The Family International (TFI) who were founded in the late 1960’s by David Brandt Berg is a curious Christian organization. It you research the people linked to the founding of TFI you can see a strong Pentecostal and Evangelical connection. TFI was originally founded as the Children of God (COG) and its original core members were made up of: David Brandt Berg and his immediate family, Karen Elva Zerby and a number of counter-culture 1960’s hippies who experimented with drugs.
An interesting thing to note about David Berg is that he is the son of a well-known healing evangelist named Virginia Brandt Berg. Virginia Brandt Berg could almost be described as the female version of Benny Hinn, who was engaged in revival ministries throughout the early to mid 1900’s. Virginia Brandt Berg experienced a genuine and documented miraculous healing after being cured from a chronic back injury. After calling out to God for healing, God answered Virginia’s prayer and healed her. This miraculous healing led Virginia to become an evangelist and she preached at various revival meetings and also prayed for the sick. She obviously had a powerful testimony of healing and she also prayed for the sick and became a well-known healing evangelist in the Christian world.
Many people describe Pentecostal Christians as those who believe in the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit described in the book of first Corinthians as described below.
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:7-10)
Virginia Brandt Berg was certainly a Pentecostal Christian in my opinion. She believed in the gifts of the Holy Spirit (in particular the gift of healing) and she had also experienced this healing power after being healed from a chronic back injury. She also wrote a book about this healing experience called, “By the hem of his garment.” This Pentecostal belief was passed onto her son, David Brandt Berg, who did believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and who had the gift of prophecy. David Berg regularly wrote about his prophetic messages in his well-known Mo letters (his primary communication to his followers). It seems that Virginia Brandt Berg had the gift of healing and her son had the gift of prophecy. David Berg seemed to have some kind of visual prophetic seer gift as God communicated to him through visions and dreams. David Berg’s visions and dreams formed the foundational doctrines of the Children of God (COG) which later became known as The Family International (TFI). If one fairly evaluates the history and founding of TFI/COG it is clear that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were very involved. Virginia Brandt Berg and her son David who both carried different gifts from the Holy Spirit, played a principal role in the founding of this organization. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were an integral aspect of starting this spiritual Christian organization.
The founders of TFI came from a Pentecostal, gifts of the Holy Spirit and missionary background. Both David Brandt Berg and Virginia Brandt Berg were members of the Christian Missionary Alliance. David Berg was also working for a televangelism ministry with Fred Jordan (well-known TV evangelist) prior to starting up the Children of God. If you examine TFI at present they do believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and current TFI member Michael Basham uses the gift of prophecy to help people.
The Family International (TFI) recently went through a reboot process where members were required to work secular jobs in the community, instead of living in communes and working as full time missionaries. This was certainly a big change from what TFI members were used to. As TFI seeks to find a fresh vision and re-invent itself into the calling God has for them, I believe a new vision for their calling can be found in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As TFI members seek the gifts of the Holy Spirit I believe they will discover the tools they need to do what God wants them to do. TFI started with the gift of prophecy and with the gift of healing, and when members continue to seek out these spiritual gifts I believe God will lead them into the right direction.
Those wishing to read more about Virginia Brandt Berg can visit her official website.
It’s clear that The Family International (TFI)/ Children of God (COG) have a history of being linked to: healing evangelism, prominent preachers, televangelism and well known missionaries. The gifts of the Holy Spirit and Pentecostalism are an important part of TFI’s history and founding, and I think if TFI members study the life of Virginia Brandt Berg and the healing evangelists before her which included: Alexander Dowie and John G Lake, then they would get an understanding of the original power which propelled Virginia Berg and her son David. I think the history of the Pentecostal movement in the United States played a role in the ministry of Virginia Berg, and the Pentecostal movement made its way into the life of David Brandt Berg in the form of a unique prophecy gift which guided one of the most: peculiar, unique and counter culture Christian movements the world had ever seen. David Berg’s bizarre, intriguing and eventful prophetic seer gift had the abstract and unique characteristics which fitted directly into the 1960’s hippy movement. David’s prophetic gift was relevant to the hippies as they were interested in abstract art and the creative spiritual side of life. Those who read David Berg’s Mo letters can observe the abstractness and intriguing spirituality of his spiritual communications, and as you read these Mo letters it’s clear that the hippies of the 1960’s, would have been receptive to this type of communication.
If one studies the Pentecostal movement in the United States it seems as if it started with Alexander Dowie (who originally was a preacher in Australia), who had the greatest healing ministry the world had ever seen. The Pentecostal anointing was then imparted to John G Lake who served under Dowie, and then this healing anointing moved through various other people such as Virginia Brandt Berg. It seems as if this Pentecostal anointing manifested through the life of David Brandt Berg in the form of prophetic visions and dreams. David Berg definitely inherited this Pentecostal anointing from his mother, however it manifested itself in a different way as God had a certain ministry planned for David Berg, and it seems his prophetic seer gift (visual prophecy) was the right tool he needed for reaching out to the hippies.
Alexander Dowie was a person fed up with the regular church system. After becoming enraged that preachers were just praying the regular prayer, “bless this person as they move into the next life” prayer for people who were terminally ill, he began taking God’s word at face value after believing that prayers in Jesus name could heal people. After many of his church members started getting the plague and dying, instead of just allowing them to die he prayed great prayers of faith and they were healed on the spot. Dowie’s faith in God was so powerful that regardless of what disease a person had, if they came to him they would be healed immediately. People in wheelchairs, people dying and even Abraham Lincoln’s cousin are documented as being healed by the prayers of Alexander Dowie. At one stage Hospitals were closing down in Dowie’s city because nobody needed their services. Dowie’s church was decorated with wheelchairs, leg-braces and walking sticks to remind people of God’s healing power. Dowie hated the mainstream churches, he called them dead lifeless churches who did not know the power of God. Dowie preached the supernatural power of God and was against people going to the hospital or using medicine. Great faith like this was rarely heard of, but Dowie just didn’t talk the talk, he walked the walk as his prayers in Jesus name would heal anyone. It was the most remarkable ministry for Jesus Christ the world had ever seen, it was almost a second coming of the book of Acts and the Apostle Paul’s ministry, as nobody had heard of or seen these types of miracles since Biblical times. As Alexander Dowie began his healing ministry in Australia, he then travelled to the United States and God’s Pentecostal super power came with him. The name of Jesus was lifted up in the United States, as Dowie travelled the US in Jesus name and unleashed God’s healing power upon the people. This was not fake, this was not religious entertainment; this was the old fashioned religion observed by the Israelites when Jesus and the Apostles walked the streets of the Middle East. The blind were healed, the ears of the deaf were opened and all manner of sicknesses and diseases were healed. Alexander Dowie took Australia and the United States by storm, and if you research this man’s life, he was certainly a man chosen by God to preach the truth and do exploits in Jesus name.
Below is an extract from the writings of Alexander Dowie which explain how he discovered the healing power of Jesus in a most controversial and eventful manner.
“A loud ring and several loud raps at the outer door, a rush of feet, and then at my door two panting messengers who said, ‘ Oh, come at once, Mary is dying; come and pray.’ With such a feeling as a shepherd has who hears that his sheep are being torn from the fold by a cruel wolf, I rushed from my house, ran hatless down the street, and entered the room of the dying maiden. There she lay groaning, grinding her clinched teeth in the agony of the conflict with the destroyer, the white froth, mingled with her blood, oozing from her pained distorted mouth. I looked at her and then my anger burned, “Oh,” I thought, “For some sharp sword of heavenly temper keen to slay this cruel foe, who is strangling that lovely maiden like an invisible serpent, tightening his deadly coils for a final victory.”
In a strange way it came to pass; I found the sword I needed was in my hands, and in my hand, I hold it still, and never will I lay it down. The doctor, a good Christian man, was quietly walking up and down the room, sharing the mother’s pain and grief. Presently he stood at my side and said, “Sir, are not God’s ways mysterious?” Instantly the sword was flashing in my hand, the Spirit’s Sword, the Word of God. “God’s way!” I said, pointing to the scene of conflict, “How dare you, Dr. K—, call that God’s way of bringing His children home from earth to heaven? No, sir, that is the devil’s work, and it is time we called on Him who came to “destroy the work of the Devil,” to slay that deadly foul destroyer, and to save the child. Can you pray, Doctor, can you pray the prayer of faith that saves the sick?” At once, offended at my words, my friend was changed, and saying, “you are too much excited, sir, ‘tis is best to say, God’s will be done,” he left the room. Excited! The word was quite inadequate for I was almost frenzied with divinely imparted anger and hatred of that foul destroyer, disease which was doing Satan’s will. “It is not so, I exclaimed, “No will of God sends such cruelty, and I shall never say God’s will be done to Satan’s works, which God’s own Son came to destroy, and this is one of them.” Oh, how the Word of God was burning in my heart: “Jesus of Nazareth went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil: For God was with Him.” And was not God with me? And was not Jesus there and all His promise true? I felt that it was even so, and turning to the mother, I inquired, “Why did you send for me?” To which she answered, “Do pray, oh, pray for her that God may raise her up.” And so we prayed. What did I say? It may be that I cannot now recall the words without mistake, but words are in themselves of small importance. The prayer of faith may be a voiceless prayer, a simple heartfelt look of confidence into the face of Christ. At such a moment words were few, but they mean much, for God is looking at the heart. Still, I can remember much of that prayer until this day, and asking God to aid I will endeavor to recall it. I cried:
“Our Father, help! and Holy Spirit teach me how to pray. Plead thou for us, oh, Jesus, Saviour, Healer, Friend, our Advocate with the Father. Hear and heal Eternal One! From all disease and death deliver this sweet child of thine. I rest upon the Word. We claim the promise now, The Word is true, “I am the Lord that healeth thee.” Then heal her now. The Word is true, ” I am the Lord, I change not.” Unchanging God, then prove Thyself the Healer now. The Word is true, “These signs shall follow them that believe, in my Name they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.” And I believe and I lay hands in Jesus Name on her, and claim this promise now. The Word is true, ‘The prayer of faith shall save the sick’ Trusting in Thee alone, I cry, oh save her now, for Jesus sake, Amen!”
And lo, the maid lay still in sleep, so deep and sweet that the mother said in a low whisper, “Is she dead?” “No, ” I answered in a whisper lower still, “Mary will live, the fever is gone. She is perfectly well and sleeping as an infant sleeps.” Smoothing the long dark hair from her now peaceful brow, and feeling the steady pulsation of her heart and cool, moist hands, I saw that Christ had heard and that once more, as long ago in Peter’s house, “He touched her and the fever left her.” Turning to the nurse I said, “Get me at once, please, a cup of cocoa and several slices of bread and butter.” Beside the sleeping maid, we sat quietly and almost silently until the nurse returned, and then I bent over her and snapping my fingers said, “Mary!” Instantly she woke, smiled and said, “Oh sir, when did you come? I have slept so long, then stretching out her arms to meet her mother’s embrace, she said “Mother, I feel so well.” “And hungry too?” I said, pouring some of the cocoa in a saucer and offering it to her when cooled by my breath. “Yes hungry too,” she answered with a little laugh, and drank and ate again and yet again, until all was gone. In a few minutes she fell asleep, breathing easily and softly. Quietly thanking God we left her bed and went to the next room where the brother and sister also lay sick of the same fever. With those two we also prayed, and they were healed. The following day all three were well and in a week or so they brought to me a little letter and a little gift of gold, two sleeve links with my monogram, which I wore for many years. As I went away from the home where Christ as the Healer had been victorious, I could not but have somewhat in my heart of the triumphant song that rang through heaven, and yet I was not a little amazed at my own strange doings and still more at my discovery that He is just the same today. And this is the story of how I came to preach the Gospel of healing through Faith in Jesus.”” (Leaves of Healing, February 15, 1895)
The above extract was taken from Alexander Dowie’s leaves of healing newsletters. These letters were very similar to David Berg’s Mo letters, but instead of talking about David Berg’s prophetic visions and dreams, it talked about the healing power of Jesus Christ. It seemed that Dowie and Berg did have similar ministries but they both had contrasting gifts imparted to them by the Holy Spirit. Berg had his prophetic gift to communicate God’s message to the creative and counter culture hippies, and Dowie had his miracle and healing gift to communicate God’s miracle power to the powerless churches and the sick. Dowie had a massive ministry and people would often crowd around his church as people were desperate for God’s healing power. Berg also had a popular ministry as the spiritually hungry hippies of the 1960’s, were desperate to hear God’s message in a relevant way that appealed to them. They also wanted to hear what God had to say through the prophetic communication coming through Berg. It seems God gives different people different gifts for different seasons. But as we reflect upon the life of Alexander Dowie, we should see a man who brought the Pentecostal healing anointing of God to the United States, and this same power was also seen in the life of Virginia Brandt Berg. These events are known as the Pentecostal movement of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The ministry of Dowie gave birth to a Pentecostal revival movement in the United States that was far different to anything the mainstream churches had ever seen.
No healing evangelist ever mirrored the healing ministry of Alexander Dowie. This was a man whose prayers would heal any disease. He had the gift of healing and the gift of miracles permanently in his being, and his faith in Jesus name would leave a person instantly in health regardless of their disability. Virginia Brandt Berg experienced some of this healing power after calling out to God to heal her back injury, and her healing ministry did touch the lives of many others. As we follow God’s supernatural power ministry from Australia and to the United States in the life of Dowie, we can see how this anointing did touch the founders of The Family International (TFI). As I reflect and study the reboot of TFI I am aware that only a supernatural Pentecostal anointing can guide TFI into their next interlude. At present this anointing is at work through members such as Michael Basham who are using the gift of prophecy to encourage others, and this may be an impartation from David Brandt Berg whose primary gift was prophecy. The anointing you value and are connected to is the anointing that often imparts onto you, and because people such as Basham are connected to Berg through their TFI membership this anointing is manifesting through them.
In conclusion if we observe the history of Pentecostalism in the United States and Australia and connect it to the founding of the The Family International (TFI), then we can see how these ministries are connected and how God has moved throughout the last century. I think this old fashioned Pentecostal movement will revive and connect with TFI in the last days, and I think you will see a lot of Pentecostals find common ground with TFI and some sort of merging will take place. These are just my personal thoughts and I thought I’d take the time to share. God bless.