Morris Cerullo, a great healing evangelist of the last generation, went to be with the Lord, on July 10th. He was 88 years old. Reverend Cerullo was from New Jersey, the child of an Italian father and a Russian Jewish mother. His parents died in a car accident while he was very young and he was subsequently raised in orphanages throughout his youth. At the age of 14 he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. He began his ministry at the age of 16 after the Holy Spirit moved upon his life and showed him a vision of people suffering in hell. He later went to bible school and was ordained with the Assemblies of God organization in the 1950s. Around this time, he married his wife, Theresa. They had three children and several grandchildren in the subsequent years.
In the seven decades of his ministry, Cerullo became known as one of “God’s Generals” - that group of evangelists who were known for their healing ministries. Powerful demonstrations of the power of God took place in Cerullo’s ministry. He traveled extensively throughout the world, including Africa, Asia, and South America, conducting gigantic evangelistic and healing campaigns and crusades. In the last two decades of his life, his ministry was mostly in the United States, in the training seminar ministry called the School of Ministry, as well in his television program Victory Today.
The Maranatha Full Gospel Church General Convention of 2007 was a gigantic milestone, in that Reverend Cerullo was our main speaker. The biggest crowd in the history of the church came that Saturday night–over 3000 people. For me personally, it was the second time in a year that I had a chance to experience his ministry. In 2006, I had the wonderful privilege of attending the Centennial Celebration of the Azusa Street Revival Conference in Los Angeles, California. Cerullo ministered in a daytime seminar on deliverance prayer. Argentinian minister Pastor Ed Silvoso ministered in the first session, and Reverend Cerullo in the second. The contrast between the two preachers could not have been starker! Pastor Silvoso was a master instructor who took a professorial approach in his class, while Revered Cerullo came at the people with such intensity–no one sat down the whole session. The energy in that room was unbelievable! Both gentlemen were incredible.
This was the first Pentecostal conference that I went to where I saw packed-out seminars. As much as 2,000 to 3,000 people jammed the floor space so much so that the Los Angeles fire chief had to intervene! People were so hungry for a touch of God. I remember hearing Reverend Cerullo scream, “The church of the living God will never be defeated!”; “The devil knows that we know, that he knows, that we know, that he knows…that he is defeated and his time is limited!” That place erupted with such an extended outpouring of powerful praise–something I will never forget.
A year later, Revered Cerullo came to Maranatha Full Gospel Church for the general convention. I had the opportunity to serve as his driver from his hotel to the church and back. That night when I took him and his wife back to their hotel, I learned a little bit about his ministry in the early years, and particularly when he first went to India in the 1970s. I had heard from people from that time about the powerful miracles that took place in the gigantic miracle crusades that took place in Chennai in the south, as well as in parts of north India. What I did not know was that he was jailed in the city of Patna in Bihar because of his ministry. He was in jail for a few days, and then released and told to immediately leave the country. But the ministry that he did there had been a resounding success, with long-lasting effects.
On a personal level, Revered Cerullo made quite an impression on me. There was a part of him that seemed ‘otherworldly’. He spoke and looked as if he was (and I do not mean this negatively) in a far off place; as if he got a glimpse of eternity and had the experience forever etched into his psyche. When he took the stage that Saturday night, everything had to be perfect.
The stage was completely cleared (even the pulpit was moved out). He stood at the center of the stage and absolutely no one was allowed to come close to him, and I mean no one. His translator had to stand a few feet behind him. When he stood on that stage, he insisted on complete control. There were things I did not understand, but I learned throughout my years in the faith that the idiosyncrasies in certain people who are in ministry have to be studied in context of the touch of God on their lives. On a personal level, it may be hard to relate to such people but as some people say in the secular world: there is “a method to the madness”.
If he commanded his ministry assistant or the translator to speak in tongues, they did so immediately. And yet, as pugnacious as his interactions could be, the Holy Spirit moved powerfully. I admire the fact that he had extreme faith and that it seemed he could confront all the powers of darkness–and they would scatter at his glance. I still remember the rush to the altar that Saturday night, and scores of people being slain in the Spirit.
On the way back to the hotel that night, as Reverend Cerullo related some of his ministry experiences, I learned that he as well as every other preacher, in regards to their particular personality, is the product of their life experiences, and not the idealistic imaginations of the observers. The gifts of the Holy Spirit had come to Revered Cerullo, but with tremendous pain and sacrifice in his life. The type of person that comes forth from such experiences is not easily understood, nor is everything about their life to be accepted; but, the grace of God is so great!
He influenced the ministry of scores of preachers and healing evangelists in the previous generation, such as Benny Hinn and Rod Parsley, and it was a privilege to be in his company for a few minutes. It must be taken into account that such preachers were part of the experience of what church scholars call the “Pentecostal Century”. They shook the world of their time with the roar of their sermons and the demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit in their ministries. Thousands upon thousands were saved, healed, and filled with the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, in our era, it is a dynamism that is sadly lacking in the Pentecostal movement, but as Revered Cerullo use to say, “the Spirit of God will continue to move upon the midst of the waters–God will always find somebody!” Amen!
I hope and pray that God will comfort his family during these days and that the ministry done by this man of God would continue to grow till Jesus Christ comes.