A Texas pastor's shocking act of humility has ushered in a powerful move of God at his church. Members of Promise Land church in Austin were stunned when Kenneth Phillips preached about the need to root out pride--and suddenly removed the hairpiece he had worn for more than 20 years.
"People were absolutely shocked, and then they began to fall on their faces on the floor," said Phillips' son, Randy, an associate minister at the 2,000-strong independent Pentecostal church. "Ever since then it has been the deepest, most intense worship we have ever known...God has completely turned this place upside down."
The church has had to add a second Sunday morning service to cope with increased attendance since Phillips' dramatic June 4 gesture. More than 200 people have been baptized, and many others baptized in the Holy Spirit. There have been reports of healings, and churches across the country have requested copies of the video of the service that introduced what has become known as "The Austin Awakening."
The move has been characterized by intense worship and a deeper hunger for God. To avoid distractions, the church has done away with its traditional Christmas decorations. Visiting speakers have been cancelled. The church has also scrapped plans for its popular annual Easter production next year. "It's not fanaticism, but it borders on total attention," said Phillips, who founded the church 33 years ago. "It's all about Jesus."
Phillips had been speaking about a coming awakening for almost a year. He said that God had impressed on him that many people were being distracted from a deeper commitment by "the deceitfulness of riches and the cares of this life, especially in America. It has crippled us." He asked God if there was anything he could do to get closer to Him.
"It was impressed on me that this [hairpiece] was not a necessary thing in my life. It was not a pride thing, it was a preference, [but] it was not something I was born with." So in June, as he preached about removing personal obstacles, he took off the hairpiece and dropped it onto the altar. "It was a shocking thing [for people]," he said. "Most of them didn't know about it. It was humbling for me, but it was [about] a man who was desperate [for more of God]."
Randy Phillips--part of the recording trio Phillips, Craig and Dean--said that his father's actions had provoked gasps in the congregation. "It was the most visual sign of humility you will ever see anyone do. My dad is such a dignified man, you never see him frustrated or at a loss for words...then to see this was quite an impact."
Phillips and others have written a host of new worship songs in the last few weeks. Passers-by have been drawn to enter the church to find out what is going on. Phillips added: "I don't know where it is going, but I hope it never stops because it is the most precious spirit, the most intense intimacy I have ever known. It's not anything we are trying to work up or do to manipulate people. It's just incredible."
Dan Carnahan, a member of the church for 20 years, said his life had been "totally renovated" in the last few weeks. He had developed a new passion for the Bible and sharing God's love with others. "You can't seek His face without having His heart, which is for others," he said. "I believe that something happened in the heavenlies" when Phillips made his gesture.