Our Personal Brownsville Revival
The August issue of Charisma marks the magazine’s 40th anniversary. Writing a number of the stories on 40 spiritual leaders featured in it represented a trip down Memory Lane.
The journey included a surprise: in working on the new stories, I discovered I had written about several of these folks for the 20th anniversary issue in 1995. (I’ve written so many stories in the interim that they had faded in my memory.)
The most personally relevant was about Steve Hill, the evangelist during the Brownsville Revival of 1995-2000. A recent story spotlighted a new book by two of the revival leaders about the possibility of a similar outpouring today.
A Warm Experience
Brownsville caused such a stir that it was tough to ignore the exciting reports of changes lives that emanated from the church in Pensacola, Florida. I occasionally encountered people who had visited the revival. I also interviewed an Alabama pastor who had taken several groups of church members there.
Yet with my wife in seminary and our budget stretched, taking a trip to the Florida panhandle wasn’t possible. To compensate, God provided us an experience that still leaves us with a warm glow.
It happened in a most unexpected way. One Friday a flyer showed up in our mailbox about an evangelist from central Ohio. He was speaking the next night at a church in a suburban Louisville, Kentucky community.
We never expected what happened. With a turnout that numbered at most a dozen, the evangelist preached as if he were speaking in an auditorium packed with several thousand listeners.
Afterwards, Janet went forward for prayer, and the evangelist prophesied over her (sadly, we failed to make notes of it and the prophecy is lost to history).
As we headed out to the parking lot afterwards and got ready to drive away, the pastor called out, “We’re having meetings on Friday nights starting next week, if you’d like to come.”
Why not? The one we had just attended had been incredibly uplifting. And, with Janet unable to hear Sunday morning sermons because of children’s church duties, she felt spiritually dry.
To say these meetings were exhilarating would be an understatement. They started at 7 o’clock and often ran past 10. Some continued until 11 p.m.. Friday nights were our only “free” night, so we never worried how late we were getting home.
Hillsongs had just released its debut album, Shout to the Lord; those services are where we first heard it. They played the whole album, not just the title track.
People clapped, danced and praised God throughout the music. One night I asked if we could hear a particular track again, and the sound man quickly obliged.
One of the reasons we enjoyed those services so much was Brother Jimmie, a bricklayer by trade but also a preacher by calling. He didn’t just take trips through Scripture, he expected feedback from the audience (which remained in the range of 15 to 20).
Unless we were out of town on a school break or had some other obligation, we were there every Friday night. We always came home lifted up and praising God for the way we sensed His Spirit touching people.
Then, after a year, the meetings suddenly stopped. What proved to be the final service started at 7 and ended at 8:15. We knew something was wrong.
We never learned if the pastor wore out, or the people got tired of an extra meeting every week. Yet as we look back, we see that time as our personal Brownsville, reviving us in an unexpected way.