PUBLISHED SUNDAY NOVEMBER 17, 1997
Copyright 1997 The Pensacola News Journal. All
Sadness, fear fill
members who left Brownsville
turned bizarre, frightening
Hundreds of longtime Brownsville
Assembly of God members have left their church
since the revival began.
They don't know the numbers -- though they
believe it is about 800 -- because most left
quietly and kept their reasons to themselves.
But as each day passes, the exiles learn about
others who have mustered the courage to leave.
They say that when Pastor John Kilpatrick
first brought revival to the church, they were
like sheep, attending night after night on his
promise that the Holy Spirit was waiting inside
-- and because of his threat that if they didn't
hurry to heed the call, they would be doomed.
But everything just became more confusing,
they say. The Word, the very basis of their
religion, was no longer the way.
The leaders kept telling the prayer teams and
church members to pay more attention to what
they, the leaders, were saying than to what the
Bible said. And evangelist Steve Hill's
repetitious screaming of "Fire! Fire!
Fire!" superseded worship as they had known
The dissenters say they loved and trusted
Kilpatrick, but religion at Brownsville turned
The pastor's response to their concerns was
quick and harsh, they say. He told them they
would "dry up and wither spiritually."
Kilpatrick had established that uncompromising
tone when he set the stage for the revival.
Several months before the revival began, he
informed his congregation that if they did not go
along with him, he would leave and find a church
that would do what he wanted.
The church members decided to give Kilpatrick
and his revival a chance.
Result: Hill and Kilpatrick turned the place
of worship into a carnival, the dissenters say.
Questions arose, from inside and outside the
Result: Kilpatrick declared that demons were
trying to destroy God's work.
Criticism of the revival's tactics circulated
among Christian leaders around the country.
Result: Kilpatrick issued prophesies -- the
Lord's words, he said -- that the critics would
Ultimately, many devout Pentecostal
church-goers now want nothing more to do with the
Assemblies of God denomination because it has
failed to denounce the revival.
They say they are happy in their new churches,
but they grieve for the loss of their beloved
home church. And they are profoundly fearful of
Kilpatrick's followers. They believe that if they
are publicly identified as critics of the
revival, they will be persecuted. They say they
fear for their and their families' personal
safety, their businesses and their property.
These are some of their stories:
They are quiet and very still, so close
together on the parlor sofa they leave no doubt
that they are of one mind.
They are heartsick, and they speak painfully
of what happened at Brownsville, like parents
grieving the loss of a child.
It has taken more than two years for them to
be able to talk about the revival, to review
those days of bewilderment, depression,
alienation and fear.
"Church members are intimidated and even
excommunicated for speaking out against this
move," Mrs. A says. "You don't know the
beating we have taken -- we have been totally
"What hurt the most when we left was the
absolute silence from people in that church who
we believed were our friends.
"We were called blasphemers."
Just saying that last word hurts. She is a
devout, born-again Christian, firm in her
Mrs. A says that when she saw and heard what
Kilpatrick and Hill were doing and saying she
urged others in the church to turn to the Bible
because their actions and sermon messages did not
line up with Scripture.
"They seldom preach the word of God at
the revival -- it is mostly badgering and
condemnation. But our friends did not want to
She says she is astounded by the number of
people who are "still being deceived."
"I can't believe they say that the
revival just happened -- that blows my mind.
Everybody knows what happened on Father's Day.
Just look at the video."
The church members know the revival was
planned for months, she says.
But in the early days of the revival, Mrs. A
succumbed to what she describes as Kilpatrick's
"manipulation and peer pressure."
And worst of all, she confesses, she even
pretended to be "slain in the spirit."
"I'm so embarrassed because I faked it.
But all I could think of at the time was: 'What
if I'm wrong? What if this is a move of
A week after she faked the manifestation, her
husband fell to the floor during the revival and
stayed down for 45 minutes.
Was he, too, pretending?
"I felt total confusion that day,"
Mr. A recalls. "I was overwhelmed by my own
submission. Today, I know it was emotional
sensationalism brought on by the power of
He fell, he says, because he wanted to be a
part of the movement -- the movement Kilpatrick
was screaming in favor of from the pulpit.
"The pastor I loved and respected was
When he got up from the church floor, Mr. A
says, he cried. They were tears of bewilderment
Back at home, depression replaced the tears.
About a week later, when they returned to the
church, reality cured the couple's confoundment,
"We were up in the balcony looking down
at the revival," Mrs. A recalls. "What
I saw reminded me of Moses watching over the
Israelites worshiping idols, dancing hysterically
and Aaron making a golden calf."
She and her husband looked at each other and
knew, right then and there, that they had lost
their church and their minister.
They left and never returned.
The couple says God's word is sufficient for
"We who left Brownsville are a blessed
people," Mrs. A says. "The Lord
provided each of us with discernment that enabled
us to see the truth in accordance to God's word
and leave the teaching of unscriptural doctrine
that prevailed at Brownsville."
Her eyes and face say it all.
"I have always been very proud of my
church, but this move is a threat to the very
fiber of the Assemblies of God," she says.
"It is not OK what they are doing at
Brownsville. I do not honor it by calling it a
Mrs. B, a devout Assemblies of God member all
her life, says Kilpatrick's sermon messages
became alarming when he saw that faithful members
were beginning to object to the revival and
refusing to participate.
"When about 30 people left the church,
there was a lot of criticism from the pulpit.
Kilpatrick said awful things such as 'the
judgment of God will fall on them.'
"Sunday after Sunday, he berated those
"It wasn't right. What he was saying was
diametrically opposed to what he used to say. I
didn't see him as a man of God anymore.
"I have seen Pentecostal experiences, and
I have had such experiences. But none of what was
happening at Brownsville fit in."
"The word of God was no longer a part of
our church," Mrs. B says. "You could
not worship there unless you worshiped like them,
which was very structured and restrictive: You
shook, or fell on the floor, or worshiped to the
She and her family left Brownsville, dazed and
"My son became very skeptical of church,
and, I guess, of God. I felt so awful. I felt
like the Assemblies of God had failed me. I was
determined not to go to another AG church again.
"I wanted to find a church we could stay
with until we died."
And so she has. It is a Southern Baptist
church that has welcomed her and her family and
has tried hard to help them heal their spiritual
But still she aches for the church she had to
Mr. and Mrs. C were happy and content for many
years at Brownsville Assembly of God. Now they
are anxious and fearful.
They seem to have to pull their thoughts away
from concentration on solving a baffling puzzle.
"It's hard to analyze what has happened
to our church -- it is possible that Kilpatrick
is not the man we thought he was," Mr. C
says, looking sadly over at his wife.
Mr. C says: "I really believe that they
believe what they are doing is right. But that's
what deception is."
Mr. and Mrs. C were so faithful to Kilpatrick
and the church that they were chosen to serve on
a revival prayer team. That lasted, however, only
until they saw for certain what Kilpatrick and
Hill were doing to the word of God.
They were putting Scripture "on the back
burner," Mrs. C says.
The prayer teams -- who gather around people
at the revival who request prayer -- were
specifically prohibited from praying.
"We were instructed to not pray in
Jesus's name or pray for people's needs,"
Mr. C says. "All we were allowed to do was
yell: 'Fire! Fire! More! More!'"
Mrs. C says she turned in her prayer team
badge because she could not, in all honesty, do
any of that. "I was in absolute
Mr. C says that when he was serving on the
prayer team he just ignored the instructions and
did what he knew was right: He prayed the word of
Jesus and prayed for Jesus to answer people's
Looking up from his tightly folded hands, his
eyes sad, he says: "I should have gotten up
and left on the day they told us to not pray in
"I'm so embarrassed that I didn't leave
They sit across from each other, she on the
sofa, he in a straight-backed chair. Every time
his wife gives what he considers too much
information, Mr. D stops her.
"Remember what we talked about," he
says. "We must be careful."
Mr. D is afraid for his family. He fears
retribution from revival followers.
Mrs. D agrees. There is too much at stake.
But then she breaks the silence by recalling
her last day at Brownsville.
"I prayed to God. I said: 'God. I have
waited so long to be saved. If this is not you,
get me out of here.'"
Mr. D says: "We left church that day and
said we would never go back."
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