Pastor's visions launched his career

Pastor's visions launched his career

The Pensacola News Journal/November 17, 1997
By John W. Allman and Alice Crann

Pensacola -- The Rev. John Kilpatrick is a man on a mission, a man on his way to the Lord, a man with a sense of style and a taste for luxury.

When he stands at the pulpit at Brownsville Assembly of God, he is a buffed and polished man of God in well-cut suits, fine jewelry and a carefully woven toupee.

He shows no outward signs of the poor boy who grew up in Columbus, a Georgia city of 180,000 residents bordering Alabama.

Kilpatrick has come a long way from his early years when he was called by his middle name, Alton.

He has come a long way from his teen years when his father left the family and his mother struggled to raise him and his three sisters.

He has come a long way from his youth, when he was married at age 18, attended, but never finished Bible school, and took on the job of pastoring a church at age 20.

Along the way, he has had to make choices.

"My father was a good man. He loved me. But he didn't like church," Kilpatrick said. "He threatened my mother for years, saying that if we continued with church he would put us out."

Kilpatrick chose church.

The road to revival

It is no secret how the revival came to Brownsville.

Kilpatrick planned and prepared carefully.

He led his congregation through two years of prayer for revival.

He altered the focus of Sunday night services to concentrate on preparation for the revival.

He brought in banners, organized prayer teams and assigned his wife, Brenda, the job of leading others in a call for revival.

In his autobiography, "Feast of Fire," Kilpatrick says he longed for the revival because he felt an emptiness inside. He sensed that both he and his church were drifting, lacking something, and he needed to take action. He knew the power of the Holy Spirit --on which revival is based -- could heal a church because he saw it happen when he was 16 and attended Riverview Assembly of God.

Back then, Kilpatrick was studying Scripture and, with other teen-age boys, was attending midnight prayer meetings with the church pastor, R.C. Wetzel.

Some members of the congregation were doubting that Wetzel was dynamic enough to keep leading the church, Kilpatrick wrote.

At that time, the city of Columbus was struggling with the divisions many Southern cities faced at the height of the civil rights movement. Riverview was on guard. Worried that violence in the streets might reach the church, a group of 17 people, including Kilpatrick, locked the doors one Sunday night while they prayed.

"All of a sudden, both of the sanctuary doors flung open, doors I knew had been bolted and locked," Kilpatrick wrote in his book. "All 17 of us looked up to see two powerful-looking angels walk through the entrance."

The angels were 25 feet tall, extending from floor to ceiling and surrounded by pink, blue and gold auras. They had no wings, shields or helmets, Kilpatrick wrote, but they radiantly stood guard over the church for five minutes, then turned and left as though responding to an order.

Each person who stepped forward to investigate what they had seen was slain in the spirit -- knocked down by the Holy Spirit -- when they approached the door.

By mid-week, Kilpatrick wrote, word of the angels' visit had spread among the congregation and at the next worship service, 38 people fell to the floor, slain by the Holy Spirit.

"From that point on, Brother Wetzel never heard another complaint or whimper out of any member," Kilpatrick wrote. "His spiritual power had been restored, verified through the power of prayer, and the divisiveness in our church had been dealt with."

The path to God

Kilpatrick's parents divorced when he was 12.

After his father left, Kilpatrick wrote, he became so listless and aimless he was put on medication. He wrote that it was "nerve medication" and that it did not help, because he said he was not nervous, he just lacked the desire to do much with his life.

But one day, as he was sitting in biology class at Arnold Junior High School, the Lord spoke to him.

In his book, Kilpatrick describes that moment as the turning point in his life. When he raced home from school that day, his mother said she too had been told that God was going to use her son.

After studying with R.C. Wetzel, Kilpatrick was on his way. He married Brenda when he was 18, and they both traveled to Florida to attend Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God in Lakeland.

Two years later, when Kilpatrick was 20 and back in Columbus working at a water plant, the district superintendent for the Georgia Assemblies of God asked him to take the pastor's job at a small church in Vidalia.

Kilpatrick accepted. In 1973, at age 23, he moved to another Georgia town, Warner Robins, to lead a church with 175 members. In his book, Kilpatrick said the church membership grew during the next six years to 300.

He moved in 1979 to Evansville, Ind., to lead Calvary Temple Assembly of God. It was there that he learned the ropes of television ministries, a skill he would use in Pensacola.

Again, he said in his book, the church membership grew. In three years, it rose by 350 to more than 1,000 when he left in 1982.

Today, the church has a membership of about 300 people, according to Pastor Charles Turnage.

Kilpatrick left Calvary on Valentine's Day 1982, bound for Pensacola.

His sister and brother-in-law, Paul Wetzel --son of Kilpatrick's mentor -- lived in Jay, where Wetzel was a pastor.

The Wetzels told him they knew about a Pensacola church that needed a pastor.

Kilpatrick visited Brownsville and, he wrote, he could not resist the call.

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