Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lessons Learned From Lakeland

By now many of you have seen (and perhaps attended) the Florida Healing Outpouring meetings in Lakeland. What began on April 2nd as five days of meetings at Ignited Church by Canadian evangelist Todd Bentley quickly exploded into a worldwide revival thanks to GodTV and the Internet. I was in Lakeland for six days in May and then watched more meetings via GodTV this past summer.

In mid-August, it was announced that Todd Bentley was stepping down from public ministry due to failures in his personal life including a breakdown of his marriage. Many ministers have since made public statements regarding Todd and the Florida Outpouring. Until now, I didn’t plan on making my own comments mainly because I do not know Todd personally (although he added me as a Facebook friend). But then a couple of weeks ago, an incident came up that made me decide otherwise.

One Saturday morning I attended a men’s breakfast at a church in Virginia. After eating and a time of worship, the pastor preached on the importance of accountability. Near the end of his sermon, he talked about the errors made by Todd Bentley. I became grieved in my spirit when the pastor criticized Todd’s youth (what about 1 Timothy 4:12?) and the “lack of proof” that miracles happened through this revival. A fellow missionary who came to the breakfast with me attended meetings in Lakeland for 2½ months and had witnessed numerous miracles himself. He and I decided to walk out before this men’s breakfast was over.

While my friend and I waited in the parking lot for our ride home (our driver stayed for the rest of the meeting), I got into a discussion with one of the church’s security personnel. When I told him why I felt some of his pastor’s comments were out of line, he suggested I send the pastor an email.

The pastor replied to my email by saying, "The view I spoke from on Saturday morning was a leadership view - the view you speak from today is a lay person's view from the pew." (I didn’t tell him in advance that I was an evangelist.) He also mentioned he has many contacts in Lakeland and shared “behind-the-scenes” stuff with me. Although I respect this pastor’s intent to protect his congregation, I felt some of his comments were a bit condescending.

Certainly, I do not condone the sins Todd Bentley has committed. But I believe fellow ministers need to respond to him in a more Christ-like manner. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” I recall how Jimmy Swaggart took it upon himself to expose fellow televangelists for immorality and later fell into the same sin. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:1-2, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Getting back to Todd Bentley, I will admit there were a couple of things that concerned me before his resignation from public ministry…

1) In the early days of the revival Todd was doing meetings seven nights a week. Later Todd took nights off to do meetings in other cities. God’s commandment to “remember the Sabbath” applies to ministers as well.

2) Todd Bentley got his tattoos after he went into the ministry. Some Christians may argue tattoos can be used as witnessing tools. I know one man who had a “666” tattooed on his hand before he got saved and later had it redesigned to look like “777”. On the other hand, I've heard testimonies of tattoos supernaturally erased! Personally I don’t think it’s a good Christian witness to get tattoos especially since Leviticus 19:28 forbade God’s people from doing so. One valid point the pastor in Virginia made was that kids were inspired by Todd’s appearance to get tattoos against their parent’s wishes. Doesn’t this amount to rebellion?

I still look at Todd Bentley as a man of God for Romans 11:29 says, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Let’s not forgot the multitudes of people who traveled from various nations to Lakeland and were changed as a result of the Florida Outpouring meetings. Let’s not forgot all the salvations, healings, and miracles that manifested through Todd and his Fresh Fire associates. Let’s not forget that God uses imperfect people to carry out His perfect plans. If God can use a donkey, He can use anybody willing to submit their lives to Him.

I invite you to join me to continue praying for Todd and his family. Ministers who are considered forerunners and willing to go outside man-made religious boxes are prone to attacks from the enemy. It’s sad that those attacks often come from fellow Christians. We need to stop shooting our own wounded.

“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.” - Romans 2:1

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree. The biggest problem I've seen is that people don't understand the nature of God. They confuse holy and judgemental. Yes God is holy, if we were to stand before God without the blood of Christ, we would fry. But we do have the blood of Christ and God does not demand holiness, but provides holiness for us, we just have to choose to live in it. Otherwise, it would be like commanding a candle to ignite on its own without you providing the fire. If we think we can be holy on our own, then we are incorrect.

    So please, before you decide you can cast the first stone, look at how Jesus handled someone caught in adultery. He didn't act like it didn't happen, he didn't excuse it, but he did forgive her and to live in the holiness his forgiveness provided. To do anything different is to think we are better than God. So let's give Todd the same treatment we would want, grace and forgiveness.