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Do You Know? :: William Biederwolf

William E. Biederwolf
1867 - 1939

William Biederwolf was born in 1867, the seventh child of German immigrants. He was raised in Monticello, Indiana. Presbyterians produced some of the most noteworthy evangelists of the late 1800s and early 1900s and notable among them was William E. Biederwolf.
William's parents were Presbyterians. Early in life he vowed to become a Christian. However, it did not happen until he was twenty years of age. By then he was teaching for a living. A Sunday School class began praying for him and each of the kids wrote him a letter, urging him to come out on the side of Christ. One boy even hooked up his mule team and drove over to invite William to church and offer him a ride. William went, and made the decision to use his life for Jesus.
In April 1896, William married Ida Casad, who also grew up in Monticello. In the fall of 1886, he enrolled at Wabash College and in 1890 went to Princeton University where he played football and graduated in 1894. During the summers he worked in the city rescue missions in New York and Pennsylvania. Following graduation from the University, he attended the seminary at Princeton.
His first ministry after graduation was in assisting an evangelist, B. Fay Mills. In 1896, because of a fellowship from Princeton, he studied Greek at the University of Berlin in Germany. After this, he traveled extensively in Palestine, before returning to the United Stated in 1897.
In 1897, Biederwolf was ordained by the Presbyterian Church and his first pastorate was the Broadway Presbyterian Church in Logansport, Indiana. Soon he left to serve in the Spanish-American War as a chaplain for the 161 Indiana Volunteer Infantry. His first book was about his time of service with his regiment.
After his military service, he returned to the Broadway church where he served two more years before resigning in 1900 to enter full time evangelistic work, a work that would be the passion of his heart for the next thirty-five years.
For a number of years, he spent much of his time assisting in the evangelistic campaigns of J. Wilbur Chapman. As he became a more familiar name, he began to hold his own meetings. Between 1910 and 1920, he was often listed with Chapman and Billy Sunday as one of the leading evangelists in the country. Besides city-wide meetings, he also was involved in attempts to organize state-wide simultaneous meetings.
Some of the highlights of his extensive ministry include:
  • In 1923-1924, a preaching tour of the Far East
  • President of the Interdenominational Association of Evangelists
  • Chairman of the Commission on Evangelism of the Federal Council of Churches
  • In 1909, he began the Family Altar League which encouraged members of families to pray and have devotions together.
  • From 1922-1939, he served as director of the Winona Lake Bible Conference. He also served as director of the Winona School of Theology from 1922-1933 and was president from 1933-1939.
  • Pastor of the Royal Poinciana Chapel in Palm Beach, Florida, from 1929 until his death in September of 1939.
  • Numerous books of sermons which can often be found by searching
  • He received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1931 and an honorary Doctor of Laws from Bever College in 1934.
  • Perhaps his greatest campaign was in Oil City, Pennsylvania, in the bitter winter of 1914. The Tabernacle was enlarged twice to accommodate the crowds. Many were saved including the mayor, doctors, lawyers, factory workers and young people. The impact of the meeting was city wide.
  • One of his best known books is the Millennium Bible, (now known as The Second Coming Bible). Realizing one day that in twenty years of preaching, he had never given a sermon on the return of Christ, and recognizing how little he knew about it, Biederwolf made himself a master of the subject, digging out every scripture that speaks of the second coming and researching the different interpretations that theologians have given those passages. He summarized his findings and gave his own best opinions.
  • As an evangelist, it is said that he pictured himself as pitted personally against the Devil, and he went all out to convert men, women and children to Christ, snatching them out of Satan's grasp.
  • Typical of his teaching is this: "I see a farmer's son sowing wheat, and I say to him, 'Don't you know you'll raise a crop of wheat here?' He smiles a pitying sort of smile and says, 'Certainly, you poor preacher, what do you suppose I'm planting for?' But I say to that same farmer lad, 'Sow thoughts of lust and you'll reap a licentious life.' He smiles a different smile and says, 'Oh, I guess there's not much danger;' but in the day when your passions get the better of you, you'll wish you had remembered the lesson you learned down on the farm."
  • After a lengthy illness, Biederwolf died. The night before, he said to his wife Ida, "I am soon going to exchange my cross for a crown." She was holding his hand when his eyes shut for the last time. He was 71 when he died.

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