I have posted a lot here about the outpouring in Lakeland, Florida led by Todd Bentley. And I have received a lot of criticism in comments from people, mostly with an evangelical perspective, who have apparently written off Todd on the basis of rumours that he is theologically unsound, and extracts from old articles and recordings offered out of context.
So I was pleased to find that not all “Reformed” evangelicals are following this knee-jerk rejection line. Several are cautiously welcoming what is happening. Thanks to CHARISMATICA for most of these links.
Adrian Warnock has posted a series (three parts so far, to be continued) by Jesse Phillips, a Sovereign Grace pastor in Florida. Jesse offers a fair assessment of a visit to Lakeland from a Reformed charismatic viewpoint. He is not overwhelmed by the experience, but accepts it as genuinely from God. It is unfortunate that he visited on one of the few nights when Todd Bentley was not present in person, which might partly explain the less than overwhelming atmosphere.
See also Jesse’s “Reformed-TULIP-Charismatic-Girl” sister Janelle’s report of the same meeting. She is disappointed that the teaching was shallow, but then Todd doesn’t claim to be a teacher, and presumably his stand-in doesn’t either. As Ephesians 4:11 clearly teaches, God’s gift for some people is to be teachers, and for others like Todd to be evangelists or in various other ministries.
The international leader of New Frontiers, Terry Virgo, has posted twice about Lakeland, starting here. Part 2 is the best analysis of what is happening that I have read. Terry points out that
God’s gifts are [not] proofs of holiness or marks of maturity given only to the most advanced Christians to demonstrate God’s approval of their spiritual progress.
So we can accept that God is working through Todd without endorsing him in every way. So, referring to Toronto in 1994-95, Terry writes:
What influenced me most significantly was not the extraordinary physical manifestations but the extraordinary lasting change that I observed in the lives of people I knew. Many displayed a new love and devotion to God and a new sensitivity to the Spirit’s presence. Some embraced a new commitment to Christ and his mission to win the world for his name. The physical manifestations gradually faded but the transformed lives have remained.
And he obviously hopes for similar from Lakeland. Of course it is too soon to tell about the long term effects, but there is no reason to expect anything different. But there is an important condition for lasting blessing:
Some who testify to a powerful surge of blessing now in their church through contact with Lakeland, say that this is not happening to them in a vacuum, but in the context of healthy local church life where eldership oversight is clearly in place, Biblical foundations are already established and a longing to reach the lost with the gospel is already in focus. Praise God! This is how it should be. …
In the midst of what has been historically regarded as authentic and powerful revival, Jonathan Edwards found himself exposed to extraordinary phenomena on all sides. He neither dismissed it all nor accepted it all but offered his own critique, sometimes defending and sometimes challenging what took place.
It seems to me that we do not have to take a stance simply dismissing what is happening as a circus or to only demonstrate alarm at the dangers that seem inherent. Nor should we naively embrace and unquestioningly accept the complete package.
For myself, I long for the power of God to be released so that Jesus might be wonderfully glorified in our generation. …
Amen! So do I, and with Terry I pray for this. Indeed this is what I and my church are looking for in our local area. Over the last few years we have worked hard on establishing the biblical foundations and stirring up a longing to reach the lost. Now, I think but it needs to be in God’s timing, we are ready to move on to the next stage.
On Friday my vicar and his wife and two youth leaders return home from Lakeland. That night (7.30) there will be an “impartation” meeting at my church in Chelmsford where they will seek to pass on what they have brought back from Florida. Sadly I will miss this as I had already booked in at a conference in Leicester from Thursday to Saturday, but another similar meeting with something of a youth emphasis is planned for Sunday night (7.30). We hope and pray that this will be the beginning of “a powerful surge of blessing” in our church and our community.