A Voice in the
Wilderness

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- October, 1997

This transcript of 20/20's coverage of the Pensacola, Brownsville
Revival was received from a mailing list and is offered here for your
understanding. This is the "world" (in the form of national media)
taking a look at what many claiming to be "Christian" are promoting as
a "great move of God." VW has spoken of these things in many writings,
so no commentaries will be offered here.


------- Brownsville Revival featured on 20/20 Thursday! ---------- If you haven't heard about it yet, the Brownsville Assembly of God (aka Brownsville Revival) in Pensacola, Florida, was featured in a report on ABC's 20/20 news magazine on October 9, 1997. To hear what 20/20 had to say about it and more follow this link! (we know the link is long, it will take you to ABC's web site) http://www.abcnews.com/onair/2020/html_files/transcripts/nmg1009b.html --------------------------------------- Picture: ABC News logo Picture: ABCNEWS.com. Now Always On. 20/20 TRANSCRIPTS Countdown to Salvation Thousands Flock to Controversial Florida Revival Oct. 9, 1997 BARBARA WALTERS Now, a glimpse into a world many of us don't know even exists. In Pensacola, Florida, a religious spectacle is under way. Night after night, people from all over the world come by the thousands hoping for a divine encounter. Revivals usually last only a few days, but this one has been going on for more than two years. What are people looking for inside? Lynn Sherr reports, nothing less than God himself. LYNN SHERR, ABC NEWS (VO) Hollywood couldn't have created better special effects. CONGREGATION (singing) Hallelujah. Lord, we love you. LYNN SHERR (VO) Signs from above, beckoning thousands, all hungry for divine power. CONGREGATION (singing) Lord, we praise you. Lord, we praise you. LYNN SHERR (VO) They've traveled the globe to reach this unlikely mecca, an inner - city church called the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida. What's gotten into them? Why, when many American churches are struggling with empty pews, are these worshippers camping out before daylight to live in line up to 18 hours for a good seat? BOY IN LINE I'm here because I know God is here. WOMAN IN LINE The power of God is so real on me that my human body cannot handle it. LYNN SHERR (VO) The message they have heard is relayed up and down the line -- God is in the house. MAN WITH MEGAPHONE Single - file line. Single - file line. LYNN SHERR (VO) The wait is finally over. It is showtime. (Gospel music plays) Inside, the energy is infectious. Gospel rhythms underscore a torrent of enthusiastic praise. (Gospel music plays) This, it would be fair to say, is a party for Jesus. When the music fades, the message turns urgent. STEVE HILL, EVANGELIST We cast out devils. We heal the sick. And we pray, and we pray, and we pray. Are we tired? We're exhausted. But then we pray, and we pray, and we pray ... LYNN SHERR (VO) The man leading these prayer warriors is evangelist Steve Hill, a repentant sinner with a passion for redemption. STEVE HILL You need Jesus! You need Jesus! Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! LYNN SHERR (VO) Hill is part showman, part salesman. STEVE HILL He didn't say that, friend! He said, "Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!" LYNN SHERR (VO) Sometime around 7:00 pm, he takes center stage with Pastor John Kilpatrick to lead a five - hour worship marathon. STEVE HILL They all believe that God can touch them, and they all believe that in this place miracles are taking place. LYNN SHERR (VO) Clearly, this is not church as usual. The worshippers packing this sanctuary four nights a week, mostly Pentecostals, say they've been left empty by dry, stale religion. Many claiming that here, God touches them for the first time. It is called a revival -- literally a breath of new life into a withering faith. (Gospel music plays) God's presence, they say, has ignited this spiritual revival. STEVE HILL He's delivered me from so much, friends. Friend, when Jesus Christ came into my life, what a change. Man! Wow! I want you to experience that. I want you to experience victorious living, the promises of God, your past forgiven and forgotten. Freedom from addiction. LYNN SHERR (VO) In this emotional cauldron, the faithful believe broken lives are healed. STEVE HILL This revival, it's about changed lives. It's about people that were hurting, people that were dying, people that were just like, like groping through the desert sands hoping for a drink of water from somebody, and they're revived. LYNN SHERR (VO) Revivals are an American tradition, dating back to itinerant preachers who converted the masses, claiming the power of Jesus. In a modern throwback to that old - time religion, worshippers at the Brownsville revival also strive to cleanse their souls with full - immersion baptisms. Brownsville is the country's longest - running revival in nearly a century, more than two years old. And members here are convinced they're headed toward something even grander. That's called a great awakening, a period when spiritual fervor sweeps across the land. They believe there have been only four in the world. CHRISTIANA BONDE (PH), REVIVAL ATTENDEE My name is Christiana Bonde from Freetown, Sierra Leone. REV JOHN KILPATRICK, BROWNSVILLE ASSEMBLY OF GOD Sierra Leone. REVIVAL ATTENDEE FROM PARIS From France, Paris. REVIVAL ATTENDEE FROM MELBOURNE From Melbourne, Australia. JOHN KILPATRICK Melbourne, Australia. How many of you in the line tonight are from Germany? Let me see your hands. Wow! REVIVAL ATTENDEE FROM ARGENTINA From Argentina. REVIVAL ATTENDEE FROM THE UKRAINE I am from Ukraine. JOHN KILPATRICK Israel. All right. (Applause) LYNN SHERR (VO) This revival's power reaches far beyond Florida. The church is proud of its converts and pays special homage to those who've traveled the longest distance. JOHN KILPATRICK Would you give a warm welcome to Steve Hill. (Applause) LYNN SHERR (VO) According to those who were there, this revival began on Father's Day, 1995. Steve Hill was a visiting evangelist passing through town. Pastor John Kilpatrick invited him to his pulpit for the morning service. JOHN KILPATRICK On Father's Day, the power of God fell. And it was awesome. We had been praying for two and a half years. And ... LYNN SHERR (on camera) Praying for what? JOHN KILPATRICK Praying for revival. LYNN SHERR (VO) Hill says he felt a heightened intensity as worshippers clamored for prayer. Pastor Kilpatrick yelled to the congregation that the moment they prayed for had at last arrived. Moments later, the pastor fell to the floor, unable to rise for hours -- overwhelmed, he says, by the power of God. It's a story he likes to tell. JOHN KILPATRICK It wasn't scary, nothing phobic. It didn't hurt. It was the most wonderful feeling that I've ever felt in my whole life. LYNN SHERR (VO) Today, the momentum shows no signs of easing. And Hill, the one - time traveling preacher, has stayed, making Brownsville home base to shepherd what he calls a movement of God. STEVE HILL Well, the power of God was delivering drug addicts from drug addiction. Alcoholics were -- were giving up alcoholism. And it was miracle after miracle, one after another, people being set free from bondages. We started seeing this, and we realized that this is supernatural. JOHN KILPATRICK I mean, the scum of the earth began to show up, because they had heard God was coming down in power, and they needed God's power to help them. LYNN SHERR (VO) Here's what that power can look like. According to Hill and Kilpatrick, some worshippers are so filled with the Spirit, they jerk and shake uncontrollably. STEVE HILL If you need forgiveness, if you're away from God, I want you to come right now. You need the Lord. Hurry, hurry! LYNN SHERR (VO) The service shifts into high gear after the sermon, when evangelist Hill delivers his urgent call to the altar. It sends sinners running, a countdown to salvation. STEVE HILL Come on, get on your knees. Say, "Jesus, forgive me, wash me, cleanse me, make me new." Jesus, now, now, now, fire, fire, fire, fire. Now, now, Jesus, fire, fire ... LYNN SHERR (VO) And then, the moment many long for -- a prayer and a light touch that can drop some of them to the floor, able to hear, but often unable to move. It is called being "slain in the spirit." In effect, a wake - up call from the Holy Spirit. (on camera) So when you're down there in front, talking to people and putting your hand on them, you are being a conduit for the power of God? STEVE HILL Well, I believe that a lot of things are happening. I ... LYNN SHERR But get specific with me. You're -- you're standing there. I've seen you do this. You walk up to someone, and you say, "Down." What are you saying? STEVE HILL I am saying more of Jesus, a fresh touch from Jesus, and the power of God comes over these folks, and they fall to the ground. We don't feel like we're anybody special, but God is moving through us, and he has always used people. LYNN SHERR (VO) To many, Hill may seem a surprising conduit for the word of God. A recovering alcoholic and heroin addict, he also admits to having a long criminal record. STEVE HILL I was arrested for -- for drug sales, car theft about 13 times. And breaking and entering and -- and you know, I had to have money to get drugs. LYNN SHERR (VO) The change came at 21, he says, when his mother invited a Lutheran minister home to pray for him. STEVE HILL I didn't believe in God, but he said, "Say the name Jesus." So out of desperation I looked up at the ceiling of the room, and I said, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus." I just began to say that name. And a power came through my body, and in a matter of seconds, it was like I was brand new. I'm not using the needle anymore. I'm not drinking whiskey anymore. I'm not depending on a six pack of beer anymore. I'm not smoking pot anymore. I don't need pornography anymore. He's changed my life. LYNN SHERR (VO) And the revival, Hill says, has "saved" or transformed more than 100,000 lives. JOHN HALL (PH), FORMER SKINHEAD I used to be a skinhead. I used to hate anybody that wasn't white. God saved me, set me free. LYNN SHERR (VO) John Hall, a former skinhead, is one of a group of revival members who say they are now "on fire for Jesus." After a moment of prayer, they eagerly shared their stories of spiritual transformation. JOHN HALL I wanted to kill my parents. LYNN SHERR (on camera) You literally wanted to kill your parents? JOHN HALL Yes, ma'am. I wanted to kill my parents. I sat down, and I wrote out the perfect plan to kill both of my parents. Amen. LYNN SHERR (VO) John found redemption at the revival. He's become a ministry student, and like so many other converts, readily told his story when he was baptized. JOHN HALL But that same woman that I wanted to kill spent every night of her life on her knees praying for me. (Applause) LYNN SHERR (VO) There are also claims of physical healings. Despite a constant shaking that persisted throughout our interview, school teacher Valerie Brun says God healed her. JOHN KILPATRICK Tell them what God did to your neck. VALERIE BRUN, TEACHER He healed me of a neck and back injury from a car accident. LYNN SHERR (VO) The head - shaking began immediately afterwards. She says it happens whenever she's in the presence of God. She calls it a manifestation. VALERIE BRUN This manifestation that I have now in my neck, that was a way for him to tell me that my neck is healed. There is no way that my neck could have ever withstood this ever, I mean, before. LYNN SHERR (on camera) Has it been diagnosed what you're doing now? VALERIE BRUN You mean have I been to a doctor? LYNN SHERR Uh - huh. VALERIE BRUN No. I haven't been to a doctor. LYNN SHERR How long does the shaking tend to last? VALERIE BRUN It depends. It depends on what I'm doing. When I get in God's presence, that's when it starts. So when I pray, I read my Bible, I come to church, that's when I'm shaking. LYNN SHERR (VO) Pastor Kilpatrick says he is not the least bit ashamed to have Valerie sing in his choir. But he told us that some others of his flock are fakers. They just pretend to be set in motion by spiritual forces. But both leaders adamantly denied criticism from some religious leaders that their church is like a cult, that they manipulate worshippers to elicit what has been called mindless praise. STEVE HILL I would -- I would encourage anyone who would say anything like that to come meet these mindless people. Meet Patrick Waters (ph), who's been delivered from drug addiction. Meet the person that wanted to commit suicide but now wants to live on. That's not mindless praise. That's worship. They're -- they're so thankful. LYNN SHERR (VO) But neither man offers any apology for the next step in the process. The step that makes many outsiders so wary and uncomfortable -- spreading the word. STEVE HILL If Jesus Christ has changed my life, woe unto me if I don't talk about it! (Applause) LYNN SHERR (VO) Everyone healed is taught it is his or her duty to share the experience. That's called witnessing, or evangelizing. JOHN KILPATRICK We're not supposed to push things down people's throats by any means. But I think that when they see something is real, it makes them hungry. LYNN SHERR (on camera) You say it's not a religious thing. But the truth is it is about Jesus Christ? JOHN KILPATRICK Right. LYNN SHERR And there are people who believe in other religions, as you well know ... JOHN KILPATRICK Right. LYNN SHERR ... who don't believe in -- in Jesus Christ as the Lord? JOHN KILPATRICK Right. LYNN SHERR So it is a religious thing. If one doesn't believe in Jesus, if one doesn't accept this, what does that make that person in this world? JOHN KILPATRICK Lost. They're lost. LYNN SHERR Even if they don't feel lost? JOHN KILPATRICK Even if they don't feel lost. STEVE HILL You want to know why people hate revival? It's in your face. It'll mess with your comfort zone, friend. You'll hear things you need to hear, like get the sin out. LYNN SHERR (VO) The question is, what happens when that process seeps out of the church and into places where it's not always welcome or legal? It is exactly that in - your - face approach that's put some revival members on a collision course with the law. HUGH DOWNS Well, when we come back, Lynn Sherr continues with the Pensacola revival, and a school vice principal with very strong religious beliefs who leads some students there. Does he have a right to do that, and what do their parents think? ANNOUNCER Now a 20/20 doubletake. The great egg debate -- brown eggs versus white. Which one is better for you? In a moment, we'll settle the argument. (Commercial Break) ANNOUNCER People shell out more for brown eggs than white eggs. But is it worth it? According to the US Department of Agriculture, the nutritional value of brown eggs is exactly the same as white eggs. The color of the shell is nature's brilliant stroke to camouflage the egg against its natural predators. 20/20 continues after this from our ABC stations. (Station Break) ANNOUNCER From ABC News, 20/20 continues. Once again, Hugh Downs. HUGH DOWNS As we've seen, the religious revival in Pensacola, Florida, has made believers out of thousands of people. And they are then expected to spread the word to others. But how would you feel if the believer was a teacher or a school administrator? Do they have a right in that capacity to try to influence their students, possibly changing their religious beliefs forever? Lynn Sherr picks up her story with a school vice principal who did just that. MUSIC DIRECTOR Come on, sing with me. LYNN SHERR (on camera) While the revival here in Pensacola is stirring up souls, the message being carried by one of its most fervent believers is stirring a very different set of emotions in a nearby community. An ugly controversy has arisen in the town ironically named Niceville. IRMA TEMPLE (PH), PARENT And the Holy Spirit doesn't cause disorder or dissension in a family, and it was causing that in our family, and it was -- it was painful. LYNN SHERR (VO) Irma and Bud Temple, like all the folks we spoke with in Niceville, Florida, call themselves faithful families. But they also believe that religion belongs at home and in church, not in the public high school, which is where they say their children learned of the Brownsville revival. Worse yet, they charge, the message was preached by the school's own vice principal, Dr Chip Woolwine (ph). The Temples, who asked us to keep their religious denomination private -- but are not Pentecostals -- say they became concerned when their 16 - year - old daughter began to embrace the practices emanating from the revival. (on camera) When did things really start getting bad with your younger daughter? BUD TEMPLE, PARENT When my daughter picked me up at the airport one day. She was driving. I got in the car, and she was driving down the road, and she was shaking, jittering, bouncing, whatever term you want to use, she was not -- you know, as if she was afflicted with some sort of disease. And I finally said, "What is wrong with you? What is -- what are you doing? What's the matter?" And she said, "Oh, I'm just filled with the Holy Spirit." And it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I almost fell out of the car. LYNN SHERR (VO) The Temples claim she only started her shaking after attending one of the revival services with Vice Principal Woolwine. A devout Christian, he readily admits the revival changed his own life and that, at times, he escorted up to 50 students to the church. DR CHIP WOOLWINE, VICE PRINCIPAL, NICEVILLE HIGH SCHOOL Was I excited about the fact that I knew if some kids could get there that they could get squared away with the Lord and get off drugs and alcohol and stuff like that? Sure. LYNN SHERR (VO) Dr Woolwine has been called the pied piper of Brownsville, a nickname not meant to be flattering to a man generally well - respected by both parents and students. And that, say parents, is part of the problem. IRMA TEMPLE And a lot of those youth are young youth and they're vulnerable, and they're -- they're easily influenced, and they look at an administrator and a teacher, and they look up to them. LYNN SHERR (VO) Dr Woolwine insists the religious conversations were largely initiated by students. But some parents argue that preaching religious beliefs is their responsibility and inappropriate behavior for a public school administrator. (on camera) Did you ever say to one of the kids that if -- if he or she weren't saved, he or she would go to hell? DR CHIP WOOLWINE Well that -- that, again, you're talking about thousands of -- of conversations. But I don't -- I don't -- I do not have any recollection ever of looking at kid and saying, "If you don't believe like I do, you're going to hell." LYNN SHERR Would you ever say that to a kid? DR CHIP WOOLWINE Uh - uh. But if a kid were to just come to me and say, "If I don't have Jesus in my heart for my savior, then am I going to hell," if he would just corner me like that, then, yeah. You'd have to say, "Yeah," you know? LYNN SHERR And you think that was, it's perfectly appropriate for you to have been -- if you ever said something like that, to do that within the - - the context of your being vice principal and this being a school? DR CHIP WOOLWINE Uh - huh. I have no problem with that at all. STEVE HILL Right now we're in a major, exciting situation at Niceville High School. Some of you know about it. We got an assistant principal over there, and some other ... LYNN SHERR (VO) Revival leaders have rallied behind Dr Woolwine. They see his cause as an opportunity to advance national support for school prayer. STEVE HILL What I'm telling you is there's a nation out there lying dormant. And they're waiting for somebody, some voice, some church, some -- some governmental on - fire leader to rise up and go, "Wait just a cotton - pickin' minute! Don't you tell me we can't pray in our school!" LYNN SHERR (VO) Dr Woolwine's religious activities prompted a school board investigation. He was accused of holding Bible counseling sessions in his office and baptizing students at a local bayou. His supporters in this Bible Belt community were outraged by the charges and so vehement about it, most of his accusers say they were afraid to speak out. Still, in June at an emotional school board meeting, Dr Woolwine was found guilty of violating a policy requiring religious neutrality. DON GAETZ (PH), SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER If the laws are wrong, then I invite people to seek out legislative remedies and change the law. (Applause) LYNN SHERR (VO) But while the school board ruling was based on the separation of church and state, Woolwine supporters say the case is a First Amendment issue. They believe students have the right to seek and receive religious counseling at any school. SCHOOL BOARD CHAIRMAN ... be transferred to a position at ... LYNN SHERR (VO) Chip Woolwine was removed from his job as vice principal and shifted into a position where he'll no longer come into contact with students. SCHOOL BOARD CHAIRMAN And I'm going to continue to do what's right for the boys and girls. LYNN SHERR (VO) Bud Temple and the other parents who spoke out are afraid of repercussions, worried that this issue will not quietly disappear. (on camera) What goes through your head when you think about what might happen? What are you worried about? Something somebody might say? Something somebody might do? BUD TEMPLE Well, I'm more concerned about what somebody might do. I'm concerned about the activities of the zealous people, the very, very fanatical people, and you can't predict what a fanatic's going to do. DON GAETZ Excuse me, excuse me. LYNN SHERR (VO) School board member Don Gaetz says he's received several death threats since launching the investigation. But he claims he has no regrets concerning the board's verdict. (on camera) What do you think it means that you've, that the board has disciplined Dr Woolwine? DON GAETZ What we're trying to say is that nobody uses our public schools as the staging area for an attack on anybody's religious faith or as a recruiting station to try to get kids to give up the faiths they're taught in their own homes and follow some pied piper, however well - intentioned he might think he is. DR CHIP WOOLWINE Do I feel like I've done anything wrong? Absolutely not. Do I feel like I'm guilty of -- of violating school board policy? Absolutely not. LYNN SHERR (on camera) If you had things to do over again at Niceville High School, starting with the day you went to the Brownsville revival, what, if anything, would you do differently? DR CHIP WOOLWINE Nothing. I wouldn't do anything differently. To save my job, to save my career, which one of the students would I send back to -- to the awful life that they were experiencing, and my answer is, I wouldn't send any of them back to save my job or my career. RED - HAIRED GIRL I started skipping school and running away, and I was in juvenile detention center, and everything like that. Because I was skipping school, I ended up in the vice principal's office. God bless you, Dr Woolwine. LYNN SHERR (VO) Despite the ruling, Dr Woolwine shows no sign of walking away from his students. He says he's proud of helping set lost students straight, and he recently attended a former student's baptism at the revival, a student he admits helping to find Jesus. RED - HAIRED GIRL And -- and he invited me to Bible study, and he shared the word with me, and who cares if that's illegal? And ... (Applause) STEVE HILL What's happened with Dr Woolwine is so needed right now in America. If a teenager needs prayer, you know, and they're going through a hard time with -- with a -- their boyfriend or girlfriend. Don't slip them a condom. Talk to them about getting their life together. LYNN SHERR (VO) Evangelist Hill and Pastor Kilpatrick, and even Dr Woolwine, admit they are of short on statistics, that they don't know how long the conversions will last. But that hasn't lessened their zeal. STEVE HILL There is an awakening coming to America that is going to shake this nation. It's going to sweep from coast to coast, from north to south ... LYNN SHERR (VO) The revival is now turning into a crusade with the evangelist and the pastor taking their message on the road to pave the way for the next step, the nationwide awakening they hope will follow. It's their way of using the revival fire from Pensacola to spread a wave of religious passion. STEVE HILL God is going to move throughout this land. It's going to hit the Baptists, the Methodists. It's going to hit the Episcopalians, the Lutherans, the Pentecostals. There is an awakening coming. LYNN SHERR (VO) But for all his faith and hope, the evangelist who was here when it all began says he still takes nothing for granted. STEVE HILL I crawl in here every night, spiritually speaking, I'm humbled, and I say, "God, would it be possible for you to do it one more night? Would it be possible for something to happen one more night?" Now! HUGH DOWNS I understand Dr Woolwine is appealing to the Florida State School Board to get his job back. BARBARA WALTERS And guess who is representing him? It is a legal organization headed by Pat Robertson. Copyright ABCNews