Five months ago a series of meetings with evangelist Todd Bentley erupted with the power of God in Lakeland, Florida. Boasting a range of healing miracles not seen in probably two generations or more, the Lakeland Outpouring (as it became known) began to draw attention from Christians and Non-Believers all across the planet. The revival became widespread knowledge due to the connectedness of Todd Bentley to various streams of the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements and the daily broadcasts of the meetings on God TV. Bentley’s ministry estimates 300,000 people visited the meetings and 1.2 million watched it through GOD TV or the internet. Probably unlike any revival before it, the Lakeland Outpouring became an international phenomenon.
The quick and sudden impact of the revival caused knee-jerk reactions among many in the body of Christ. The access to information that allowed news of the revival to travel so far also allowed critics to raise their voices to a new level. Todd Bentley has certainly never lacked his critics, but his new rise to prominence caused even Pentecostals and Charismatics that usually side with him to be suspicious. Questions were raised about his ministry style (which included punching people to heal them), his theology (he believed angels and even dead believers would visit him with messages), and his lifestyle (Todd received a number of tattoos during the revival). So, while every revival has critics, even those who you would normally expect to be excited about massive signs and wonders breaking out in the United States were sometimes calling for reform during the outpouring.
The turning point of the revival came in early August. Todd confessed to his board of directors at Fresh Fire Ministries that he had been ensnared in sin. (I’m leaving out unnecessary details because I believe we frequently enter into gossip in the name of journalism.) Todd turned the reigns of the outpouring to Stephen Strader, the pastor of the church where the outpouring began, and stepped down from ministry to begin a restoration process. With the shift in leadership, the size of crowds at the revival shrunk to a more manageable size that allowed it to be housed in Strader’s church building.
Despite everything that happened, I believe the revival was a real outpouring of God’s Spirit. Todd’s critics don’t bother me a bit. It was obvious that most were motivated by jealousy or fear of the supernatural. The Pharisees and Saducees hated Jesus for the very same reasons. Bill Johnson tells us that his grandparents knew Smith Wigglesworth, but not everyone loved Smith Wigglesworth back in his day. It’s only now that we revere him as a prophet to his generation. Todd Bentley is undoubtedly a sincere believer who has pursued Jesus at an extraordinary level despite the weakness of his flesh. The Bible is full of people who have accomplished the purposes of God with their lives and then gone on to sin in a way that seems shocking to us. David is a prime example. However, David’s sin did not disqualify him from God’s mercy and God’s evaluation of David’s life is wholly different than someone who would just look at the facts of David’s life (see Acts 13:36).
I do believe that many of the miracles that happened in Lakeland were real and legitimate. Having never gone, I can’t testify to seeing any amazing miracles firsthand, but a number of people I trust have reported powerful miracles above what is normally seen here in the States. The revival has also opened up a number of other places to begin flowing in an increasing level of powerful demonstrations of the Spirit’s power. Morningstar Ministries, Harvest Rock Church, Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Albany, Oregon are just a few of the places that have been impacted. The fruit of this move has proven its worth, despite the controversies.
In my next post, I hope to issue an appeal to believers who are reading, talking, and blogging about the Lakeland Revival.