Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Todd Bentley to Be "Restored?"

Well, the news is out.

The controversial Tood Bentley who spearheaded the "Lakeland Revival" last summer has divorced his first wife, Shonnah, and married "the other woman," Jessa.

Wife number one is overweight, suffers after-effects from bouts of cancer, and is the mother of Bentley's three children. Wife number two has been called, perhaps unkindly, a "trophy wife." Both Todd and Jessa say that their relationship was not the cause of the marriage breakup and that they only began a relationship after Tood knew his first marriage was irreparably broken. They also say that they know the relationship was "premature." I do not intend to comment on that in this post.

I wrote about Bentley, and other concerns, in the post, "Stop the (Charismatic) Insanity." My friend much2ponder kindly commented that my post needed wider distribution--and I replied that this little forum is all I have. Some of what I wrote in that post applies to this one, so I will try not to simply repeat it.

I believe we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. I believe God uses flawed, imperfect, and broken people for his Kingdom and His glory (thank the Lord, or we could all just give up right now). I believe that grace is amazing, unfathomable, unthinkable and perhaps the greatest mystery of all mysteries. I believe Christian people should pray for Todd Bentley, for Jessa, and for Shonnah and the children.

I believe in restoration.

A side note: Speaking of "restoration," I admire Jim Bakker who has long since repented of his errors and labored in relative obscurity.

Restoration can and does happen. So why am I writing this post in my little forum? Here is why.

The circumstances of the divorce and remarriage, while troubling, do not concern me as much as Bentley's time behind bars for sexually abusing a seven year old boy, beating his mother, and involovement in the occult. These things, Bentley admits, occurred during his teen years. While I do not think anyone should be barred from ministry because of things done as kids, these things should not be forgotten--especially in light of the bizarre goings on in Lakeland. Among other aberrant behavior, Bentley's methods included kicking a man with stage four colon cander in the stomach as well as other violent means of "praying for the sick."

This morning I read a comment, written yesterday, to an internet post elsewhere that said Todd Bentley was clearly "kind" and "a man of God." Huh? What makes it clear to that commenter?

My concerns are these:

Those involved in the restoration were either directly involved in or closely allied with the group who commissioned Todd on the platform of Ignited Church and "prophisied" about him. Here is some of what was reported in Charisma in June last year.

California pastors Ché Ahn and Bill Johnson, along with Canadian pastor John Arnott, laid hands on the 32-year-old Bentley while Peter Wagner, leader of the International Coalition of Apostles, read a statement...Other prominent leaders from the apostolic and prophetic movements stood on the platform to show their support for Bentley and to endorse the revival, which began in early April and is now in its 83rd day of continuous meetings....[the ceremony] took place after some charismatic leaders raised questions about Bentley’s claims, methods and theology [not every charismatic leader is blind and deaf]...Participating leaders at the ceremony included...Wagner; Ché Ahn... John Arnott...Bill Johnson...and Rick Joyner...

Here is part of what C. Peter Wagner said, "I decree to Todd Bentley, your power will increase, your authority will increase, your favor will increase, your influence will increase, your revelation will increase...I decree that a new supernatural strength will flow through this ministry. A new life force will penetrate this move of God.... God will pour out a higher level of discernment to distinguish truth from error. New relationships will surface to open the gates to the future.”

I have books by Rick Joyner and Peter Wagner on my bookshelf. I am not saying that these men are not my brothers in Christ, nor that everything they have said or done is wrong. I am saying that it could not be more clear that this commissioning ceremony was a gross error and the "prophecy" was misguided (I am being charitable).

And since when does anyone get to "decree" what God will do? The arrogance is astounding.

An additional concern is that the focus seems to be on Bentley's marriage failure. This is only the tip of an enormous spiritual iceberg. The focus should be on his faulty theology, his manipulation of vulnerable and often sick people, his false claims of special favor, his acohol abuse, his questionable history, his antics (dare I call them disgusting?) Is anyone going to address the mess he has made? The discredit he has brought to the Church?

I hope so, but I cannot help but wonder, since it appears that Bentley may not have been the only one who was arrogant, foolish, or misguided, however well-intentioned.

Are there others like me out there who believe in all of the spiritual gifts, who believe in the present-day power of the Holy Spirit, and who believer that God does give prophetic giftings and leadership abilites, etc. but who wish we could just never hear the words "apostolic" or "prophetic"or "divine impartation" again? (I am speaking tongue in cheek here.)

I have read testimonies of some people who were changed in a positive way, or who were healed, or who found new strength or direction, during the so-called "Lakeland Outpouring." I believe them. I believe them because I believe that God will meet those who seek. God is loving and gracious and merciful and it is about GOD, not the messenger. These people need not deny what God did for them.

Here is the biggest concern of all. Why is there already provision made to donate funds to Fresh Fire Ministries? Why is there already talk of restoring Todd Bentley to "ministry" and to "leadership?"

Can there be restoration of something that was seriously flawed to begain with?


Post Script to Pentecostals: Here is a link to several interviews with Andrew Strom who has written a book "True and False Revival" (I have not read it, but I will be doing so.) I have not listened to all of these interviews. I am in the process. However, so far they provide a fascinating and disturbing look at the "prophetic movement" from one who was involved for over 10 years. His beliefs have not changed, but he does not like to refer to himself as Pentecostal or Charismatic, calling those terms "tainted." He speaks about how the emphasis of the "prophetic movement" changed over time, why he was involved and why he left.

17 comments:

Ruth said...

Thank you for posting about this. I'm seriously considering visiting my local Pentecostal church with an eye toward attending. This information will help me evaluate where the church is in their spiritual journey and whether or not I want to join them. While I tend to be discerning it's still nice to have a heads-up on things to be looking for when I get there.

fairmaiden said...

Yes, I am one of those 'others out there who believe...' He is shaking the church...removing all that hinders love. It is an hour to fear the LORD. To abide in Him. To be quiet, still, and wait on Him. His eyes are on the brokenhearted. I'm seeking lowliness.

Ivy said...

Amen to that, Singing Owl. It's that kind of stuff that make any of us as charismatics/Pentecostals/Christians suspect. Bless you as you discern God's further direction in your life. Peace.

whydoesitburn!! said...

it seems so much easier to complain about other people or about churches, rather than address our own stumblings and failings...

where are you in your spiritual journey?

Singing Owl said...

I'm not complaining. I am seriously concerned that we are allowing "unholy fire" so to speak. And since judgement begins at the house of God and I'm of the "Pentecostal" camp, I am very concerned. I am not trying to nit pick. I am dismayed that instead of falling on our collective faces in sorrow and repentance and asking God's forgivness, many seem ready to cast Bentley in a sort of victim role. Honestly, I am very tired of every time we see something dangerous feeling that we must be "nice." And let God's people be led like sheep to the slaughter? And pretend that all is well? No. Been there, and done that, and not doing it anymore if I can help itl. Since I am a church leader, I am taking a leadership role, as much as possible on a blog! :-)

As for my own stumblings and failing, I am all too aware of them. I am, daily, seeking to address them. And that is all I choose to reply say about my spiritual journey, since I do not know you and don't know why you are asking.

Singing Owl said...

Praying for you, Ruth. I forgot that one of the many changes that have or will happen will be leaving Church of the Open Door. I'll be praying for you in the quest. I know how difficult church shopping can be. Yes, you do tend to be discerning. :-)

Thank you for stopping by and commenting, fairmaden. I agree--time for quiet. I'm seeking lowliness as well. Humility is an absolute key in these troubled days. I recall Evan Roberts (from the Welsh revival) praying "Bend me lower down, Jesus. Bend me lower down." I understand. Not in humiliation--but in humility for sure!

Ivy, thank you. You are a blessing, and your prayers are needed! (((hug)))

Patsy said...

How do you know singingowl isnt doing that? You have not read here before I guess. Maybe you should do that before you decide to do your own finger pointing.

Ivy said...

Hugs back to you as well, Singing Owl. God bless.

Gilly said...

I found this post so very interesting. I hadn't read about Todd Bentley, or the Lakeland Revival. firstly I am in the UK and secondly I am way out of the Evangelical/Pentecostal loop, and for various personal reasons have not been reading any Christian publication of any sort.

But I was in a Pentecostal (AOG) church for 6 years. I went to the "Refreshing" meetings, got hyped up, fell to the floor (got trodden on and got up!) danced around and waved my arms in the air. And I am certain that a lot of what went on was group hysteria. Just like several dozen schoolgirls can genuinely suffer, say, stomach ache, with nothing wrong with them, so a meeting in a hot room, with thumping music, a charismatic winder-upper at the front, can result in "healings" - mostly of the sort you can't see, and also some genuine changes of lifelstyle, repentance etc. Don't think I am being nasty about the AOG churches. I met a great deal of warm fellowship, kindness and God moved in a lot of people's lives, slowly, over weeks of prayer. My reasons for leaving were that basically, I was being drawn to a more liberal and liturgical form of Christianity. But I still have praise for the real love for God that my Pastor had, and his care for his flock.

So why am I not surprised at the revelations about Todd Bentley, and all the others before him? I do wonder at the arrogance of people who just "start up" a church/group without anyone questioning their credentials. Most Christian denominations vet their would-be pastors/Minister/Vicars thoroughly before letting them loose on any church. But if I recall, many of these revivals have been orchestrated by non-validated individuals. Or maybe their only validatin has been that they have been around in the Christian world for a long time.

We need considerable discernment when we hear of healings etc. that doesn't mean a blanket denial of what is going on, anymore than it means falling over oneself to join in and be healed. I have seen various men on Christian TV do hyped up healings, shouting, pushing and whatever. I would like to see those "healed" 6 months later. Would they still be symptomless? And, as one, rather unbelieving doctor said to me "when I see an amputated arm grown back, then I will believe".

These "Revival" occasions will die down, as all the others have. But how many people will have been hurt, and have turned away from Christ, because God didn't turn out to be like they were led to believe?

Singing Owl, your words deserve to be heard across Christendom.

thank you.

Singing Owl said...

Gilly, I am so sad and sorry for what happened to you--and grateful for the good things.

Todd Bentley did not just start up a church. And he is not AOG (thank God). The pastor who invited him has been at Ignited Church for many years. Part of the problem is the congregational system, IMO. I am not saying it is all bad. I believe there are pros and cons to congregational centered government. One of the problems is that Ignited Church (where the Lakeland Outpouring started)which IS AOG, and their pastor can invite anyone they choose. I don't know what the Assemblies of God District Office thought about the whole broughaha, but I bet it wasn't all good!

Another problem is that there are different kinds of things that happen in different geographical regions. Some things that are done in Florida would not happen and vice versa.

Around here, when there is someone (as had occasionally happened) who is not AOG and is doctrinally off, or whatever, and is trying to find venues to speak the District sends a notice to pastors be wary of that person. Or if they have lost their clergy credentials. etc.

I know of one case not far from here where an AOG associate pastor left his church in a huff (I know why, but it doesn't matter) and took a group and started his own church. He is still there and still the pastor, but he is no longer AOG because he lost his credentials due to what he did...but he is just "independent" now. Independent = no oversight and is IMO a dangerous thing many times. I mean, you can go on the internet and get a peice of paper and call yourself a "Rev." Bleech!

Sadly, people are very gullible. Especially people who believe that "manifestations" mean God is present. (I use the term loosely.)

I believe in genuine manifestations of God's presence. And I believe that worship can be quiet and liturgical and also loud and exuberant. I agree 100% with your healing paragraph. And I have seen genuine ones that were verified by medical folks (my aunt was healed of cancer) and I've seen many that were not. Caution, not total denial, is in order. There is a young woman in our area who attended a meeting at our church where a guest speaker was present. He is a long-time, reputable guy...and we did have a healing service. But this woman did not come forward, no one anointed her with oil, laid hands on her or even prayed for her. And she was healed of something she had suffered with since childhood. Yay, God, not yay special evangelist.

The group who commissioned Bentley on the platform, and who now seek to restore him (?) are all independent charismatic folks in the "prophecy movement."

I would run out the back door...but you already know that.

Oh, just a side note. I have fallen on the floor because I did a "courtesy fall" (forgive me--I was young and naive--ha), and because I was pushed. And because something powerful occured and something life changing did happen. There is a difference. Whenever I pray for someone who I think might be from that "camp" I barely touch them. Nobody is going to accuse me of shoving them...ever ever ever!

But I digress. I could write a book.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting, and for your kind words.

Ruth said...

Manifestations can be wonderfully genuine or horribly false. Demons "manifest" too and a lot of people get suckered into believing that it's God rather than a demon. I'm glad you are wise enough to see through all of that, SO. Very glad.

Rich said...

As a pentecostal I think it is embarrassing to be linked in any way with the Bentley type of sideshows. Thanks for speaking courageously.

Gilly said...

I just loved your term "courtesy fall" ! Yes, I've done that, with a "catcher" already positioned behind me! Seemed a shame to disappoint him. ;)

Yes, God will heal who he will and when he will. Prayer for healing can be very powerful. But I don't like the "healing prayers" that basically tell God what to do. If I am praying for healing (usually NOT with the person present) I pray for God's healing hands, his strength and for courage and peace.

I so enjoy, and learn a lot from your blogs. Don't stop blogging, dear Singing Owl!

Singing Owl said...

Rich, if there were only more Pentecostals like you and me, huh?
:-) :-) :-)

Thank you, Gilly. I have been praying for you since I read a comment over at M2P's place. I, too, am all too aware of the short time left...

Kaleidoscope said...

Thank you for this article. I agree that while I hurt for Shonna and children....the heresy of this 'movemnent' should be the emphasis and when even LEE GRADY sees that this was basically an occultic revival of Kundalini Yoga (google it and watch video)..THEN we will not be surprised that he had moral failures.....that was the symptom. HERESY was the problem. Rick Joyner has a book in which he claims to talk to the Apostle Paul (necromancy)......We need to speak AGAINST HERESY...I fear the prophetic movement has been hijacked...

In HIM,
Kaleidoscope

stf (lorna) said...

Thanks owl.

I read of Joyner's taking Bentley's ministry (now closed to him in Canada) under his wing

and really questioned if this re-instatement was too much, too fast ...it seems so premature.

I hadn't read about "Bentley's time behind bars for sexually abusing a seven year old boy, beating his mother, and involovement in the occult. " :( if true this makes me even more uneasy at the way that prominent leaders of the church seem to have been blinded to the need for repentence and a proven changed life style to be needed.

Thank you for this post. While I am quite sure God can -and does - use flawed humanbeings, this whole process of rapid restoration back into prominent leadership for Todd Bentley has really made me question what makes a good leader. I think we are often (esp in charistmatic circles) blinded by charisma and ignore the need for real Jesus-focused character ...

Thanks too for the wisdom in your comments here :)

Ex pastor of LightHouse PENTECOSTAL"Stony Plain Alberta" said...

Yes our Church at Stony Plain Alberta is getting more OUT OF CONTROL due too all this so called Faith Healers like Todd Bentley and DESTROYED the Camp too at Sunrise Pentecostal Camp!! (We saw this since 2007)

Even our Pastor(Archibald"Archie"Binnie) doesn't want us too say our REAL NAME Lighthouse PENTECOSTAL Church he is Afraid that people won't come too our Church for Special Events if it has PENTECOSTAL in Word and Mouth!!(Wonder why 75% of the CHURCH is Gone the Past Few Years!!) "We were told this TRUTH too since 2001"

Also about Todd Bentley he tells PEOPLE only come up for your Illness when I call for it but True-fully and Honestly it's the SAME PEOPLE GO UP Day after Day!!(Too be HEALED WHY!!) and the services are very LONG!!(Like 7 P.M till around 12 midnight).

So Yes WAKE UP Churches PRAY,READ your BIBLES,Have God tell you Things if something is WRONG and most of ALL STAND UP FOR TRUTH and STOP having these Faith Healers LIE too you and Steal your $$ for their own Wealth and YES we seen this in LOTS of the Victory"Christian",Word Of Life,Church on 99 & PENTECOSTAL Assemblies of Canada/Faith Healers since the 80's!!