Lakeland's Recycled Revival
Introduction: Testing the Spirits
[Note to reader: this article begins a week-long series of posts, an in-depth eyewitness report from a pastor who attended and observed this "revival" as it unfolded.]
A couple of weeks ago I began to receive phone calls and emails asking me if I knew anything about a “revival” that was going on in Lakeland, Florida. Since that town is less than an hour away from me I decided it was important to find out what was happening in my own “back yard,” so to speak. I did some checking and found out that sure enough, revival meetings were taking place in Lakeland under the ministry of Todd Bentley. In fact, the services were being broadcast live on God TV. Therefore, after watching several services, I decided to attend a couple myself, and the following article deals with what I found out firsthand and the conclusions I have come to.
There is no doubt in my mind that the “Lakeland Outpouring,” as it is now being called, is nothing more than a recycling of previous movements that stretch back decades. Whether it was meetings held by people like William Branham, Kathryn Kuhlman, Benny Hinn, Rodney Howard-Browne, Steve Hill, or any of the so-called Kansas City Prophets, the spirit and basic doctrine are the same. There’s a common thread of specific heresies that go back a long way. That’s why I call it recycled revival. It’s nothing new at its core. In addition, this revival and ones similar to it promote ideas that are contrary to what the Bible tells us about the end times.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT THE LAST DAYS
At the outset I’d like to say that I’m very much a Pentecostal Christian. I believe that the gifts of the Spirit are for today and that God still baptizes people in the Holy Ghost. I also believe in revival. I’ve read the Bible through dozens of times and seen enough genuine moves of God to know beyond any doubt that the Lord still pours out His Spirit on hungry hearts. With the Lord’s help I’ve made a careful study of authentic revivals down through history and the characteristics are always the same: strong preaching against sin; deep repentance; an emphasis on the cross of Christ; an emphasis on the world to come as opposed to this world; and an emphasis on the Bible. I believe we need genuine revival. We need it because of our [the Church in general] apathy. We need it because of our ungodliness. And we need it specifically because we are in the Last Days. But there’s a distinction between praying for God to pour out His Spirit on a person or church and believing that there will be an end times revival that will sweep the world and “Christianize” the nations. There’s a huge difference between those two things and what you believe concerning this point will affect the way you pray and it will affect the way you look at things as we draw closer to the return of Christ.
What does the Bible say about the end times? It’s important that we establish this point before we move on to discuss the happenings in Lakeland, Florida. Let’s examine a few Scriptures. In Matthew 24 Jesus is speaking to His disciples about the end times. They have asked Him to tell them what the signs will be for His return and the end of the age (vs. 3). The first thing Jesus says is what? That we are to expect a great end times revival? That we are to accept what anyone says simply because they claim to be a servant of Jesus? NO! The first thing Jesus says is “See to it that no one leads you astray” (vs. 4).
It’s interesting that Jesus would begin a discussion about the last days with that admonition. He then goes on to say (Matt. 24:11). In Mark’s gospel, He adds to this and says,“many false prophets will arise and will mislead many” “false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect” (Mark 13:22). So Jesus tells us that one of the primary marks of the last days will be deception. In fact take note that while He says the gospel will be preached to the world He does not say the world will accept the message. Nowhere does He tell us to expect great, worldwide revivals just before He returns.
The Apostles also had much to say about the last days.
- 2Th 2:1-3 – “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first.”
Note that Paul did not say Christ will not come unless a great worldwide revival comes first. He said “apostasy” which is a falling away. So Paul lines right up with Jesus on what we should be looking for in these Last Days. Paul also tells us in I Timothy chapter 4 “the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” Again I’d like to point out that no where in this or any other passage does Paul tell us to expect an end times revival that will bring in millions or billions and Christianize the world.
Peter echoes this same thing when he states that “false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (II Pet. 2:1-2).
It should be obvious to any student of the Scriptures that the last days will be perilous times (II Tim. 3), and Christians must pray for discernment. This is in compliance with I John 4:1, an extremely important Scripture for our discussion.
- “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
This is what I will be doing in this article. I’m not judging anyone. I’m not condemning anyone. I don’t have a “Pharisee” spirit (as one man accused me of recently). I’m simply obeying the biblical command to test the spirits. Remember too that one of the nine gifts of the Spirit mentioned in I Corinthians 12 is the discerning of spirits. There are three basic “spirits” that information or teaching can come from: the Spirit of God, the spirit of man, and demonic spirits. We must understand that just because a person claims to be a Christian and claims to be operating under the anointing of God it doesn’t mean they really are. They could be operating in their own fleshly spirit, or worse yet they could be operating under seducing spirits posing as angels of light (II Cor. 11:14). We must know the Word of God, and know it well, in order to be discerning Christians who can rightly divide the Word of Truth and not be led astray.
Once more, let me emphasize at the outset that we do need genuine revival in the land today. Apathy in the Body of Christ is at an all time high, and I can fully understand people wanting to draw closer to the Lord. That’s a worthy aspiration. In no way is this article judging the intentions or motives of those that go to these meetings. I’m sure that many, if not most, of the people that attend do so because they are somewhat desperate for more of God. But we must never put discernment and the Word of God on the backburner because we feel spiritually dry. In fact, it’s often during those times when we are thirsty that we need to be extra careful about what source we drink from. A desperate man, lost in the desert, may drink from the first pool of water that he comes to, but it may be poison. So let us be careful to diligently seek God when it comes to purported moves of the Spirit in certain churches or services.
This article will be divided up into two distinct sections. In the first section I will give detailed accounts of what I personally witnessed at two of the meetings I attended in Lakeland, and I will also detail a portion of a third meeting I watched and taped off television. This first section will obviously include subjectivity from my vantage point. The second portion of this article will deal with 7 issues that need to be addressed concerning this “Revival” and will include some of the more salient teachings of Todd Bentley.
TOMORROW: Part One: The Practice
[For more information on this "revival," see the excellent summary of current news reports posted at http://tinyurl.com/3lw2oz ]
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58)