Demos Shakarian (1913-1993), Pentecostal founder of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International (FGBMFI). Demos Shakarian was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Presbyterian Armenian immigrants who left Turkey just a few years before his birth. The family came under the influence of the Pentecostal movement and relocated to Downey, California and began a dairy business. By his late teens Shakarian was a co-partner with his older brother as owners of the largest herd of dairy cattle in California. Active in Southern California Pentecostal circles from the mid-1930s onward, Shakarian frequently volunteered time and money to the campaigns of various Pentecostal evangelists.
In the early 1950s he formulated a plan that would bring together businessmen for meals designed for evangelism, discipleship, and exploring the miraculous gifts of the Spirit. He presented the idea to Oral Roberts at his 1951 Los Angeles Crusade and Roberts spoke at Shakarian’s first meeting. The new FGBMFI struggled for over a year and was nearly shut down until a breakout meeting occurred, Shakarian claimed, after he received a vision about the fledgling organization’s future worldwide impact. Over the next several years the organization would grow as part and parcel of the 1950s Pentecostal healing revival. By 1961 FGBMFI had over 300 chapters and almost 100,000 members. The decade of the 1960s were, if anything, an even more remarkable period for the organization. Buoyed by the spread of the charismatic movement FGBMFI attracted tens of thousands of supporters from mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic backgrounds. By the late 1970s Shakarian presided over 1,700 FGBMFI chapters in sixty six countries, a periodical (Voice) that printed 500,000 copies per month, and a television program which he hosted (“Good News”) that was broadcast on more than 300 stations in the U.S.
In 1984 Shakarian suffered a stroke that incapacitated him for several years. During that time FGBMFI languished amid leadership controversies and rudderless, its membership dropped in half from its peak of 700,000. Shakarian eventually recovered sufficiently to reassert control of the organization and installed his son, Richard, as his successor. FGBMFI remains a strong cog in the networks which support Pentecostal and charismatic ministries and programs.
For further reading see Vinson Synan, Under His Banner (Gift Publications, 1992), and Demos Shakarian, The Happiest People on Earth (Revell, 1975).