The Brownsville Revival (also known as the Pensacola Outpouring) was a widely reported religious phenomenon that began within the Pentecostal movement on Father's Day June 18, 1995, at Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida. Characteristics of the Brownsville Revival movement, as with other Christian religious revivals, included acts of repentance by parishioners and a call to holiness, said to be inspired by the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Some of the occurrences in this revival fit the description of moments of religious ecstasy. More than four million people are reported to have attended the meetings from its beginnings in 1995 to around 2000.
One writer offered this description of the revival in 1998:
All told, more than 2.5 million people have visited the church's Wednesday-through-Saturday evening revival services, where they sang rousing worship music and heard old-fashioned sermons on sin and salvation. After the sermons were over, hundreds of thousands accepted the invitation to leave their seats and rush forward to a large area in front of the stage-like altar. Here, they "get right with God." . . . Untold thousands have hit the carpet, where they either writhe in ecstasy or lie stone-still in a state resembling a coma, sometimes remaining flat on the floor for hours at a time. Some participants call the experience being "slain in the Spirit." Others simply refer to receiving the touch of God. Regardless of what they call it, these people are putting the "roll" back in "holy roller."—Steve Rabey
In 1993, two years before the revival began, Brownsville's pastor, John Kilpatrick, began directing his congregation to pray for revival. Over the next two years, he talked constantly about bringing revival to the church, even going as far as to threaten to leave the church if it didn't accept the revival. Supporters of the revival would also cite prophecies by Dr. David Yonggi Cho, pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church, as evidence that the revival was inspired by God. According to Cho, God told him he was "going to send revival to the seaside city of Pensacola, and it will spread like a fire until all of America has been consumed by it."
On the Sunday the revival began, evangelist Steve Hill was the guest speaker, having been invited by Kilpatrick. A video of the Father's Day service shows that the Father's Day service went rather badly for Hill. However, he and Kilpatrick spread stories of "a mighty wind" that blew through the church. This account rapidly spread across the Pentecostal community, but gained little attention in the mainstream media until the Associated Press wrote about it in March 1997. In truth, Kilpatrick had been talking "revival" for several months and had gotten word that Hill wanted to lead a big revival. As word spread of what was happening at Brownsville, Hill canceled all plans to go to Russia, and preached several revival services each week for the next five years.
It was claimed that hundreds of those who attended services that day were moved to renew their faith during Hill's sermon. In time, the church opened its doors for Wednesday-through-Saturday evening revival services to accommodate the thousands of people who arrived and waited in the church parking lot before dawn for a chance to enter the packed sanctuary.
By 1997, it was common to have lengthy and rapturous periods of singing and dancing and altars packed with hundreds of writhing or dead-still bodies from a variety of ages, races and socioeconomic conditions. As the revival progressed the testimonies of people receiving salvation were joined by claims of supernatural healings. In Steve Hill's words, "We're seeing miraculous healings, cancerous tumors disappear and drug addicts immediately delivered." However, the church told local news reporters that it did not keep records of the healings. In 1997, leaders of the revival such as Hill, Kilpatrick, and Lindell Cooley (Brownsville's worship director), traveled to cities such as Anaheim, California; Dallas, Texas; St. Louis, Missouri; Lake Charles, LA; Toledo, Ohio; and Birmingham, Alabama naming it "Awake America".
The primary part of the revival ended in 2000 when Hill moved on to pursue other works. In 2003, Hill founded a church in the Dallas area where he served as senior pastor. After a long bout with cancer, Hill died in March 2014. Cooley left in October 2003. Kilpatrick resigned as senior pastor in 2003 to form an evangelistic association of his own. Until 2006, the church continued to hold special Friday-night services that were a continuation of the event.
During the revival, nearly 200,000 people claimed they gave their lives to Jesus, and by fall 2000 more than 1,000 people who experienced the revival were taking classes at the Brownsville Revival School of Ministry. Thousands of pastors visited Brownsville and returned to their home congregations, leading to an outbreak of mini-revivals that helped the Assemblies of God recover from what some saw as a denominational decline.
Years after the events, the AP reports Brownsville is over $11 million in debt, largely due to the surge of people in the 90s and the drastic drop-off in donations and people attending in the 2000s.
The meetings were criticized by some Christians and by the local news media. The Pensacola News Journal ran a series of investigative articles which focused on the donations raised during the meetings and where those funds went, as well as the claims of miraculous healings at the services and the spontaneity of the revival's beginnings. For example, the News Journal revealed that a videotape of the Father's Day service that sparked the revival showed the service went rather badly for Hill.
The News Journal had initially written favorable reports about the revival from the time it started but began a four-month investigation after former members told reporters that all was not as it appeared at the church. The series won George Polk awards from such groups as National Headliner, Scripps-Howard Foundation, and Society of Professional Journalists. Brownsville Assembly of God responded the paper's allegations by publishing a paid advertisement (thus shielding them from a response from the paper) in the News Journal entitled, "The Facts of The Brownsville Revival".
Hank Hanegraaff, author of the book Counterfeit Revival, criticized the revival for "serious distortions of biblical Christianity" in the meetings, comparing the physical manifestations to pagan practices. Kilpatrick responded by issuing a prophecy aimed at Hanegraaff, claiming "within 90 days the Holy Ghost will bring you down." This prophecy proved to be false.
J Lee Grady, editor for Charisma Magazine, was critical of the excesses and personal divisions that had grown within leadership. He also suggested that numerous former attendees were now at local Baptist churches after the traumatic events.
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- Steve Rabey as quoted in Margaret M. Poloma and John C. Green (2010). The Assemblies of God: Godly Love and the Revitalization of American Pentecostalism. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 978-0-8147-6783-2. Page 1.
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- "Brownsville Revival:The Money and the Myths". Pensacola News Journal. November 16–20, 1997. Archived from the original on 2008-06-22. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
- "Pensacola Pursued Brownsville Revival Investigation in Two Steps". Gannett.com. 2008. Archived from the original on 1999-10-21. Retrieved 2012-02-12.
- "Official Brownsville Response To Pensacola News Journal Articles". 1997. Retrieved 2009-08-31.
- The Counterfeit Revival (Part Three) Separating Fact from Fabrication on the Pensacola Outpouring