Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Joel Edwards on Florida

Joel Edwards, the outgoing general director of the Evangelical Alliance has written a letter in response to the events in Florida. The full text is below and also here at their website.

"Dear Colleagues in Christ,
I suspect that many of you have watched with interest the recent developments in Lakeland, Florida. Unusual things have been taking place in Todd Bentley’s church, and they now seem to be spreading to other parts of the world, including the UK.
I’ve spoken to a number of our members who are overjoyed at what they perceive to be the latest outpouring of God’s spirit. Others, though, have expressed their concern at what is happening and particularly the kind of appeals that have been made on TV and the Internet.
Inevitably, all of this reminds me of the struggles we all had at the Alliance at the time of Toronto. And I simply don’t yet know how I feel about all that is going on in Florida. There are aspects that make me rejoice, and others that make me uneasy. However, at the time of Toronto, I drew up the following list of principles that it seems to me have enduring relevance. I share them again with you now so that together we can remain united around our one common cause: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

1. Evangelicals should make every effort to measure all spiritual phenomena by Biblical criteria. In every case, the devotional hallmarks of holiness, prayer and witness provide reliable indicators of authentic moves of God.
2. We also acknowledge that the current phenomenon is not new. During the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries revivals associated with respected figures such as Jonathan Edwards, Wesley, Whitefield and the Jeffreys were also characterised by unusual events which attracted controversy and blessings.
3. We rejoice with those who testify to a deeper level of commitment and joy as a result of their experience but would equally urge them to avoid excessive behaviour which may discredit the Gospel or distance those who genuinely seek an encounter with God.
4. Whilst we would caution against indiscriminate enthusiasm, we would equally urge Evangelicals to avoid preclusive or condemnatory behaviour which dismisses all unusual events out of hand.
5. Finally, we would advocate the Gamaliel principle; if the phenomenon is genuinely of God it will certainly bear lasting fruit.

Evangelical Alliance Preliminary Statement on the Toronto Blessing (1994)

In addition, Jonathan Edwards’ reflections on the kind of tests we should use in evaluating any apparent movement of God remain valuable.

  • Does it raise people’s estimation of Jesus Christ?
  • Does it operate against the interests of Satan?
  • Does it lead to a greater regard for Scripture and truth?
  • Does it result in a greater awareness of and seriousness about the things of God?
  • Does it lead to a greater love for God, for other Christians and for the wider world?

Finally, as Luke makes clear, the purpose of God pouring out his Spirit on the day of Pentecost was not so much to give the disciples a wonderful experience, but rather to empower them in mission. Whatever we make of events in Florida, the most important thing is that we retain our focus on our joint mission to reach this nation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Whatever else, let us keep that at the forefront of everything we do.

Every Blessing

Joel Edwards – General Director, Evangelical Alliance


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