Secrets inside the revival

Note: "Together in the Harvest Ministries" (Steve Hill) and "Partners in Revival" (John Kilpatrick) ministries are now both members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

Leaders shield finances, make many false claims

The Pensacola News Journal/November 16, 1997

Pensacola -- The numbers are amazing: Millions of visitors, millions of dollars, thousands of souls.

The claims are heart-warming: crime curtailed, addiction overcome, sickness healed.

The leaders are captivating: An ex-convict-junkie converted to evangelism; a visionary and prophet dedicated to revival.

But how true is it all? Is Pensacola's Brownsville Revival all that its leaders say it is? Are the leaders who and what they say they are?

The News Journal sought to answer those questions in a four-month investigation into the 2 1/2 year-old revival. The investigation focused on the revenue and the spending, the leaders' backgrounds and lifestyles, the revival's methods and messages, and the revival's claims about healings, crime reduction and charity.

Much about the Brownsville Revival is unquestionable: Millions of people from far and near have attended the four-nights-a-week revival Many have had an emotionally and spiritually stimulating experience there.Many have been baptized. Many have made a commitment to change their ways and live closer to God.

But much about the revival, as a business and a community influence, is questionable, and the answers cast it in a far different light.

Among the News Journal findings: --The revival did not begin the way Pastor John Kilpatrick and evangelist Steve Hill say it did. They say it was a spontaneous and overwhelming move of God and that everyone there felt it. But a videotape of the first service, plus the accounts from members who were there, reveal otherwise and indicate the revival was well-planned and orchestrated to become a large and long-running enterprise.

  • Money is flowing, information is not. Brownsville leaders refuse to disclose revenue and spending details, beyond an abbreviated, generalized financial statement that shows the church taking in $6.6 million in 1996. Not even members of the congregation are allowed to look at the books.
  • Revival leaders are generating fortunes. The top four ministers have set up their own nonprofit corporations selling their own revival-related merchandise, such as books, tapes, T-shirts and bumper stickers. The merchandise is sold both inside the church and via mail order. Only one of the corporations is paying sales tax.
  • Hill's autobiography and oft-told stories about his outlaw past are contradicted by facts and by police records. He admitted to the News Journal that he fictionalized parts of his book for "impact."
  • Hill's claims that most of his ministry's revenue from the revival goes to missions and charities is contradicted in his ministry's financial statement and Internal Revenue Service return. His assertions that his financial books are open are untrue; he would not share key information with the News Journal and sought to discourage questions.
  • Kilpatrick has retreated from close contact with his flock while rapidly moving up into a luxurious lifestyle outside Pensacola. His new home, at an Alabama location he tried to keep secret, has barbed wire, a security guard and a metal gate. Months before an injury that kept him at home for weeks, Kilpatrick had ceased to keep office hours and had delegated his pastoring duties to assistants.
  • Hill and Kilpatrick both have taken advantage of opportunities to conceal financial information. Both put "$10 and other good and valuable consideration" on their deeds as the price they paid for their new properties; Alabama allows people to do that if they wish to avoid public disclosure of the purchase price.
  • The revival service's spiritual messages and methods have distressed many devout Pentecostals and given rise to much criticism among theologians and Bible scholars.
  • Kilpatrick has sought to silence dissent and criticism by prophesying -- announcing he is voicing God's own predictions -- that the critics would die or suffer.
  • The revival's benefits to the Pensacola community are either overstated or untrue. For example: Top law enforcement officers cite data disputing the revival leaders' statements that the revival has reduced crime. Social service agencies report having to serve a large influx of impoverished people who were drawn to Pensacola for the revival but who have been turned away by the church. Drug treatment centers report drug problems are on the rise, not dropping. Mental health centers report treating more out-of-town people than ever before, and most of them are people who came to Pensacola for the revival. Residents and businesses in the impoverished parts of the Brownsville community report that the church has done nothing for the area and refuses requests for help.
  • The revival's claims about healing are unsubstantiated by medical documentation. The revival touts cases in general but does not provide names or specifics. The News Journal found people who said they had been cured and healed, but none had medical proof from doctors. .

    To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.