Lakeland Revival Leader Steps Down

Some have asked my opinion of the Lakeland Revival meetings in recent months.   I have refrained from public comments and have responded only in private, mainly because my exposure to the meetings and people involved have been very limited.  However, over the last week some sad things have taken place and Todd Bentley has stepped down from the ministry, after admitting he’s been “emotionally involved” with a female staff member.  This information comes directly from his own ministry Board members and can be found at the bottom of the home page of their website..

Now that the Lakeland Revival has apparently dissolved, I think we should consider some of the lessons involved.  What follows are simply my thoughts upon observing a number of the worship services at Lakeland via the internet and upon reflecting upon relevant Biblical passages.

1.  There were on several (many?) occasions displays of arrogance and spiritual pride by various speakers and leaders on the platform.  It was often grievious to me to see the way some of the leaders carried themselves, sometimes strutting about like proud roosters.  Some of the speakers at times seemed to have a mocking attitude toward anyone who questioned the “revival”.  To be fair, I have also seen the same arrogance in some of those who have spoken out loudly against the Lakeland Revival.  God is not impressed with arrogance anywhere.  While the anointing of the Holy Spirit often brings great boldness and liberty in ministry, it does not make a person arrogant!

2.  Though the Fresh Fire people believe that they only preached Jesus, I’m afraid that the focus was more clearly on manifestations and anointing and “revival”.  When signs become the goal, we’ve forgotten that signs are supposed to point you somewhere!  The sign points you up the road to the desired end: Christ Himself!  Sadly, the preaching of the Jesus and the Cross were radically missing at Lakeland.

3.  I believe that some of the claims of healing were legitimate, but many were exaggerated. Lakeland has no monopoly on this tendency.  Hype is the American way.  It’s how we market our products.  But it is not God’s kingdom.  Sadly, the church often looks very much like the world in this.

4.  Signs and wonders and spiritual experiences were sought as an end in themselves and repentance was not widely preached or demonstrated.  Jesus denounced the cities in which most of His miracles were performed because they did not repent.  The goal of signs and wonders is to so demonstrate the glory and authority of Jesus Christ and His care for mankind (most clearly shown at the Cross) so that people will turn away from their sins and trust Him.  The sad end of this almost four month series of meetings is the main leader’s sin being found out.

5.  The true anointing of the Holy Spirit will sometimes operate through men and women who are willfully living in sin.  God only has imperfect vessels to operate through, this side of Heaven.  But it’s quite another thing to be willfully involved in secret sin and presume that since the anointing is flowing that God must not be too concerned.  This a very dangerous state to be in.  Even wicked King Saul experienced the power of God and prophesied by the Spirit of God, though already rejected as king and though he was turning to sorcery.  The anointing is not necessarily the endorsement of a person’s message or character.  Sometimes it is simply the mercy and power of God flowing forth to bless needy people…in spite of the vessel being used.  Usually, God will not long allow this hypocrisy and mockery to continue.  Samson is a great example of how God’s anointing will sometimes flow through unholy vessels for a season.

6.  Therefore we should never endorse a preacher, a doctrine, or an apparent move of God based solely upon the fact that the anointing of the Holy Spirit is present.  Jesus said that you know a tree by its fruit.  That means character is more important than charisma and anointing.  Anointing can promote a person to great prominence, but only Christlike character can keep him/her there.  It’s very dangerous and sometimes disasterous when ministries that have not been properly tested are given a large platform.  No one should lust for such a platform.

7.  Todd Bentley’s moral failure does not mean that everything that went on at Lakeland was of the devil or of the flesh.  But it does serve to warn us that sin is always serious and often disasterous.  In the end sin never pays off, but rather pays up.

8.  To his credit, Todd Bentley has apparently submitted to a group of spiritual men and has cancelled all ministry appointments and is working through repentance and restoration with his wife.  May God grant a deep humility and repentance to him.  May he learn more deeply the importance and power of the Cross of Christ and the need to preach the Cross and stay near the Cross in humble self-denial.  May God teach all of us who call ourselves “Spirit-filled” that sin is always devastating and God will not be mocked.  He has judged sin in the past and He will judge sin now and in the future.  Grace is not a cover up for sin.  It’s a prescription for it.  (Additional note: Today [8-26-2008] I was made aware that Todd is NOT seeking to be restored to his wife and that the affair he had with a staff member went on for a long time and that staff members who knew were sworn to secrecy.  The sin now appears to be even more serious than first thought. 

We are told in the Scriptures that if we see a brother caught in a sin we should go and humbly and lovingly confront him.  But that we should be careful and not be prideful, lest we also fall into sin.  Let none of us think that what has happened to Todd Bentley is not possible for each of us.  Unless we walk humbly before our God, trusting deeply in Christ and the Cross, we too may one day fall into sin and bring reproach to the great name of Jesus.  May God Himself sanctify us through and through and preserve us blameless until the coming of the Lord.  The One who called us is faithful and He will do it. Amen.

(For a very clear take on all this from a respected Charismatic theologian, Dr. R.T. Kendal, click here.)

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