Aimee Semple McPherson: Legend in Her Own Time
I love a good story, and all my life I have been connecting with heroes who inspire and motivate me. People who battle through the contradictions of life and swim upstream to make a mark on the world hold a special place in my heart. Someone once said that we are most impacted by the people we meet and the books we read. I believe this is true. So when I can I try and get two birds with one stone by reading a good biography. Sister Aimee: The Life of Aimee Semple McPherson, impacted me to the core and left me thinking for many weeks after I put it down.
Daniel Mark Epstein has written a fascinating, thoroughly researched biography of an amazing woman: Aimee Semple McPherson. Hers is a remarkable story on many levels. Here was a twenty-something mom who threw off the comforts of home, packed her two children, and set off to evangelize America at a time when women could not even vote. A woman preacher was unheard-of and in some quarters even unthinkable. Sister Aimee stepped out in faith and God rewarded her with one of the most powerful, far reaching ministries in church history. While her story is not without controversy, the fruit of her ministry is incontrovertable. It can be argued that this one woman made a bigger impact on her generation than any Christian in modern times. In baseball, a 5 tool player is someone who can hit for average, hit for power, run fast, field well and throw strong and accurately. Such players are rare. Aimee Semple McPherson was a 5 tool minister of the gospel, a superstar and Titan of the Christian faith.
Lover of People
Sister Aimee had a passionate love for Jesus and for people. Tens of thousands of men women and children—blind, the deaf, the lame, were healed when she prayed for them. Reporters from the biggest newspapers across the country, accompanied by medical professionals, attested to the authenticity of her healing ministry. As a pastor she preached 21 sermons a week, established a Bible College and in spite of her non-denominational leanings, ended up spawning a denomination—The Church of the International Foursquare Gospel— that would plant missionary focused churches around the globe. Today there are 68,000 Foursquare churches in 136 countries.
A Legend In Her Own Time
She made a splash everywhere she went, packing out the largest auditoriums in the world, launching a media empire that was the envy of her contemporaries, and sharing the Gospel with celebrities and the people of the streets. Aimee Semple McPherson was an optimistic dispenser of grace, showcasing in her sermons the love of God, redemption, the joys of service and the hope of heaven. This contrasted sharply with the fire-and-brimstone style of sermon delivery popular with many of her peers. People from all walks of life loved her and they flocked by the thousands to be where she was.
This is biography at its finest. Daniel Mark Epstein has given us a very rewarding read on a remarkable human being who was a household name in the 20’s and 30’s but virtually is unknown today. Epstein goes to great lengths to give us stories and anecdotes in colorful detail. He brought this precious treasure out of the church attic and into the full light of day for me. I loved what I saw. When I was finished, I wanted to read it again.
Featured quote from the book:
“It happened not in the misty, nebulous long ago, to white robed men and women in a time that we cannot quite visualize as ever having had reality, but to children and men and women who had street addresses and telephone numbers, who came in automobiles and not on camel-back by caravan, as it was said they did long ago. The blind saw again; the deaf heard. Cripples left their crutches and hung them on the rafters.” (Louise Weick, The San Francisco Chronicle, 1921)