Friday, August 15, 2008

Todd Bentley, revival, and discernment

Well, Todd Bentley is headlining the blogs again and not for good reasons. A month or so ago I was having a conversation with my friend Ian about Lakeland and Dudley and I said, 'I don't think we'll be talking about Lakeland and Todd Bentley in January' (for a list of my posts on Todd Bentley here and Dudley here ). I think I will be proved right, but not for any of the reasons I thought. And these reasons are sad indeed. There's no room or place for gloating when someone's marriage hits the rocks.

So, people are already calling time on the Lakeland 'revival' and here are some of the reasons and concerns I have, that are separate from all the discussion about healing styles, angels, prosperity teaching, unverified healings and miracles and poor theology (as if all those issues wasn't enough to make us discerning at the very least) and some lessons I hope we can learn.

  1. We should let history give a name to what is God is doing. Really early on, in fact way too early on, it was called a 'revival' and Dudley was called an 'outpouring' and named by those involved. To my mind that is a big presumption and to be honest God's work rarely needs man's PR to make it a success.
  2. This was the first 'revival' in a media age. There is no question in my mind, that this event was the first of its kind which spread virally and was 'sponsored' by a TV station (God TV) and that this was not always good. While, this TV channel is run by Christians it is still a TV channel. Sadly for us, being on TV is a still seen as a sign of legitimacy which shows that we still have a fairly naive and immature approach to media. Being able to watch in on the internet or on TV does not make it any more or less genuine.
  3. TV inflates and exaggerates. Saying you have a potential audience of 400 million people is very, very different from the number of people that are actually watching. Right now I have a potential readership of billions on this blog, in reality the number is one or two less than that.
  4. What is the deal with the nightly meetings? This seems to have become a modern mark of revival. Where did that come from? I've no idea why intensity has become more important than longevity but it has. It certainly accommodates demand, but it seems to me that saturation often does more harm than good and in the case of Lakeland we became saturated faster than ever before. Why do we exhaust so quickly what we want so badly?
  5. We made it about a man. Again. Todd Bentley may very well have a supernatural gift from God to heal people, this is not a good reason to let him preach dozens of nights in a row. It is not a good reason to let him exhort people to give. It's not a good reason for much except getting him to pray for the sick (although preferably without punching, kicking, kneeing, slamming or whatever). Why can't we let the gifted preacher preach, the prophet prophesy and the healer heal? So once again our shallow need for celebrity, and plenty of other causes, gave one person far too much prominence, where it was dangerous for him and dangerous for the campaign he was involved in.
  6. Charismatics want revival the easy way. Still. We desperately want people to be saved without us preaching to them, healed without us praying for them, discipled without us befriending them, enriched without us sharing with them and the nations reached without us going to them. So when one man came, we went to him instead of to HIM.
  7. We're looking in the wrong places. It seems to me that our eyes are fixed on America, hoping revival will come from there. It has the right language, the media channels and millions of Christians ready to give a leader national prominence and millions of dollars. When God decided it was time for Jesus to come he didn't send him to Rome but to Bethlehem. If we could be bothered we should be talking to the Chinese, the Indian, the African.
  8. Why can't we have good doctrine and great power? Personally I'm tired of this split where those with good doctrine see so little dunamis while those with all the dynamite just blow themselves up with it because they forget that theology actually is important after all.
  9. Wacky, is well, wacky. God has every right to use methods and people that do not conform to my expectations. His wisdom can appear foolish to me, but that doesn't mean that everything that is foolish is from God. That would be, well, foolish.
  10. Sadly, we love being fighting to be right. I think blogs can be helpful places to get reactions and think through issues, it also becomes an easy way to take cheap shots and demonstrate a stunning lack of grace, charity, forgiveness, wisdom or discernment.
So while I do not believe that everything that happened in Lakeland was demonic, nor everyone who went there deceived, nor every claim false, nor prepared to cast Todd Bentley down with the devil - I still think that by January all this will be in the past. Let's hope we learn some lessons before the next 'big thing'.

Here are some other key posts and blogs on this issue:


Saju Muthalaly on 16 August 2008 at 11:49 said...

Thank you. I am finding your analysis helpful in thinking through the issue. Peace

Phil on 16 August 2008 at 20:25 said...

Thanks Saju, I hope your time in Lancaster goes well. I did my PGCE at St Martins and went to St Thomas' for a year. Say hello to Wendy and Duncan Moore from me when you see them.

Gladstone Bhasme (India) said...

It's my observation that ALL human beings have something to hide!
We are all sinners - even the ones who are quick to point an accusing finger at someone else - and such accusers are only disciples of Satan - the Chief Accuser.
Such accusers are far more clever than the accused in hiding their own sins.
Only the Perfect should 'throw stones'!!!!!
I am a follower of Jesus Christ and have a deep desire to become more and more like Christ - but I find myself like Paul in the Bible "doing things I don't want to do or not doing things I want to do".
When I sincerely confess my sins He is faithful and just to forgive my sins!!
Only Christ in us makes us stand totally righteous before God our Father.
I certainly DO NOT SUPPORT sin of any kind and I don’t understand everything that folks like Todd Bentley do - but I love Todd Bentley and all those accused - because the work that God has started in them (and in me) HE WILL COMPLETE in due course - even if we seem imperfect for a while!!

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