John Robert Stevens

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John Robert Stevens (August 7, 1919 – June 4, 1983) founded The Living Word Fellowship in the 1950s and was the cult's leader until his death.[1]

Stevens was born in Story County, Iowa.[2] His parents, Eva Katherine and William J. Stevens, moved the family to California in 1929, during the Great Depression. In Los Angeles they attended the Angelus Temple, founded by Aimee Semple McPherson.[2] In 1933 they returned to Washington, Iowa, where William Stevens founded the Christian Tabernacle church, in which young John Stevens taught children's Bible study and helped his father prepare sermons.[2] John Stevens began preaching on his own in Gladwin, Iowa, in 1935, before his sixteenth birthday, under the auspices of the Four Square Gospel denomination. After his high school graduation in 1937 he also traveled locally and regionally as an evangelist and was ordained in the Assembly of God in September 1937.[2] Stevens was first married in 1939 and had two daughters by this marriage, which ended in divorce.[2]

Stevens moved to the Los Angeles area in 1946 and later became pastor of an Assemblies of God church in Lynwood, California.[2] Around 1950 he was dismissed from that position and the Four Square Gospel and Assemblies of God denominations after propounding unorthodox beliefs, which he said were based on divine revelations.[2][3] In 1951 he established his own church in South Gate, California, and by 1955 he had expanded his ministry into a new movement,[2][3] initially called the Church of the Living Word and later called The Living Word Fellowship. For the remainder of his life he was the group's spiritual leader, expanding it in the United States and into several other countries.[4]

After Stevens' death, his widow, the former Marilyn Holbrook, led the Living Word Fellowship together with Gary Hargrave, who married Marilyn Stevens in 1984.[4] Stevens' writings and recordings of his sermons continue to be disseminated by Living Word Publications, a branch of Living Word Fellowship.[5]

Books by Stevens[edit]

  • The First Principles, The Living Word Publications, ISBN 1-891787-01-2, ISBN 978-1-891787-01-0
  • Sparks from the Altar, The Living Word Publications, ISBN 1-891787-00-4, ISBN 978-1-891787-00-3


  1. ^ "Breaking Away from a Boomer Christian Cult". The Baffler. 2019-03-04. Retrieved 2019-05-30.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h About Our Founder: John Robert Stevens, 1919-1983, The Living Word Fellowship website
  3. ^ a b Church of the Living Word, Another Gospel: Cults, Alternative Religions, and the New Age Movement, by Ruth A. Tucker, Zondervan, 2004, ISBN 0-310-25937-1, pages 360-362
  4. ^ a b A Brief History of The Living Word Fellowship, Living Word Fellowship website, accessed September 8, 2008
  5. ^ Sermons and Foundational Teachings, The Living World Fellowship website, accessed September 8, 2008