By Gary E. Gilley
On Father's Day
1995, a church in Pensacola, Florida, got the Holy Spirit. Up until that time
the Holy Spirit had apparently been camping out up in Canada (see reports on Holy
Laughter and The
Toronto Blessing), but for some unknown reason, He decided to move South.
Since He did, the Brownsville Assembly of God has experienced
"Revival." Four nights per week, 48 weeks per year, services are held,
usually with long lines of anxious seekers wanting to get in. Of course, the
stats keep changing (so fast that the church’s marquee actually is a
McDonalds’ type sign that reads "Over ___ souls saved"). But
according to the church's web site,
over 2,660,000 have attended the Revival and 141,387 have made decisions for
Christ. These numbers are misleading however, due to counting the same people
over and over. For example, if 2,000 people attended Sunday morning, and the
same 2,000 attended Sunday evening, 4,000 would be recorded as attending.
Nevertheless, the numbers are impressive.
This was just the
beginning of a bizarre phenomenon for Brownsville and their pastor Kilpatrick,
"the glory of God was so strong on me during the early days of the
revival that sometimes I could hardly keep my eyes open. When we would go home,
my son would have to help me get undressed because of the tremendous glory that
God was putting upon my wife and me. I tried to get up early in the morning the
next day and go to the office and found myself so drunk in the Spirit that I
would go from wall to wall walking down my hall. I hadn't developed my legs yet
to stand up under the glory of God. For months they had to take me and my wife
out of the sanctuary in wheel chairs" (6/98, The Remnant, p. 2).
Things got more
exciting a few weeks later when a nineteen-year-old college student by the name
of Alison Ward stood and prophesied: "God is in a hurry. There’s not much
more time. He aches and He grieves for your spirit." As she spoke these
words she was shaking so violently that a casual observer may have thought she
suffered from cerebral palsy. When she completed this prophesy she fell to the
floor (6/98, The Remnant, p. 19; see also The Christian News, Dec.
30, 1996, p. 9).
Revival is reported to be a fulfillment of a prophecy by Word-Faith pastor David
Yonggi Cho (see the April 1999, Think on These Things,
"Word-Faith Movement"). Cho says he gave the following prophecy during
a 1991 Seattle Conference:
"I became deeply concerned about the spiritual decline in America.
I began to pray even more earnestly for revival in these United States. As I
prayed, I felt the Lord prompt me to get a map of America, and to point my
finger on the map. I found myself pointing to the city of Pensacola in the
Florida panhandle (Feast of Fire, John Kilpatrick, p. vii).
The revival at
Brownsville duplicates many of the same excesses and bizarre experiences as the
blessing in Toronto. One interesting new claim for Brownsville not claimed for
the Toronto Blessing is that of seeing a glory cloud, or the Shekina Glory,
often described as a blue cloud or haze. If reports advertised in The Remnant
are to be believed, the Shekina Glory is appearing virtually every where these
days, not just in churches (6/98, The Remnant, pp. 3,9), but also in
private homes after playing videos of revival services (p. 19).
A couple of other
interesting things worthy of note are the prayer banner and the Shofar
ministries. According to Brownsville’s web site:
"In the fall of 1993 the Lord spoke to Pastor Kilpatrick saying,
'My house shall be a house of prayer.' He then sought the Lord for direction
concerning this prompting and was impressed to initiate specific times of
intense intercession. The Sunday evening service was set aside for praise,
worship and prayer. Nine specific areas were targeted for prayer: warfare,
family, schools, souls, ministries, leaders of our country, healing, pastors,
and revival. Three additional areas were added later: the peace of Jerusalem,
children, and catastrophic events. A banner was made for each of these areas and
as the congregation gathered around each of them for intense prayer on Sunday
evenings, the banner ministry in our church was born.
church has kits available, with materials and patterns for other churches to use
to duplicate these banners. Or, they will also send people to churches to give
firsthand instruction on how to construct these banners, and to give the
Biblical basis for using banners. The purpose for the banners is three-fold:
1. To identify and bring focus.
2. To bring the body into one accord.
3. To bring glorious victory to the church.
These banners are
displayed on the walls in much the same manner as a Catholic church might
display icons throughout their sanctuary. In addition, these banners and others
are waved constantly during the
three hours of singing and dancing that precede the sermon. It would quite
interesting to learn of the supposed "Biblical basis" for use of the
banners. What is the New Testament instruction that would even remotely sanction
Even stranger is the
blowing of the Shofar. According to an ad placed in The Remnant (from
which you can order your very own Shofar for a mere $139.00), and from
information available at Brownsville-type churches, the Shofar (or ram's horn)
has many purposes. In the Old Testament it was used to usher in the Biblical
festivals of Israel, including the Sabbath, and to inspire the people to amend
their lives and repent. The sounding of the Shofar symbolized freedom and
liberty, proclaimed the anniversary of the creation of the world, was a reminder
of the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai (and is a reminder of the
Second Coming of Christ), and was also used to bring up the Ark (the glory of
God). It is a sound that is supposedly guaranteed to confuse and chase Satan
It is most likely
the latter two purposes that have captured the interest of the Brownsville
people. Rather than being confused and frightened, Satan is probably laughing
his head off. As for the glory of God coming down at the blowing of the Shofar,
the problem should be self-evident. The revivalists are confusing the Old
Testament dispensation with the New. God's glory has already arrived in the form
of the Holy Spirit residing in the hearts of His people (I Corinthians 6:19).
The presence of His glory is not on call, awaiting the prayers of His people, or
the sounding of a horn. A Biblical understanding of these facts transcends the
Shofar issue, for the coming, or falling, of the Spirit upon the people is
fundamental to this revival. Unless you believe that in some manner the power
and glory of God can be summoned to fall on people, you have no manifestations.
Without manifestations, you have no crowds of people. Without crowds of people,
you have no revival. The misunderstanding of a relatively minor and simple
doctrine can make a major huge difference.
Brownsville is known for "carpet time." In earlier times, Pentecostals
referred to this as being "slain in the Spirit," which involves being
bowled over by the power of God, lying in a daze on the ground, or at times
acting out various manifestations such as jerking, laughing, crying, speaking in
tongues, barking like dogs, etc. For those in ministry who are confused on how
to implement and maintain a "carpet time" ministry, instructional
manuals can be ordered (via the Brownsville Revival Product Catalog, or
from their Web site). The following are some instructional guidelines:
"Pray only 30-45 seconds for each person. Watch your catcher for a
signal if you are praying too long. Pray the following prayers: 'More Lord,
Sweet Jesus, More healing, More peace, More of Your love, You are the bride of
Christ, give him/her a refreshing from the Lord, etc.' Keep phrases soft and
simple. Do not raise your voice" (Prayer Team Manual, pp. 9-10).
(those with the "ministry" of catching those "slain in the
Spirit") have some guidelines as well:
"When you walk behind a person, gently touch the shoulders to let
them know you are there in preparation to catch them. Remove your hands
afterward. If the person falls, hold your hand on their back just above the
waist -- not under the arms. Do not touch the person while they are receiving
prayer … look for open areas before you begin to pray. This will avoid falling
on others. Please do not block the aisles. If an individual is in the aisle and
they are 'slain in the Spirit,' they should be laid uphill" (p. 10).
Coming from a
movement that is highly critical of the "organized church," this is an
amazing amount of structure involving a supposed sovereign, spontaneous
outpouring of God.
organization, the leaders at Brownsville are anxious to transplant the revival.
Up until recently the primary method of doing this was through pilgrimages to
Brownsville. But if some cannot make it to the revival, then the revival can be
taken to them. Thus, beginning in February 1999, the revival has been taken on
the road in a series of meetings called "Awake America."
"This is not a Brownsville thing, this is a God thing. We have seen
all kinds of people here, Mormons, Baptists, Jews, Episcopal priests, Catholics,
and Methodists. That's when you know it's God and not man" (6/98, The
Remnant, p. 12).
If all of these
people were truly coming to the Christ of the Bible, we might be more inclined
to rejoice, but that is not the case. Mormons come as Mormons and leave as
Mormons; the same is true of Catholics and Jews, etc. People are not coming to
hear the gospel; they are coming to experience the manifestations. The result is
a unification along experiential lines rather than doctrinal.
By way of example,
we might recall that the Toronto Blessing originated in the sphere of the Word-Faith
churches, those representing the "New Charismatics" or the
so-called Third Wave of the Holy Spirit this century. The Brownsville church is
an Assembly of God, or old-line Pentecostal denomination that sprang from the
"first wave of the Holy Spirit." Now many are taking the
"Revival" back to their denominations and thus influencing the Old
Charismatics, or the second wave (see The
History of the Charismatic Movement).
By way of
verification of all this is the March 1999 issue of Charisma (the most
popular magazine in the Charismatic world). The lead article had to do with the
infiltration of the Brownsville Revival within the ranks of the Southern Baptist
Convention. Considerable disruption among Southern Baptists has taken place, as
many who have tasted of the "Revival" find that they now have more in
common with this extreme fringe of the Charismatic movement than they do with
their own denomination. It is interesting that Charisma gives
considerable credit to Henry
Blackaby and his book Experiencing God for opening the door for
acceptance to this phenomenon.
The Assembly of God
itself is highly divided over the revival, although Thomas Trask, the general
superintendent of the denomination, "gave a full endorsement of the Revival
in Pensacola and said the Brownsville Assembly of God has done more to change
the direction of the Assemblies of God organization than any other
organization" (6/98, The Remnant, p. 2). Trask believes the revival
to be the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit (see "The
Murky River of Brownsville," by G. Richard Fisher, a publication of
Personal Freedom Outreach).
The metaphor of a
river is a favorite of the Brownsville people. They believe that "a river
is flowing," a river of the power of God. Those who are wise are encouraged
to jump into this stream and flow with the Spirit.
But one must be careful when jumping into an unknown stream. When people are claiming phenomena the likes of which are never found in Scripture, when the Word of God is constantly distorted, when doctrinal error is prolific, even the best swimmers had better exercise great caution. Rather than leaping into an unknown current, the Scriptures caution that the spiritual man "appraises all things" (I Cor. 2:15), and warn us to "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil" (I Thess. 5:21). When the child of God tests these muddied waters in the light of Scripture, he will stay on the solid rock (Jer. 5:30-31; 14:14; 16:12; Deut. 13:1-3; Matt. 7:22,23).
* This report
has been excerpted and or adapted from an
article by the same name in the November 1999, Think on These Things,
Southern View Chapel,
Springfield, IL, Gary Gilley, Pastor.