first, my journey of understanding - since my last post regarding the lakeland outpouring, i've watched many more hours of the services on tv. i have yet to attend a service there - i may try to do that soon. here are my observations: the worship is incredible! every major outpouring that i've been aware of has had "a sound" - lakeland has that same sound. its the sound of worship, prophetic intercession and cries to the throne for more of God. the testimonies are real - many people encounter God in powerful ways - on a purely pastoral level here, let me say that if the same expectancy can be experienced in our local churches, the testimonies will be similar! that's my prayer - "God, make us expectant." along the journey i've talked with friends and other ministry leaders. a former pastor of mine (i served as youth pastor for him) when i asked about some of the theology that seemed to challenge mine remarked, "a lot of times in revival the theology is a work in process" - wow! i had forgotten that and it's true - although we'd love to think we've got "all things theology" figured out, we're still learning! here, for instance, is an article that traces the history of eschatology. peter wagner, whom i'll reference more in a bit has this to say about revival, "We have learned that God-driven revival is often messy, tending to pull some out of their religious comfort zones, but at the same time opening gates for new seasons of the movement of God."
second, what i've since learned about the lakeland outpouring - one of the most comforting things for me personally is knowing that several key charismatic/pentecostal leaders have come alongside bentley and helped bring apostolic direction, blessing and alignment to the ministry that is taking place. you may read peter wagner's report here. as well, there is a story on charisma's site that also details the event that took place. it was shortly after reading this that i began to feel a peace that order was being (not control...there's a difference) established. on a personal level, let me say this...one of my concerns has always been an attitude that develops out of something like this that exalts self and gifts over others. i dealt with this when i was a youth pastor early on - guarding the "revival spirit" that was powerful and real with a realistic understanding and appreciation for authority. let me borrow one of chuck pierce's statements that reflects well how i feel and perhaps some of the concern that i may have had early on, "I can now rest in Him, knowing that if things get way out of sync, they can help Todd make adjustments so the Spirit can keep moving." (you can read chuck's report on what's happening here). my approach has been all along similar to that of many Christ-followers...here, i'll reference a quote from someone whom i have the utmost respect for, "With time, whatever is taking place in Lakeland and through activities issuing from its happenings will either verify or discredit the source of the manifestations." (jack hayford). more about hayford and his thoughts on it are available here
finally, let me pass along an appeal from someone else whom i respect, from lee grady's most current issue of fire in my bones...this is lengthy...please take time to read it all and read it with an open heart and mind - i think you'll find it biblical and motivated by love and a pure heart...read on...
Some leaders say the controversial Lakeland Revival is forcing us to choose sides. But I don’t believe God wants to split our movement.
It’s been more than 10 years since charismatic prophet Rick Joyner predicted in his popular book The Final Quest that believers would experience a Civil War in the church. Joyner’s book, based on a series of visions he says God showed him, describes in graphic detail a turbulent conflict that redefines Christianity as we know it.
Other charismatic leaders have echoed this theme since Joyner’s book was published in 1996. They have predicted that our movement will be divided between “Blues” (those who constantly live in the supernatural realm of dreams, visions and miracles) and “Grays” (those who rely more on their intellect), and that the Blues will win and usher in true revival as champions of the Holy Spirit’s power.
Even in early 2008, before the Lakeland Revival erupted in Florida in April, some charismatic prophets were declaring that a great rift would divide those who believe in “the glory realm” and those who have a more conservative, left-brained approach to their faith. When God TV began its nightly broadcasts of evangelist Todd Bentley’s healing meetings in Lakeland, the Civil War prophecies reappeared overnight on hundreds of blogs and e-mail blasts.
“Jesus prayed that we would be one. There is no record of Him praying that we would split over doctrine.”
I’ll admit I was not paying too much attention to these Civil War predictions 10 years ago. But I was jolted into reality in May after I wrote an online column in which I raised honest questions about some of Bentley’s teachings and techniques. Even though I celebrated his passion and zeal, and praised God for the healings that were reported in Lakeland, I was immediately branded a revival critic and banished to the Gray camp.
I became the bad guy because, by asking questions, I was “relying on my intellect.” To those in the Blue camp, my skepticism made me an enemy of the Holy Spirit and all things supernatural—even though I believe that all the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are for today!
I tried to laugh this off at first. Surely, I imagined, my Christian brothers and sisters do not really think it is wrong for a Spirit-filled believer to test the spirits (which we are instructed to do in 1 John 4:1), discern truth (see 2 Pet. 3:17) or evaluate prophecies and angelic encounters (see 1 Cor. 14:29, Gal. 1:6-8).
But now I realize that some people really want a war. They want the charismatic movement to split right down the middle. They imply that all those who do not embrace 100 percent of the current movement in Lakeland are “old wineskins” that cannot be used by God in the coming revival.
I can’t even describe how much this hurts because I love people on both sides of this conflict. I love the Blues and the Grays, along with every other color in the body of Christ. I refuse to believe that God is trying to split us. Division is the devil’s work.
I want to plead with everyone in our movement to reconsider the whole Civil War scenario. Instead of rattling sabers and stockpiling gunpowder, maybe we need to take steps in the opposite direction:
1. Let’s accept one another. The apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthians because they exalted certain gifts above others. He reminded them that every member of the body of Christ plays an important role, and that no individual part—whether eye, hand or foot—functions on its own. He rebuked this elitist attitude “so that there may be no division in the body” (1 Cor. 12:25, NASB).
Most of us already acknowledge the importance of supernatural gifts of healing, prophecy, tongues and other demonstrations of God’s power. But in our zeal to recover these gifts, let’s not isolate those whose primary functions may be mercy, giving to the poor, teaching or intercession. We should cherish every spiritual gift—not just the sensational or the exotic.
2. Let’s admonish one another. Christians have not always been the best models of conflict resolution. When tension gets high we either avoid it (usually by saying nothing and hoping the problems go away) or we overreact (by childishly picking up our marbles and playing somewhere else). But the Bible tells us to work things out in eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation.
In the case of Lakeland, there are some doctrines and methods that have come under intense scrutiny. Heresy hunters are having a field day as they toss their grenades and label everything in Lakeland demonic. But because I embrace Todd Bentley as my brother in Christ, I must take a higher road even if I don’t agree with his prayer methods or his claims regarding angels. Anything I say, even if it is corrective, must be said in love (see Eph. 4:15).
Thankfully a group of leaders from various charismatic camps (both “Blues” and “Grays”!) are discussing the contentious issues surrounding Lakeland—and biblical confrontation is occurring. I trust this process will result in correction where it’s needed, apologies when necessary and more humility on all sides of the debate.
3. Let’s pray for one another (see James 5:16). Jesus prayed that we would be one. There is no record of Him praying that we would split over doctrine. So why in the world would any of us hope for a Civil War?
Please pray for Bentley—and for the leaders who are speaking into his life during this season. And pray that the church will not only experience genuine spiritual revival but also true unity. Let’s work out our differences, support one another’sministries and focus all our efforts on one common goal: To tell a lost world about the love of Jesus.
J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.