PUBLISHED SUNDAY NOVEMBER 16, 1997
Copyright 1997 The Pensacola News Journal. All
Revival for sale
cash in with own products
By Amie K.
PENSACOLA - Brownsville
Revival music stirs people to jump up and dance,
filling the aisles and pews with swaying,
clapping, bouncing, arm-waving, foot-pounding,
When they leave for home, they
don't have to leave the music behind.
For 200 feet up and down the
corridor that rings the main auditorium, tables
are piled with music cassettes and CDs and that's
just a fraction of the merchandise available for
The Brownsville Revival has
generated a multi-million dollar retail industry,
conducted within the walls of the church.
Inside the church's double
front doors, tapes, T-shirts and similar
revival-generated products are offered for sale
all during the day and until about an hour after
the revival is under way at night.
The crowds that stand in line
throughout the day to get good seats for the
night-time revival are a steady source of
Even as the revival service is
under way, people leave the pews to browse and
buy. At times, the customers are so densely
packed that people have to suck in their stomachs
and step sideways to pass one another in the
merchandise-laden corridor and lobby.
The products are sold not only
by the church but also by individual corporations
created by the revival leaders.
Most profit figures are
Revival musician Lindell
Cooley's ministry, Music Missions International,
has sold close to $500,000 in merchandise, mainly
music tapes and CDs, since he established the
corporation in March, said general manager Larry
The revival's evangelist, Steve
Hill, told the News Journal that his books and
tapes, sold through his corporation, Together in
the Harvest, earned $224,675.
The church itself, which as a
church does not have to make its finances public
or pay taxes, says it lost money last year on
revival merchandise, despite $625,166 in sales of
books, music and video tapes.
An abbreviated 1996 financial
statement that the church released to the News
Journal indicates the church fell short $239,160
on the products.
Associate Pastor Carey
Robertson, who oversees the church, blames that
on an overload of inventory at year-end. The
church had bought more products than it could
sell before the end of its year, he said.
The church's statement lists
$864,324 in merchandise expenses:
- Music $474,549
- Cassettes, manuals, books
- Videotapes $143,307
- Audio tapes $50,086
The statement lists $625,166 in
- Music $336,369
- Videotapes $185,820
- Tapes $62,122
- Cassettes, manuals, books
Some products, especially the
videotapes of nearly every revival service, are
sold under the church's name.
On the other hand, the popular
revival music cassettes and CDs are sold under
the name of Music Missions International Inc.,
headed by revival maestro Cooley.
Many people buy two, three,
even 10 videotapes, which cost $10 and $15. They
gladly spend the money, saying they want to
sustain "the anointing" by video
viewing numerous different revival services.
They also load music cassettes,
at $10 each, and CDs, at $15, into their shopping
bags. Cooley's music is a big seller, but so is
the altar-call anthem, "Mercy Seat,"
which is available on cassette and CD in three
different keys advertised as "easy to
sing" back at home.
The Brownsville Revival has yet
another product, sold under the name "The
Vision Speaks": kits containing materials to
make one of the sequined, jewel-toned,
multi-colored banners displayed at the revival.
The kits sell for $125 for a
small banner, or $200 for a large banner, the
size Brownsville uses. The kit includes all the
materials except glue, scissors and pins.
The banner kits are not listed
anywhere on the church's financial statement --
not as revenue, not as an expense.
"We have a kit that tells people how to make
banners, but we don't sell banners." He
would not say how the financial statement
accounts for the banner kits and he would not say
how many have been sold.
He also would not say how The
Vision Speaks is connected to the church.
Some corporations selling
revival-related merchandise in the church are
independent of the church. They serve to market
products for individual revival leaders. Buyers
cannot make their purchases at the door, they
have to pay -- by cash, check or credit card --
at the cash register set up to handle each
Brownsville Assembly of God
pastor John Kilpatrick sells his books and tapes
through his newly created ministry, Feast of
He says that his book royalties
go to his ministry, but he refuses to disclose
any information about the finances of his
organization. As a nonprofit corporation, its IRS
return is open to the public. But under IRS
rules, nonprofits have five months and 15 days
after the fiscal year to file, and Feast of Fire
has not reached its first filing deadline.
Michael Brown, who heads the
Brownsville Revival School of Ministry as well as
his own nonprofit organization, ICN Ministries,
does provide some figures about his revenues: He
estimates his books and tapes bring in $50,000 a
month. That amounts to $600,000 a year.
"I don't write the books
to make money," Brown told the News Journal.
"I have publishers asking me to write. I
have to write what I feel burdened to write.
Ethically I have a problem with personally
getting rich through ministry. I'd be much more
at home just with an ample salary." He would
not disclose how his ministry spends the
$600,000. The IRS said Brown's ministry has asked
for two extensions and is not due to file until
late this month.
Steve Hill's Together in the
Harvest Ministries gave the News Journal an
informal financial statement saying he took
$30,000 in royalties, but it did not indicate
what the sales were. His corporation's most
recent IRS return showed he took $34,000 in
royalties from sales of $141,592.
The News Journal asked the IRS
for copies of the tax returns for all the
ministers' corporations because all are
registered as nonprofit organizations and thus
their financial information and tax returns are
public information. Hill's 1993, 1994 and 1996
returns were the only ones the IRS had on file.
top of page