BROWNSVILLE REVIVAL TIMELINE
1917: Pensacola First Assembly of God Church was founded by L.E. and Violet Moore in Pensacola, FL.
1939: Brownsville Assembly of God Church was founded by E.C. Ward and his family as offshoot of Pensacola First Assembly in Brownsville, FL.
1982: Rev. John Kilpatrick began his pastorate at Brownsville Assembly.
1993: A two year prayer program for revival led by Kilpatrick began at Brownsville Assembly.
1995 (June 18): Steve Hill appeared as a guest speaker at Brownsville Assembly, marking the beginning of the Brownsville Revival.
1996: Kilpatrick established John Kilpatrick Ministries.
1999: Revival meetings were reduced to a one-night-a-week schedule.
2000: Hill left the Revival and founded Steve Hill Ministries and the Heartland World Ministries Church in Dallas, TX.
2003: John Kilpatrick resigned his pastorate at Brownsville Assembly to continue to work on his evangelistic association, John Kilpatrick Ministries.
2006: John Kilpatrick founded the Church of His Presence in Daphne, AL.
2006: Rev. Dr. Evon G. Horton began his pastorate at Brownsville Assembly of God Church.
2014: (March 9): Steve Hill died after a protracted struggle with cancer.
The Brownsville Assembly, established in 1939 by E.C. Ward and his family, began as an offshoot of the Pensacola First Assembly ofGod Church, which was founded by L.E. and Violet Moore in 1917 (Pensacola First Assembly of God n.d.; Wojcik 2000). In its early history the Brownsville Assembly was known as the Full Gospel Tabernacle; the church was blessed by the pastor of the Pensacola First Assembly of God Church when it was chartered (Wojcik 2000).
The Brownsville Revival, also referred to the Pensacola Outpouring, occurred within the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, FL. From 1993 to 1995 Kilpatrick and the congregation had been praying for a revival in their church (Brownsville Assembly of God n.d.; Riss 1996). The church reported other prophecies of the coming revival. The pastor of the Yoido Full Gospel Church (Assemblies of God) in Korea announced that God had said to him in 1993 that “I am going to send revival to the seaside city of Pensacola, and it will spread like a fire until all of America ha been consumed by it” (Liichow 2007). A guest preacher reported that “God told him to draw a tabernacle on a piece of paper. He was to then denote at the four directions the following: in the west, he was to write the words ‘ Asuza Street’; In the east, ‘ Cleveland Tennessee’; in the north, ‘ Toronto’; in the south ‘ Pensacola’. This was to indicate a ‘spiritual cross’ across America through which God would pour out His Spirit” (Dager 1997).
It is generally agreed that the Revival began during the sermon of guest evangelist Steve Hill on Father’s Day, June 18, 1995 (Riss 1996). Hill was originally asked to preach during the Saturday evening service but was later asked by Kilpatrick to speak during the Sunday morning service at which the revival manifestations reportedly began (Riss 1996). The official account of what happened that morning was that “Over 1000 people came forward to pray that morning, and Kilpatrick stood on the platform praying with Hill and another man when he suddenly heard a sound like a “rushing mighty wind” sweep over his right shoulder. As Kilpatrick looked over his shoulder, he said his ankles slipped, his knees bowed out, and a sudden “river of the glory of God” moved between his legs. “It felt like a telephone pole,” he said. “An endless telephone pole was coming through my legs and it was coming in the church.” With some help from another man on the platform, Kilpatrick stepped back and listened to the sound of the “rushing mighty wind” and what he described as the “river of the glory of God” as it swept into the church. He suddenly jumped to the pulpit and screamed, “My God, church, get in! This is it! This is what we’ve been praying for! Get in!” (Costella 1997).
Further, the physical manifestations of the Spirit of the Lord reportedly were experienced by some church attendees at the Sunday service (Riss 1996). The service was originally to end around noon but was extended until late afternoon. One member in attendance that day reported that as Hill began praying for individuals who had come to the alter, “ all kinds of things started happening. … People were falling out and people were just getting ministered to, and the next thing we know it’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon” (Reeves 2012). Kilpatrick reportedly was so physically touched by the power of God that he was paralyzed for several hours during the service and unable to function normally for the next two weeks, often having to be driven home by other church members and carried into his home (Riss 1996). Following the Sunday service, the church asked Hill to extend his stay, and Hill cancelled his upcoming appointments, including a trip to Russia.
Word quickly spread about the manifestations at the Revival, and attendance at the Brownsville Assembly increased dramatically as visitors from different denominations, states, and countries flocked to the Revival. Within the first two weeks of the Revival approximately 10,000 people attended services, and by the end of July, 1995 the Revival was drawing around 4,000 visitors nightly (Riss 1996). The Revival thrived for several years, but by 1999 Revival meetings were reduced to a one-night-a-week schedule. The decline coincided with the resignation of Kilpatrick and Hill, beginning in 2000. The Brownsville Assembly of God continued as a local congregation with Rev. Dr. Evon G. Horton assuming the pastorate in 2006. Steve Hill died in 2014 after a protracted struggle with cancer.
The Brownsville Assembly of God Church is Pentecostal, emphasizing four core beliefs: salvation, diving healing, second coming, and baptism in the Holy Spirit (Assemblies of God USA 2011a). Salvation is defined as the acceptance of God in one’s life and the acknowledgment of one’s sins. Baptism in the Holy Spirit, a central tenet of Pentecostalism, is described as occurring after one’s salvation when one is filled with the Spirit of the Lord, resulting in a sense of higher fulfillment and closeness to God (Assemblies of God USA 2011a). Once baptized in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit may manifest itself through the practitioner in the form of spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues and prophesy. The Revival epitomized the core beliefs of Assemblies of God, with a strong focus on the salvation of souls and Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
The typical format of services within the Brownsville Revival began with singing, followed by a sermon; parishioners would then approach the altar to be saved, atone, and receive the Holy Spirit (Riss 1996). Physical manifestations of the Spirit (also referred to as being “slain in the Spirit”) became the proof for worshipers that God’s Spirit had fallen upon them. The Pentecostal belief structure of the Brownsville Assembly already allowed for such divine gifts as speaking in tongues. However, other manifestations particular to the Brownsville Revival included shaking and jerking of the body, crying, uninhibited laughter, paralysis of the body and even brief moments of unconsciousness (Riss 1996). These gifts could be transmitted to believers through touch (“impartation”). Hill received an impartation from the Toronto Blessing at an offshoot group, the Holy Trinity Brompton Church in the United Kingdom. At the Revival impartation occurred through touch by Hill, Kilpatrick, or members of the prayer team. In some instances “…many, while experiencing impartation, enter into the heavenly realm and have visions of angels” (Dager 1997). Participants in the Revival also reported miraculous healing experiences, saved marriages, changes in sexual orientation, and recovery from drug addiction. Richard Riss, a member of the Brownsville Assembly during the Revival, captured the dramatic nature of the physical manifestations of the Spirit: “When he touched me it was like a lightning bolt hit me! People were slain in the Spirit all over that place. Some people were jerking, some were crying, and some were lying still. Not everybody fell, but the place looked like a battlefield” (1996).
The Brownsville Assembly of God falls under the governance of the General Council of the Assemblies of God (USA), which is one of largest Pentecostal denominations in the United States (Assemblies of God USA 2011b). Prior to the Revival, the Brownsville Assembly of God had a congregation numbering under 2,100 (Riss 1996). Within two months 80,000 people had visited the Revival, with approximately 4,000 attending nightly services (Riss 1996). There were long lines of visitors who waited all day for a place in the evening service. Services during the Brownsville Revival often extended much longer than conventional church services, with most ending after midnight but some carrying over into the morning hours. The church purchased additional land, constructed a 2,200-seat sanctuary, and added a second 2,600-seat sanctuary to accommodate the flood of visitors (Reeves 2012).
It appears that the Revival peaked about three years after its inception and then began to decline. The Revival had lost most of its momentum by 2000, although Brownsville Assembly still received visitors interested in the Revival as late as 2003 (Pensacola First Assembly of God n.d.). Nonetheless, it is estimated that by the year 2000 at least four million people from over 150 nations had visited the Brownsville Assembly to participate in the Revival (Heartland World Ministries Church 2011). After the Revival had subsided, the Brownsville Assembly congregation once again became a local Assemblies of God congregation that numbered fewer than 400 (Grady 2005).
Steve Hill was born in Ankara, Turkey in 1954. According to the hagiographic account, Hill’s career as an evangelist began in 1975 in the wake of his history of drug use (Hill 1995). He reports that he was suffering from convulsions when he began appealing to Jesus. The convulsions immediately ceased and he dedicated his life to missionary work and spreading the word of Jesus Christ (Heartland World Ministries Church 2011). Kilpatrick had assumed his pastorate at the Brownsville Assembly in 1982, and he was the acting pastor of the Brownsville Assembly when the Revival began in 1995 (Brownsville Assembly of God n.d.; Riss 1996). Other key figures in the Brownsville Revival include Lindell Cooley, Brownville Assembly’s worship director during the Revival and Michael Brown, founder of the Brownsville Revival School of Ministry.
The Revival leadership team remained in place only a few years. In 1996, as a direct outgrowth of the Revival, Kilpatrick established John Kilpatrick Ministries with the goal of providing insight, guidance and resources concerning revivals for other ministers (John Kilpatrick Ministries 2011). In 2000, Steve Hill left his position as evangelist for the Revival in order to establish Steve Hill Ministries and the Heartland World Ministries Church in Dallas (Heartland World Ministries Church 2011). After 22 years of pastorship at the Brownsville Assembly, Kilpatrick resigned his position in 2003 in order to devote more time to John Kilpatrick Ministries (John Kilpatrick Ministries 2011; Pensacola First Assembly of God n.d). In 2006, Kilpatrick established the Church of His Presence in Daphne, AL (Church of his Presence 2011).
The Brownsville Revival was one of the longest running revivals in the United States, rivaling the now legendary Azusa Street Revival in Lost Angeles, which spanned a nine-year period from 1906-1915. It was impressive in terms of the size and breadth of its draw, with millions of visitors and well over 100 nations represented. A number of other Assemblies of God churches modeled their own revival services after Brownsville. While enormously popular, the revival has encountered opposition from several sources: longtime members of the Brownsville Assemblies of God Church, conservative Christian groups, and various media sources.
The Brownsville Assemblies of God Church had a more than fifty year history as a local Pensacola church prior to the Revival. The Revival inundated the church with new members and visitors, resulting in opposition from long-term members. It is estimated that as many as 800 Brownsville Assembly members left the church between 1995 and 1997 as a direct result of the Revival practices (Crann 1997b). Leavetakers reported that they felt pressured to participate in the Revival and betrayed by Kilpatrick. They reported being rebuffed when they presented concerns about the lack of scripture-based sermons, and some stated that they had succumbed to peer pressure by feigning being slain in the Spirit. Most of these former members chose to maintain personal anonymity rather than publicly voice their concerns. (Crann 1997b).
The evangelical community also responded in a highly critical fashion to the Revival. For example, in “The Counterfeit Revival” evangelical leader Hank Hanegraff (1997) wrote that ” …an examination of the revival reveals its serious distortions of biblical Christianity, concluding the movement is simply the latest outbreak in a long history of Counterfeit Revival. Characterized by an overemphasis on subjective experience in opposition to objective tests for truth, nonbiblical spiritual practices, Scripture twisting, and false and exaggerated claims, the Pensacola Outpouring threatens countless believers and depicts to the world a tainted stripe of Christianity.”
The most systematic critique of the Brownsville Revival came from the local newspaper, the Pensacola News Journal, which conducted a lengthy investigation of the Revival and published an award winning series of articles. While the newspaper had initially run some favorable stories on Revival, the later series was scathing in its assessment. The various articles asserted that Hill’s biographical claims, which established the basis for his leadership, were filled with contradictions (Allman 1997). Further, the newspaper characterized the initial events at the church as “orchestrated,” noting that church leaders had been planning for a revival for two years, leaders of the Brownsville Assembly of God had earlier visited the Toronto Blessing where a similar outbreak was in progress, a videotape of spiritual manifestations at the Toronto Blessing had been shown to the congregation, and evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne (who was associated with the Toronto Blessing) appeared at the church prior to the Revival. Most significantly, a videotape of the first service had been made, and on the day that Hill announced that a mighty wind had swept through the church “ videotape and statements of numerous people who were there indicate that nothing like that happened and the congregation in general was far from overwhelmed” (Crann 1997a). Media Spotlight had a similar assessment (Dager 1997). Finally, there were allegations that both Hill and Kilpatrick had personally profited financially from the revival and that reports of miraculous healings at the Revival were unsubstantiated (Blair 1997) .
The church published a point-by-point rejoinder of the newspaper series (Apologetics Research Team 1997), rebutting each of the allegations. However, at least some of the allegations were confirmed by Hill himself. He acknowledged, for example, that he had “inflated” accounts of some parts of his personal history. He stated that “I don’t mean to call myself a junkie. I call myself a drug addict….Heroin addict has more of an impact on peoples lives when they hear it” (Allman 1997). There were similar inconsistencies in his educational, occupational, and arrest histories, some of which he acknowledged.
The controversy surrounding the Brownsville Revival appears to have had little effect on the outpouring of support within the evangelical community. The public debate largely dissipated as the event began to lose momentum toward the end of the 1990s. Hill and Kilpatrick both moved on to establish separate ministries, although neither has had the impact of the Brownsville Revival. Despite its controversial history, therefore, the Brownsville Revival retains a claim as one of the longest lasting and influential revival movements of the twentieth century.
More significantly for the survival of the Brownsville Assembly of God, the waning of the revival led to significant financial problems for the church. The Brownsville Assembly incurred more that ten million dollars in debt from the revival period when it was purchasing land and adding staff and buildings. With a membership that has been reduced to a few hundred, the church now struggles to cope with an enormous debt by reducing staff, selling property, and fundraising to support the remaining facilities (Reeves 2012).
Allman, John. 1997. “Hill’s Bio Fraught with Fallacies: Revival Leader Admits He Inflated Stories.” Pensacola News Journal 18 November. Accessed at http://www.rickross.com/reference/brownsville/brownsville12.html on 28 November 2011.
Apologetics Coordination Team. 1997. “Official Brownsville Response To Pensacola News Journal Articles.” Accessed at http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/breaking.html on 25 November 2011.
Assemblies of God USA. 2011a. “Our Core Beliefs.” Accessed from http://ag.org/top/Beliefs/Our_Core_Doctrines/index.cfm on 31 October 2011.
Assemblies of God USA. 2011b. “History.” Accessed from http://ag.org/top/About/History/index.cfm on 31 October 2011.
Blair, Kimberly. 1997. No Medical Proof of ‘Miraculous Healings: Church Does Not Keep Records.” Pensacola News Journal. 20 November. Accessed at http://web.archive.org/web/20080607174620/http://www.intotruth.org/brn/nov20-04.htm on 28 November 2011.
Brownsville Assembly of God. n.d. “About page.” Accessed from http://brownsvilleag.org/about/history/?view=mobile on 27 October 2011.
Church of His Presence. 2011. “New? Page.” Accessed from http:www.churchofhispresence.org/new.php on 27 October 2011.
Costella, Matt. 1997. “The Brownsville Pensacola Outpouring: River of Revival or Pandemonium?” Foundation Magazine. March/April. Accessed at http://balaams-ass.com/journal/warnings/bvcostel.htm on 1 December 2011.
Crann, Alice. 1997a. “Pastor Orchestrated First Revival.” Pensacola News Journal. 19 November. Accessed at http://web.archive.org/web/20080607174609/http://www.intotruth.org/brn/nov19_01.htm on 1 December 2011.
Crann, Alice. 1997b. “Sadness, fear fill members who left Brownsville: worship turned bizarre, frightening.” The Pensacola News Journal, November 17. Accessed from http://www.rickross.com/reference/brownsville/brownsville26.html on 27 October 2011.
Dager, Albert. 2007. “ Pensacola: Revival or Reveling?” Media Spotlight. Accessed at http://www.mediaspotlight.org/pdfs/PENSACOLA.pdf on 1 December 2011.
Grady, J. Lee. 2005. “What Happened to Brownsville’s Fire?” Charisma Magazine. Accessed from http://www.fireinmybones.com/Columns/051906.html on 27 October 2011.
Hanegraff, Hank. 1997. “The Counterfeit Revival.” Christian Research Journal, November-December. Accessed at http://journal.equip.org/articles/the-counterfeit-revival-part-3- on 28 November 2011.
Heartland World Ministries Church . 2011. “About our staff page.” Accessed from http://heartlandfamily.com/about/our-staff.html on 27 October 2011.
Hill , Steve . 1995. Stone Cold Heart, 3rd edition. Together in the Harvest Publications.
John Kilpatrick Ministries. 2011. “About page.” Accessed from http: www.johnkilpatrick.org/about.php on 27 October 2011.
Liichow, Robert. 2007. “Here We Go Again.” Truth Matters Newsletters. 12:5 (May) . Accessed from http://discernmentministriesinternational.wordpress.com/2009/10/25/here-we-go-again/ on 1 December 2011.
Pensacola First Assembly of God. n.d. “About page.” Accessed from http://pensacolafirstassemblyofgod.com/about-us.html on 27 October 2011.
Reeves, Jay. 2012. “Enterprise: Church of Famed Revival Struggles.” Associated Press, March 30, 2012. Accessed from http://www.greenwichtime.com/news/article/AP-Enterprise-Church-of-famed-revival-struggles-3446240.php#ixzz1qtJ4oePq on7 April 2012.
Riss, M. Richard. 1996. “A History of the Revival of 1992-1995: Pensacola, Florida.” 21 November, 1996. Accessed from http://www.grmi.org/Richard_Riss/history/pensacola.html on 27 October 2011.
Wójcik, Krzysztof. 2000. “Awakening in Brownsville, Pensacola” Translated by googletranslate. Accessed from http://kzgdynia.pl/artykuly/artykuly_przebudzenieBrownsville.html on October 27, 2011.
19 March 2014