Brownsville Revival

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Brownsville Revival

Since its inception during the Azusa Street Revival (1906–1909) in Los Angeles, the Pentecostal movement has regularly experienced similar revivals that have served as antidotes for the corrosive forces of religious routinization. Paranormal charismatic phenomena, including glossolalia, miraculous healing, prophecies, deliverance from demons, and miracles, as well as unexplained bodily manifestations, have become hallmarks of Pentecostalism and its more recent charismatic offshoots in mainline and independent churches. Despite the persistent attack of modernist thought on its distinctive worldview, the supernatural perspective espoused by Pentecostals has experienced ongoing revitalization through fresh outbursts of charismatic phenomena. The Latter Rain and Healing movements of the late 1940s and early 1950s, the neo-Pentecostal movement in the mainline American denominations during the 1960s and 1970s, the Third Wave of the 1980s, and now the renewal/revivals of the 1990s—each has given new vitality to the Pentecostalism of its era. The Brownsville Revival, originating at the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida, on Father's Day 1995, with the charismatic "anointing" of evangelist Steve Hill and under the leadership of Pastor John Kilpatrick, is a major player in the larger revival movement sweeping the globe.

The Brownsville Revival was preceded and fueled by the Argentine Revival, which began in 1982 and which continues today throughout Argentina—a movement that has served as a catalyst for a number of the revival fires now dotting the North American landscape. Steve Hill, the evangelist who launched the Pensacola Revival in 1995, had been a missionary church planter in Argentina and was greatly influenced by the Argentine evangelist Carlos Annacondia. Some years later Hill experienced the so-called Toronto Blessing, another stream of this worldwide Pentecostal revival, which began at Toronto Airport Vineyard in Ontario, Canada, and was transported to Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) Anglican Church in London. It was after Hill received prayer from Vicar Sandy Millar of HTB that Hill believed he had received the anointing he sought. It was the story of his transformation that Hill shared with the congregation of Brownsville Assembly of God on Father's Day in 1995 that marked the beginning of the revival that the New York Times called "apparently the largest and longest-running . . . revival in America in almost a century." People came from around the world, often standing in line for hours, before entering the 2,500-person sanctuary; Lindell Cooley would lead animated worship in song, Hill would preach a sermon calling for old-time repentance, and throngs would respond as fifteen-year-old Charity James sang out the haunting theme song "Mercy Seat." A reported 108,000 (of an estimated 1.7 million visitors) responded to altar calls within the first year of the revival, with many of them shaking violently and "falling out in the spirit," two phenomena not experienced at this Pentecostal church before the revival. Testimonies were given nightly by those who claimed to be set free from drug and alcohol addiction, who had been healed from emotional or physical ailments, or whose lives were otherwise changed through the revival.

Revival meetings continue at Brownsville Assembly of God from Wednesday through Saturday nights, supplemented by more than a dozen annual "Awake America" crusades led by the Brownsville Ministry Team in cities throughout the United States, and monthly special conferences held at the church in Pensacola for special groups (e.g., men's conference, youth, ministers). In January 1997 Dr. Michael Brown, a recognized authority on revival, founded the Brownsville Revival School of Ministry. The school has a faculty of fifteen and more than eleven hundred students enrolled in the two- to three-year program who are being immersed in the "fires of revival" and then being "sent forth." Although there is a wide denominational representation at the school, as there is among those who attend the revival, this stream of the larger renewal/revival movement is predominantly revitalizing (although not without some resistance) the Assemblies of God, the largest white Pentecostal denomination in the United States and one of the major Pentecostal denominations in the world.

See alsoCharismatic Movement; Healing; Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity; Religious Experience; Televangelism; Toronto Blessing.

Bibliography

Brown, Michael L. From Holy Laughter to Holy Fire: America on the Edge of Revival. 1996.

Hill, Stephen. The Pursuit of Revival. 1997.

Poloma, Margaret M. "The Spirit Movement in North America at the Millennium: From Azusa Street to Toronto, Pensacola and Beyond." Journal of Pentecostal Theology 12 (1998): 83–107.

Synan, Vinson. The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century. 1997.

Wagner, C. Peter, and Pablo Deiros, eds. The RisingRevival. 1998.

Margaret M. Poloma