William John Ernest Baxter was born 1914 in Saskatchewan, Canada. He was born and baptised into a Presbyterian family. His mother had some dealings with a Holiness church and following his father’s conversion they went into classical Pentecostalism. Their city was visited by a Scandinavian itinerate minister who was blessed by signs and wonders accompanying his word. While in the Baxter’s home city, he taught on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Ern Baxter’s mother was the first in those meetings to receive the baptism of power. Ern recalled seeing his father help her into the house drunk in the Spirit – an unusual event as she was so strictly tee-total! Later in his teenage years Ern went through a period of backsliding from the legalism of religion and became seriously ill from pneumonia through excess. Two events brought him back to God – a miracle of healing and the words of a friend;
“Ern, being a Christian isn’t about what you do for God, it’s about what God in Christ Jesus has done and will continue to do for you”.
On the 24th May 1932 he entered full time service for God as a musician travelling across Canada with an apostle.
While travelling Ern and his companion came to a conference held in Trossachs in Canada. It was there at 3:40am on July 2nd 1932 that Ern Baxter received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Trossachs was an unusual conference for the delegates were not Pentecostal in the classic sense – they were very biblically orientated with a hunger for the experience of the Holy Spirit. This was Ern’s first exposure to what was to become a central passion in his life and ministry – Word and Spirit or Reformed Doctrine and Charismatic life and power. The morning after he had been baptised in the Holy Spirit God spoke to him and called him to the ministry; “I want you to preach My Word”.
Ern Baxter noticed that many following the Trossachs conference made choices to follow either the Word or the Spirit and to compromise that balance or tension. He himself initially attempted to do the same as there was no clear role model to hold Word and Spirit in proper tension before. He spent some time ministering within classic Pentecostalism but found his Reformed theology was not acceptable at that point. It was then he received an invitation to a small independent Baptist church in Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. It was here he put into practice those principles that he had experienced at Trossachs and built the largest church in the city and area.
In 1947 Ern and his church began to hear about an unusual travelling evangelist called William Branham who was filling the largest arenas in America with dramatic displays of the power of God. God promised Ern at that time; “You will meet this man”. On the grounds of that promise he refused several arranged meetings with Branham. However it was William Branham himself who approached Ern and told him that he had been praying and had met the angel of the Lord who had appeared to him and told him to invite Ern Baxter to become his companion and manager. They worked together for seven years. While Ern saw some of the greatest miracles, signs and wonders during his time he began to become concerned at the error that was coming out from the Healing Movement. In 1957 Ern found it necessary to withdraw from ministry with Branham.
Movements of the Spirit
One of the remarkable features of Ern Baxter’s life was that he lived through no less than four major movements of the Holy Spirit in the 20th century – the Pentecostal Movement (which began in Azusa Street, Los Angeles), the Healing Movement, the Latter Rain Movement and eventually the Charismatic Movement (which began involving Dennis Bennett, a contemporary of Ern Baxter’s). The Latter Rain Movement has also been shrouded in controversy. It started in Ern’s home town of Saskatchewan, Canada and was started by men who were hungry for God and for genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and as these men prayed and fasted God visited them sovereignly in power. Ern went to their second convocation in Canada and said;
“I never saw such a concentration of the power of God”.
However like the Healing Movement, the leaders of the Latter Rain seemed to show disregard for the disciplines of the Word of God and it too declined into obscurity. When Ern read of the beginning of the Charismatic Movement his initial reaction was one of cynicism from having seen this before but he went on to meet Dennis Bennett who had been moved up to Seattle. As the Charismatic Movement spread throughout the world Ern was privileged to be in the position of being an experienced man of God who had seen the mistakes of the past but still hungered for more of the Presence and Spirit of God.
Ritch Carlton, Ern Baxter’s Administrator wrote post-humously of Ern;
“ … A seasoned, mature man of God who laboured in Word and doctrine and who spent the majority of his life travelling in public ministry. He was involved in most of the major moves of the Spirit experienced in this century … He was a witness to Christianity’s divisions – from the inside and the outside. With disappointment he cried “Where is the Church?”. He knew that the Church is God’s instrument in the earth to declare His glory and righteousness. He loved the Church”.
Many other church leaders have become disillusioned with Pentecostal/Charismatic excess and have responded by calling for no use, effectively becoming functional cessationists. Ern Baxter did not give in to such a temptation. Rich Carlton wrote;
“Above all else Ern still believed that God had a purpose for the Church in the earth that would be realized in ultimate and complete victory”.
Maturing in the Spirit
Ern Baxter is possibly most known for being part of what was called the Shepherding/Discipleship Movement. While there is no denying that excess and harm was indeed present in this movement, the original vision and heart of the five men who led the movement were for God’s highest best and so that moves of the Spirit of God would be maintained and heightened. Don Basham, Derek Prince, Bob Mumford, Charles Simpson and Ern Baxter all came from different theological and religious viewpoints and backgrounds yet realised that there is nothing biblical or healthy in independence. In no way whatever did any of the five men support unbiblical heavy shepherding but they did call for a need for accountability and discipleship. The five men held several major key conferences at Montreat and at Kansas which attracted many thousands of men – suggesting that their message was meeting a need. The Kansas City Shepherds Conference in 1975 was especially historic – attended by some 40 to 50, 000 men. Ern Baxter closed the conference preaching possibly his most historic message – “Thy Kingdom Come!”. Many men testified to seeing angelic manifestations and signs and wonders. The sense of unity brought an awesome and heavy manifestation of the anointing of the Presence of God.
Ern Baxter had a major influence not just in the United States but also across the world particularly in Australia and the United Kingdom. He came to the United Kingdom in 1975 and preached keynote addresses at the main charismatic conferences – the Lakes and Dales Bible Weeks. Professor Andrew Walker wrote of; “the powerful influence of an American, Ern Baxter”. The Bible Weeks were run by UK charismatic leader Bryn Jones and his team of apostolic churches. Andrew Walker wrote;
“Baxter’s influence was sensational; the audiences went wild every time he appeared … during the first Bible Week at the Great Yorkshire Showground in 1976, Baxter was the great attraction and as in the previous year excitement was at fever pitch”.
Ern’s ministry did not just affect Bryn Jones’ churches. Terry Virgo, the father of the Newfrontiers family of churches wrote;
“Ern Baxter was a powerful prophetic preacher, able to paint a huge picture of the magnificent end-time church. He was deeply rooted theologically, very widely read but also profoundly steeped in a powerful Pentecostal background … the influence of Ern Baxter and his friends was growing even greater in the USA and their monthly magazine New Wine became their radical trumpet voice was now being read all around the world”.
Ern did not limit himself to being “simply” a conference speaker. He believed deeply in the principles of discipleship and took on 12 men – pastors – to care for and to teach and support where he could. Each of these men would travel over to meet him in his home firstly in Mobile, Alabama and then in San Diego, California to spend time hearing him teach. He too travelled as much as his health would allow supporting and visiting his “sons” and their churches. He did not only teach from his experience but from a massive library of 9, 000 plus books and journals that are now housed in a Memorial Library in Mobile, Alabama under the auspices of Charles Simpson Ministries.
By the end of his life, Ern was taking an interest in imparting all that he had learned to younger men – his “Timothys”. It is surprising therefore that more of Ern Baxter’s ministry has not been published. It is our sincere hope that this website may be a small step towards this prophetic statement of Charles Simpson’s being fulfilled.
“Ern has a profound preaching and teaching ministry. He is a preacher’s preacher. It is important that the taped and printed records of his ministry be preserved and propagated” – Charles Simpson, New Wine Magazine – November 1986.
“Autobiography and Introduction” – by Dr Ern Baxter – from the tape series – “Things Most Surely Believed Series” – Alethia Ministries audiotapes.
- “A Daring Biblical Approach to God’s Agenda” – by Ern Baxter – Destiny Image, PA (1995).
- “A Statement” by Charles Simpson – from New Wine Magazine – November 1986 – CGM Ministries.
- “A Demonstration of His Glory – A Personal Report of Ern’s Recent Ministry in Great Britain” – by Dr Ern Baxter – from New Wine Magazine – December 1977 – CGM Ministries.
- “Restoring the Kingdom” – by Andrew Walker – Eagle Books, Surrey (1998).
- "Restoring the Balance between the King, the Kingdom and the Holy Spirit” – by Ern Baxter – Destiny Image, PA (1995).
- “No Well-Worn Paths” – by Terry Virgo – Kingsway, Eastbourne (2001).