the movement that began in 1995
not underestimate the power of Pentecostalism in our time. Although out
of the headlines most of the time, it is capturing millions of
followers, and is a force yet to be reckoned with--when, at the time of
the National Sunday Law, a powerful movement of the spirit sweeps
through Protestantism, and coerces the U.S. Congress into enacting
certain of its requests.
this present study we will be primarily concerned with the Brownsville
Revival. It provides us with an excellent view of the current
fever--and the controversy surrounding it.
THE BROWNSVILLE REVIVAL
nights a week, week after week, the five-hour meetings continue. They
have continued for the last 33 months. Every night dozens of people are
baptized, while in the audience people shout, shake, dance, go limp in
chairs, clap, scream, fall to the floor, cry, bounce, pray, or convulse.
is business as usual at Brownsville, with 2,000 packing the auditorium
at 7 p.m. starting time. The people come from all over the world, every
continent. They are here to find the spirit and be filled by it. They
want the spirit to change their lives, and they generally get what they
have come for.
2 million visitors have attended the evening services at the Brownsville
Assembly of God Church in Pensacola, Florida, since the spirit first
arrived there in mighty power in June 1995.
Pentecostal church in Toronto, Canada, which in 1995 had the wildest
action, has now been surpassed by Brownsville. The Brownsville Assembly
of God Church is on the outskirts of Pensacola, Florida. What is
happening there is sometimes referred to as the Pensacola
Revival, but more often as the Brownsville Revival.
night in the large parking lot can be seen cars, trucks, and campers
from 30 or more states. As mentioned earlier, some have journeyed here
from overseas countries--Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, and South
to how they tell it, for Fathers Day in 1995, Pastor John Kilpatrick
had invited the revivalist, Steve Hill, to take the service. Hill had
hardly begun when a sound of a rushing, mighty wind was heard.
Kilpatrick was flattened by the force. His legs stopped working
and he lay there three hours. He said he had been totally slain by
that night, it has happened to hundreds every night since then. Hill has
become a permanent fixture at the evening meetings.
a lengthy sermon, Hill calls for the people to come forward to receive
the spirit. Immediately several hundred rush forward, followed by
Hill and several fellow ministers work their way through the immense
crowds which are standing, quietly waiting for their own empowerment to
occur. Night after night Hill touches people with his thumb on their
forehead and most fall over backward, while some only stagger back.
interpreters are standing by with headphones. In the choir room, up to
150 people are praying for the spirit to fall on those out in the main
assembly. No, it is not the usual kind of praying. Everyone is babbling
in mysterious sounds, all at the same time.
the basement, a dozen converts at a time wade into a baptismal pool and
are baptized into this new spirit.
the main auditorium, the service begins as some curl up on the ground, a
few sit in a trance, and most rise, shake off their shoes (because they
are on holy ground), and begin twisting and dancing in the aisles.
Some hop around. It all has the appearance of the heathenism which
gripped the Hebrews (Exodus 32), while they danced and worshiped the
golden calf. They sing songs (often several different ones at the same
time), with titles such as Satan is under my feet (if they
only knew) and The Spirit of the Lord is in me.
they begin going through their practice noises so the spirit can take
control of their minds more fully. Each one repeats a meaningless vowel,
or a consonant and vowel over and over again. The place has become a
Babylon (in the original meaning of the word, babel)and the
spirit descends. Speaking in tongues erupts everywhere.
from the podium John Kilpatrick calls them to quietness, and the vast
audience of 2,000 is seated. Then Kilpatrick turns the meeting over to
Steve Hill, and the excitement begins in earnest.
go into a faint, and fall rather slowly to the floor in a downward
heap, but always slowly enough that they are not injured. It is, by no
means, a normal fall.
ones which fall backwards (whether or not Hill has touched them), fall
with their bodies totally straight. Behind them are catchers.
These are volunteers waiting to catch and lay them down on the floor.
This stiffened drop is always directly backward, never forward or
sideward. If several are standing together, they all fall backward
together in perfect timing, with none falling into the other falling
ones. It all has a very orderly, but supernatural, appearance.
initially touching one and then another person, which falls backward,
Hill faces towards entire clusters of three to six people which have
come forward to receive the spirit, and they all fall backward
as he begins to step toward them. Then he turns in a different
direction, and another group falls backward in perfect group
coordination. Only part of the time do they fall on others behind them.
As one group falls backward, Hill steps over them and walks a little
farther back, and still more fall.
Hill makes his way through the standing crowd below the podium, more and
more fall. All the while the seated audience beyond cheer and clap
wildly at each new exhibition of the spirits moving.
Hill reaches the end of the frontal area, he steps over the seats and
fells more with a touch or glance, as they sit or stand at their seats
in the audience.
some point in the performance, amid more screeches and applause Hill
touches Kilptarick and he falls, or Kilpatrick touches Hill and he falls
into a groggy, immobile sitting position.
the one, still standing, causes more of the audience to fall.
helpers, called prayer warriors, fan out through the congregation
touching still more, and they fall to the ground.
the vast hall appears like a bedlam (The name fits well, since the
original Bedlam was an insane asylum outside of London).
As on cue, the hoppers and twisters drop to their knees. A man from France curls up in a fetal position, burying his face in the carpet. A woman from Arkansas remains erect, but cant stop bowing. Here and there someone begins speaking in tongues. Get used to it, the music minister urges the crowd, caressing the keys of his Yamaha organ. This is what heaven will be like. Newsweek, April 13, 1998.
One man lies flat, his arms raised stiff in the air. Another takes a smothering blow to the face when a woman topples onto him; he doesnt flinch. Hill moves down an aisle, stepping over the fallen, then climbs over the backs of pews to spread the spirit power. At a flick of his hand, a whole row of the faithful fall like dominoes. Ibid.
THE BROWNSVILLE SCHOOL AND RALLIES
and Hill are doing what they can to help their spirit convert the world.
Year ago, the Brownsville Revival School of Ministry opened with
120 full-time students. Half were new Brownsville converts. Michael L.
Brown is the schools dean. By fall 1997, the school, which offers a
two-year theology degree, had 511 students from 46 states. These are
sent out to extend the work still further.
and Hill are now regularly sending out associate pastors to bring in new
converts at two-night rallies in Memphis, Birmingham, Dalllas, Saint
Louis, Toledo, Anaheim, and elsewhere. Our goal is to bring this
revival to key cities in the U.S.
PROBLEMS AT BROWNSVILLE
greater Pensacola community have not known what to do with the
Brownsville phenomenon. Finally the Pensacola News Journal
decided to do some careful investigating.
previously publishing dozens of mostly positive articles about the
revival, on November 16 through 20, 1997, the News Journal ran a
series about their findings. They discovered that leaders at the
Brownsville Church were growing wealthy from millions of dollars spent
by revival goers on books, manuals, audiotapes, videotapes, and other
products. The newspaper reported that only Brown, the dean of their
school, had paid sales tax on his books and cassettes sold at tables
inside the church.
30 different stories appeared in the News Journal during those
five days. The general title of the series was Browsville Revival:
The Money and the Myths. The Journal said that the
revival-related businesses was a multimillion-dollar retail industry
conducted within the walls of the church.
series accused Kilpatrick of orchestrating the revival and causing
trouble to dissenters, and charged that Hill invented parts of his
dramatic testimony. Nearly every aspect of the the revival and operation
of the church was questioned.
News Journal said that hundreds of thousands of dollars had been
spent on houses and vehicles owned by the leaders, as well as on offices
and other expenses. The paper said that during its investigation, Hill,
now 43, submitted incomplete financial reports, and Kilpatrick refused
to give any financial data for either the church or his private Feast
of Fire Ministries. There may also be financial problems connected
with Hills private ministry.
is a brief summary from the five-day News Journal series:
November 16, 1997:
church budget is $6.6 million, and it is intensifying its pleas for
money. Leaders urge that the people give at least $100 per person per
evening. It appears that through the sale of merchandise, revival is for
sale. The three top ministers at Brownsville do not pay state sales tax.
November 17, 1997:
Kilpatrick rules over the church, and his new lifestyle includes a
$310,000 coach. He has expensive homes, and vigorously opposes
dissenters. In the pulpit, he utters prophecies warning of
disaster to critics. Sadness and fear fill the hearts of members who
have left Brownsville.
November 18, 1997:
Hills professed biography are fraught with fallacies. His frequent
boasts exaggerate the facts. He asks for money for projects which are
not carried out. His criminal record is not what he says it is. He has
purchased a 40-acre estate in southern Alabama.
November 19, 1997:
scholars, theologians, and Pentecostal church members voice various
criticisms of the Brownsville revivals, its theological basis, and the
tactics it uses. The pastor orchestrated the first revival. The
Brownsville revival is similar in its devious methods to the one in
November 20, 1997:
true are the Brownsville revival claims regarding healing, charity,
crime reduction and addiction reduction? The sheriff of Escambia County
disputes their claims of crime reduction. The neighborhood
sees no benefit from the revival. There is no medical proof of
miraculous healings. Experts declare that addicts may be building
false hopes. It is the other churches in the area which are reaching out
to those in need, not Brownsville Pentecostal Church.
Area pastors and spiritual leaders recommend that, if you want answers,
go to the Bible; that is where you will find them.
ORIGINS AND OUTCOME
Pentecostal churches trace their origins to revivals of tongue-speaking
that occurred at Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas, in 1901, and at
the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles in 1906. Similar revivals took
place in Great Britain and in Europe, Asia, and Latin America during the
early 1900s. Since the 1930s, the Pentecostal movement has grown
rapidly. By the early 1970s, there were about 7 million members in the
various Pentecostal churches. Newsweek says that, at the present
time (1998), there are 20 million members in the U.S. and 225 million
worldwide. The largest tongues denomination (Assemblies of God) now has
2.4 million members.
leaders claim their people constitute a third force in
Christianity, alongside Roman Catholics and non-tongues Protestants.
the present time, that force has invaded traditional Protestant
and Catholic churches, so the total number cannot be estimated
accurately. David Barrett, a religion demographer at Regent University,
believes the total number of spirit-filled worshipers is close to
460 million Christians in various parts of the world.
latest promotion of spirit-seeking comes from a newly-released motion
picture, The Apostle. Written, directed, and starring Robert
Duvall, I am told it strongly urges the viewer to go find a Pentecostal
church and receive the spirit.
if to dramaticize the situation even further, Pope John Paul II has
proclaimed 1998 as the Year of the Holy Spirit. However,
the Vatican is actually very worried about the Pentecostals, for they
have captured so many faithful Catholics in Central and South America.
their part, the mainline Pentecostal church headquarters are concerned
about all the little spirit-filled start-ups here and there. People are
being filled with the spirit but not under their auspices or control.
All it takes is to get the spirit and then go out, rent a hall,
and begin putting the spirit in those who come.
the power of these spirits is also surging at local mainline Pentecostal
churches also. Thomas Trask, general superintendent of the largest of
these bodies, the Assemblies of God (based in Springfield, Missouri),
has said that church leaders are pleased with the new power displayed at
these local churches. The impact of Toronto and Brownsville has had a
ripple effect throughout the world.
the excitement at Brownsville, Pentecostal historian Vinson Synan
comments, This is probably the most important revival to come out of
a local church since Azusa Street. According to Synan, the unleashing
of spirit forces occurring in our time, exceeds that of any earlier time
in our century. That is a significant comment.
In the evolution
of Pentecostal Christianity, membership in the movement is proven by
whether you've experienced the Holy Spirit getting inside your body
and taking physical control, observes Wellesleys Marini. Ibid.
is the reason for the success of Celebration Churches in our own ranks.
Rather than worship God in the beauty of holiness, people would rather
worship the excitement of feeling. They stand and clap, sing semi-rock
songs to drums and band music, and want a man to put his hand on their
heads so they will be more sanctified.
is the next step after Celebrationism? It is full-scale Pentecostal
exhibitions: dancing, rolling, shouting, tongues-speaking, and all the
there is a step beyond that. It is discussed in the first booklet (The
Counterfeit Revival and Threefold Union; $3.95 plus p&h) in the
present writers 18-part End-Time Series, which is the most
complete collection of Spirit of Prophecy statements on last-day events,
from just before the National Sunday Law on down to the final
destruction of the wicked, and views of heaven beyond.
will be a strange and overmastering excitement in the churches
which will initiate the final crisis! Beware! Study Gods Word!
Know what the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy have to say about such
matters. There is not much time left. We are surely nearing the end.
Study Gods Word, In Christ's
strength obey Gods Word, and do what you can to be a help to those
my earlier study, The Holy Laughter Apostasy Part 1-2
[WM707-708], the fast-spreading growth of this strange form of
Pentecostalism was discussed in some detail.
Newsweek article, quoted elsewhere in this report, also provides
a brief glimpse of another Pentecostal pattern: rabbit hopping:
At the Community Church in tiny Smithton, Mo., where a showing of the spirit has been going on for two years, the typical experience is hopping up and down. I've shrieked because of the [spirits] power, and its sent me to the floor, says Joe Cole, 33, owner of a moving and storage company who has visited the Smithton church from Ramsey, Minn. I've been overcome with peace and it blankets me, and nothing else matters in the world . .
At the Smithton church, the
five-hour service begins with an hour-long jam session featuring three
guitars, three keyboards, a full set of drums and two vocalists to
deliver original music over a high-tech sound system.
in all quoted passages, spirit was initial-capitalized in the
Rather than yield the liberty so agreeable to the carnal heart and renounce the sins which they love, multitudes close their eyes to the light and walk straight on, regardless of warnings, while Satan weaves his snares about them and they become his prey. Great Controversy, 559.
Brownsville revival, now four years old, has attracted an estimated 3.5
million visitors, and there seems to be no end in sight to this daily
Pentecostal frenzy which some are calling the longest-running
church-based revival in the 20th century.
they plan to make their spirit-filled meetings a world-wide event.
inside, as the frenzied music plays, the thousands sing and sway, cry
and pray, and seek a special encounter with God.
momentum rises as Pastor John Kilpatrick comes to the podium and
introduces Evangelist Steve Hill. After an ecstatic sermon, Hill gives
an altar call and a crush of hundreds moves forward.
follows an astounding, never-to-be-forgotten experience, as Hill walks
toward one group after another, and they fall backward as wheat cut by
the scythe, into the arms of men behind them who catch and lay them down
flat on the ground. Others tremble and fall down. Some are unconscious
whole thing is said to be the working of the spirit. Indeed, it
is. But not the spirit they think it to be.
who is 44 years old, has preached nearly 700 sermons since the revival
began in June 1995. He says he will remain there as long as lost
souls keep coming.
these Pentecostal leaders are doing more than waiting for people to come
year, Kilpatrick and Hill have started projects which they intend to
take their message around the world.