The other night, Evangelist Steve Hill went on to receive his reward from the Lord after a years-long battle with cancer. For those who follow my blog and do not know who that is, he was the lightning rod God used to spark the Brownsville Revival, which in turn birthed the Bible school I went to in Pensacola, and later Charlotte.
The revival or the Pensacola Outpouring as it was also called, ran strong in the late 90s, attracting millions of people from around the world, with hundreds of thousands being cut to the heart with the sword of repentance.
I started FIRE School of Ministry in the fall of 2001 when I was 20 years old. Not only was I moving far away from home, but I had moved to another country (I know it confuses some people when you tell them this, but Canada is not actually a part of the United States). It was during that semester that several launching pad experiences in my life, such as I go into in part of my new book 9 Lies People Believe About Speaking in Tongues, but I don’t want to use this post to promote that other than to say I share my testimony in way more detail there as it relates to this. But in a way, everything I write in that book and this blog is through the lens and motive of helping people get closer to God, which is the DNA of Steve Hill’s contagious desire to see souls come into the kingdom.
As some of you may remember, on September 11th, the World Trade Center towers were struck and collapsed, and basically everything changed in American culture from then on. Many FIRE School students went to a The Call prayer rally in Boston sometime a week later, and when we came back, Steve Hill was going to be preaching the following Friday night at the Brownsville Assembly of God.
He used to preach almost every night, but by this time he had finished, and was living and ministering elsewhere. I can’t remember if this was the first time he had been back, but it was special because he was no longer there on a regular basis. As a result, many FIRE students like myself wanted to go hear him preach in person.
I had never seen him preach in person yet, but I had watched dozens and dozens of VHS tapes from the revival. In fact he was one of the first preachers I had ever heard preach the way he did: simple straight forward Gospel. Christ and him crucified. Some people took notes of what he preached, but I didn’t feel the need to as his message was pretty easy to retain thanks to the object lessons and props he would use night after night.
Expectations were heightened that September because, like I mentioned, these were the weeks after 9/11 happened and everybody was still trying to find sense in it all. Despite my fears that we would not be able to enter the building due to the long lines that formed in the AM hours in the 1990s, we were able to get a seat left of the platform just fine. I really don’t remember his message that night, other than the fact it was just as cutting as he normally could be. I believe the message was called “The World We Live In”.
Afterward, there was an altar call for people who needed to give their lives to Christ, and a large number of people sprung forward not unlike the nights when he preached during the revival. After that time was over is kinda hazy in my memory, but I do remember that shortly afterward there was an opportunity to go forward and receive prayer from the leaders if you wanted or needed prayer, which I decided to go forward for. It seemed that so did another thousand people because it was packed at the altar and you could hardly move.
I saw Steve himself coming closer to where I was standing, and everybody would try touching him or getting his hands on their heads. Even though I really would have appreciated receiving prayer from one of my spiritual heroes, I was getting increasingly annoyed with how the front area was starting to resemble many a rock concert I had attended in life (see my thoughts about this sort of thing in this other post). I know from friends who were close to Hill and from things I’d heard him say publicly that he hated being treated like he was anybody special, but that didn’t stop fans and followers from acting like a rock star was passing through the altar area.
After a significantly long while, I had decided I had enough of standing around in the
mosh pit altar area and was going to try getting out of there. I would turn one way, and there’d be nowhere I could move. Then I’d turn another way, and I could barely move my feet as people were blocking my way and pressing in toward Steve Hill. I’m sure the scene when the woman with the issue of blood reached out to touch Jesus resembled something like this. I just wanted to get back to my seat at this point!
That’s when I turned again and now Steve was pretty much right next to me, facing me. He stopped and looked at me and didn’t just touch me and yell “more, Lord!”
He asked me “So what’s your name?” with those piercing, but welcoming eyes. I knew this was not going to turn into a full on conversation, and that hundreds of people were surrounding us, waiting their turn to be prayed for. But here he was, actually stopping for a moment to speak directly with me.
“Steve” I replied.
“I like your name. What’s your story?” He asked.
“Uh….I’m a Canadian who moved down here to go to FIRE School of Ministry…”
“Bremner, you idiot, how do you know you didn’t just offend him? You didn’t even need to mention FIRE. Why could you just keep your mouth shut or only say “ministry school!”
Now for those of you who might not realize how dumb of a thing that was to say, it was December of the previous year that there was a split in the Brownsville Revival School of Ministry, and FIRE School was formed, with half remaining at the current school, and the other half, along with Michael Brown and the majority of the teachers, going to the new FIRE school. I was a part of FIRE’s first incoming fall class. In those days, it was still a pretty sensitive issue and you had to be careful what you said and to whom you said as many people who went through it were still in pain. I had run into BRSM students at the Christian bookstore, who upon telling them I was from FIRE would say “oh…” as if I had just admitted to them I had a contagious disease and completely changed the tone and direction of the conversation.
After a moment which seemed like an eternity, but probably just just a fraction of a nano second, he responded;
“I’m proud of you, Steve.”
I remember thinking he knew nothing about me so how could he be? But God was graciously giving me this moment with a hero of mine telling me he was proud of me.
Like an idiot, I then asked,
“Any reason in particular?”
He just smiled and said “Because you’re going after Jesus!” At that he offered to pray for me, and placed his hands on my head and moved closer so as to more embrace me and pray something directly in my ear. I don’t remember his exact prayer, but it was short, and he repeatedly asked the Lord few times to bless me.
When he was done, he looked me in the eye again and told me to keep going after Jesus. He then went back to laying hands on people. And of course, I was glad I didn’t get tired and go back to my seat.
I would never again personally interact with Steve Hill myself, mostly because we never really crossed paths again in any way where I would have.
While our styles and theology would differ greatly as the years went on, I honour Steve for his contagious passion for Jesus and souls. And as a student of history, I think he’ll go down as one of the great American revivalists, in one of the great American revivals, that impacted the world in a way that has yet to be measured.
And if it weren’t for the Brownsville Revival, I wouldn’t be where I am today in Peru as a missionary.