Friday, June 20, 2008

Lakeland's Recycled Revival


A Pastor Reports on Todd Bentley's "Revival" in Lakeland, Florida

By Pastor Gary Osborne

The conclusion of a 5-part series


To be honest, it frustrates me to even have to be writing about this subject. The concept of being “drunk in the Holy Ghost” is so unscriptural that it defies logic for anyone to promote it. Yet this is exactly what Bentley does, very much in the same vein as Rodney Howard-Browne and others. All of them make reference to the book of Acts and the day of Pentecost. As Todd was preaching one night recently in Lakeland and staggering around on stage he said, “We are not drunk as you suppose,” making a clear reference to Acts 2:12 and 13 which states that when the people of Jerusalem heard the commotion in the Upper Room where the 120 disciples had been filled with the Spirit and were speaking in other tongues “they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others were mocking and saying, ‘They are full of sweet wine.’”

Please note that it was the mockers who were derisively saying the disciples were drunk. It was not the majority of the people, but only a segment. And they were clearly not saying this because the disciples were staggering about and falling down as if drunk. If that were the case, how could Peter, in the very next verse, begin preaching one of the most powerful sermons ever recorded in Scripture. A sermon, by the way, that stands in stark contrast to Todd Bentley who neglects the preaching of the Word in his services by acting like a drunken sailor. Some then point to Ephesians, chapter 5.

  • Eph 5:18 – “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”

Some people say, “See there, God compares being filled with His Spirit to being drunk with alcohol.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The purpose of this verse is not to provide a comparison, but a contrast! That’s right, this verse is telling us that being drunk and being filled with God’s Spirit are NOTHING alike. When a person is drunk, they lose all self-control and act contrary to how they would normally act if they were in full control of their faculties. But when we are filled with the Spirit of God, we are self-controlled. We are not off in “another world,” so to speak. That’s the point of the verse! Paul backs this up when he tells us in Galatians that one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control, not acts of drunkenness. Over and over in Scripture we are commanded to be sober, both physically and spiritually. There is no place for this type of nonsense in the Church of God. It only brings a reproach on Christ that is completely unnecessary.

Much, much more could be written about this topic, but space and time do not permit. I would however, direct the reader to a couple of resources. One is found in Larry Thomas’s book No Laughing Matter where he documents many of the things we are talking about. And a second is a book by Pastor Bill Randles called Weighed and Found Wanting. Both are excellent resources and go deeper into much that we have discussed here.


The last point I want to cover involves the Statement of Faith for Fresh Fire Ministries, which is the name of Todd Bentley’s fellowship. It is described as “revival and healing ministry of Todd Bentley” on their own website and is clearly an extension of him and his partners. On this same website we can clearly read their Statement of Faith. And if anyone doesn’t know, a Statement of Faith is composed of the most vital, basic, essential doctrines that a person, fellowship, or denomination believes in. People don’t waste time placing things in their Statements of Faith that are non-essential or unimportant to them. So any Statement of Faith is a great way to get to know the core beliefs and values of a person or group. And Bentley’s reveals some sobering things. I’m going to focus on the last 2 articles of his Statement of Faith. They are points 11 and 12.

11. THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST We believe the Ascension and Exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ to the throne of the Father proclaims His present rule and reign over the universe. His Kingdom is revealed here on earth through His Body, the Church, resulting in a glorious Church and global harvest at the end of this age. He will be finally revealed through His personal, physical, and soon return and the events described in the following scriptures, including the resurrection of the dead (the just to everlasting life and unjust to eternal separation from God (Acts 1:11 ; 1Thess 4:16 -17; Titus 2:12 -14; 2Thess 1:7-10).

I’ll touch on this point briefly by pointing out the 2nd sentence. Note the use of the phrase “resulting in a glorious Church and global harvest at the end of this age.” Why is that important to take notice of? Because it reveals one more issue that links so many of these men and ministries together, namely that they adhere to a “Kingdom Now” theology. This doctrine teaches that we, as the Church, will basically take over the earth by Christianizing it. People that believe this are not content to preach and teach and see people won to Christ one by one. That’s not good enough. They believe we will see an end-times revival where literally a billion souls will come to Christ. In fact Todd Bentley stated this very thing just a few weeks back on one of the telecasts from Lakeland. This type of “Dominion Theology” (as it is also called) is linked to the Manifest Sons of God teaching we’ve already dealt with. What you’ll notice is that Todd does not mention the rapture of the Church at all in his Statement of Faith because that’s not something he’s really looking for. In an article I wrote several years ago I said the following about this particular theology and how it impacts the church in many ways:

Let's quickly examine this religious fad called the "River revival" [the Lakeland Outpouring is simply a recycled version of the “River Revival,” which consisted of moves like the Kansas City Prophets, Toronto and Brownsville, ed.] and how it pertains to the rapture. It is obvious that since God is sending such sweeping revival to the world that this just couldn’t be the time for the rapture (or so those who don't believe in the rapture reason to themselves). After all, for the first time since the birth of the Church at Pentecost, God is seeing His great desire for the salvation of souls come into full bloom. Years ago TV Preacher Rod Parsley proclaimed that God had told him to let everyone know that 1999 was going to be the year where 10, 50, and even 100x’s more souls would be saved than in all the previous years put together [now Bentley is saying the same thing]! Of course, this didn't happen. But it doesn't stop many from making these continued statements. As another example, Rodney Howard Browne also claimed that in a vision God informed him that a New York City Crusade would bring in thousands of souls! Again, when Browne had his NYC Crusade, he had a terrible time getting people to even show up. And it certainly didn't result in the conversions he claimed it would!

Despite the lack of evidence, we are still consistently being informed by Christian ministries that God is doing a "new thing" in these last days, and we can expect to see miracles as never before. Well, with that being the case, it just wouldn’t make sense for God to call us home quite yet (or so these folks would have us believe). In fact for many, this "revival" is finally going to "Christianize" the entire world, something these people believe the Church MUST do before Jesus can come back! This point was emphasized again on Trinity Broadcasting Network by a minister (I didn’t catch his name unfortunately) who was being interviewed recently on the Praise the Lord show. He said, "God is raising up a new generation. A generation that will do what previous generations didn't’ do. For years the church didn’t accomplish God’s purposes, but now, with this new thing He is doing, giving His people new power, the church is entering its finest hour. Therefore…I can tell you that Jesus won’t come back yet! There is just too much left for us to do!"

Never mind that a last days world-wide revival isn’t even mentioned in Scripture. In fact, Jesus, Peter, John and the apostle Paul tell us the exact opposite – the last days will be characterized by a great falling away, not a great revival! But that is another subject. The point here is that this fascination with "revival" has taken the Christian community’s eyes off of Christ, and specifically His return for His Bride!

Some people don’t realize that our eschatology (what we believe about the future) can and does shape our actions in the present. Since Todd Bentley is looking to Christianize the world before Jesus can come back, it only makes sense that he would not preach and teach the imminent return of Christ. But the Bible tells us this is exactly what we should be expecting.

  • 1 Corinthians 1:7-"awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,"
  • 1 Corinthians 16:22-"Maranatha."
  • Philippians 3:20-"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;"
  • Philippians 4:5-"The Lord is near."
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:10-"to wait for His Son from heaven,"
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18-"For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of {the} archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words."
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:6-"so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober."
  • 1 Timothy 6:14-"that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,"
  • Titus 2:13-"looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus;"
  • Hebrews 9:28-"so Christ . . . shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him."
  • James 5:7-9-"Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. . . . for the coming of the Lord is at hand. . . . behold, the Judge is standing right at the door."
  • 1 Peter 1:13 -"fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
  • Jude 21-"waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life."
  • Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20-"'I am coming quickly!'"
  • Revelation 22:17, 20-"And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' And let the one who hears say, 'Come.'" "He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming quickly.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus."

It should be abundantly clear that we are called, as New Testament Christians, to look for the return of Christ for His Bride. And while we are supposed to witness to the lost and pray for their salvation, we are not looking to build a worldly kingdom on this earth where we as Christians somehow take over every government and institution and then present some man-made utopia to Jesus when He comes back. It will not happen that way! Things will continue to deteriorate as we draw closer to the end, and our job is to work, watch, and wait for the soon return of Jesus Christ. Yet, as bad as his eschatology is, the most disturbing tenet of faith from Todd Bentley’s Fresh Fire Ministries is the last one. If nothing else that I’ve written convinces you to steer clear of Todd Bentley and his Lakeland meetings, this last point should. Read the final tenet in his Statement of Faith:

12. FURTHER REVELATION We recognize that God is continually restoring truth and light to His Church. Therefore, we place no limit on further revelation; however, each must be substantiated according to the Scriptures.

Wow! Did you read that? Todd Bentley believes that God is “continually restoring truth and light to His Church.” Why is that a big deal? Because it’s exactly what cults have been saying for centuries! Whether it be Joseph Smith and the Mormons, Charles Russell and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Ellen G. White and the Seventh-Day Adventists, or any other cult this basic tenet is the same: Somehow the Church has lost or suppressed truth down through the centuries and now God is revealing it again. This is incredibly dangerous. If God has not already given us a standard for absolute truth, and He has (the Bible), then anything goes and we are open to all types of deception.

Just as disturbing is the second sentence: “We place no limit on further revelation.” My friends, this is nothing short of heresy. There is no new or further revelation! God has already given all of it to us in the Bible. This is why the Apostle John was so strong in his warning, found in the last book of the Bible.

  • Rev 22:18-19 - I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.

Moses gives us a similar warning in Deuteronomy when he says “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you”(Deut. 4:2).

Jude tells us that we have a faith that has “once for all been delivered to the saints.” What is the faith? As Donald Stamps so aptly puts it, the faith “consists of the gospel proclaimed by Christ and the apostles. It is the fixed and unalterable truth, given by the Holy Spirit and embodied in the NT.” Paul tells us that “all Scripture is given by inspiration [literally “God breathed”] of God” (II Tim. 3:16) and Peter states the following:

  • 2 Peter 1:19-21 – “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

What is that more “sure word of prophecy”? It’s the fact that God confirmed His already written Word to Peter and the others through the life and ministry of Christ! Anyone saying they can add to the final revelation given to us in the Word of God speaks blasphemies. And when Bentley tacks on that little “disclaimer” at the end of his 12th Statement of Faith he simply creates an oxymoron. If nothing “new” can be accepted unless it adheres to the Scriptures, then there is nothing new period. What he has done is given himself an open door to say such and such is new or restored truth. Then he simply takes a Scripture out of context and manipulates it to “confirm” what he has said.


After personally attending services in Lakeland, and viewing many more via television, there’s no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the Todd Bentley meetings are nothing more than a recycling of former “revivals” that would include those that took place in Toronto and Brownsville. It’s the same spirit, the same unbiblical manifestations, and the same unscriptural teachings. There is a common thread that runs through all of these movements, and it calls for the diligent pursuit of truth. Christians looking for the next “new thing” need to understand that these last days we are living in are perilous times. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus. The Jesus of the Bible, not some Jesus of our own making. For it is He that will be returning soon to deliver us from a wicked and perverse world.

Maranatha. Our Lord come!

[Note: For 3 excellent follow-up articles, authored by Pastor Bill Randles (whose book Weighed and Found Wanting is referred to above) who has long been an expert on the topic of these false revivals, please visit:]

The Truth:

"Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth.... Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand." (Joel 1:5; 2:1)

[Note: This article series reproduced with author's permission. It was originally published in THE SENTINEL which is a teaching and apologetics newsletter for the Alliance of Biblical Pentecostals. If you would like to receive a complimentary copy please write to A.B.P. at: Alliance of Biblical Pentecostals, 4072 Elwood Rd., Spring Hill, FL 34609. Links were added to this article series.]

[For additional resources and articles on this topic, see the archived newsletters posted at, especially those published in the late 1990s which covered the false revivals of that period.]

[NOTE: For those looking for the transcript of a Brian McLaren interview, cited in Part 4 of Pastor Jeffrey Whittaker's series last week, "How Everything Must Change," it can be accessed in a cache here, or you can listen to it here.]