PUBLISHED SUNDAY NOVEMBER 16, 1997
Copyright 1997 The Pensacola News Journal. All
budget is $6.6 million;
2% devoted to
By Amie K.
The Brownsville Revival is known
the world over for leading sinners to God.
But the 2 1/2-year phenomenon is not only
making Christians out of gang members and drug
users, it is making millions of dollars. But for
Revival leaders talk at length about the souls
they have saved, but they rarely talk about the
money they have made. They tell expansive stories
about the impact of the revival, but they
downplay the expensive lifestyles the revival is
A four-month News Journal investigation has
revealed spending practices that sharply differ
from the activities worshipers are asked to
About 15 percent of the church's $6.6 million
budget -$1,019,406 - goes to salaries and
benefits for 107 church employees, according to a
brief and nondetailed financial statement the
Brownsville Assembly of God released to the News
The church will not release specific
information about the salaries and perquisites --
including housing allowances -- for the revival
The revival leadership makes an unabashed call
for money: "Reach into your wallets and pull
out the biggest thing you can find,"
Associate Pastor Carey Robertson urges,
suggesting that $100 is an acceptable figure.
Robertson and other leaders assure the
audience that most of the money goes to missions
-- organizations working to spread Christianity.
Yet after evangelist Steve Hill takes his share
-- the Friday night offering each week goes to
Hill's Together in the Harvest Ministries -- the
Brownsville church's donations to missions
amounts to 2 percent of the church's annual
budget. Church leaders call for money to cover
the "tremendous" expense of keeping the
church and revival going. Yet 14 percent of the
budget goes to cover such costs.
By comparison, the revival pumps substantial
money -- $1.2 million, or more than 18 percent of
the budget --into activities that gross big
returns: pastors' conferences, videotapes and
music tapes to sell to revival-goers.
The church tells the revival audience that
"our finances are in order" and
"everything is open," but the
leadership refuses to make full disclosure of the
"It's nobody's business but ours,"
Robertson said. "We are not accountable to
the people who come to revival because they are
our guests. They are making a free-will offering
and therefore should not expect an audit or an
"If you wonder where the money is going,
then don't give. Obviously, we can't spend money
the way people want us to, but once it becomes a
gift, it is ours to use. It is nobody's business
how we use it."
That goes for the Brownsville flock as well.
The church's membership gets an annual one-page
statement, listing revenues and expenditures in
general categories. Robertson and church
treasurer R.L. Berry say detailed accountings are
provided only to the church's eight-member board
No other church member can get financial
answers without getting a two-thirds majority
vote from the congregation authorizing release of
By contrast, large churches in the other major
denominations in the Pensacola community make
full financial disclosure.
What is most clear about the Brownsville
Revival money picture is that the leaders have
found many ways to keep the money coming in. For