One of the spiritual leaders of a revival that rocked the Christian world and put Pensacola on the religious map is stepping down from Brownsville Assembly of God.
John Kilpatrick, 53, plans to resign Feb. 22 as senior pastor at Brownsville, 22 years and a day after he first entered the church. He said he is leaving to answer God's call to write books, minister to other pastors and spend time with his family.
Church leaders such as Carl Sightler, vice chairman of the church's board of directors, believe the church revivals will continue under new leadership. Church officials hope to select a new pastor the day Kilpatrick departs, if not sooner.
"That day, there will be a changing of the guard," said executive Pastor Randy Feldschau, the church's second-in-command.
Many of Kilpatrick's flock are saddened at his departure. Parishioners such as Paul Brown have known him as the only pastor in their Christian lives.
"There are a lot of mixed feelings," said Brown, who credits the revival with saving his marriage. "Of course, I'm sorry to see him leave. At the same time, I am delighted he is going in the direction God has chosen for him."
There was no melancholy at the Friday night revival, though, where the service boasted the volume and excitement of a rock concert.
"There is an expectancy. You can feel it in the air," said Damon Sneed, 29, who drove from Crestview with his wife and three children to attend the service.
Thousands packed the aisles and pews on two floors. On stage, choir singers jumped in tune with the keyboard and a man with a flame-red guitar.
A girl swayed on the floor; an older woman danced an Irish jig in the aisle; three men laid hands on an older man's ears; and everywhere swaying hands raised in the universal Glory to God.
The Holy Ghost had come to call. Members of the congregation said they felt it. The choir felt it. Bishop Tudor Bismark, visiting from Zimbabwe, said he felt it.
"There are miracles in the house tonight," Bismark said.
In some Christian circles, Kilpatrick's name is as familiar as that of Billy Graham, after he was propelled into the national spotlight by events that began on Father's Day 1995.
On that day, a thousand people responded to the altar call led by visiting evangelist Stephen Hill, whose temporary visit lasted five years and prompted one of the most spectacular revivals in modern times.
Kilpatrick said he won't go far. He will stay connected to the church, and Pensacola will remain his home base. He'll write books and travel to minister to other pastors. He thinks the move will be good for the church, as well. There have been many demands on his time since the the revival began.
"The church needs a full-time pastor," Kilpatrick said. "And I realized that Brownsville needs to move on and become what it needs to become," Kilpatrick said.