The History of the Gospel Revolution
According to the Prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Gospel (the soul-saving good news of all of humanity’s righteous standing) was established before the foundation of the world. How long ago was that? A long time. A Gospel Revolution was not ordained and would not have been needed if the Apostle Paul had not lost the argument with the Apostles James, Peter and John. But alas, Paul’s “Power of God” perspective did not win the day versus James’ “faith without works is dead”. And versus is a very apt way to describe the brouhaha between Paul and his so-called colleagues. It is well documented in the “New Testament Writings”.
That struggle for power and control was followed by the forming of Roman Catholic Christianity. Then came Martin Luther’s protest which became Protestantism. From there, over the thousands of years now, we have arrived at some 45,000 Christian denominations.
What was called for was not a “revival” of the old but a “revolution” of the new—a revolution of the new creation which had never been seen on the Earth prior—a revolution of the amazing news—the good news—the Gospel. God and his creation had become equal and one.
The Gospel Revolution commenced in earnest in 1983 when its founder and president Mike Williams indeed realized what the world needed was not a “revival” of religion by a “revolution” of the information which had been prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures and fulfilled by the Messiah some two millennia before.
Michael Lilborn Williams was born on August 16, 1952 at Harriman Hospital in rural Tennessee in the United States of America. He was the baby of six children to Clyde Lilborn and Geneva Fenette Williams. In the Williams’ home the subject of religion, church or Christianity was never roached. However, when Geneva felt “convicted” she would send her children to church.
When Michael was five years old, he found himself in church sent by his guilt-ridden mother. The church was the South Harriman Baptist Church and Michael got “saved” there. Michael’s mother was none-to-happy upon learning that her little boy have “given his life to Jesus”. She demanded to know who had to him that he “needed to get saved” and arranged a meeting at the church to discuss what had transpired.
Geneva had accumulated a significant level of difficulty with Christianity. She had eight uncles and a sister, many who had become preachers. This apparently left a bad impression for Mike’s mom.
During the summer months, little Mike joined the “Royal Ambassadors”, a Southern Baptist program for boys which was founded in 1908. After joining the “RA” choir, Michael began experiencing his first bout of panic attacks. Eventually, as Michael became a young man, this paralyzing anxiety disorder would lead to three attempts at suicide and six stays in mental institutions. This was directly linked to Michael’s desire to not be gay. He began to notice his attraction was to the same sex around the age of seven.
After an incident with a Royal Ambassador t-shirt which led to another panic attack and the RA’s demand to give the shirt back, Mike stopped attending church. For a while, anyway.
Slowly but surely, he was drawn back to Christianity because of “the collision” of his spirituality and his burgeoning sexuality. Additionally, he was having to deal with the mental and emotional trauma of having been sexually molested from the time he was five years ago by older boys and men. Once he took a dictionary in his backyard to look up the word “homosexual”. Michael retells that, “It felt like pornography to my young mind—realizing there may be someone else on the planet who felt like me. Then I started hearing about ‘men laying with men’ as the Bible calls it”.
The next time Mike went to church was when he was 12 years old. His family had moved to Petros, Tennessee. He felt “called” to the ministry from a young age from the time he heard the Royal Ambassadors’ “theme”, “Onward Christian Soldiers”.
By the time Michael was 19 he was “all in” and joined a group what was then call “The Children of God” (now “Love International”). He escaped that cultish organization after a year and a half of religious insanity. Hitch-hiking home, he was picked up by an albino man named Ray Sanders and began “sharing the Lord” with him. Because at that point in his life, Michael could not fathom “witnessing” to people who were on their way to hell. He and Ray started a ministry together building youth centers. He stayed with Ray a few days a week in Sunbright, Tennessee and built the first youth center in Etowah, Tennessee. Michael became the director of the center there at age 20.
Michael’s sexuality – spirituality conflict only increased as his involvement in Christianity and ministry only deepened. Getting married and affirming himself as a heterosexual male certainly made sense. Ray introduced Mike to Hazel Ruth Thomas and they were married in 1974. Michael was 21 years old. The Williams have three daughters Sarah Elizabeth was born in 1975, Geneva Ruth was born in 1977 and Audrey Anne came into the world in 1986.
Also In 1974, Michael met a man who would set the trajectory of Mike’s life for the next. On August 15, 1974 Michael went to work for Norvel Hayes.
Soon after that was the first time Michael shared his “ex-gay” testimony. It took place at a Full Gospel Businessmen’s Meeting in Missouri. Michael was, of course, still gay. However, he so wanted please God and to stop “crucifying Christ every time you sin” (as he was told as a young boy was happening when people do anything that did not please God aka sin).
Michael was honest with Norvel and other religious leaders about his continued preference for men. They would pray for him, “cast out demons”, and one man once went on a 40 day fast for Mike’s deliverance. He felt awful about thinking the thoughts he was. It landed him in psychiatric wards and hospitals six times. He attempted suicide three times. The ministers told him to just keep believing and confessing he had been “healed” and was now straight. There was a lot of money and reputations at stake.
At the height of his fame, Mike Williams was making in excess of $50,000 per month in the ministry, and that was just for his own organization. There was much more coming in for Norvel Hayes, many other ministries and churches. He worked full-time with Hayes from 1974-1977 and then moved to Indianapolis, Indiana.
In Indianapolis, he began working at a dry cleaning plant, something he knew about because his family had been in dry cleaning in Tennessee and he had worked there as a kid. In 1977 he also began working at Pastor Harold McBride’s “House of Prayer”. However, after a gay encounter, he had to resign.
In 1979, Michael, Hazel and the girls moved to Olney, Illinois. After one year of “restoration”, he went to Salem Full Gospel Church because the elders of the Olney Christian Fellowship thought he needed more time to be restored to full fellowship.
Michael believed deeply in education for himself, his children, and people in general. So much so, in fact, he started a homeschool program in the area called A.C.E. School for tomorrow which is now over 50 years old and spans across the world. This was not the first time Michael burned with a desire for knowledge, wisdom and to share what he was learning.
In the mid-70s, Michael realized there were no books available on the subject on grace. So, he started his own in-depth study on the topic of grace. In 1975, he was traveling with Norvel Hayes’ team and was supposed to do a sermon on “witnessing”. They were at Larry Stockdale’s church in Texas. However, instead of teaching on witnessing he taught on grace. He heard himself say things he had never heard and apparently the people in attendance had not, either. Because they response to this “good news” was overwhelming. “And the dye was cast”, says Michael.
The Gospel Revolution began in earnest in 1983 after Michael started teaching on “the Gospel of Peace”. Again, he heard himself say for the first time, “We do not need a revival. We need a revolution! We don’t need to revive what needs to die and go away!!!” And thus, the Gospel Revolution was born.
The Gospel Revolution has always been on the cutting edge of what became known as “The Grace Movement”. In fact, Christianity had to come up with a name to counteract the interjection of true grace into the conversation and named it pejoratively “greasy grace”. To which, the Gospel Revolution and Michael responded, “It’s not ‘greasy grace’! It’s prodigious grace!”
After he began seeing these things, Michael begged God to show someone else that God was no longer angry. Then Norvel asked him to speak. “God, please show somebody else you are no longer angry so I don’t have to.” Michael went to the Sheraton Gatlinburg in Tennessee. He had shared the stage with such “mega Word of Faith stars” like TL Osborne, Kenneth Hagin, and Norvel. Anyone of them could have shared the Gospel. They did not. But Mike did hear TL Osborne say, “I have good news for you. God is not angry with you.” You could have knocked Mike over with a feather. From that point on, Michael decided it didn’t make a difference if anyone else preached it, he was going to. He had gotten the “go ahead” from TL Osborne.
Then he preached it in Herrin. Herrin, Illinois is one hour south of Salem. Michael spoke there once and the elders offered him to be the pastor because their pastor had died of a heart attack. After he took the pastorate in 1981. He went on to speak in 1983 upstairs of the Christian Bookshelf (a Christian bookstore) that shared the name with the church. A new church was built after the VFW had burned.
People’s response was powerful when the Gospel Of Peace was first shared. Universal Studios had just burned after the Last Temptation of Christ (which Christians “protested a B movie into prominence”). Then a man was accused of arson. Michael said if it was God, why would we punish him? It was “profoundly received”.
The people’s trauma of losing their pastor was relieved because they knew at least it wasn’t the wrath of God which took him.
After that initial meeting where he was supposed to teach on being a witness, Michael witnessed his own need for solitude and deep thinking. He took a sabbatical, had lots of down time and started really contemplating for the next five years. He couldn’t reconcile that Jesus had taken God’s punishment and yet, God was still angry?
He first started to question the validity of the Books of Acts and its stories. It was the “Acts of the Disciples”, not the Acts of God, he realized. Annanias and Saphira were stricken dead after lying about their offering and a King smote by God and eaten by worms for not giving enough? If those happened then (after the Cross), why wasn’t it happening now?
It was in 1983 when he began share the Gospel of Peace and Grace for the believer and things just developed from there to where he finally started sharing the whole world was redeemed.
The Gospel Revolution had one of the first websites in the world way back in 1996 when this thing called the internet was just starting.
Michael’s teaching and understanding of the all-encompassing Gospel was just starting to touch the world. He was thrown out of a myriad of churches and meetings including a famous incident in Hawaii. His ministry was instrumental, if not single-handedly responsible for shutting down the Worldwide Church of God’s operation in Canada. Canada was always, and continues to be, a stalwart of the GR. The amount of pastors who stopped pastoring and the number of churches who closed their doors after Michael’s message of peace and grace come to fruition cannot be calculated anymore.
Things really began taking shape when Michael began teaching “in context”. The GR journey really picked-up steam at this point. Rather than teaching the way he was taught many years before, which was for other purposes. He did like everybody else. He’d pick a verse in Timothy, one in Psalms, one out of Isaiah, and one out of Revelation. Put it all together and then find a Greek word that made it all fit and teach on it. Did he do it consciously? No, but there were certainly doctrines that they were promoting or were promoted to us that came out of that style of teaching. The crowd response to it was amazing. You can come up with some really strange doctrines that way.
Context is the most powerful thing as far as understanding what the writer wants to communicate. It seems kind of strange to even have to say that. It’s strange because if we got a letter from anyone or read anything in a book, and if we took one line out of a book and tried to determine what that book was about by that one line we would all know that would be an extremely foolish attempt to understand what the writer was trying to say. We would at least need to read paragraphs.
The first time Michael started teaching in context, it was a big challenge. The first time that he ever taught in the Book of Romans and taught a full chapter, he recalls starting to break away from the verse selection from one place to the other to this place to the other, and he started selecting several paragraphs to teach on rather than teaching verses here and there out of context.
One of the first chapters he ever taught in context was Romans Chapter 5. Romans Chapter 5 is the one where Paul declares very clearly that after the offense of Adam, everybody became a sinner, and that God imputed that sin to the entire planet. He also teaches in that same chapter that Jesus did exactly the same thing except it was far greater! “Much more” is the terminology that he uses. Now, Christianity doesn’t teach that. It does teach the part about becoming a sinner–even without doing anything wrong. Catholicism, Protestantism … they all teach “Original Sin”. They all teach that we became sinners because of what one man did, but they fall short of embracing that Jesus was just as powerful being the Last Adam as the first Adam. The Last Adam, as Paul taught in Romans Chapter 5, did not only the equal and corresponding reaction to Adam’s transgression, but Jesus did a work that was far beyond the work of the first Adam in the fact that the first Adam had condemned everyone to a condition of sin, even those who did not transgress after the similitude of Adam’s transgression. But it says that Jesus then of course through his righteousness, “by the righteousness of one man”, that just as many have been made righteous. That’s the entire planet. That very premise really does undermine a lot of organized Christianity because, number one: I don’t know of a branch of Christianity that teaches that Jesus redeemed the whole world. It seems that the whole focus is to try to get people redeemed, but that isn’t what the scriptures teach.
The Hebrew Scriptures teach that everybody was redeemed. We learned how Paul taught that the entire world has been redeemed. Nobody’s going to hell. Everybody’s been redeemed because of the power of the blood of the Lamb. It’s very powerful to know that you have been redeemed.
It’s very powerful, but you see we’re not able to walk out of what Paul also taught in the Book of Romans if you don’t see that you and the entire planet is redeemed. Paul taught that there are two things that we all should be able to give up and that is guiltiness before God and the other one is judgment of other people.
There is no way to give up guiltiness before God if you don’t realize you have been redeemed once and for all. This is not something you have to redo. Your redemption did not come when you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. Believing on the Lord Jesus Christ is a vitally important part of the salvation process, but you are believing on Jesus because you are redeemed. You are not believing on Jesus to get redeemed. Believing and our faith is a very important thing. However, implying that believing is what makes truth true has misled the whole world. Truth is true even if you don’t believe it. It doesn’t change that it’s true. What is that transformation that the soul begins to take on? You begin to lose any sensations of guilt between you and God. The other thing that Paul taught on about those that believe is this powerful influence on the heart that you lose all judgment: assessing blame against somebody else or assessing what your opinion is of their relationship with God.
I remember the very first time I taught on this. It was in Abbottsford, British Columbia. I taught three sessions on this. Those were people who had listened to me teach on grace and the gospel of peace. Then I realized it was time that I needed to move on to teaching the redemption of the world; that the work of Christ was effective for the entire planet.
In the many years since that landmark event for me and the Gospel Revolution, it truly has been an amazing journey! Your support throughout these years has made it possible to continue the journey in ministering the wonderful good news this gospel truly is.
Michael saw that the tithe like the rest of the law had been fulfilled in Christ. Therefore, there was no more need from God for people to give money to his or any other ministry. And people took him up on this perspective. He not only lost all the money he had made during his Christian ministry days, he went deep into debt as he shared the actual Gospel. it took him the better part of a decade to dig out that massive debt and put Gospel Revolution and Mike Williams back on solid financial footing.
In 1999 Michael shared a three part series on “The Redemption of the World” at Glenn and Dawn Klein’s home in Tampa, Florida. Michael had spoken the year before at the “House of Israel”, the congregation Glenn had founded and was their “Messianic Rabbi”. Soon after the meeting, it closed its doors like so many others. However, a year later the Kleins invited Mike to their home. And the three cassette teaching series came out of it which spanned the globe, even being translated into Mandarin Chinese with thousands of tapes being shared in China.
Michael bounced around for a while from Illinois, Florida, Kentucky and back to Illinois before landing in Houston, Texas with the help the one of the great late GR’s of all-time Richard Mull. Michael lived there for many years. There the Gospel Revolution webcast (again, one of the first podcasts ever founded by Michael and Glenn in 2006), began to flourish. What started out with just a few listeners in the United States and Canada burgeoned to 185 countries by 2011 when Don Beres Bartlett became Michael Lilborn’s co-host on the program which became known as “The Powercast”. Along the way, Jeff Robertson was one of the listeners of the webcast, as it was called back then. Jeff would call the program and eventually joined the Gospel Revolution and MWM in Houston in March of 2010 and was there until January of 2011. Jeff’s involvement was critical in the stabilizing and the growth of ministry during those early years and continues to this writing. Moses Ngata from Kenya heard the show and eventually started the Gospel Revolution School of the Scriptures there with his wife Elizabeth. Former pastor from Ethiopia and Canada Nardos Kebede became the GR’s Vice President, all along the while Vic d’Obrenan and “Grace Conferences” in Calgary were going strong as ever—even during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-22 when the meetings were held virtually.
In 2019, Daniel Rouse (another listener to the podcast) came on board, eventually becoming the Gospel Revolution’s Director of Communications which included full-time co-host of the Powercast after Don’s protracted illness took his life in 2021.
New blood and fresh insight are constantly flowing into the Gospel Revolution with people like Angel Gabriel Chiclana and his genius gospel-laden “WE ARE”, the opening and closing theme to the Powercast and Ethan Massengill’s participation while serving in the US Air Force all the way from Japan!