Place this “faith handkerchief” in your bible and believe, as I do, that the window of heaven are about to open for the meeting of your needs.
By 1977, Humbard’s supporters — who were getting begging letters as often as twice a weeek — were sending in an average of $1.2 million a month.
Rex Humbard died in September, 2007.
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