(A letter written by Terry Somerville during August, 2008)
I'm back from much needed holiday. Over the last few months many of you asked for my thoughts on the Lakeland Revival. I hadn't visited the meetings myself so I released several teachings to help believers test things out. I had heard good and bad reports from ministers I know, and because some of Todd Bentley's teachings were way off I urged caution.
In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. 2. Corinthians 13:1
Well, now we know. It has become established that there has been much exaggeration and hype about resurrections etc. (Google "Robert Ricciardelli" to find 1st hand reports.) Apparently Todd was cautioned on this and increased the numbers he reported! This is usually called lying. Now we are hear that Todd and his wife are separating. Dear Lord, help Todd and your church!
So what do we make of the whole Lakeland Revival mess?
1. Trust Jesus, Not Preachers or Meetings
If you have received from the Lord through Lakeland don't allow your faith to be in crisis over this. You received by trusting Jesus not Todd Bentley or a meeting! I remember some members of my congregation having a faith crisis when Jimmy Swaggart was exposed because they were saved in his meetings. I had to teach them Jimmy does not save. Jesus does!For from Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
2. Jesus Comes Wherever Two or Three Gather In His Name
God moved for some in Lakeland because Christians gathered in expectant faith! When will we get it? It's not a special place or person. It's a special savior! It is faith in Him that brings results. What is different about Lakeland, or any special meetings is that Christians expected God to move. But truly, God will move whenever we have such faith!
I remember planning special meetings at our church for an international revivalist. A huge crowd waited expectantly but he didn't make it. But, we didn't need him! Faith and expectancy was so high that Jesus moved in our midst in an amazing way! So why not every week at church? Good question! Could it be our hearts are on something else?
3. Christian - Get Your Own Anointing
Many people travel a long way to "get the anointing and take it home." There's some huge problems with this teaching. Yes, anointing can rub off, but God wants to make you a river, not have you sponging off someone elses anointing. This is what a Christian is all about!
Going to a meeting somewhere does not qualify you to receive. It may stir you up and be a time when the Holy Spirit gets to your heart. But it's faith in the full work of the cross that works, not the meeting ! God wants every Christian to walk in their own anointing, not depend on someone elses. Thats the amazing thing about being a Christian. The cross of Christ accomplished everything we need for life and godliness. Believe it.
He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
4. Do We Take Home Some Mystical Power Or Use Faith?
Even when some one "brings the revival home" and a church "gets it" it's not a mystical substance you brought back with you. It doesn't work that way, it's mainly about faith. Look at what happens. Someone went to the 'revival" so everyone expects God to work. Guess what? Jesus was with you wanting to work His power all along, but you didn't believe it till you experienced it yourself. Now that you've seen it, and friends trust you at church, they will receive it too! It's time for the church to trust Jesus from the beginning, instead of waiting for far away meetings.
When we first heard about the renewal beginning in Toronto we had no money to go. We prayed in faith "Jesus, give everything you are doing to us too." That night it came without any travel, any contact, any impartation of anointing. It was simple faith. We have Jesus.
But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. I John 2:27
4. There Are No Special Places, Just Believers Gathering!
The teaching that we have holy locations, and holy buildings (churches) and that we must make a pilgrimage to them to receive, is actually pagan idolatry mixed with Old Testament temple worship. Of course God may meet you at these places, but God will meet the sincere believer in any setting.
We are not a people of holy buildings, and holy places. We are individually and corporately the temple of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is not waiting for you to go to Florida to meet Him. The reason outpourings happen in certain places is because believers are believing and receiving at that place! When will Christians actually believe they are the temple of God where ever they are?
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? I Corinthians 6:19
5. Listen to Your Listener, Know By Your Knower
Many Christians have said they felt something was wrong in Lakeland, but couldn't put their finger on it. This is the Holy Spirit bearing witness to your spirit by a lack of peace. When we let the peace of God rule in us it means He is acting as an umpire calling "fair ball, foul ball" If it's foul ball, test it out. Listen to the umpire even if you don't understand the call!
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Colossians 3:15
6. Those Who Say "Don't Criticize, Accept Without Testing" are WRONG!
Don't listen to such people. They are deceived! We are explicitly told to test everything. See my article on testing.
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. I Thessalonians 5:21
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. I John 4:1
7. Our "Spirit Filled" Church Is A Prisoner Of Consumer Culture
One look at the current crop of Holy Spirit ministry tells us the church is under a terrible stronghold of consumerism. Much prophetic ministry has sold out to trashy sensationalism to get a following, rather than directing the Body Of Christ into fidelity with Jesus. The anointing and blessing of God are treated as a product being marketed. "Come and get it!" Attendance and financial gifts are the price of purchase. Revival has become the "sacred cow" of the church. The one who has it wins! We are serving the IDOLS OF THE LAND.
Hearts Are Not Right
Yes we are forgiven and belong to Jesus, but our hearts have not been right! We have been serving success, size, fame, youth, money! It seems every new teaching or event is just more of this! Believers must begin serving Him with holiness of heart. Where is the cry of repentance? Where is the desire for TRUE HOLINESS?
It is time for something different. A Church set free from serving the gods of the pagan nation around us. A return to the complete good news of the gospel. Jesus provided all at the cross! He died for forgiveness and eternal life PLUS everything we need for life and godliness. Don't seek it from the culture but from Him. Repent and seek Him! It's full LIFE , and the good news is you qualify now by faith only! It's not men and meetings and anointings, it's trusting Jesus completed work and love! Enter in.
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
8. Apostolic Covering Is Not Working
Over the last number of years God has been causing the church to recognize apostolic ministry. Yet the sad truth about the current apostolic trend is they seem to be producing men's hierarchies - an old wineskin! It is not working! Also, the idea that apostles, or any man is a "spiritual covering" or "father" and provides protection is not biblical. Often it has degenerated into mere control and, as we have seen, can end in failure. Hierarchies don't usually produce the genuine relationships needed in the Body Of Christ.
And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
Jesus is our total covering. We have only one Father who is in heaven. We need brothers and sisters in Christ, a real body that grows and depends on one another.
A new day is coming in His church, and the troubles with the Lakeland Revival gives us all the more reason for seeking the Lord with profound earnestness. Millions of believers are done with Christendom. (the temple style, hierarchical church since Constantine) We are ready to have our pre-conceived ideas of church exposed and torn down. No more hype and flash from leaders in captivity to our consumer culture! We want the genuine, the Kingdom.
- We are looking for the pure DNA of the Lord to be revealed in His people.
- We want real loving brotherly relationships with our fellow believers,
- We want true elders in the faith to step forward.
- We want the gifted ministries to mature the Body of Christ, rather than be mixed with worldly motives.
- We want the fullness of what Christ purchased at Calvary to be manifest in us.
- We want to be fully empowered in this hour, to preach the good news, cast out demons, heal the sick, raise the dead and disciple the nations.
I'm sending out this article on the Lakeland revival by Lee Grady,
editor of Charisma Magazine. He poses some very important questions.
Life After Lakeland: Sorting Out the Confusion
Todd Bentley’s announcement that his marriage is ending has thrown our movement into a tailspin—and questions need to be answered.
It was not supposed to end like this.
Evangelist Todd Bentley had heralded the Lakeland revival as the greatest Pentecostal outpouring since Azusa Street. From his stage in a gigantic tent in Florida, Bentley preached to thousands, bringing many of them to the stage for prayer. Many claimed to be healed of deafness, blindness, heart problems, depression and dozens of other conditions in the Lakeland services, which ran for more than 100 consecutive nights. Bentley announced confidently that dozens of people had been raised from the dead during the revival.
But this week, a few days after the Canadian preacher announced the end of his visits to Lakeland, he told his staff that his marriage is ending. Without blaming the pace of the revival for Bentley’s personal problems, his board released a public statement saying that he and his wife, Shonnah, are separating. The news shocked Bentley’s adoring fans and saddened those who have questioned his credibility since the Lakeland movement erupted in early April.
“Among those who jumped on the Lakeland bandwagon, discernment was discouraged. They were expected to swallow and follow. The message was clear: ‘This is God. Don’t question.’ ”
I’m sad. I’m disappointed. And I’m angry. Here are few of my many, many questions about this fiasco:
Why did so many people flock to Lakeland from around the world to rally behind an evangelist who had serious credibility issues from the beginning?
To put it bluntly, we’re just plain gullible.
From the first week of the Lakeland revival, many discerning Christians raised questions about Bentley’s beliefs and practices. They felt uneasy when he said he talked to an angel in his hotel room. They sensed something amiss when he wore a T-shirt with a skeleton on it. They wondered why a man of God would cover himself with tattoos. They were horrified when they heard him describe how he tackled a man and knocked his tooth out during prayer.
But among those who jumped on the Lakeland bandwagon, discernment was discouraged. They were expected to swallow and follow. The message was clear: “This is God. Don’t question.” So before we could all say, “Sheeka Boomba” (as Bentley often prayed from his pulpit), many people went home, prayed for people and shoved them to the floor with reckless abandon, Bentley-style.
I blame this lack of discernment, partly, on raw zeal for God. We’re spiritually hungry—which can be a good thing. But sometimes, hungry people will eat anything.
Many of us would rather watch a noisy demonstration of miracles, signs and wonders than have a quiet Bible study. Yet we are faced today with the sad reality that our untempered zeal is a sign of immaturity. Our adolescent craving for the wild and crazy makes us do stupid things. It’s way past time for us to grow up.
Why didn’t anyone in Lakeland denounce the favorable comments Bentley made about William Branham?
This one baffles me. Branham embraced horrible deception near the end of his ministry, before he died in 1965. He claimed that he was the reincarnation of Elijah—and his strange doctrines are still embraced by a cultlike following today. When Bentley announced to the world that the same angel that ushered in the 1950s healing revival had come to Lakeland, the entire audience should have run for the exits.
Why didn’t anyone correct this error from the pulpit? Godly leaders are supposed to protect the sheep from heresy, not spoon feed deception to them. Only God knows how far this poison traveled from Lakeland to take root elsewhere. May God forgive us for allowing His Word to be so flippantly contaminated.
A prominent Pentecostal evangelist called me this week after Bentley’s news hit the fan. He said to me: “I’m now convinced that a large segment of the charismatic church will follow the anti-Christ when he shows up because they have no discernment.” Ouch. Hopefully we’ll learn our lesson this time and apply the necessary caution when an imposter shows up.
Why did God TV tell people that “any criticism of Todd Bentley is demonic”?
This ridiculous statement was actually made on one of God TV’s pre-shows. In fact, the network’s hosts also warned listeners that if they listened to criticism of Bentley, they could lose their healings.
This is cultic manipulation at its worst. The Bible tells us that the Bereans were noble believers because they studied the Scriptures daily “to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11, NASB). Yet in the case of Lakeland, honest intellectual inquiry was viewed as a sign of weakness. People were expected to jump first and then open their eyes.
Just because we believe in the power of the Holy Spirit does not mean we check our brains at the church door. We are commanded to test the spirits. Jesus wants us to love Him with our hearts and our minds.
Because of the Lakeland scandal, there may be large numbers of people who feel they’ve been burned by Bentley. Some may give up on church and join the growing ranks of bitter, disenfranchised Christians. Others may suffer total spiritual shipwreck. This could have been avoided if leaders had been more vocal about their objections and urged people to evaluate spiritual experiences through the filter of God’s Word.
Why did a group of respected ministers lay hands on Bentley on June 23 and publicly ordain him? Did they know of his personal problems?
This controversial ceremony was organized by Peter Wagner, who felt that one of Bentley’s greatest needs was proper spiritual covering. He asked California pastors Che Ahn and Bill Johnson, along with Canadian pastor John Arnott, to lay hands on Bentley and bring him under their care.
Bentley certainly needs such covering. No one in ministry today should be out on their own, living in isolation without checks, balances and wise counsel. It was commendable that Wagner reached out to Bentley and that Bentley acknowledged his need for spiritual fathers by agreeing to submit to the process. The question remains, however, whether it was wise to commend Bentley during a televised commissioning service that at times seemed more like a king’s coronation.
In hindsight, we can all see that it would have been better to take Bentley into a back room and talk about his personal issues.
The Bible tells us that ordination of a minister is a sober responsibility. Paul wrote: “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others” (1 Tim. 5:22). We might be tempted to rush the process, but the apostle warned against fast-tracking ordination—and he said that those who commission a minister who is not ready for the job will bear some of the blame for his failures.
I trust that Wagner, Ahn, Johnson and Arnott didn’t know of Bentley’s problems before they ordained him. I am sure they are saddened by the events of this week and are reaching out to Bentley and his wife to promote healing and restoration. But I believe that they, along with Bentley and the owners of God TV, owe the body of Christ a forthright, public apology for thrusting Bentley’s ministry into the spotlight prematurely. (Perhaps such an apology should be aired on God TV.)
Can anything good come out of this?
That depends on how people respond. If the men assigned to oversee Bentley offer loving but firm correction, and if Bentley responds humbly to the process by stepping out of ministry for a season of rehabilitation, we could witness a healthy case of church discipline play out the way it is supposed to. If all those who were so eager to promote Bentley now rush just as fast to repent for their errors in judgment, then the rest of us could breathe a huge sigh of relief—and the credibility of our movement could be restored.
I still believe that God desires to visit our nation in supernatural power. I know He wants to heal multitudes, and I will continue praying for a healing revival to sweep across the United States. But we must contend for the genuine, not an imitation. True revival will be accompanied by brokenness, humility, reverence and repentance—not the arrogance, showmanship and empty hype that often was on display in Lakeland.
We are weathering an unprecedented season of moral failure and spiritual compromise in our nation today. I urge everyone in the charismatic world to pray for Bentley; his wife, Shonnah; his three young children; Bentley’s ministry staff; and the men and women who serve as his counselors and advisers. Let’s pray that God will turn this embarrassing debacle into an opportunity for miraculous restoration.
Weird teachings about angels have become the norm in some charismatic circles today. It’s time to demand sanity on the subject.
|“It remains to be seen what will happen in other sectors of our movement as leaders promote teachings about angels that range from the mildly weird to downright wacky.”|
- Angels who looked like men told the early disciples that Jesus would return one day (see Acts 1:11)
- Angels are actively working behind the scenes to minister to the saints, especially to offer protection (see Acts 12:7-11)
- In one case an angel directed Philip where to preach (see Acts 8:26)
- Angels sometimes appeared in visions to give instructions, as one did for Cornelius (see Acts 10:3,7,22)
- An angel came to Paul to strengthen him and to assure him that he would preach to Caesar (see Acts 27:23-24).
- Paul warned the Galatians that false angels can bring deception (see Gal. 1:8)
- Paul warned the Corinthians about "angels of light" that are messengers of Satan (see 2 Cor. 11:14)
- Paul warned the Colossians about misguided people who worship angels and deceive people with their emphasis on mystical experiences that are rooted in their hyperinflated egos (see Col. 2:18).
J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.