I have been rather quiet regarding the Lakeland “revival” and Todd Bentley, the tattooed, Canadian who has been leading the meetings. Like many people, I have been concerned with some of the pro-wrestling-inspired prayer techniques that Bentley boasts of. But I have tried to keep a “before his own master he will stand or fall” mentality. (I have no problem with the tattoos, by the way. I think the sleeves are pretty cool.)
I really haven’t had much to say, except why can’t we just ignore it? Maybe God is at work through these meetings, maybe not. I don’t live in Lakeland, so why don’t we just ignore it. So-called “revivals” like these come and go…let’s just let this one go.
It has been hard to ignore it, because there has been some mainstream coverage and a ton of internet / youtube / blogosphere coverage. The pretentiously-named “godtv” has apparently been covering it. And so people are talking.
Then the announcement of Todd Bentley’s separation from his wife was made public this week [read here]. Now I feel compelled to comment on what has been happening.
When I read the reports of the separation and verified their validity I experienced a mix of sadness and anger…mostly anger.
First, let me say that I am deeply saddened to hear of a troubled marriage. I don’t know the details of Bentley’s marital problems and I don’t want to know. I feel bad for the guy. I hope (and I did pray for him) they can mend their marriage.
Second, my anger is not really directed at Bentley. I don’t know if he is the real deal or not. That really isn’t my concern. I am not going to stand in judgment over the guy. My anger is with the people surrounding this so-called “revival,” those trapped in charismania, the Pentecostal/charismatic subculture that has somehow been convinced that what we have witnessed in Lakeland is the Christian ideal. [Click here for my post on the charismatic subculture]
To all of those trapped in charismania or to those who are running headlong into it. I gotta ask,– Are you kidding me? Is this the mark of the “move of the Spirit”
— reports of fantastic miracles,
— emotionally-charged “worship” services,
— flamboyant (and televised) quasi-spiritual sideshows,
— the healing ministry of Jesus turned into some kind of circus-like form of entertainment.
Is this the purpose for salvation?
Is this what Jesus suffered, died, and rose from the dead for?
Is that what millions of martyrs have died for?
Is this the kind of Christian life we see in the Scriptures?
Is this the hope of the gospel?
Is this the hope we are preaching to an increasing post-modern culture?
What infuriates me more is statements like the one from Bentley’s media liason. She writes, “God uses fallen, flawed people…. This doesn’t invalidate what Todd did,” she said. [Source]
Of course God uses fallen, flawed people, but what is implicit in this statement is GOD’S PURPOSE and DESIGN is to do what “Todd did.” The purpose of God’s work on the earth is what we witnessed in Lakeland. It seems to justify his fallenness, when God’s work of salvation is transformation, spiritual transformation now and physical transformation when Jesus returns.
This statement is charismania at its worst. It is the value of POWER over PURITY, the mistaken value of CHARISMA over CHARACTER. What charismaniacs miss is that what God is doing through his fallen-but-pressing-on Church is first and foremost working in us to purify and shape our character to reflect the image of Christ. The ministry (which includes spiritual power and spiritual gifts) flows out of being.
What God is doing is deep, lasting, spiritual transformation.
He is transforming us from fallen, flawed people into fully human, fully alive people who look like Jesus. What God is at work doing through the Holy Spirit is conforming us into the image of his Son (Romans 8:29). That has been his GRAND PLAN from the beginning.
I believe in miracles of healing. I pray for them and expect to see them when I pray, but we have to remember that the Christian faith is built on ONE MIRACLE, the resurrection of Jesus. Signs and wonders will follow the preaching of the gospel, but when we make them the one, absolute sign of God’s work we miss the point of the gospel. The point of the gospel is not the sensational miracles for people’s entertainment as reported in Lakeland.
The sign of God’s work is love.
If you are looking for a miracle, then
…look at a man who loves his wife like Christ loves the church.
…look at a man who chooses marriage and family over fame and fortune.
…look at a man who gives everything up to save his marriage. (I hope we can say this about Bentley)
…look at a woman who is submissive to her husband.
…loot at children who are obedient to their parents.
…look at families who give away everything to serve as missionaries.
…look at average people who serve their neighbors.
…look at people who serve the poor.
Love is, and forever, will be the sign of God’s work.
All men will know you are my disciples if you have love one for another.
I left charismania a long time ago. Join me. Pack your bags and leave the charismatic sub-culture. There is a life in the Spirit that is authentically, supernatural, but it is not the way of the so-called revivals of charismania.
[For a more thoughtful critique, check out Lee Grady’s editorial Life After Lakeland: Sorting Out the Confusion]