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Thomas Ball Barratt (1862-1940), born to a Methodist family in England, became the most prominent Pentecostal pioneer in Norway. Barratt was recognized at a young age for being a gifted writer, artist, and composer of music. He could have succeeded in numerous professions. But following a life-changing encounter with God, the young Barratt dedicated his life to sharing the gospel.
When Barratt was four years old, his parents immigrated to Norway, where his father worked as a miner. At age 11, Barratt’s parents sent him back to England to attend a Methodist school, where he committed his life to God during a revival. After he moved back to Norway at age 16, he became a member of Stavanger Temperance Society and became a joyful advocate of heartfelt faith and godly living.
When Barratt returned to Norway, he initially began working as his father’s assistant. However, Barratt’s artistic abilities opened other doors. He studied under Norway’s greatest composer, Edvard Grieg, and under noted artist Olaf Dahl. By age 17, he began preaching in Methodist churches. He became an ordained Methodist deacon (1889) and elder (1891) and pastored several churches.
With a deep interest in spiritual things, Barratt became a prominent proponent of revival in Norway. Through the Oslo City Mission, which he founded in 1902, and its periodical, Byposten, Barratt encouraged people to draw close to God.
In 1906, Barratt traveled to America to raise funds for the Oslo City Mission. Although he failed to raise much money, he returned to Norway with something else that would change the trajectory of his ministry. Barratt had heard testimonies about the emerging Pentecostal revival at the interracial Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, and he traveled there to see it for himself. His heart grew hungry for a deeper experience of God. Just before going back to Norway, he stopped at the Holiness Mission in New York City, where some of the gospel workers had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. These newly-baptized Pentecostals, Robert A. Brown and Marie Burgess, prayed with Barratt. He spent an extended period of time seeking God at the altar. After he “emptied” his soul of self, he received the Pentecostal experience with the evidence of speaking in tongues.
Upon his return to Norway, Barratt began promoting the Pentecostal message. He endured criticism by those who mocked the reported emotionalism of the Azusa Street Mission. The Methodist Church revoked his ministerial credentials, and his mission and newspaper were given to his assistant. Barratt had to start over, building up his ministry from scratch. Despite these impediments, Barratt kept his focus on the gospel and not on his critics. Crowds thronged to hear Barratt wherever he went. He founded the Filadelfia Church in Oslo, which grew to about 2,000 members. Pentecostal churches were soon organized across the nation. Under the leadership of Barratt, the Pentecostal movement in Norway became the second largest Protestant church in Norway, second only to the Lutheran church. Barratt’s influence also spread to North America, where he traveled on occasion and preached in English to American and Canadian audiences.
The story of T. B. Barratt is a reminder of the global scope of the Pentecostal movement. Barratt, an Englishman raised in Norway, identified with the Pentecostal revival during a visit to the United States. Barratt’s testimony also demonstrates that early Pentecostals prioritized the spiritual life. Barratt modeled heartful, joyful faith, which he lived out in a godly lifestyle. From his earliest days of ministry as a Methodist to his latter years as a Pentecostal statesman, he consistently emphasized the importance of deep faith. Barratt was willing to take risks to follow God’s will. And because he did, the religious landscape in Norway has never been the same.
The Pentecostal Evangel featured the story of Thomas Ball Barratt in 1957, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Pentecostalism in Norway. Read the article, “Norway’s Pentecostal Jubilee,” on page 20 of the Oct. 20, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
* “A Thirst for God,” by A. M. Alber
* “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” by James A. Stewart
And many more!
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.