Demos Sakarian and the His Ecumenical Businessmen

Demos Sakarian and the His Ecumenical Businessmen
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Breakfast with the Holy Spirit: The FGBMFI: [1]

 

In many countries of the world one can go to a fashionable hotel and find a Saturday breakfast meeting of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International (FGBMFI). There they will see businessmen raising their hands in adoration and praise to the Lord. A speaker, most likely not an ordained minister, would give a talk or Bible teaching, and others would be invited to witness to what the Lord has done in their lives. At times the “MC” – facilitator of these breakfast meetings would ask those present to raise their hands in recognition as he called out the major denominations, Baptist, Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, etc. This ritual makes it clear to all that these breakfast meetings were ecumenical fellowships.[2]

The FGBMFI has brought the Gospel to millions of men all over the world, and then immediately baptized many of them in the Holy Spirit –something few other churches or para-churches are likely to do. This has been done mostly by the thousands (and ultimately hundreds of thousands) of members taking the trouble to invite unbelieving friends, nominal Christians, and outright skeptics to the meetings with the lure of a free breakfast. In these meeting there have always been a steady stream of healings and deliverance prayer that occurs either across the breakfast table, in a healing line, or in spontaneous prayer groups that form as the official meeting adjourn. This is evangelization as in the Hebrews 2: 1-4 model at its best.

Most Church historians date the beginning of the Charismatic Renewal at 1960, with the incident at St. Marks in California, when the Rev. Dennis Bennett declared before his congregation that he spoke in tongues. But if by the Charismatic Renewal is meant the coming of Pentecostalism to mainline Christians, a good case can be made that the Renewal really began a decade earlier with the founding of the FGBMFI. It was in these meetings that thousands of men from the mainline denominations met in worshipful, ecumenical fellowship and received the Gifts of the Spirit. In the United States, where the FGBMFI began, thousands of persons received the Gifts of the Spirit in FGBMFI meetings during the 1950s, and hundreds of thousands in the 1960s and 1970s. In fact, the FGBMFI was the major institution driving the remarkable expansion of Renewalist (Pentecostal, Charismatic and “Third Wave”) churches during those decades.  But back in the 1950s it served as a “Holy Ghost holding tank” for thousands of persons in the mainline denominations who were baptized by the Spirit, but could not practice the Gifts in their churches, but they could and did at the Saturday breakfast meetings.

 

From Armenia to California:                        

This grand and influential para-church ministry had its roots in the Shakarian family, which fled Armenia in 1900 and settled in California.  In Armenia they had belonged to a congregation of believers that had roots in an 1850’s Russian revival which manifested some of the Gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.  They worshiped in barns and homes and were independent from the majority Armenia Orthodox Church. In 1900 a local prophet warned the fellowship of impending doom, and he urged migration to America. Many did, including the Shakarian family. In fact, after World War I broke out, Turkey began a mass deportation of Armenians to the Mesopotamian desert (1916). This resulted in genocide of perhaps one million Armenians.

Safe in California, Isaac Shakarian and his wife established a small dairy farm and wholesale vegetable business, and both prospered. Like his father’s home in Armenia, the Shakarian home in California became a house-church on Sundays. The congregation embraced the Azusa St. Revival from the beginning as an extension of their own experiences in Armenia. Into this family environment their boy, Demos was born (1913).

Demos developed as a faith filled Christian. At thirteen, while attending Sunday church and praising the Lord he experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues. Unlike most others of his generation, he was in a congregation that understood the experience. The shout went out, “Demos’s got the Spirit!”[3]

Years later Demos’ sister, Florence, was involved in a horrendous car accident. That accident broke many of her bones, shredded her pelvis bones, and left her with third degree burns all over her back. Bone fragments were gravitating towards the internal organs, and the prognosis was not hopeful. The physicians had braced her body in wires and counterweights to keep her shattered pelvis immobile.

Shakarian’s church went into a day of prayer and fasting. Demos prayed for his sister and was able to alleviate her pain, but there was little healing. His sister was dying. He heard that the anointed Pentecostal healing evangelist, Dr, Charles Price, was at a nearby town and went to fetch hem. Dr. Price came to the hospital, and after laying hands on Florence’s forehead with oil prayed:

“Lord Jesus” he said, “we thank you for being here. We thank you for healing our sister.”…

All at once, on the high bed, Florence twisted. Dr. Price jumped back as one of the heavy steel traction weights swung past his head. Florence rolled to one side as far as the wires would allow, then to the other….for twenty incredible minuets Florence continued to toss and roll in her wire prison. ….[Then] Florence lay still on her bed, gradually the weights ceased their circling. For a long moment she stared at me.

“Demos,” she whispered, Jesus healed me.”[4]

The hospital staff was astounded at what the x-rays revealed: where the day before there was a gaggle of shattered bones, now there was only the merest trace of bone injures, as if the accident had happened years ago. Florence’s dramatic healing began a life long friendship with the Dr. Price.

Demos married in 1933. He and his wife Rose decided to rededicate their lives to God and to serve the church. Demos knew he was not called to preach, so he began by renting a tent for a local Pentecostal preacher and sponsoring his revival. The family dairy business began to prosper and grow, and he continued to be both businessman and church booster. This continued throughout the war years (1941-1945) when, due to gas shortages and rationing, running revivals became especially difficult.

 

Founding of the FGBMFI:

It was at these revivals where Demos noticed that, unlike his Armenian-American congregation, very few men attended the events. Dr. Price informed him that this was common to the American church. He explained: “Sure, we clergy can give comfort and counsel to a man who’s down and out, but what about the man who makes it?…ministers like me don’t even know the language.”[5] Without knowing it Dr. Price planted the seed that would bear the greatest fruit in Demos’ life.

After the end of World War II (1945), Demos committed to sponsor and manage a major revival in Fresno. But when the time came for the revival he found himself in a business crisis of the family’s feed enterprise which needed daily attention. He chose to stay in Fresno and attend to the revival and God’s interests first. Miraculously, in the midst of the revival, the Lord sold that business for a profit. Demos then used the money to expand his dairy herd. That business prospered to the point of becoming the largest privately owned dairy in America.

Demos continued to sponsor Pentecostal events in California and especially the LA area, and as a byproduct created network of Pentecostal businessmen and professionals who contributed their money and skills to various rallies and revivals. Demos’ activities also made him friends with the major healing revivalists of the post-War era. He was especially close to Oral Roberts who had stayed at the Shakarian home several times. In the fall of 1951 Demos chaired and organized a large crusade for Oral Roberts in LA. Demos shared with Roberts his dream of establishing a fellowship for lay persons. Demos explained:

It’s a group – a group of men. Not exceptional men. Just average business people who know the Lord and love Him, but haven’t known how to show it.”

“And what does this group do?”

“They tell other men, Oral. No theories. They tell what they’ve actually experienced of God to other men like themselves – men who might not believe what a preacher said – even someone like you – but he will listen to a plumber or dentist or salesman because there’re plumbers and dentists and salesmen themselves.” [6]

 

Oral Roberts affirmed that his dream was from the Lord, and promised to be the first gust speaker. In October of 1951 the first meeting of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International was held at the upper room of Clifton’s cafeteria in Los Angeles. It was a place that could accommodate several hundred persons. The plan to become international seemed pretentious at the time, but Demos insisted the Lord had given him that precise name.

Demos had announced the meeting at the end Oral Robert’s LA crusade. They both expected several hundred persons to attend the first breakfast meeting. Nineteen came. In spite of this, Oral Roberts prophesized it would be indeed an international organization to witness the power of God all around the world. But the weekly Saturday morning meetings continued to draw scant attendance – between 15 and 40. Some pastors began opposing the group fearing Shakarian would drain their best people and their money to “another church.” This was most unfair, as Demons continuously called the men to stay in their own congregations, and influence their churches with the power of the Spirit.  But in 1950s the word “para-Church” had not been coined, and the concept of an independent, non-denominational entity that supported other churches instead of competing against them was not understood.

After a year of meetings, Demos was deeply discouraged. When his evangelist friend Tommy Hicks visited his home, Demos went to prayer over the situation, to see what the Lord would have him do – perhaps it was time to close it down. While Demos was praying Rose Sakarian slipped into the room and began softly planning their Hammond organ. She sang in tongues then prophesied: “My son, I knew you before you were born. I have guided you every step of the way. Now I am going to show you the purpose of your life.”[7]

At the same time Demos had a two part vision. He was taken up to the sky and from there could the sad state of the word, with men lifeless and frozen in sadness. Then he saw the same men, all over the world, alive, happy and with their hands lifted praising the Lord. Rose understood her prophecy and his vision to mean that the FGBMFI would continue and grow. In fact, the next week Demos was given a $1,000 donation by one of his businessmen friends who had recently advised the Fellowship be closed down. It was used to start the Fellowships’ magazine, Voice.

 

The FGBMFI Explodes:

The next year 1952, the FGBMFI grew to eight chapters in the United States. At this early stage many who attended were also associated with the CFOs. By the late 1960s there were three hundred chapters and over a hundred thousand members. The yearly conventions drew thousands, and attracted the best speakers of the charismatic renewal. These were its glory years. In 1988 there were 3000 chapters in the United States and chapters in over 80 counties overseas. It had truly become international.

It is difficult to over estimate the role of the FGBMFI in the ultimate formation of the Renewalist churches. The FGBMFI was specifically a world-wide conduit for the Faith Idealism developed by E.W. Kenyon and spread by the “Word Faith” evangelists such as Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland. Hagan and Copeland were particularly popular speakers for the business men who resonated with the prosperity covenant taught them. The famous healing evangelists of the post-World War II era were also frequent speakers and ministered at their meetings

By 1993, when Demos died, the FBBMFI in the United States was undergoing a decline – the natural course of a revival institution that succeeded. Its initial message: that God acted in everyday life of ordinary people with the power of the Spirit, and the Gifts of the Spirit, was now common, if not universally accepted. The theology of Faith Idealism, and Christian New Thought prosperity, which it did so much to spread, was well established if still controversial.

From the 1980s the FGBMFI underwent a tremendous expansion overseas, especially in the 3rd World. In many of these countries the combination of the concepts of “businessman” with “honesty” and “holiness” and the power of the Spirit had never been made. The FGBMFI presence and modeling have been truly revolutionary. It suddenly injects, in a sense, the “Protestant Ethic” and Puritan respect for commercial life in places where those things were unknown. Especially in Africa, the FGBMFI has been a conduit for the spread of the Charismatic renewal and the Gifts of the Spirit.[8] In that continent, where many persons are still under the bondage of witchcraft and almost everyone believes in the spiritual dimensions of dreams and visions, the strong Pentecostal/charismatic message of FGBMFI speakers is readily accepted. [9]  Similarly, the FGBMFI has experienced dramatic successes in Latin America in recent decades.

But in perspective, it may be that its revolutionary and continued “worship ecumenism” practiced at all FGBMFI meetings is its greatest legacy.

[1] The history of the FGBMFI is documented in Demos Shakarian’s autobiography: Demos Shakarian, “as told by” John and Elizabeth Sherrill, The Happiest People on Earth (Old Tappan: Chosen Books, 1975). A later, general history of this important para-church ministry was written by the dean of Pentecostal historians, Vinson Synan, Under His Banner (Gift Publications, 1991). The FGBMFI website has a brief history and wonderful pictures, at: http://www.fgbmfi.org/home.htm

[2]I first encountered the FGBMFI as a new and very “Catholic” Charismatic about 1975. I was struck by this ritual of denominational ecumenism. Having been well educated in Church history it impressed me immediately that such a multidenominational meeting would not have been held two hundred years ago, and three hundred years ago they might have been at each other’s throats with the cutlery on the table. Catholics would have had all Protestants declared as heretics and worthy of the stake. Calvinists would have attempted the same for the Baptists.  This “worshiping ecumenicism,” where doctrines were NOT discussed, prompted me to reconsider the meaning of heresy, and its over use in conservative theological circles..

[3] Demos Shakarian (“As told By” John and Elizabeth Sherrill), The Happiest People on Earth (Old Tappen: Chosen books, 1975), 36

[4]Ibid., 70-71.

[5] Ibid., 83

[6] Ibid., 118

[7] Ibid., 133

[8] Opoku Onyinah, “African Christianity in the Twenty-first Century.” Word & World, 27 #3 (Summer 2007) 305-314.

[9] Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, “Missionaries Without Robes: Lay Charismatic fellowship and the evangelization of Ghana,” Pneuma, 19 #2 (1997), 167-188.

William DeArteaga

William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include, Quenching the Spirit (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), and Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He and his wife Carolyn continue in their healing, teaching and writing ministries. He is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations.

19 Comments

  • Reply November 16, 2019

    Varnel Watson

    I already posted quite a bit on this William DeArteaga but do we need to have more discussion as the subject is important and seems to come back again and again ? Demos’s grand father who is also the great grand father of Kim Kardashian and the Kardashians was oe of the FIRST Pentecostal preachers in LA – the Molokans spoke in tongues as early as 1833 in Russia

    Demos was part of Armenian group who immigrated upon a prophecy from Russia under severe persecution The whole village traveled together Some remained in Istanbul most made it to LA – they were all Mollokans who have been said to have spoken in tongues BEFORE Azusa Revival and were very much part of the revival among other migrants during 1906-1909

    Many do NOT know that the Kardashians are descendants of the same village that migrated along with the Sakrians (sic) – Shekaryans) all Armenian names As a matter of fact Rich Wilkerson Jr., the 31-year-old Pentecostal minister officiated at Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding ceremony

    Maybe why The MAGA rapper’s ninth studio album comes on the heels of his Sunday Services, and is a gospel-inspired effort that feels, well, uninspired. Corky Alexander https://www.thedailybeast.com/kanye-wests-jesus-is-king-is-fake-christianity-at-its-finest-3

    Armenians who joined the Pryguny in Kars Oblast, migrated with them to California, used the book Dukh i zhizn’, lived and intermarried in the Los Angeles “Flats” ghetto, are buried in the Dukhizhiznik cemeteries, but now use the label Pentecostal. Now most are unknown or shunned by all Dukhizhnik congregations in California though located near most of the congregations in East Los Angeles County. Ironically, the Demos Shakarian clan, which split and founded the The Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International, is somewhat honored because they credited the Prygun prophet Klubnikin in their published history(24), yet are rejected for joining the “666” false faiths. Most welcome visitors, photography, and conversion. One congregation counted in 2007, La Habra Heights, California, USA

    • Reply November 16, 2019

      Salvatore Tropea Sr

      Troy Day So was Saul of Tarsus at the beginning! Thank God for what He is doing through whoever He chooses!

    • Reply November 16, 2019

      Varnel Watson

      Salvatore Tropea Sr what are you talking about? Are you familiar with the grandfather of Demos Shekaryan and his early Pentecostal ministry in LA?

    • Reply November 16, 2019

      Salvatore Tropea Sr

      Troy Day I was referring to the post somebody offered from thedailybest, Troy. Saul aka Paul was initially opposed when claiming to be saved.

    • Reply November 16, 2019

      Varnel Watson

      Salvatore Tropea Sr are you speaking about Kanye?

    • Reply November 16, 2019

      Salvatore Tropea Sr

      Troy Day That was the thought about Kanye I posted under Brother.

    • Reply November 16, 2019

      Varnel Watson

      Salvatore Tropea Sr well I dont want to flood William DeArteaga post with Kanye – my info was about Demos and the very wonderful history of his family origin

    • Reply November 16, 2019

      Salvatore Tropea Sr

      Troy Day Demas is a blessing to discuss! He was a saint on earth!

    • Reply November 16, 2019

      William DeArteaga

      Troy Day This is excellent and new information to me. I don’t believe it is right to say the FGBMFI was founded by a clan, it seems to have been done by Demos under God’s inspiration.

    • Reply November 17, 2019

      Varnel Watson

      William DeArteaga I have to find the original post that explained this well – as to the Kardashians Now were you aware his grandfather was a lead preacher in LA during Azusa and very close to early Pentecostals being a tongue speaking Molokan before even come to America This is worth your further research on early Pentecostal ground roots and ground breakers like Phoebe and Agnes – what a great story

  • Reply November 16, 2019

    Salvatore Tropea Sr

    Demi’s was a humble man of God and I was fortunate to grow up in Washington DC where the FGBMFI held many regional conventions. My three brothers and I were active in several DC area Chapters and my spiritual walk was enriched because of God raising up this group! Thanks for posting Troy.

    • Reply November 16, 2019

      Varnel Watson

      Demos Shakarian was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Presbyterian Armenian immigrants who left Turkey just a few years before his birth. The family came under the influence of the Pentecostal movement and relocated to Downey, California and began a dairy business. Active in Southern California Pentecostal circles from the mid-1930s onward, Shakarian frequently volunteered time and money to the campaigns of various Pentecostal evangelists.

      In the early 1950s he formulated a plan that would bring together businessmen for meals designed for evangelism, discipleship, and exploring the miraculous gifts of the Spirit. He presented the idea to Oral Roberts at his 1951 Los Angeles Crusade and Roberts spoke at Shakarian’s first meeting and the rest was history NO DC involved here BTW I lived in Alexandria long time ago and Salvatore Tropea Sr + Daniel J Hesse are the only people who I know to claim livinng in DC No one lived in DC when I was there

  • Reply November 17, 2019

    Varnel Watson

    Salvatore Tropea Sr William DeArteaga Joe Absher Ima just post the whole thing which I rarely do not to flood the group with long posts BUT this one is interesting and seems and important Pentecostal connection I am skipping the news buzz with the 165-year prophecy spec and posting the meat of the history told

    The particular Molokan group the Kardashian family belonged to was impacted by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in 1833. As a result, their services took on a very pentecostal flavor including raising hands in worship, dancing (jumping), prophecy and other Holy Spirit manifestations. There was also a release of miracles said to rival what happened in the early church.

    One person influenced by this outpouring was Efim Klubnikin. During the 1850s as a 11-year-old boy, he received a prophetic revelation that many Armenians would die unless they fled the area to a land across the great ocean.

    He said:

    “Those who believe in this will go on a journey to a far land, while the unbelievers will remain in place. Our people will go on a long journey over the great and deep waters. People from all countries will go there. There will be a great war. All kings will shed blood like great rivers. Two steamships will leave to cross the impassable ocean.”

    Though the Molokans believed in prophecy, because it came from a boy, it was basically ignored.

    However, in 1901, Efim, now grown, called a meeting of the elders of Molokan churches and villages in the area surrounding Karakale. He reminded them of the prophetic word he received 40 years earlier. He told them the decades-old prophecy would soon come to pass and people needed to leave.

    He added two further revelations. One was a warning — there was only a small window of opportunity. The Armenians needed to move quickly because the government would soon close the door to people leaving the country.

    The second was that they were not only to go to the US but to America’s west coast and used a crudely drawn map to point to California.

    Over the next decade or so, about 2,000 Armenians obeyed the prophecy, abandoned their homes and fled to America. Those who stayed behind mocked the families as they departed.

    In 1913, Kim’s great grandfather Tatos Kardashian, then 17, headed on a steamer to America following his parents, who had left a few weeks earlier, to Los Angeles. He would eventually marry fellow Armenian and Molokan refugee, Hamas Shakarian.

    Those who left avoided the Armenian genocide (1915-23) where it’s estimated the Turks slaughtered upwards of 1.5 million Armenians, World War I (1914-1918) and the 1917 Russian revolution.

    What I found unusual was why the prophecy told them to specifically go to the US West Coast. The answer to that question may lie in the Azusa Street Pentecostal Revival that took place in Los Angeles between 1906 and 1915. Because of their previous experience with the Holy Spirit, the Molokans in both doctrine and spirit played an important role in this Holy Spirit outpouring which sparked the world-wide Pentecostal movement.

    Kim’s great, great-grandfather Demos Shakarian, father of Tatos’ wife Hamas, was a famous pentecostal preacher in Los Angeles and his grandson was given the same name and followed his grandfather in the ministry. Demos Shakarian (1913-1993) founded the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International in 1952.

    https://opentheword.org/2015/02/08/was-kim-kardashians-family-saved-by-a-near-two-hundred-year-old-prophecy/

  • Reply November 17, 2019

    Joe Absher

    the poor girl needs prayer . as much as any man’s daughter . Lord save this child and deliver her from every evil .

    • Reply November 17, 2019

      Salvatore Tropea Sr

      Joe Absher Are we not all sinners saved by Grace Joe? Prayers are good for all of us for God uses whoever He chooses to accomplish His purposes!

  • Reply November 17, 2019

    Salvatore Tropea Sr

    Troy thanks for all the background info on Brother Shakarian! One of my most treasured books I own is “The Happiest People On Earth” which is the biography of his blessed life! My oldest brother went with Demos and a FGBMFI group trip to Israel years ago. I am grateful to learn that Kim Kardashian is related to Demos’s family and that her husband is now crusading for Jesus! God’s Grace is amazing!

    • Reply November 17, 2019

      Varnel Watson

      in the The Happiest People On Earth” about p50-60 in my edition he talks about his Molokan heritage Did you know about his grandfather ?

    • Reply November 18, 2019

      Salvatore Tropea Sr

      The copy right date of my book is 1975 and I do not see any mention of his Molokan heritage on the pages. The first chapter does talk about Demos’ grandfather.

    • Reply November 18, 2019

      Varnel Watson

      Salvatore Tropea Sr Start with ch 1. The Message from over the mountain – its all there

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