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Spiritual Life

More on the Brownsville Revival:

Part One

Part Three

What Happened to Brownsville's Fire?

More Church History

More Spiritual Life


Brownsville Revival: Part 2

By Steve Rabey
Guest Columnist - The revival that began on Father's Day, 1995, at Brownsville Assembly of God is still going strong five years later.

"Revivals come and go, but what has been happening here, night after night, is different," wrote Rick Bragg, in his May 1997 page-one piece in the New York Times, entitled "In Florida, a Revival That Came but Didn't Go." As Bragg wrote, "What started as a typical, temporary revival on Father's Day 1995 has snowballed into what is apparently the largest and longest-running Pentecostal revival in America in almost a century."

But things change over time, and the revival has changed too.

One of the most noticeable changes is that evangelist Steve Hill, the man who helped start the revival and whose fiery preaching about righteousness and judgment kept it going, has announced that he is leaving Pensacola for Dallas, where it will be easier for his Together in the Harvest ministry to get international flights for his overseas crusades.

Preaching overseas had been a top priority for Hill for years, but after the revival at Brownsville began, Hill canceled many of his preaching engagements to stay in Pensacola. Still, Hill's desire to evangelize around the world never lessened, and he has now decided to return to that calling. Hill will also launch a television ministry, something he declined to do previously, even though he had received numerous offers.

Another major change at Brownsville is that the huge crowds that used to descend on the church have lessened. From 1995 to 1998, crowds of people from around the world would start gathering before dawn for evening revival services. During the summer months many people would bring tents and umbrellas to shelter them from the scorching sun. Even then, some of those who had waited in line for hours were unable to get into the services, leading some long-time members to give their seats to the out-of-town visitors.

Now the crowds have abated somewhat. Also, the church built additional facilities. For the last two years overflow crowds have been able to watch live video feeds of the services on huge screens in a new building.

But there's another important reason fewer people are flocking to Brownsville, and that's the impact the revival has had on other churches around the globe.

Early on, pastors flocked to Brownsville, so they could experience spiritual renewal themselves. In time, many of these pastors returned, refreshed, to their own congregations, where they and some of their members fervently prayed for revival there. In many cases, revival broke out.

"The Assemblies of God was raised up as a revival movement, but we had moved away from that," said General Superintendent Thomas Trask, the denomination's highest-ranking official. "We had become content. We had become careless. We had cooled off." During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the denomination's growth stopped. Trask and others grew concerned. "We had plateaued, and there was some indication that things were beginning to go the other way."

The revival at Brownsville came just in time. Hundreds of Assemblies pastors have visited the revival, experienced a dramatic touch of God there, and returned to their churches refreshed and spiritually renewed. "This is really a sovereign move of God, and the impact has been powerful," said Trask. "Many, many of our pastors have gone searching, looking, and believing, and they have witnessed the power of God. It has done something for their own hearts and lives."

It has also done something for church statistics. In 1996 and 1997 the denomination reported significant increases in conversions, water baptisms, and Spirit baptisms. And giving for foreign missions is at an all-time high: $117 million.

One of the most celebrated spin-offs from the Brownsville revival was the "Smithton Outpouring" in Missouri. Pastor Steve Gray came to Brownsville in 1996 seeking renewal and went home recharged. Two years later, Gray's once-tiny Smithton Community Church was bursting at the seams.

Part One

Part Three

More Church History

More Spiritual Life

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