PUBLISHED SUNDAY NOVEMBER 17, 1997
Copyright 1997 The Pensacola News Journal. All
launched his career
By John W.
Allman and Alice Crann
PENSACOLA - The Rev.
John Kilpatrick is a man on a mission, a man on
his way to the Lord, a man with a sense of style
and a taste for luxury.
When he stands at the pulpit at
Brownsville Assembly of God, he is a buffed and
polished man of God in well-cut suits, fine
jewelry and a carefully woven toupee.
He shows no outward signs of
the poor boy who grew up in Columbus, a Georgia
city of 180,000 residents bordering Alabama.
Kilpatrick has come a long way
from his early years when he was called by his
middle name, Alton.
He has come a long way from his
teen years when his father left the family and
his mother struggled to raise him and his three
He has come a long way from his
youth, when he was married at age 18, attended,
but never finished Bible school, and took on the
job of pastoring a church at age 20.
Along the way, he has had to
"My father was a good man.
He loved me. But he didn't like church,"
Kilpatrick said. "He threatened my mother
for years, saying that if we continued with
church he would put us out."
Kilpatrick chose church.
The road to revival
It is no secret how the revival
came to Brownsville.
Kilpatrick planned and prepared
He led his congregation through
two years of prayer for revival.
He altered the focus of Sunday
night services to concentrate on preparation for
He brought in banners,
organized prayer teams and assigned his wife,
Brenda, the job of leading others in a call for
In his autobiography,
"Feast of Fire," Kilpatrick says he
longed for the revival because he felt an
emptiness inside. He sensed that both he and his
church were drifting, lacking something, and he
needed to take action. He knew the power of the
Holy Spirit --on which revival is based -- could
heal a church because he saw it happen when he
was 16 and attended Riverview Assembly of God.
Back then, Kilpatrick was
studying Scripture and, with other teen-age boys,
was attending midnight prayer meetings with the
church pastor, R.C. Wetzel.
Some members of the
congregation were doubting that Wetzel was
dynamic enough to keep leading the church,
At that time, the city of
Columbus was struggling with the divisions many
Southern cities faced at the height of the civil
rights movement. Riverview was on guard. Worried
that violence in the streets might reach the
church, a group of 17 people, including
Kilpatrick, locked the doors one Sunday night
while they prayed.
"All of a sudden, both of
the sanctuary doors flung open, doors I knew had
been bolted and locked," Kilpatrick wrote in
his book. "All 17 of us looked up to see two
powerful-looking angels walk through the
The angels were 25 feet tall,
extending from floor to ceiling and surrounded by
pink, blue and gold auras. They had no wings,
shields or helmets, Kilpatrick wrote, but they
radiantly stood guard over the church for five
minutes, then turned and left as though
responding to an order.
Each person who stepped forward
to investigate what they had seen was slain in
the spirit -- knocked down by the Holy Spirit --
when they approached the door.
By mid-week, Kilpatrick wrote,
word of the angels' visit had spread among the
congregation and at the next worship service, 38
people fell to the floor, slain by the Holy
"From that point on,
Brother Wetzel never heard another complaint or
whimper out of any member," Kilpatrick
wrote. "His spiritual power had been
restored, verified through the power of prayer,
and the divisiveness in our church had been dealt
The path to God
Kilpatrick's parents divorced
when he was 12.
After his father left,
Kilpatrick wrote, he became so listless and
aimless he was put on medication. He wrote that
it was "nerve medication" and that it
did not help, because he said he was not nervous,
he just lacked the desire to do much with his
But one day, as he was sitting
in biology class at Arnold Junior High School,
the Lord spoke to him.
In his book, Kilpatrick
describes that moment as the turning point in his
life. When he raced home from school that day,
his mother said she too had been told that God
was going to use her son.
After studying with R.C.
Wetzel, Kilpatrick was on his way. He married
Brenda when he was 18, and they both traveled to
Florida to attend Southeastern College of the
Assemblies of God in Lakeland.
Two years later, when
Kilpatrick was 20 and back in Columbus working at
a water plant, the district superintendent for
the Georgia Assemblies of God asked him to take
the pastor's job at a small church in Vidalia.
Kilpatrick accepted. In 1973,
at age 23, he moved to another Georgia town,
Warner Robins, to lead a church with 175 members.
In his book, Kilpatrick said the church
membership grew during the next six years to 300.
He moved in 1979 to Evansville,
Ind., to lead Calvary Temple Assembly of God. It
was there that he learned the ropes of television
ministries, a skill he would use in Pensacola.
Again, he said in his book, the
church membership grew. In three years, it rose
by 350 to more than 1,000 when he left in 1982.
Today, the church has a
membership of about 300 people, according to
Pastor Charles Turnage.
Kilpatrick left Calvary on
Valentine's Day 1982, bound for Pensacola.
His sister and brother-in-law,
Paul Wetzel --son of Kilpatrick's mentor -- lived
in Jay, where Wetzel was a pastor.
The Wetzels told him they knew
about a Pensacola church that needed a pastor.
Kilpatrick visited Brownsville
and, he wrote, he could not resist the call.
top of page