Looking Back at Brownsville
|Photo by Cathy Wood|
Twenty years ago on Father’s Day, a powerful revival broke out in the Florida panhandle. Evangelist Steve Hill was a guest speaker at Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola. Steve talked about God doing powerful things for him after visiting a church in England. He then offered to pray for people. The Spirit of God swept through the sanctuary. Pastor John Kilpatrick fell to the floor, unable to rise for about four hours. This sparked what became the longest running revival in U. S. history.
During the next five years, Steve Hill preached up to four nights a week as the Brownsville Revival attracted over 4 million visitors. People from all over the world waited in line for hours just to get a good seat. Those of you who went there should remember the security guard repeatedly telling people on his bullhorn “single file line” as they walked into the church. The intense altar calls resulted in over 200,000 decisions for Christ. This birthed the Brownsville Revival School of Ministry (BRSM) that sent out missionaries to various countries.
I started hearing about the Brownsville Revival in 1996 but didn’t make my first trip there until a year later. In September 1997 I flew down to Pensacola for a five-night stay and initially wasn’t fond of the confrontational preaching I heard. The previous two years I had gone to renewal meetings at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (TACF) where the ministry was more about the Father’s love and being healed from past hurts. The sermons at Brownsville challenged people to holiness and “getting the sin out.”
While I preferred the atmosphere at TACF, God repeatedly sent me back to Pensacola. During my second visit in January 1998, the Lord spoke to me about downsizing my personal belongings since I would be traveling more as a missionary. Later at the revival, I received a confirmation through a prophetic word spoken by Steve Hill. He exhorted us to “live unsettled” since the Lord “will return for a pilgrim people.”
The first two times I flew to Pensacola, I stayed in motels. Doors then opened for me to stay in guest rooms at little or no cost. However, my love walk was frequently tested by hosts and roommates who mistreated me. That caused me to dread returning to Pensacola even though I got blessed at the revival meetings and enjoyed escaping the colder weather up north. Nevertheless, I obeyed the Lord when He directed me to make a temporary move there at the end of 2000. This time I did a lot more street evangelism. Despite the impact the revival had on the city, I was surprised to meet numerous people who hadn’t heard of it.
The last time I visited Brownsville Assembly of God was in November 2003. By then most of the key revival leaders were gone. John Kilpatrick resigned to focus on itinerant ministry. Steve Hill (who passed away last year) had returned to world evangelism and started up a church in the Dallas area. Worship leader Lindell Cooley founded a church in Nashville. BRSM President Michael Brown launched another school in Pensacola that later moved to North Carolina.
When the revival started cooling off, I became somewhat concerned. In 1993 Korean pastor David Yonggi Cho prophesied of a coming revival to Pensacola. Five years later, Dr. Cho announced from Brownsville’s pulpit the revival “would last until Jesus comes.”
Then in July 2010, a move of God broke out at another church pastored by John Kilpatrick in Daphne, Alabama. The Bay of the Holy Spirit Revival was quickly moved to the Mobile Convention Center to accommodate increasing crowds. During one meeting I attended there, Paul Keith Davis mentioned that before the Brownsville Revival started, he was praying with a group of prophets and declared a revival would start in Pensacola and then move 50 miles away.
This morning Brownsville Assembly of God is hosting a 20th Anniversary reunion service. I’m sure many people there will reflect on past revival moments. However, a movement cannot become a monument. I heard Tommy Tenney say one time at the revival “...if Brownsville is the best God can ever do, we’re in trouble.” An even more powerful move of the Holy Spirit can descend upon Pensacola if God’s people there remain hungry for Him.
As Michael Brown (who is speaking today at Brownsville) often says, “The best is yet to come!”
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” - John 14:12