Writer, Church leader, Eccentric Nut, Marketer

I'm Church Leader, Writer, Speaker, Marketer, Kindness Project Founder, Broadcaster and Superhero. But most important I'm a Husband, Father and a worshiper of Jesus.

16 July 2008

What's up with Lakeland?

Had a few good comments about Lakeland and Todd Bentley. Thought it would make a good blog... and seeing as how I have a blog...

(Warning... this is a long one... but I'd love you to read it all and share your thoughts)

My blog friend Heidi linked me to this article about a gentleman who traveled to Lakeland with his twin 7 year old boys, one of whom is seriously autistic. They went to the meeting and a had few complaints about some of the bits and pieces (didn't get the worship, not enough Bible reading, offering decorum, etc). These are the "whatever" things. Not to disregard them, but people always have issues with these things in every context. Ask any church leader how many times they've heard that list.

It's a lot.

Then he talks about how he was told it wouldn't be until very late that they'd get around to praying for his son and was denied prayer at different points in the service. They eventually left along with many other sick people who weren't prayed for or healed.

"Neither my wife nor I regret going. It was an education. Our kids are resilient. But the ride home raised a question. We found ourselves avoiding talking about the event until the children fell asleep. Then, as they drifted off in the early morning, we talked in hushed tones about how easily religion can be abused, in this case to exploit our family. What do we tell our children? I'm still working on that one."
William A. Dembski

A few things crossed my mind about this as it's not the first article of similar nature that I've seen. The first thing that I've noticed is that people within the church seem to WANT to be skeptical about revival while secular institutions seem to WANT to believe it. I don't totally understand this phenomenon to be honest.

Paul Simon said, "faith is an island in the setting sun but proof is the bottom line for everyone". I get that... but in our lives as Christians... we fail more than we succeed. In our evangelistic outreaches, like Paul, often we're all things to all men to reach some... and more often than not... "some" is quite a generous word. Yet we still believe in God. We know that we're still being transformed by the renewing of our minds so we're not perfect and we expect grace from our brothers.

Not that it's my job to defend Todd, nor I have lots of inside knowledge... but Todd doesn't claim to be able to heal everyone. It's not his goal. It's to hear God and obey. And he admits that often people aren't healed. Does that mean that God isn't healing MORE these days? Of course not... So why do we read a news story, or go to one meeting, or watch 10 minutes on the Internet and dismiss an unorthodox Canadian hoser as exploitative? I feel for this family... I really do. But I've been following this revival story since the first week to varying degrees. I think there are some things that Lakeland IS and some things that it's NOT.

I'll admit... Todd's out there. it may be because the man spends much of his time praying. Jeff's (who is real life friend who's opinion I respect) comment on my last blog said,

"Many Christians are concerned at his very unbiblical background as well as his very bordering-on-heresy visions. Does this make him false? I don't know. But I do know that it deserves some investigation into the matter."

A while ago, I started thinking about the Old Testament prophets. How strange they would have been socially. How ostracized they would have been... and how bizarre and peculiar the "wheel within a wheel" type visions would have seemed. Or when Daniel talked with angel who brought him messages. Angels who were fighting in the 3rd heaven against the prince of Persia.

Listen... my style is different than Todd's too. But who cares? He's got a different role in the Kingdom than I do. Or you do. And who knows how different my "style" would be if I woke up, sat in the presence of God for hours and hours and really "had an ear to hear what the spirit has to say to the church" (LIKE I SHOULD BE). There aren't many of us who really do... it's one of the reason's it looks odd when we hear what comes out of the mouths of those who do. Like most times offence is taken in life... it's more our issue than theirs.

But the meat and potatoes subject is healing. I think we'd all be fine if there were a lineup of new legs and ex-leapers. About a dozen or so people from Freedom House have made the trek down to Florida and have reported very similar things.

The thick, thick, presence of God that makes it so you can't almost stand (something that marked moves of God like in Toronto and Pensacola) isn't the same. Most of our church people admitted that it's "heavier" at Freedom House. But they all noted, however, that there IS something different going on there. There is a healing "anointing" that has been tapped into.

When this move of God began, a gentleman at our church who has been really into Todd Bentley for years told us about it excitedly. He told us all about how you could watched it on the Internet and such. I watched it and didn't really feel or see much to be honest. I actually had a really bad headache and gave the ole "touch the screen" thing a whirl.

Headache = Worse

I kept on going to back to watch more of it because if it was a genuine move of God... I'll never say no to that! I want it ALL baby! What began to strike me was the scale of what was going on. In a short few weeks, the world knew about this. People were flying in... and began to live out the revival's slogan, "Come get some." More healing stories were coming from around the US and the World than were coming from the Lakeland Arena or Ignited Church.

THIS is what much of the point of what's going on is about. Todd does talk a great deal about this. It's about ME and YOU and EVERYONE receiving the gift of healing and going out praying for others... moreso than it's about Todd. There are healings that happen in Lakeland. Not everyone... but at a much higher rate than normal. What is remarkable though is the HUNGER for God in that arena! With that many people believing... good things are bound to happen. It's a whole lotta unity.

My friend Bobby Sullivan is one of Todd's associates. I've known Bobby for a decade or so in various capacities. We've brought Bobby in for numerous outreach events and I've even travelled to The Philippines with him to do ministry with him in Manila. Bobby's an interesting and unorthodox nut too (I say nut in a good endearing way)! For years, he has gone into cities with giant truck pimped out with kickin' sound gear and partnered with local churches to put on "Fam Jam's". We'd give away food, bikes, boom boxes, and more... then share about Jesus. He's the most effective North American evangelist that I know.

During a meeting in Lakeland... God spoke to Todd about Bobby. That night, Todd "commissioned" Bobby to bring the revival to Ireland and Scotland. Over the last couple of month's I get a daily email from Bob (Cutting Edge Outreach Ministries) about the scope of what's happening across the pond in countries where evangelical Christianity is scarce. Healing after healing after healing. Again... not all... BUT MORE. More enough that the Irish and Scottish media (along with the BBC) heard and began to run stories and do interviews.

Bobby is just a guy who grew up in a hood. Street fighting... without a dad. I once stood with Bob in the Hong Kong airport looking out at the planes after two weeks ministering in Manila. He looked a long way off. He half said to me (the other half to himself), "Man... who am I that I get to see these things?" This is what this revival's main focus is.

It's not "come get healed by Todd".
Missing this would be missing the point.

Even those outside of Todd's circles are noticing something new rising up in these days. Pete Greig wrote a wonderful piece about "Lakeland, Florida, Barrack Obama, and Burma: A call to respond to the signs of the time"

Is it coincidence that, slap-bang in the middle of such political, economic and environmental turmoil, we are also witnessing a fresh hunger for God’s presence in thousands of churches? Are the events in Lakeland, Florida disconnected from this season of global transition and turmoil? Surely it must mean something that such a time of travail hosted the world’s biggest prayer meeting as millions of Christians across 211 nations cried out to God together for the earth to be filled with the knowledge of His glory’ (Hab. 2:13)?
I'll just say one more thing. Then I'd really like to hear what you think.

One of the people I know who has driven to Lakeland is the mother of one of my best friends. Her name is Joy... and she's living up to that name. She fighting valiantly down a very painful cancer path. Her blog (here) is amazing.

They went to a number of meetings... prayed... worshiped... and like our friend from the article, also didn't go to the stage or get instantly healed. Here's what Joy wrote upon returning home...

Man is not the one in control of my life (in reference to Doctors), God is! I believe with all my heart that He has wonderful things yet to accomplish. He is not finished with me yet. I am not leaving here until I have fulfilled and experienced every plan and purpose He has for me.

At night... Scott and Joy watch the revival on the Internet. Sometimes Joy sleeps. Their daughter Andrea told me of what I found to be a extraordinarily poignant moment the other night. She said that she watched her Dad nudge her Mom and say, "Joy... they're praying for the terminal". Joy in a half sleep said... "that's not me."

Many are stepping out in faith in these days are things are happening. I know it because those who have gone to Florida have come back believing that the sick can be healed. Since then, I've prayed ALONG WITH JOY for her granddaughter to be healed from a strange re-occuring fever only to see it pass with no other explanation... aside from this...

Faith is the substance of things that aren't seen.

We are Christians. We believe in the unseen and unexplainable. We have to. Something deep inside us says we have to. It's our hope.


Jeff said...

Hey again Dave,

First off, let me say that I totally hear what you're saying. I don't want to write Todd off for being unorthodox or just plain weird. But I also don't want to blindly follow something without examination. We're called to test the spirits to see if they are genuine, and so some testing is always in order. Ever since I heard about the stories of people like Peter Popoff (who was found to have a radio transmitter in his ear with his wife giving him info to appear that it was "divinely given"), I've been skeptical of these faith healers.

I believe that God can and does heal people, but the problem with a lot of these people is that they work the crowd up into an emotional state, endorphins (natural painkillers, basically) get released in their body, and then they feel like they're healed, throw their medications up on stage, and then find out a few weeks later that they're no better off than they were before. Am I saying they are all like this? No. But it's a danger that needs to be examined, and there are two ways to do that.

First off, follow-up evidence. We've heard of many people being raised from the dead, but we never hear the follow-up from it. I heard that apparently one of the hospitals denied the story of the girl being raised from the dead while on the autopsy table. X-rays, doctors' testimony, etc. are all good ways to find this stuff out. And of course it's hectic to try and find these people after they go home from wherever they came from. But it's been going on for quite some time now, and you'd think they'd have some good documentation from someone by now...

The second way is through miraculous events that are impossible to fake. External changes, especially. If we had an amputee that grew a limb back, or other visible characteristics that disappear, then that is evidence. Amazing evidence! But of course, it's once again hard to determine stuff like this, since all we ever see on the TV show are reports of healings. And I know of one faith healer who would put people who looked unstable on their feet in wheelchairs, so that once they felt better and stood up, it was suddenly a miracle! What we need is evidence of the change, and I find it quite lacking.

But again, I also understand that without staying in Lakeland and conducting interviews, etc., it's a hard thing to come by this sort of evidence. So for now, I've remained neutral. I believe that no matter what, God can use the Lakeland Revival for His purposes, but that perhaps it remains to be seen whether He actually IS using it. If that makes me a horrible person, well then, I guess I'm just a horrible person. But at least I'm not actively condemning Todd's ministry. I just wouldn't pay the money to go fly there myself...

candidchatter said...

I have heard so many healing stories (not the Lakeland type) it would make your head spin. So I just don't know. There are so many warnings about false prophets in the Bible, Dave. I am skeptical. It's not the people who go. It's the person (people) behind the "ministry" who make me wince. I don't hang my opinion on one article, news story, internet video, or otherwise. I usually stay far, far away from this stuff. I fear for people on the outside (non-Christians) who might be on the fence hearing of this, it doesn't work for them, and they fall away thinking Jesus is bogus. It bothers me on many different levels and I don't feel like I'm making sense.

But faith... now you have people who swear by his ministry. Maybe it's their faith that saves them like the lady in the Bible who touched Jesus' hem. She was saved by her faith. She went out on a major limb. She was unclean, out in public, surrounded by people, and she reached out to touch Him. She was healed. He told her it was because of her faith. So????

Too many questions here and Todd's whole ministry just doesn't sit right with me. No peace there. I can't shake it.

Heidi Reed

PS: Glad you read the article and posted about it.

Dave Carrol said...

Jeff: Ha... yeah I hear ya Jeff. I totally get where you're coming from too. And yes there have been some big time flat out frauds.

Actually the one thing that eventually gave this more cred for me was the fact that representitives from pretty much all of the major revivals in our lifetime have gone there to voice their support and participate... like Toronto, Pencicola, Argentina, Brazil... even the guys from the group that saw entire cities come to Jesus in Argentina. A revival that looked way different but a revival none the less and one that has produced what the church can see as lasting fruit... have come and "tasted and seen" and agreed that it's good.

The evidence thing can be so dicey on every side because each side claims they are correct. I've never heard of a doctor agree that God did anything. They'll always find another reason. Eric's leg and foot grew and they tried to explain it away. So not being there myself... seeing other's who I respect and know more give their name to it means something.

That didn't really happen with some other moves.

Just another little nugget

That said... Todd ain't jesus... and anything that's happening is because of the same Jesus that's in both of us... so it's available to me and you both here and now. But in the Bible there were blessings for welcoming and being kind to prophets.

heidi: It's totally about faith. And like i said above... the guys' far from the be all and end all.

But more and more... the turning people off jesus thing I'm starting to believe the opposite. That we've hidden the supernatural realities of our faith under cultural niceties and it's left us with an impotent church, covered in pink carpet (jeffy can I get a whoop?), run by bean counter, that even the Christians think are lame (let alone others!)

I don't give much of a rip about Lakeland specifically... I want to be the guy that the sick come to. Because they know that God dishes out he kingdom through me. And you... and Jeff... because Christ in ME is the hope of glory, you know?

And when that happens (and it's beginning to)... I'll loose friends and have reporters digging through my skeletons... and MANY will be healed and saved.

Dave Carrol said...

both opinions are fine BTW... ha ha! I like chatting about this things!

It's enjoyable for me.


candidchatter said...

Truly I don't know what turns people off Jesus. All I can testify to is what used to turn me off. And that (Lakeland) is one whopping one. I didn't get turned on to Jesus until I met authentic and flawed Christians. Anyway... that's just me. And I've enjoyed this convo too. Very good for me to learn. I'm in no position spiritually or in ministry to be an authority. Just an observer who happens to live for and love Christ.

Thanks Dave...

Heidi Reed

PS: Yes, you will lose friends with your faith. You will. I have. But I've gained BETTER friends. God is good! Heck even my family looks at me cock-eyed sometimes and I'm not famous. ;)

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