AUSTIN, Texas - The Rev. Kenneth Phillips changed his appearance two years ago. To this day, he can't stand to look at himself in the mirror.

This is a man with a worldwide ministry that other pastors envy. This is a man who commands a 25-acre church complex in the heart of Austin.

This is a man who is Art Garfunkel-bald and hates it. He hates it even more than former President George Bush hates broccoli.

He hates it so much that, when his hair started retreating years ago, he filled in the gaps with fake turf. For 20 years, many churchgoers were never the wiser. Until June 4, 2000.

On that day, in the middle of a sermon, he reached up without warning and removed his hairpiece. Afterward, he looked like a tonsured monk in a business suit.

Worshipers gasped, then cheered, then broke out in prayer. They couldn't believe what had just happened. Right before their eyes, their pastor had bared his soul, then bared his head.

"It was almost like seeing your pastor naked," said Associate Pastor John Ragsdale.

The sermon had been deeply personal. Phillips spoke about vanity and the sin of pride. He confessed that his fake hair had become a barrier with God.

"Twenty years ago, I started wearing a hairpiece," he told worshippers. He was soft-spoken and conversational, nothing like the thunderous preachers who pronounce the name of Jesus as though it had 18 syllables. All eyes were on him.

"I thought it had nothing to do with pride," he said. "I thought it was just personal preference."

Now he knew better, he said.

Many who were there that night were so moved that they told their friends. More and more people turned up at PromiseLand Church. Soon, newspapers around the world were carrying the story of what was dubbed the "Toupee Revival."

People read the story and laughed. Some called it a gimmick. They joked about how there was finally a church where you could let your hair down. Even phrases like "hairsplitting theology" took on humorous overtones.

But the 62-year-old pastor wasn't laughing, and neither was his church. Those who were there that night heard an emotional sermon on the sin of pride that none have forgotten to this day.

Not a word. It changed them.

Some canceled vacations to pray about the sin of pride in their own lives. They unplugged televisions to spend more time with family. Young people vowed to stop wearing immodest clothing.

Kim Williams sold her Corvette. It was an `89 red racer that she had paid off only four months earlier. Her dream car.

"I spent a lot of time polishing it and taking care of it and driving it," she said. "I thought it was pretty special."

But after that night in June, she saw it as an idol. So she sold the car for $9,500, chipped in another $500 and gave $10,000 to the church for outreach. It wasn't easy to let go, even with prayer.

"I felt like the needs of the community were more important than that car," said Williams, 52, who now drives a Honda Accord. That's what God taught her, she said.

And that's what's bringing people to PromiseLand.

"You either understand this or you don't," Phillips said. "It's like a savior hanging naked on a cross."


The church has 3,000 members - a 25 percent increase since that June night. They worship in a new 2,200-seat auditorium with all of the latest recording technology. So many come that a second service has been added.

"Worship has become more intimate and spiritual," Ragsdale said. "Before, we were a church centered on performance. We had lights and sound and all this spectacular stuff. People would come to see our dramas."

Now they're coming because the movement of God is there, he said. Some Pentecostal circles say that the Holy Spirit is ushering in all kinds of miracles and blessings at PromiseLand. They're calling it the "Austin Awakening."

"Once I got over the shock that my pastor wore a toupee, it made me realize how superficial we Christians can be sometimes," said Frianita Wilson, 36, who was there that night. "Our pastor showed us that we couldn't just play at church. We can't just go through the motions of religion. We have to get real with Jesus."

Pentecostalism spans several denominations that emphasize the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives. It has been the fastest growing Christian movement over the past 50 years.

Awakenings have long been popular in this physical form of Christianity. Some worshipers "speak in tongues," a spontaneous, often undecipherable, prayer language. Others crumple to the floor, which they call being "slain" in the Holy Spirit.

In the mid-1990s, thousands of Pentecostals headed to Canada for the Toronto Blessing. It was also known as the "laughing revival" because worshippers doubled over in fits of laughter while they prayed.

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