THE BROWNSVILLE REVIVAL:
Toronto Link Grows Stronger
By Larry Thomas, The Inkhorn
If you mention the Pensacola Revival you better be ready to duck or pucker
because people will either want to hit you or kiss you. There is no middle
ground when it comes to this reported move of God in the Florida panhandle.
Nothing has caused as much consternation and confusion in the church world
since ... uh ... the Toronto Blessing.
But this is not Toronto, we're told. But more on that later.
While some say this is the greatest thing since Azusa Street or maybe
even since Pentecost itself, others are saying this is more deadly to Christianity
than communism was in its hey-dey. One thing is obvious: everyone must
decide whether they're "for it or agin it." Even the leadership of the
Brownsville Assembly of God church in Pensacola says the division is necessary.
At a November meeting of the Peninsula Florida District of the Assemblies
of God, Pensacola Pastor John Kilpatrick told the gathering of ministers
that God asked him if He could "bring a sword into the church." Kilpatrick
told the group that God wanted to separate those who were against the flow
of the Spirit from those who wanted it. Those that God removed, Kilpatrick
said, were "too religious." He concluded these remarks by noting that those
who are standing against this revival are the religious.
JUDGING THE JUDGES
While the leaders of the revival call their opposition judgmental, they
are just as judgmental. The difference is the standard by which judgments
are made. Proponents of Pensacola determine who is religious and who is
spiritual by whether or not they accept the manifestations accompanying
the "revival." Critics of the current move, for the most part, are judging
the manifestations by the Word of God and finding no biblical support whatsoever.
Art Katz, in an article titled "Some Cautionary Thoughts on the Present
Revival," expresses very well some of our concerns:
"Perhaps one of the most ominous features of the hour is the
note of warning sounded about those who have some reserve as being 'obstructions,'
'enemies,' or 'threats' to this outpouring of God. The invitation seems
to be to abandon all restraint ('The bar is open') leap in, or get
out of the way of others if you cannot! ... I cannot help but wonder if
it is man's interests that are being so vehemently defended and that we
are at the inception of what could ultimately be finalized by the warning
that 'they will kill you and claim that they are doing God a service"'
(John 16:2). 
Katz went on to quote T. Austin Sparks, who compared the Corinthian church's
propensity for sensational evidences to its modern counterpart:
"We are in that kind of age today. It is becoming more and
more a psychic age. It is an age of the soul just spilling over, asserting
itself, taking control of everything Christian as well as outside of it
a soulish age.... Be careful that you are not hankering for this
realm again. Are you after the evidence? My, how I have seen dear Christian
people just prostrating themselves, with groaning and crying, almost screaming
for evidence--these 'sign' things ... Christians and dear men of God, who
have been greatly used, are creating an emotional, psychic situation that
is involving simple Christians in things which are, sooner or later, going
to be a great disillusionment and an offense. It will bring 'offendedness'
with the Lord, and that is just what the devil is after." 
SOMETHING IS DEFINITELY HAPPENING
That something big is happening goes without saying. The real question
is what is behind the spiritual excitement. Proponents obviously claim
this is a sovereign move of God's Holy Spirit. Some critics claim the spirit
operating in the church is demonic, while others are blaming the bizarre
behavior on suggestible followers who are easily manipulated by the leaders.
The Bible tells us to test the spirits to see if they be of God. But when
the cautious suggest such a plan, they are called narrowminded, pride-filled
Spirit quenchers. This attack is designed, we believe, to keep the "faithful"
following their leaders, and to keep them from hearing reasonable questions
and biblical responses.
Before we discuss our testing of the spirits, let me share something
with you. I had mentioned in our last issue of The Inkhorn that
I hoped to attend a service or two at the Brownsville church during a recent
trip to Florida. My schedule and the service schedule at the church did
not match up, so I was unable to attend any services. I know some will
quickly pounce on that and say, "You can't judge or write about something
you've not experienced." We heard the same criticism when we spoke out
First, let me say that we have done considerable research through the
writings of the revival leaders and have seen numerous video tapes of the
manifestations. We have interviewed dozens of people who have been to Brownsville
or to one of its clones. From our knowledge of what is happening, what
is being promoted and what God's Word says about such things (and doesn't
say), I believe we have sufficient evidence to draw our conclusions.
To attend a service at Brownsville just to rebuff our critics would
be costly and, I believe, unnecessary. It might also be putting God to
a foolish test. Many solid Bible preachers have reported that they were
skeptical of Brownsville, but attended at the urging of others and came
back transformed. (Not for the better, I might add.) It seems obvious that
these men, and women, have been seduced by the spirit of Brownsville.
But enough about that.
TORONTO CONNECTION BECOMES CLEARER
Anyone who claims that Pensacola is not merely Toronto recycled is not
being totally honest. Revival historian Andrew Strom of New Zealand makes
"... the links between Toronto and Pensacola are so strong
that I am surprised that they are not more widely known." 
Evangelist Steve Hill has acknowledged that he had spent considerable time
with a leader of the Toronto movement at the Holy Trinity Bromptom church
in London. Pastor John Kilpatrick defended in his book the same manifestations
that were prevalent at Toronto. (These things were covered in our October
Charisma magazine has endorsed the Brownsville revival and made
no bones about linking it with Toronto. Under the headline "Toronto Blessing
Spreads Worldwide," the magazine made this observation:
"Springfield, Missouri home to the Assemblies of God
headquarters was considered resistant to the Toronto Blessing. That
began to change in June when Brownsville pastor John Kilpatrick held special
services at Central Assembly of God next to AG headquarters." 
Pro-Pensacola writer, Beth McDuffie, made the connection quickly. She wrote,
"As people went forward, they began to fall down shaking and
crying, etc., just like 'Toronto' meetings everywhere." 
As we noted in the Issues and Insights column of our October issue, the
new head of the AG Men's Ministries sees Toronto, Brownsville, Hill and
Rodney-Howard Browne as all part of the same move. Only a few die-hards
are trying to create a gulf between Toronto and Pensacola that just does
WHOLE LOTA SHAKIN' GOIN' ON
That old Jerry Lee Lewis song title seems to fit the Pensacola phenomena
better than its declared anthem, "The Mercy Seat." While uncontrollable
laughter was the primary manifestation at Toronto (at least at the beginning),
uncontrollable shaking is the most prevalent in Pensacola. … There is laughter
and other Toronto-style manifestations, but the most popular is shaking.
Sometimes it is more like jerking; other times it is deep bowing. The most
widely seen video of this manifestation is being distributed by AG headquarters.
We'll let pro-Pensacola, Charisma staff writer Lee Grady describe
it for us. This is Grady's description of Alison Ward's testimony.
"As she spoke, Alison shook in a manner so awkward that a casual
observer might think she suffered from cerebral palsy. Then, while trembling
violently, she issued a plea so heartfelt that those in the room say they
heard God speaking through her. Choking back tears she said intently: 'God
is in a hurry. There's not much more time. He aches and He grieves for
your spirit.' At that moment Alison fell to the floor. A deafening chorus
of moaning and wailing filled the room as people were moved by an almost
eerie sense of God's love for lost souls ... Alison's eight-minute testimony,
which was captured on video tape, represents the defining moment of this
1 have seen this particular video. My heart went out to the young woman
-- first, because I thought she suffered from a physical affliction; then
because I realized the terrible delusion to which she had succumbed, and
finally because she was being shamelessly used by her spiritual leaders.
The lack of self-control (a fruit of the Spirit) makes it obvious that
the manifestations of poor Alison are not Spirit endowed.
"I'm sorry, but I just cannot go along with the idea that God
wants to distort the limbs and the bodies of his children so that they
look like sufferers of Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy and Parkinson's Disease.
I cannot go along with a 'revival' that makes God's children 'jerk' for
hours at a time, just like the mental patients seen in our psychiatric
wards every day. And I cannot go along with a shrieking, hyena-like laughter
being described as 'holy.' I have to be frank and say, it all sound too
much like the devil to me. 
JERKING DISRUPTS CLASSES
Several students in Brooksville, Florida, who had attended the Pensacola
revival with their youth pastor were reprimanded by high school officials
after they continued to manifest the jerking and deep bowing in their classes.
The manifestation was picked up at the 'revival' and the teens claimed
they could not control it. This kind of behavior brings reproach rather
than honor to the name of Jesus.
But the teens are merely mimicking the uncontrollable actions of their
At the district conference referred to earlier, Kilpatrick admitted
to the assembled pastors that he has been so "drunk in the spirit" that
he actually struck his youth pastor's car with his own. He said that while
driving he had hit many garbage cans sitting at the curb on several occasions
because he was so "drunk." He added that his wife (a visitor to Toronto,
by the way) has been so drunk she couldn't cook. Sometimes, his drunken
stupors are so severe that he has to be taken from the service in a wheel
chair, Kilpatrick said.
In our book, No Laughing Matter, we discussed Toronto-style churches
that had 'designated drivers' for their too-drunk-to-drive parishioners.
We also noted that many students from these churches missed classes because
of "Holy Ghost hangovers" or disrupted classes with their laughter and
other erratic behaviors. I see a strong link here. Don't you?
BIZARRE BEHAVIOR JUSTIFIED
These unbiblical manifestations are justified by the Pensacola leaders
and their followers, either by wrenching Scripture out of context, reading
between the lines of Scripture or, best of all, saying that if the Bible
doesn't clearly prohibit an activity, then it is okay with God. (Again,
these are the same tactics used by the Toronto leadership.)
One classic example of this is found in the winter edition of Enrichment
magazine, an AG publication for ministers. Kilpatrick is being interviewed
by the author about the Brownsville "outpouring." Under the subhead of
"Surprises of the Spirit" Kilpatrick says:
"God is taking us from glory to glory, and this glory won't
seem like the last glory. For most of what we experience I can take you
Well, I'm certainly surprised. Kilpatrick, without any fear, made unwarranted
additions to Joel's prophecy. He made the book of Acts say something that
it clearly does not say. His is speculative theology at best and blatant
misrepresentation at worst. No one to my knowledge ever interpreted that
passage in Acts to mean that those who came down from the upper room were
staggering around like drunken sailors on leave. The first time I ever
heard that was from the "apologists" of Toronto.
"On the Day of Pentecost the believers were staggering as if drunk.
Peter stood up and said this was foretold by the prophet Joel. Much of
what they were doing had come out of Joel's prophecy, but the one major
exception -- they were speaking in other tongues. Joel never mentioned
it, but they were doing it even though Peter could not give chapter and
verse for it. It was a surprise." 
First, let me say the context makes it clear that the mockers accused
them of being drunk because they could not understand the unknown tongues
in which they spoke. The unfamiliar languages, no doubt, sounded like the
slurred gibberish associated with those who have had a little too much
to drink. But it is a far and dangerous stretch of the facts to say those
empowered by the Holy Ghost were staggering around.
Pentecostal believers traditionally have held that speaking in tongues
is the first sign of believers being filled with the Holy Ghost. With that
in mind, most Pentecostal scholars hold that the speaking in tongues at
Pentecost was the confirmation that the Spirit had been poured out. True,
Joel did not specifically say the believers would speak in tongues, but
neither did he even hint that they would act like drunks at a party. Kilpatrick
threw out the clear inference and interjected his own self-serving interpretation.
THE SET UP
Kilpatrick's error was intentional, I believe. His whole purpose was
to send out the message that the church doesn't need chapter and verse
for manifestations of the Spirit, That speaks volumes. It is obvious that
most of the manifestations at Pensacola cannot be given a biblical precedent.
So, Kilpatrick says that it's not essential to have one.
This reminds me of Rodney Howard-Browne's remark that you "can't put
this move of God to a theological test." The message of Pensacola is nothing
more than regurgitated Toronto philosophy: "Don't think. Don't question.
Just jump in. Just experience. Just believe your leadership." That whole
attitude is cultic and dangerous.
I agree with A. W. Tozer who said,
"I am a Bible Christian and if an archangel with a wingspread
as broad as a constellation shining like the sun were to come and offer
me some new truth, I'd ask him for a reference. If he could not show me
where it is found in the Bible, I would bow him out and say, 'I'm awfully
sorry, you don't bring any references with you.'" 
This is not the attitude at Pensacola. There, the preaching of the Word
is minimized, trivialized and criticized. Any spiritual movement that is
not based on the truth of the Word and the honest preaching of that Word
must be rejected.
The Pensacola revival has created in the Pentecostal church a paradigm
shift in its understand of the authority of Scripture, the work of Christ,
the character of the Holy Spirit and His work in the church and the plan
of God. This shift is a major one. It is laying the ground work for the
next "move of God" that will make the Pensacola fiasco pale.
There is much more to say about this. But it will have to wait until
the next issue.
1 Katz, Art, "Some Cautionary Thoughts on The Present Revival," unpublished
manuscript, October, 1996.
2 Sparks, T. Austin, Called Unto the Fellowship of His Son, published
by Emmanuel Church, Tulsa, OK, page 46.
3 Strom, Andrew, "Brownsville, Pensacola: 'Toronto' or Not?" Unpublished
manuscript, October, 1996, page 1.
4 Toronto Blessing Spreads Worldwide, Charisma, November, 1996,
5 Strom. op. cit., page 1.
6 Ibid., page 2.
7 Ibid., page 3.
8 Womack, David, "The Pensacola Revival -- Today's Azusa Street," Enrichment,
Winter, 1997, page 59.
9 Tozer, A. W., Success and the Christian, Christian Publications, Camp
Hill, PA, 1994, pages 65-66.