The crowds attending revival services at Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida, are no longer as large as at their peak two years ago, when more than 5,500 people crammed into sanctuaries, a choir room, a cafeteria, and a back yard where they watched the proceedings on a large screen draped over a church wall (CT, March 3, 1997, p. 54).
The lines of people waiting to enter Wednesday-through-Saturday evening meetings no longer stretch a block to the nearby bingo parlor, and those who want to guarantee a pew seat do not have to show up at the church parking lot before dawn (CT, Feb. 9, 1998, p. 80).
But worshipers such as Martin Vaca, who says God guided him and his family from Tillar, Arkansas, to the Pensacola church through a series of visions, still come by the thousands to sing and sway, cry and pray, and seek a special encounter with God. When pastor John Kilpatrick asks for a sign from those who are first-time visitors, hundreds of hands rise. When evangelist Steve Hill gives an altar call, a crush of humanity moves forward to the church's massive platform. And the extended periods of worship that begin each service are more intense than ever.
The Brownsville revival, now three and a half years old, has attracted an estimated 3.5 million visitors to this once-staid church in the Florida panhandle. Despite the Pensacola area being buffeted by hurricanes and heat waves in 1998, and even though the revival itself has received plenty of heat from its hometown newspaper and a small army of Christian critics, there is no end in sight for an event leaders are calling the longest-running church-based revival in the twentieth century.
"I will stay at the Brownsville revival as long as lost souls keep coming here and ...1