On the Lakeland Florida Healing Revival – Part 4

I was meant to follow on from my previous post with some concerns I had about the revival. I didn’t really follow through on that mainly because of time, but I’ll mention a bit here. I spent the past few hours just going through the Internet on this issue. As those who are following what’s going on would know, Todd Bentley has stepped down from leading the Florida services, he’s currently separated from his wife and he was found to have had an “unhealthy relationship on an emotional level with a female member of his staff” (see here). It’s been all over the internet – especially the “I told you so” from critics of the revival.

This particular website has a lot of information on the responses to the situation by both critics and supporters of the revival. (Note: the previous website serves as a good source and compilation of information. However, I cannot disagree more with their view of the whole situation, and especially the spirit in which the posts are written. There’s a way to be critical, and then there’s a way not to be…) Going through it, I’ve found a lot of interesting information. It seems that this time, the charismatic world is even more divided than it was during the Toronto Blessing. This is interesting to note, yet it’s not surprising because there are a lot more concerns about this revival than there were during Toronto. There are a lot of legitimate concerns, the two biggest probably being his emphasis on angels (and one particular called Emma) and the way he’s used violence to pray for healing for people.

The Christian leader that I probably respect the most in terms of how he’s able to be both grounded in the Word and yet open to the Spirit is RT Kendall. Kendall’s very Reformed in his beliefs and has a really solid teaching/preaching ministry and yet has mixed with prophetic charismatics who many charismatics themselves believe are quite extreme. He has an interesting article here where he struggles but eventually concludes that Florida isn’t of God.

Many others who were pro-Toronto Blessing have also come out against Florida. J. Lee Grady, the editor of Charisma magazine (the foremost charismatic magazine) has blogged a few times expressing a lot of concerns about Florida.

I think it’s safe to say that there are a lot of legitimate concerns about Florida. It’s hard to find many people justifying the focus on Angels and Emma – if there is indeed has been a focus on Angels during the meetings. I don’t know for sure because I can’t claim to have followed all the meetings over several months. Whatever it is, Jesus should be central in any Christian meeting. Lee Grady has a got a good article on angels here. And it’s also hard to defend Todd’s use of violence when praying for healing – although it’s to be admitted that God has used dumbfounding methods, I don’t think using violence to heal would be in His character! I don’t doubt the healings that have occurred. As in all healing ministries/events, you’ll find people inflating numbers and hyping things up. Just as you’ll find critics hyping their counter-claims too – e.g. there’s been no evidence of any genuine healings, etc. Maybe Todd can be faulted for being over-enthusiastic in his claims of the number of resurrections that have occurred. But I have no doubt there have been genuine miracles and healings as well as those that would not stand up to careful scrutiny.

I’m more concerned about the angels and violence (and some other doctrinal stuff) than I am about his moral failures. Not because his moral failures can be condoned. By no means. He has to step down (which he has) and should go through a restoration process with accountability (which is what some people like Bill Johnson and others are seeking to go through with him). But if we’re talking about whether the move is genuine or not, his moral failure means nothing. I do not believe that if a person falls into grave moral sin, that means that his ministry has been a fraud and demonic all along. If so, what do we then say of the many saints in the Bible who fell into grave moral sin? Does falling into such sin disqualify their entire ministry? Of course not.

All in all, I think a lot of what has come from Florida was of God due to its fruits. And a lot of it doesn’t seem to be of God also. The critics tend to ignore the fruits and see the focus on angels, the use of violence and other stuff as proof that it’s demonic. I disagree. I think that’s denying the complexity of the whole issue at hand. If it’s totally demonic, then what about the fruits? How about the miracles and healings and the testimonies of changed lives. We cannot ignore that. I’ve heard many testimonies of increased healings and anointing in people’s ministries because of Florida. And I’ve heard of transformed lives. There’s no way that a straight “demonic” stamp can be placed on Florida unless one is prepared to ignore all the good that has come out of it. It would be equally wrong to say that everything from Florida is of God and there’s no need for discernment. Instead, what we need is careful, balanced and constructive criticism. Things are not so black and white. They are complex and so a nuanced, not reactionary, response is needed.

If the many critics had been less reactionary in their response – and recognize that there has been both good and bad coming out of Florida – then certain things may have changed for the better. What many critics have pointed out needed to be heard. But I think many of them jumped to the wrong conclusion and maybe they could have been more helpful if they had handled their criticisms differently. To be fair, I’ve read of how some charismatic leaders (e.g. Rodney Howard-Browne and Robert Ricciardelli) brought some of their legitimate concerns to Todd but they were ignored. So maybe I understand why they went public with criticisms. For them, their concerns are reflective of the fact that the move was demonic or dangerous and so they stated so. I think I would have a lot of similar concerns to them, but even with Todd ignoring them, I wouldn’t label the move demonic or dangerous. The stance I would have taken is to be cautious yet open to receive anything God has for us, and also be slow to jump to conclusions too easily or quickly.

In June 2008, Peter Wagner, Ché Ahn, Bill Johnson and John Arnott (who pastored the Toronto Blessing) held a service to commission Todd Bentley. They’ve been criticized by many in the charismatic movement for aligning themselves with Todd. As this statement by Doris Wagner and this by Peter Wagner show, the commissioning didn’t mean that the four agreed with everything of Todd’s ministry. In fact, they had many concerns too and wanted to bring some order and accountability to the move, recognizing that God was moving through Todd but there were a lot of things that were not right too. So they decided to stand by Todd against all the attacks he’s been getting. It wasn’t meant as a total endorsement of all Todd was doing.

I respect the four of them for doing so. I think that their move to stand by Todd has caused a lot of friction between them and a lot of their friends. So they showed courage in taking a stand. The above two statements made it clear that they felt strongly (against other people’s advice) that they needed to align apostolically with Todd first before they could speak their concerns to him. After the alignment service, they started to deal with the concerns and Peter stated that his team of 10 apostles (one of them being Lee Grady, who has been quite critical of the move) has identified 24 issues which they plan to report on.

The four are to be commended for not shying away from the issues and concerns. I think most people thought that Peter, John, Bill and Ché Ahn’s presence at that commissioning/alignment service meant that they endorsed Todd. And I think that’s a reasonable conclusion that one would draw from observing the service. The truth, however, is different. They weren’t there to give unconditional endorsement of Todd and the revival. Rather, they believed it to be a move of God and risked a lot to be identified with Todd because they wanted to help sort out the problems in this move. Rather than just condemning Todd and the move from afar, I think they did the right thing. Despite the fact that their involvement drew much criticism, they still got involved for the benefit of the move and Todd.

My only criticism is that they probably could have addressed the concerns about Todd and the revival a lot quicker than they did. If fact, they probably hadn’t addressed any of them before Todd stepped down. If they had done so, things may have turned out differently. But of course I can imagine how busy these ministers/apostles are! Though I don’t think this isn’t a very good excuse. If the four of them really felt God’s hand upon Todd and Florida and yet knew that there were a lot of concerns that needed to be addressed, they should have done so quickly. The quicker the better because Florida was being heavily scrutinized by the Christian world. If they felt Florida was a special move of God, then they should have done everything they could to make sure that God is fully glorified through it. Their other appointments should not have been put before addressing the issues at Florida.

Despite Todd stepping down, I hope the report about the 24 issues would still be written. I think we all could learn a lot from it. I’d like to end with Bill Johnson’s thoughts on this whole affair which can be seen in the three videos below. The title is “The Battle for Grace”. It challenged me (especially what he said about Saul in the OT) and helped me understand why the four of them above chose to stand with Todd.

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1 Comment

  1. You are spot on in your comments about the whole episode. The revival is a mixed bag, a complex mishmash of God and human frailities and insecurities, and even demons will find the shadows in his life and ministry, a place in which to operate.

    Thanks for sharing about the apostolic band that tried to help him. I guess it needed people of that stature to get a hearing at all. Unfortunately these kind of people are busy itinerant ministers with full calenders and things have broken before the 24 cracks could even be pointed out to.

    We share a common respect for RT Kendall: he has a good balance that the “unreached” pentecostal-charismatic people group need!

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