Brother Hagin’s Reading Habits
Rev. Tony Cooke
“I always took a suitcase of books with me, and I just constantly read. I’d read sometimes all night long.”
– Kenneth E. Hagin
On January 18, 2000, I did an interview with Brother Hagin about his reading habits. I was recently thrilled to come across a transcript of that interview in which he shared some remarkable insights. Refreshing myself on the details of this conversation was an absolute delight. Below is a summary of some of the excerpts from that interview.
KEH: I always read a lot. Even as a pastor, if I didn’t have anything to do the next day —because I pastored a small church — I’d read all night long. When the kids were small I didn’t have a study in the church, so I had my desk and books over in the corner of the living room. When I was younger I was more alert at midnight than at any other time. And like Ken said when he was little, “I would go to bed and go to sleep and Dad is sitting there. Got up the next morning and he’s still there.”
So I always read a lot. I had a lot of books on different subjects that I really wanted to hone in on. I got books from Southwestern Bible College, from Moody Bible Institute, and from L.I.F.E. (the Foursquare School). And then I took a homiletics course from Union Bible Seminary in New York City, and that helped me a lot. Up to then, I just quoted Scripture, but I saw that an illustration to a sermon is like a window to a house.
When I went on the field holding meetings from church to church, I always took a suitcase of books. And many times, because we only had night services, I would read all night long. (Note from TC: In another place, Brother Hagin stated that this was a “large suitcase, metal, almost as big as a trunk”).
Tony: What about variety? Did you only read books on faith and healing?
KEH: Oh, no, no. I took a bunch on healing and I’d always end up reading that, constantly. But that’s not all I read. I was always interested in books. I guess at one time you could call me a “bookworm.” I had a book in my hand nearly all the time.
I started out young, seventeen. I learned from our elders. Maybe some of them didn’t understand the faith message, but they had a lot of other good stuff that would really help you and bless you. And so, following some of their example through the years has been a real blessing to my life.
Brother P. C. Nelson, when he traveled and preached, would always take a bunch of books, maybe a suitcase of books. He didn’t have a book table. He’d spread them out on the back pew of the church. And then we’d come along and look at them. Different authors, you know, no Pentecostal authors whatever, because back in those days they just didn’t have any books. But he’d sell them maybe for fifty cents or a quarter. Of course, in Depression days you have to understand… He said, “I want to get books into the hands of people to read.”
Dr. Duffield, the Foursquare minister from Oregon… Man, he had one whole room full of books, so I asked if I could read them. “Yeah,” he said, “just help yourself.” So I was there a whole month, so I read — of course, we had two services a day — but I read a lot of those books. These were books I did not have.
Tony: What about reading after people that you didn’t agree with? Did that help you or hinder you?
KEH: That just helped me to see things more clearly. Something I learned from a Baptist minister — I think he had been a professor at Baylor University. He said that “Bible truths and Bible doctrines are a lot like climbing a mountain.” He said, “It’s according to which side of the mountain you’re on.”
And so that’s the thing about reading and studying. If you climb up the other side of the mountain, you get a different view. That will help you see things even more clearly. And which one is right? Well both of them, in a measure, are right.
I always liked to – not that I agreed with him — but I always liked to read after _____________. We didn’t necessarily agree with him on some things, but we liked him because he made you dig. You’d have to dig to get around him.
When I traveled and we only had night services, I’d often stay up with the pastor and discuss different books. He had some new books that I didn’t have, and I had some that he didn’t have. Sometimes we’d sit up and read all night. One day, we’d take a subject and I’d take the side of the issue I believed, and I’d debate that side. The next day, we’d switch sides and debate it again. I’d take the side I didn’t believe in and debate that side.
That helped us see the truth more clearly. It helps sharpen you and helps you know how to really refute some things. Now maybe I’m a little different than some, but as a little kid I used to run off to the courthouse and listen to them argue cases. I always wanted to be a lawyer. That’s just a part of me. I’m always arguing the case.
When I was young, I just debated anybody that wanted to argue and fuss about the Bible. I quit that. When I was in school, I was on the debating team in high school. Our team always won. I was always the last one. We always won. But when it came to later ministry, I stopped a lot of that because I don’t know any of the people I argued with that I ever helped. I heard of one ole boy that was baptized, and when he came up out of the water he said, “I is now ready for debate.”
Tony: I know from hearing you teach, you not only bring in scriptural support, but you’ll quote Spurgeon. You’ll quote Finney. So you’ve obviously read a lot after different people.
KEH: Oh yeah. Yeah. Here’s a great thing with my Baptist background, of course, Spurgeon is more or less the same thing. I could read his sermons and just get up and preach them. You could take some Baptist books on the Holy Ghost, just add tongues to them, and boy, you got a stem-winder. I mean just a stem-winder. Because they believe in the Holy Ghost.
A leading Pentecostal denominational leader once told me, “I would read after others. They may have a revelation along some lines that I don’t have. So many just read after their own, but I’ve read after other groups and other denominations.”
(KEH then talked about how he had learned to use notes, even though it was against Pentecostal tradition).
KEH: But I already did that because I was trained to do so from the Baptists — I always preached from notes. You had to sort of hide them when you got over into Pentecostal circles. They went on the theory, “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”
Tony: Who are the authors you’ve particularly enjoyed and benefitted from?
KEH: I cut my teeth on The Life of Faith by Mrs. C. Nuzum. That’s the first book I ever read on faith. I’d already gotten some revelation and that book confirmed it. Ever Increasing Faith by Smith Wigglesworth was a big one. The next book I got a hold of was by F. F. Bosworth, Christ the Healer. I wore the backs off of it.
Note: In another place, Brother Hagin stated, “I read after Brother Howard Carter for years in different periodicals, and always, if I could find something he wrote, I’d read it first, because he was a great man of God and a great teacher.” Of Bosworth, Brother Hagin said, “I knew him personally. The last time I saw him, he was 77 years old. Just looking at him, hearing him preach, and talking to him personally, you wouldn’t have thought he was a day over 55 years old, yet he was 77.”