Kenneth E. Hagin was born in the United States in the town of McKinney , Texas , on August 20, 1917. The man whom God would use to minister healing to thousands of people began life as a miracle. Kenneth weighed barely two pounds when he was born, and the doctor thought he was dead. But as his grandmother held him, she detected a spark of life in him. The doctor gave her some infant formula mix to feed the tiny baby and said, “This will last longer than he will.” Recalling this incident later, Kenneth said, “But I outlasted it!”
Later tests showed that Kenneth had a deformed heart and an incurable blood disease. Eventually his heart deformity drained him of nearly all his strength. At the age of 15, he became bedfast. It was while he was on the bed of sickness that Kenneth died and went to hell. Although he was raised in the Southern Baptist Church and attended services every week, he had never had a salvation experience with the Lord.
On the 22nd day of April, 1933, Kenneth’s spirit left his body. He descended through the earth and continued down until he stood before the gates of hell. Just as he was about to enter, a voice from above spoke in an unknown tongue. Immediately, Kenneth found himself returning to the earth’s surface.
This happened two more times. As he ascended to the earth’s surface for the third time, Kenneth finally proclaimed Jesus as Lord. He knew that if he did not do that, he would descend a fourth and final time. [For more detailed accounts of this story, see Rev. Hagin’s books I Went to Hell and I Believe in Visions.]
After being snatched from the gates of hell, Kenneth began to praise God and thank Him every day for saving him. Although he was still bedfast, partially paralyzed, and extremely weak, Kenneth had peace and contentment. He knew that if he were to die, he would not go to hell.
In the fall of 1933, Kenneth’s grandmother began to prop him up in bed so he could read from her old Methodist Bible. Because he was so weak, he could concentrate for only 10 or 15 minutes at a time. Then his vision would blur. After a few weeks, he could read for an hour. Eventually, he could read as long as he wanted.
Thinking he would die any day, Kenneth decided to read the New Testament. As he read through the Gospel of Mark, he came to the scripture passage that would transform his life and become the cornerstone of his ministry.
22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
Kenneth was thankful for his salvation, but in Mark chapter 11, he saw the possibility of receiving something more. As he read this passage, the whole room suddenly seemed engulfed in light—as if someone had pulled the shades open on a bright summer day. And it seemed to him as if there was light inside him. In August 1934, as Kenneth continued meditating on the passage, the truth about faith in God’s Word began to drop into his heart. He saw that receiving what God promised came as a result of believing God’s promise. Kenneth recalled that moment in his book I Believe in Visions:
“I saw exactly what that verse in Mark 11:24 meant. Until then I was going to wait till I was actually healed. I was looking at my body and testing my heartbeat to see if I had been healed. But I saw that the verse says that you have to believe when you pray. The having comes after the believing.”
Kenneth knew he had been healed. But then he had to act on it. On the outside, his situation had not changed. He was still bedridden. He still could not move his legs. The only thing that had changed was the light of revelation he had on the inside.
The Holy Spirit said to him, “If you are healed, then you should be up and out of bed.” In agreement, Kenneth pushed himself into a sitting position and then used his hands to swing his legs off the bed one at a time. With the devil fighting him every step of the way, Kenneth began to proclaim that he was healed and that he would stand and walk. He slowly but surely worked his way into a standing position, grasping tightly the post of the bed that had held him for 16 long months.
He had some initial dizziness, and then feeling started coming back into his legs. “It was like two million pins pricking me,” Kenneth said. After a short time, the pain subsided and he began walking around his room. He didn’t tell anyone what happened that day. But the next morning, he got out of bed, dressed himself, and joined his family at the breakfast table.
After he received his healing, Kenneth was eager to share his experience with anyone who would listen, and he preached wherever and whenever he had the chance. In 1936, he began pastoring a small church in Roland , Texas . Over the next 12 years, Kenneth pastored various churches throughout Texas . During this time, he married his wife, Oretha, and they had two children, Kenneth and Patsy. He entered what was then called the field (traveling) ministry early in 1949. While he was on the road, his meetings included healing services but he primarily focused on teaching faith.
In May 1950 while in Houston , Texas , Kenneth heard an audible voice from God saying, “Go teach My people faith. I have taught you faith through My Word. I have permitted you to go through certain experiences. You have learned faith both through My Word and by experience. Now go teach My people what I have taught you. Go teach My people faith.” From that time on, Kenneth had an increased determination to teach faith in God’s Word.
With the message of faith burning in his heart, Kenneth took steps to fulfill the Lord’s mandate by holding faith seminars across the United States . However, on many occasions he felt as though the seminars weren’t reaching enough people. He often cried out to God for help. “The world must hear this message!” he’d say. “It’s not my message—it’s the Word of God. How can we get it out?”
God’s plan for fulfilling the mandate became clear during Kenneth Hagin Ministries’ first Campmeeting in 1973. Speaking under the unction of the Holy Spirit, Kenneth E. Hagin said, “We’re going to start a Bible school.” He later gave his son, Kenneth W. Hagin, the task of starting what is now RHEMA Bible Training Center . When the school opened in September 1974, 72 students enrolled as RHEMA’s charter class. Fifty-eight of those students graduated the following spring.
Today, RHEMA Bible Training Center ’s unique philosophy continues to set it apart from other Bible schools. The focus is not merely on academics but also on practical ministry. Over the years, RHEMA’s student body, faculty, curriculum, and programs have grown. As of September 2014, there are more than 190 RHEMA campuses around the world with over 48,000 graduates worldwide. In addition, RHEMA has had a significant impact in at least 114 nations.
For many, Brother Hagin’s teachings brought life to a muted Gospel and shouted the truth about our mighty God and His loving Son. And although he never liked the title, Kenneth E. Hagin was often called the father of the modern-day faith movement. Rev. Hagin was a mentor in the Body of Christ. It would be impossible to measure the difference he made. RHEMA students number in the tens of thousands, and millions have received from his teachings.
Kenneth E. Hagin ministered for almost 70 years after God miraculously healed him at the age of 17. Although Rev. Hagin went home to be with the Lord in 2003, the ministry he founded and his legacy of faith continues to bless multitudes around the globe through his son, Pastor Kenneth W. Hagin, who is President of Kenneth Hagin Ministries.