Most Christians will have heard something of
the latest ‘revival sensation’ to hit the Christian media from
Lakeland, Florida. Led by Todd Bentley, a controversial and hard
hitting preacher, it features amazing stories of healing miracles, and
people being raised from the dead.
You might know someone who has traveled to Florida to receive
‘impartation’, in order to carry the fire back to their own church, or
have attended meetings led by the Florida leadership team in Dudley, or
most recently East Lothian. Good people- hungry for God, returning on
Or like me you might have watched the ‘God Channel’ (Not something
my stomach can usually take much of, I confess!), as they screen long
services and sermons from Florida, complete with healing testimonies.
The images polarize people, and seem to demand that we adopt a position
in relation to them.
All around me, I hear Christians asking the same questions.
What is going on here?
Is this a move of God that has major significance for our times?
Can I afford to ‘miss out’?
Is there manipulation and hype going on here?
Where are the fruits seen in lives changed?
Where is the evidence that authenticates the miraculous healings?
Are events like this a natural consequence of a marriage between Evangelicalism and the mass media?
Have we been here before? I certainly feel a sense of Déjà vu .
I grew up in a traditional Church of England church in a small
Nottinghamshire town. Our church was turned inside out and upside down
by charismatic revival in the early 1980’s. Lots of heat and smoke,
lots of speaking in tongues and prophetic utterances. Everything
changed. Many people were hurt and left the church. Many others joined.
Since then I have been in and around Charismatic Christians for most
of my life. I still count myself a skeptical (perhaps sometimes
jaundiced) charismatic. I have seen wonderful things, but I have also
seen some absolute nonsense. I have felt compelled to seek after God as
revealed in Charismata, but repelled by the excesses of this in equal
So- I think back to the gentle beauty I saw in Spirit-filled
intellectuals like David Watson, to the dogmatic arrogant power used by
Colin Urqhuart, the other worldly soft-rock polish of Wimber and the
embryonic Vineyard movement, the shouting-laughing-gold teeth imparting
madness of the ‘Toronto blessing’, and so on…
Can I say that I found God in this journey? Yes.
Do I think that there was much that was oppressive, manipulative,
self-centred and just downright WEIRD in this journey? Absolutely!
I bear the scars. Growing up as a tortured adolescent, and adding
the need to validate your life and faith through the acquisition of the
gift of tongues, this will always leave some strange marks on your
psyche! But God seems to be prepared to commune with some strange folk.
He is amazingly tolerant I find…
So, back to Todd Bentley. Hero of the faith, or charlatan? You decide!
As for me, I don’t care that much any more. I am old enough to know
that chasing after God by attending large meetings where others say he
is to be found is not for me. If however God is in this, great.
I will stick to seeking God along with my community, in my town. If
He wants to zap us with a bit of Holy Spirit fire, I am up for it
I read Jason Clark’s blog on this issue recently, and found myself to be more or less in agreement of everything he says…