Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lakeland (long)

Up until now, I have avoided saying anything about the Lakeland outpouring. But, it seems that some comments need to be made, so here we go...

As most of you know, I desire to see a revival of true Christianity in this land—actually, in this world. I have read quite a few histories of revival and not a few biographies of some of the greatest revival preachers in the last 400 years. One thing I have noted that they all have in common is that they are misunderstood and misrepresented by their contemporaries. Especially by the established leaders of the institutional church. For example, Jonathan Edwards was accused of allowing the devil to deceive him—they even had a denominational meeting that was going to censure him, but Godly men prevented it; John Wesley was called a “papist” (which was one of the worst things you could call someone in 18th century England—remember they had just come out of the religious wars) and worse; Charles Finney was accused of using “new measures” which were in contradiction to the scripture. Ironically, many of those "new measures" have now become essential in many people's minds. For example, take the altar call. This is a staple in most evangelistic services, but it was introduced by Finney, to the outrage of most of his contemporaries. Now if you don't have one, you are accused of not presenting the gospel!

Another thing that they have in common is an unusual level of physical manifestations which were a bit strange. People crying out under conviction, some actually falling to the ground and going into a trance. If you read John Wesley's journal (not the cleaned up one that Moody Press used to sell, but either the new one by Abingdon, or the older one by Baker), you will see many strange things enumerated. But, and this is the difference between many revivalists then and now, the revivalists did not put any stock in the manifestations. They looked for a changed life; a life full of the fear of God and the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Anything else was simply accepted as a way that God was working, but not seen as a substitute for a changed life.

As long as a changed life remains the focus, and God is kept at the center, let the manifestations come in whatever form they do. Personally, I think that is where Toronto got sidetracked. They started out focusing on God, but before very long, the manifestations became the center. Once that happened, God left.

I have heard many accusations raised against Todd Bentley. For example, he is violent; he almost attacks the people physically who come for healing. So? Has anybody ever read any of the reports from a Smith Wigglesworth healing? Herr Tilling, care to say anything? Smith Wigglesworth would probably be hauled into court today for the physicalness of his “laying on of hands,” yet most were healed.

I have heard complaints about the fact that he is tattoed. So? I grew up during the 1960-70 era. Anybody hear of the Jesus Movement? The big complaint about them was that they had long-hair, wore ragged blue jeans, went barefoot, and played rock and roll (guilty on all counts!). Did that mean that God wasn't at work? Did that mean that their salvation wasn't real? Can God only work through established institutional churches with robes, candles, vestments, etc.? Hmmm. Want to join the pharisees and sadducees who were against Jesus because he didn't do things the “right” way?

I have heard him accused of being ignorant. Maybe he isn't a theologian, but I would venture to say that he knows more about God than his critics. The early disciples were “ignorant and unschooled men,” did that stop God from using them? Smith Wigglesworth could barely read (and some of his theology was a bit on the questionable side). Did that keep God from using him? I know a pastor who is now in his 80's who couldn't read until God called him to preach. His answer to God was, “God, I'll preach, but you will have to teach me how to read.” God did. It is a cliché, but true, that God is more concerned with our availability than our ability.

Remember that scripture says people will know we are Christians by our love for one another. It doesn't say by our correct doctrine or by our flowery sermons or our ornate buildings. Also, remember that we are told to watch for false teachers by the fruit of their lives. Again, nothing about doctrine. Yes, doctrine is important! But, far more important is your relationship with the almighty righteous God who created you and redeemed you by the blood of his son, Jesus.

A friend of mine, who has a PhD from the University of Chicago, sent me a theological defense of the Lakeland outpouring. He gave me permission to post it, but it is too long to put up as a post. If I can figure out how to post a PDF on Blogger, I will put it up. Anybody able to tell me how?


Caron said...

Thank you :)

This is interesting: http://www.adventuresinchristianity.com/?L=blogs.blog&article=3494

Tim Bulkeley said...

Just click the little page with an up-arrow icon to the right.

Peter Kirk said...

Thanks for this.

I wonder if you are being fair about Toronto. I don't think the actual leaders of what was going on in that city focused on manifestations, and if God left it was only temporarily - he is certainly in their church in power now, but with manifestations very much in the background. Now some people involved in the worldwide Toronto blessing may have focused too much on manifestations, but you can't blame the leaders and originators for that.

And the same may happen with Lakeland, but you can't blame Todd Bentley for everything done in his name.