PUBLISHED SUNDAY NOVEMBER 16, 1997
Copyright 1997 The Pensacola News Journal. All
Revival maestro's money, business, is no secret
By Amie K. Streater
Pensacola -- If God is moving in Brownsville, He's picked Lindell Cooley to play the marching tunes.
Cooley can find all the right keys on his Yamaha keyboard even with his eyes blissfully closed.
"How could I say there is no God, when all around creation calls? A singing bird, a mighty tree, the vast expanse of open sea."
He's not singing, he's praying.
Revival maestro Cooley came to Brownsville Assembly of God in April 1995, two months before the revival began.
People who have heard his music say they can't even imagine a revival service without him.
Some who stand in line for hours and drive for days to get into the revival, leap to their feet when Cooley starts to play.
His rendition of a peppy tune aptly called "The Happy Song" inspires shouts and jumps of joy from the fatigued crowds.
He gets their blood flowing, their hearts pumping and their voices praising.
While the other revival leaders, and the church as well, have refused to fully disclose their financial dealings, Cooley is an open book.
"If I can't explain what I do sufficiently, then I probably shouldn't do it," said Cooley, whose job as Brownsville minister of music puts him in the revival upper echelon.
He is also president of Music Missions International, a nonprofit corporation he formed in March to sell his revival music on compact discs and cassettes.
He said he would like to disclose his annual salary from Brownsville Assembly of God, but he can't because Brownsville pastor John Kilpatrick has asked him not to. He said Kilpatrick considers all the ministers' salaries private information.
While Music Missions International is less than nine months old, Cooley and his staff of seven have already established their path: They are trying to meet all the standards of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, an organization founded by Billy Graham. It helps nonprofit Christian organizations keep the public's trust through honest financial dealings.
Cooley said he wants to be sure that after MMI's bills are paid, the profits will go to missions.
"If you build it right at the start, it will be right as it grows," said Larry Day, MMI general manager.
The first official audit is in December, but Day said he could provide estimates now of MMI's spending of its $500,000 in sales so far:
- Money still uncollected from buyers/venders: $100,000.
- Production costs: $100,000.
- Salaries: $60,000.
- Missions and others in need of help: $55,000.
- Inventory: $50,000.
- Equipment: $40,000.
- Administrative costs: $47,500
- Cash balance: $47,500.
Cooley said he receives "a small salary," as one of the seven MMI employees. Even combined with his salary from Brownsville, he said, it would still be well under $100,000.
Anyone who's seen and heard him perform can attest that he earns his pay.
In addition to singing at the revival four nights a week, he sings and plays the keyboard at the Brownsville church's Sunday morning worship service and at Awake America crusades, the revival services the Brownsville team holds in big cities around the country.
He is awed at his success. "I don't deserve it," he said. "I'm nobody." He said he does not feel worthy to be --scrubbing toilets on the back of an iceberg.
Some nights, scrubbing toilets might be easier. In all, he performs about two hours every night of the revival, his neck muscles bulging as he pushes his strong baritone voice farther and farther, up into the rafters.
Cooley will get a break from Dec. 8 to Jan. 7, when the revival takes a holiday hiatus, but he and his wife are traveling to England to minister at a church there.
Even though his throat has become raw and his speaking voice raspy, Cooley, 34, is devoted to his work.
"For the first two years I was going pretty much on adrenaline and excitement. But about seven or eight months ago, I would hit several times during the month when I would look at Amber (his wife) and say 'Honey, I can't do it tonight. I'm just too tired."'
He said that he quickly changed his attitude when Kilpatrick suffered injuries in a fall in September. Kilpatrick missed almost a month of the revival while he recovered at home.
"After Pastor Kilpatrick's fall...I told him about this and he said, 'Lindell, be careful what you say. I was saying the same thing and now I'd give anything to be there.'
"I've really repented for that," Cooley said.
He's become more than a music minister, he's an ardent advocate for the revival.
"If you want to worship God and you really love worshiping him in your heart, what you want is to see other people praise him and worship him with you," he said. "My goal is to get those people to sing with me and worship with me.
"I want them to see something or hear something that moves them to say, 'You know, I need to look at this again. Maybe this is more than religion. Maybe God is real.'
"I want people to say there is a God. He's not dead like the headlines read in the '60s."
Brownsville is a different world from leading Sunday night church services at Christ Church, an interdenominational church in Nashville.
"I was known more as a choir arranger and a piano player," he said.
Cooley was raised in Red Bay, Ala., where his father still preaches at a small church. His mother, Shirley Cooley, is a gospel singer with a sweet, powerful voice that can sing the leaves off a tree.
Despite his metropolitan style that includes retro eyeglasses, sleek black clothes and long blond hair, Cooley can't shake his aw-shucks-country-boy roots.
He laughed when told about a rumor rocketing around Pensacola that he recently paid cash for a $497,000 house in the North Hill historic district.
"You've got to be kidding," he said. "I couldn't afford that."
He and Amber just bought a house for $137,000. It is a 2,300-square-foot Cordova Park home. He had been living in an older house in East Hill, on Lakeview Avenue, which he said he adored.
"I just love old houses," he said. That little house, which he sold just two weeks ago for $99,000, suited him perfectly but did not have the amenities his wife needed.
"When it was just me, it was plenty big. But women like more than one bathroom, and they really like counter space in the bathroom," he said, laughing.
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