The story of Demos Shakarian, who loved Jesus and started the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International (FGBMFI).
Celebrating 70 years of loving Jesus
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of one of the largest business organizations in the world – one explicitly created to spread the love of Jesus.
The Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International officially began in Downey, California, in 1952, when a young dairy farmer and entrepreneur, Demos Shakarian, felt God’s calling.
For years, during the 1930s and 1940s, this son of Armenian immigrants had held charismatic tent meetings in Southern California and prayed earnestly while he built what became at the time the largest dairy in California, with 3,000 cows.
His spiritual gift was helping, not preaching, so he invited many talented spokesmen who drew bigger and bigger crowds. Demos witnessed many conversions, healings and outright miracles. At one point, he organized a Full Gospel Rally with local churches at the Hollywood Bowl and filled it to capacity.
His wife Rose was with him all the way, sharing visions and playing the piano at many of the rallies. The term Full Gospel summarizes the Gospel into four parts: salvation, sanctification, divine healing and the second coming of Christ.
Much of Demos’ spiritual insight came from a mentor, Dr. Charles Price, a Congregationalist-turned charismatic who had prayed in Demos’ sister Florence’s hospital room after she had suffered paralyzing injuries from an auto accident. The X-rays had shown a crushed and dislocated left pelvis. Later X-rays showed no damage whatever. Doctors were stunned.
“Demos, Jesus healed me”
“Demos, Jesus healed me,” she said. “I know,” Demos replied.
Still, it was not until a night in 1948, when Demos had a vision from God and what he described as an out-of-body experience, that he knew he was meant to be used in a far greater capacity to reach unsaved people all over the world (see nearby box).
He had been elated when no less than evangelist Oral Roberts, who in 1951 spoke at one of the meetings, blessed Demos’ idea to form the Fellowship. But it was slow going at first. Demos eventually realized that he had been trying to do it his way – not God’s. Once he turned it all over to Jesus, the Fellowship began to grow in 1952 and never stopped.
Beginning with a handful of men in a Los Angeles cafeteria, the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International now has thousands of chapters in 86 nations and has reached millions. The main idea is to have everyday business people talk to each other about their own conversion stories. The simple format helps nonbelievers overcome their initial aversion to preaching or a formal church service.
The best chronicle of this remarkable story is the book “The Happiest People on Earth: The Personal Story of Demos Shakarian as told to Elizabeth & John Sherrill” (1975). The Sherrills also wrote best-sellers including “The Cross and the Switchblade” and “The Hiding Place.”
Holocaust in Armenia
Often reading like a novel, the colorful book begins with Demos’ and his wife’s Armenian heritage and the vision of a little boy in 1852 that led their families to flee to America several years before the boy’s prediction of an Armenian Holocaust came true in 1914. That’s when the Muslim Ottoman Turks systematically began killing the Christian Armenians. In the first genocide of the 20th century, the Turks took more than 1.5 million Armenian lives amid unspeakable horrors.
The Boy Prophet, Efim Gerasemovitch Klubniken, was 11 when he had the vision in Kara Kala, Armenia, about the coming terror. He urged his people to flee across the Atlantic. Although illiterate, he wrote a prophetic letter using Russian characters. He also left an envelope with a prediction about a future persecution that some surmise is a warning about a de-Christianized America. The envelope was not to be opened under penalty of death except by someone instructed directly by God, and it’s not known whether it was eventually opened.
Throughout “The Happiest People on Earth,” Demos speaks matter of factly about things that could not possibly have happened apart from miraculous, divine interventions.
Reliance Number Three
One amazing story took place in the 1940s, when government officials were ordering herds with even a small number of infected cows with tuberculosis to be destroyed.
In one of the Shakarian family’s most important dairies, a 1,000-cow herd called Reliance Number Three, nearly 100 animals tested as “reactors” to a pinprick test, and 200 more as “suspects,” an even worse diagnosis.
“Several herds in neighboring counties had already been slaughtered when the first of our cows showed up with the disease. Of course, Dad and I prayed over them,” Demos recounted.
The herd seemed doomed, but the Shakarians called on a Berkeley-trained charismatic theologian, Dr. Kelso Glover. He came to the farm and prayed for three hours over the animals. Three days later, the government men were back, examined the herd and couldn’t find a single infection. “It’s a freak thing,” one of them said.
Even more uplifting are the accounts of people overcoming seemingly intractable ailments through God’s healing power at the many Full Gospel rallies all over the country.
Jesus’ Healing on a train to Italy
During a missions trip to Europe, Demos himself experienced such a healing. He and Rose were on a train in Italy, with their heads out the window, when a large cinder lodged in his right eye near the pupil. Neither he nor Rose could remove it, nor could a doctor on the train. They made plans to get Demos to a hospital, but Rose began praying and thanking God for the miracles of healing they had earlier witnessed in Hamburg, Germany. In agony for an hour, Demos suddenly felt “a flood of warmth” pass through his right eye. “Something’s happening,” he told his wife.
“I blinked my eyes. I felt nothing. No pain. No obstruction. ‘Rose, look at my eye!’”
“Rose bent over me. ‘Demos, it’s not there! The cinder isn’t there!’ She burst into tears. They asked the doctor to look again.
“‘It is not possible,’’ he said. ‘This rock cannot come out by itself.’
“’Not by itself, Doctor. God took it out.’
“’You don’t understand. There must be a wound. A break in the tissue…but there is nothing…. I send no bill, Signore. This thing is not possible to happen.”
“My gift is to help other people do what they do best”
On page 101 of “The Happiest People on Earth,” Demos explains the title.
“I believe God has a particular gift for each of His servants, some special ability we’re to use for His Kingdom. I believe if we find that gift – and use it – we’ll be the happiest people on earth.
“And if we miss it, no matter how many excellent things we do, we’ll be utterly miserable. … my gift is to help other people do what they do best.”
“The Vision” as told by Demos Shakarian (1952)
Things were not going well with the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship, which was failing to attract many to its meetings. Demoralized, Demos got down on his knees one night in his California living room and asked the Lord for direction. After a time, his wife Rose quietly came in and began softly playing the piano and speaking in tongues.
He heard the Lord speak through his wife:
“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.”
Demos says the ceiling seemed to disappear and he was swept into the air.
Although I remained on my knees, I felt as if I were rising and moving up, away from the living room. Down below me I could see the rooftops of Downey. There were the San Bernardino Mountains, and over there the coast of the Pacific. Now I was high above the earth, able to see the entire country from west to east.
Although I could see so far, I could also see people on the earth – millions and millions of people standing shoulder to shoulder. Then, just as a camera can zoom in at a football game to show first the stadium, then the players, and then the very laces on the football, my vision seemed to move in on these millions. I could see tiny details of thousands and thousands of faces.
And what I saw terrified me. The faces were set, lifeless, and miserable. Though the people stood so close together, shoulders touching, there was no real contact between them. They stared straight ahead, unblinking, unseeing. What a shudder of horror, I realized that they were dead…
The vision changed. Whether the world was turning, or whether I was traveling around it, I didn’t know. But now beneath me was the continent of South America. Then on to Africa, Europe, Asia. Once more the startling close-ups occurred, and everywhere it was the same. Brown faces, black faces – every one rigid, wretched, each locked in his own private death.
“Lord!” I cried,” What’s the matter with them! Lord, help them!”
“My son, what you see next is going to happen very soon.”
The earth was turning – or I was moving around it – a second time. Below me again were millions upon millions of men. But what a difference! This time heads were raised. Eyes shone with joy. Hands were lifted towards heaven. These who had been so isolated, each in his prison of self, were linked in a community of love and adoration. Asia, Africa, and America – everywhere – death had turned to life.
And the Vision was over. I felt myself returning to my living room…
Demos Shakarian exemplified the love of Jesus in his obedience to “help other businessmen and women do what they do best” – the Power of One.
A writer for Timothy Partners, Ltd. He is a regular weekly columnist for The Washington Times and Townhall.com and is frequently published by AmericanThinker.com, DailyCaller.com, OneNewsNow.com, and others. He has authored the following books: “A Strong Constitution: What Would America Look Like If We Followed the Law” (D. James Kennedy Ministries, 2018), Invested with Purpose: The Birth of the Biblically-Responsible Investment Movement, and A Nation Worth Fighting For: 10 Steps to Restore Freedom.