Lakeland's Recycled Revival
The Practice of "Revival"
[Note: This is the 2nd article in a weeklong series. See the Introduction posted yesterday.]
WHAT I OBSERVED IN THE SERVICES
The first night I personally attended was Thursday, May 8th. Mr. Todd Bentley and his crew were now holding services in the Lakeland Civic Center, which can seat approximately 7,000 people. The doors opened at 6:00 PM to the blowing of a shofar from people waiting to get in. The first thing I noticed as I took a seat in the very back of the auditorium was that the music being played was the loudest I have ever encountered in any “Christian” service I have ever attended. It was blaring loud as the worship team practiced a few songs in anticipation of the 7:00 PM service. I was immediately struck by how many people had banners or flags waving, and how many were jumping up and down like Mexican jumping beans.
There was a lot of “cheerleading” from the stage as microphone checks were being done. Another thing that really stood out were certain buzz words that were used repeatedly. The phrase “stir yourselves up” was used repeatedly, as was the concept of a “transferable anointing.” A woman led in prayer for the service and said, “sound waves carry your [God] presence and anointing” and then told the people to “roar like a lion!” At that request, people everywhere shouted at the top of their lungs and blew the shofars. This same lady was jerking and twitching in a similar way to what has happened in meetings in Toronto and Brownsville in the past. She went on to tell the people to look at one another and say, “You are pregnant – with the Holy Spirit and fire!” There was also much talk of “birthing” and “signs and wonders.”
The “MC” (that’s the best word to describe him) for the meetings then came up and told the audience to get ready because we were going live on GodTV in just a couple of minutes. He had a young man stand behind him and gave the audience instructions to look at this man as he held up his hands for a countdown. Everyone was to make as much noise as possible when the services went live, and believe me they did. It was very orchestrated. There was also talk of being “drunk in the Spirit” during this lead up time to going live on TV.
The service began with loud, loud rock style music. By the way, I am not an old fuddy-dud who doesn’t like up-tempo music. I’m a Pentecostal and don’t at all mind exuberant worship. So my comments are not coming from some prejudice in that vein. I love to praise the Lord, and to do so with a full heart. I clap, shout, and have even been known to jump up and down every now and then. But what I saw and heard at the beginning of this service was unlike anything I had ever witnessed in a Christian service before (and I’ve attended my fair share of “off the wall” services in the past). This was different. It had a secular, rock concert feel to it. People were swaying and dancing to the music constantly. The worship leader, if you could call him that, sang a song whose lyrics include the following:
“I am Free to Run, I am Free to Run”
“I am Free to Dance, I am Free to Dance”
And boy how the people responded to that. There were people dancing everywhere. And by dancing I’m talking some of the same stuff you’d see at a secular concert. Even some men and women dancing together!
I realize that the first portion of this article is dealing somewhat with my own subjective thoughts on the meetings. I will get to some objective points about what is taught in these meetings later in the article, but please bear with me because it’s important for you, the reader, to have an idea of what goes on at these meetings and what the general atmosphere is like.
There was a very sensual spirit in the meeting. Much inappropriate dress as well. And everyone was caught up in their own euphoria. After nearly 45 minutes of upbeat music, things finally slowed down. People were still standing everywhere, but the music was now slower and more hypnotic. The same songs were being played over and over and over. People seemed to be in a trance all around me. If the worship leader said, “raise your hands” everyone did so immediately. If he said, “drop to your knees” they did so immediately. In my humble opinion what I observed that night was nothing more than mass hypnotism. The music had the people mesmerized. Oh, and I didn’t know one song they sang the entire night. Not one!
At about 8:30 PM, with music still being played and Todd Bentley still standing with the other leaders on stage, the music leader says, “I’m feeling drunk.” He then tells the people to say to God, “Intoxicate me, Lord” – “Inebriate me, Lord.” I am disgusted at this point. We will deal with the so-called “drunk in the Spirit” phenomenon later in the article. The music continues and picks up again. Now the people are getting truly wild and the leader says, “Scream!!!” and the people let out a yell that shakes the entire building. Finally the worship leader falls to the floor himself, but the back up singers continue. This continued until nearly 9:00 PM and I had seen enough for my first night. I left amidst the shouts of thousands.
Talk of angels was prevalent throughout the night as well. This seems to be a key point with this particular “revival” and we will discuss it more later in this article.
THE SECOND SERVICE
I came back the following Thursday, May 15th, which was the 44th day of the revival, determined to stay and hear Todd Bentley (if the music leader would allow). This time I entered the Civic Center and noticed that people were much more subdued. Why? Because the band was not practicing and instead much softer music was being played on a CD throughout the auditorium. There was only one person with a flag/banner raised this time, as opposed to the 10 or more I saw the first night. Things stayed calm until the MC came out and once again pumped up the audience with a countdown to going live on TV. As soon as that happened the people were the same as before – shouting, jumping, dancing, etc.
Two men, one looking like the bearded guy from ZZ Top, give each other a high-five near the back of the auditorium and both “fall under the power” immediately. The music is going fast and furious and the same emotions and actions that were in the first meeting are in this one as well. There also continues to be much talk of angels in the songs.
After almost an hour and a half of singing the MC comes back to the center of the stage and declares, “I feel the ‘sauce’ tonight.” He then introduces Todd Bentley who comes out wearing a t-shirt that reads, “Jesus Gave Me My Tattoos.” He tells everyone that he “felt like the Holy Spirit was massaging his body” tonight. He then talks about the transferable anointing that comes in like a mist. He claims that God told him he could “feel the anointing just like Moses did” in the book of Exodus! Of course God never told Moses that he could “feel” the anointing. God did say He would “show” Moses His glory, but He never mentioned “feeling” the glory. Yet Bentley continues to emphasize feelings. This is a huge part of his entire teaching. He talks of not only seeing a mist but says that in some of his previous meetings he has been able to smell incense, concluding that this is the glory of God manifest. He then invites people to come to the altar and screams, “Fire, Fire, Fire, Fire, Fire!” which is a trademark signature of his.
There’s a real restlessness in the arena. In fact, I’ve never seen more people coming and going, moving from seat to seat to seat, than I have at these meetings in Lakeland. There’s a tremendous lack of peace amongst the people. No one seems to be able to settle in, and people are walking the aisles and moving constantly.
Suddenly, Bentley says there is “great authority” in the building tonight and he says that people can decree whatever they want, but to be careful what they ask for. It’s obvious that he’s heavily influenced by “Word of Faith” teaching and believes that God has abdicated His throne and given us authority to do anything we want, or better yet have anything we pronounce. In fact, he himself says “I speak creation. I speak new hearts, new livers into existence tonight.” Speaking to the audience in general he tells people to take off their oxygen and he commands tumors to fall off bodies and for cripples to get out of wheelchairs. He continues to declare all types of healings. I watch as several people gather around one wheel-chair bound woman and pray for her. They exhort her to rise, but she cannot.
People now begin to come forward to share their testimonies of healing. Everything is carried out just as it would be in a Benny Hinn or Earnest Angley type service. There are claims of everything from headaches cured to resurrections from the dead, but everything is carefully shared on a first name only basis. I imagine Todd and his crew could claim this is done so that the media or other curious people would not harass the individuals giving the testimonies. But what this effectively does is keep anyone from verifying any of the claims. One severely handicapped girl (physically and mentally) was brought forward in a wheelchair and was lifted out of the wheelchair by Todd and another man and dragged several feet before Todd let her go so she could be “slain in the Spirit.” It was a travesty, in my opinion.
Bentley then claims that this revival was prophesied in 1977 and again in 1989 by none other than Paul Cain, of the Kansas City prophets. We will deal with him more later on, but it’s important that the reader gets an understanding of who Todd Bentley looks up to. He is very much in the same camp as the KC prophets, among others. I decided to leave at this point, as it was approaching 10 PM and I had an hour drive back home.
A THIRD MEETING
Many other events could be documented, but space limits me from going into more detail concerning the two nights I attended. However, there was one other service that I caught on TV, and fortunately taped, that must be mentioned here. On Saturday, May 17th, a service took place unlike any other I have seen yet. During the testimony time some extreme manifestations took place. One young eleven year old girl was brought up and Todd asked her if she would like to feel the “manifest presence of Jesus” and she sheepishly said yes (clearly not understanding what he was talking about). He took her by the hand and blew on her. Nothing happened. He then told her to close her eyes and repeat after him. “Jesus, fill me with your presence” he said. He placed his hand on her head and was clearly exerting some pressure in an attempt to make her fall down. She still didn’t collapse so he focused his attention on her cousin (who he wrongly called her mother – so much for his prophet status) and blew on her. She went straight down as the little girl watched. He then blew on her one more time but she never went down so he turned away.
As Todd went over to the other side of the stage he began to laugh in a deep, scary way. There is no other word I can think of to describe this laughter. After speaking with that person, who was very hyped, he laid hands on her and gave his trademark yell, “Bam!” She went right down. From there he began to laugh more, and the audience went right along with him. He talked about drinking from the river. He instructed everyone to put their head back and open their mouth and drink. More scary laughter occurs as he blows down another 9-year-old girl. He then tells the girl’s mother that he is “drunk in the Holy Ghost” and as his head is shaking strangely he mentions that “it’s [meaning the anointing] leaking out of my eyes.” More laughter and more “bams” occur as he sweeps his hand over the audience and rows of people react.
Todd then shouts “Fire!” and tells the people to say, “Come Holy Ghost, get me.” This continues for several minutes. He tells Jesus to “get them all.” Others on stage are laughing uncontrollably and staggering around, not even able to talk without slurring their words. The laughter from Todd is very much like Rodney Howard-Browne. As he continues to shake Todd asks the people to stand and make a barrel. So they clasp their hands together and act like they are holding a huge rain barrel in their arms. Then he shouts for them to tip this imaginary barrel up as their head is tipped back and “Drink!!!!” He shouts it again, “Drink!!!!” This is some of the most insane stuff I personally have ever seen in my life. I have been in many of these types of meetings, including meetings conducted by Rodney Howard-Browne and John Kilpatrick. Yet I’ve never seen anything as extreme as this.
The next man up to be interviewed is Pontus and he’s clearly led a rough life. His arms are filled with tattoos and to be honest he speaks as if he’s drunk. Todd comments on one of his nice tattoos and shows the man a similar one on his arm. This man is eventually “slain” as well. Todd continues to laugh in an almost demonic way. He continues to exhort the people to receive the anointing. Another lady is brought forward and the man holding the microphone for her says she’s been “bellied up to the bar here drinking quite a bit tonight.” She is of course an easy mark for being slain. Her husband then receives a “big fat drink of the Holy Ghost” as well. Todd goes on to say he’s “feeling drunk” and then he begins to shake his head to the left and right violently and shouts “ohhhhhhhhhh...!” It’s a truly frightening moment as he seems to be controlled by a spirit and my mind immediately went to the story in Mark’s Gospel of the young boy who was often tossed about by demonic spirits attempting to kill him (Mark 9:22).
Todd then asks God to fill everyone with that “drunken, drunken holy glory” that he supposedly is experiencing. He tells people not to get to close to the edge of the stage lest they fall off. More “bams” and laughter occur. Then Todd asks for a “release of the wine.” I could go on and on about the silliness that occurred that night. People were staggering around, not able to speak correctly, and basically acting like drunken sailors. It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever witnessed.
TOMMOROW: Todd Bentley's Connection to the Latter Rain Movement
[For interesting historical background information on this "revival," see this report. Also, read the 6-part in-depth report on the "Laughing Phenomena: Its History & Possible Effect on the Church" by Ed Tarkowski, which begins here and continues here, here, here, here, and here.]
"Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink." (Isaiah 29:9)