In a comment in response to my question “Why does Todd Bentley inspire such hatred?”, Tim Chesterton has asked
why Todd Bentley inspires so much interest – especially in you.
Along the same lines, in a private comment I received by e-mail a suggestion was made that I am being neither gentle nor wise in focusing so much on Todd.
The second commenter certainly has a good point: it is probably not helping Todd’s restoration to discuss the matter too much or to treat him as a celebrity. And in answer to Tim I wrote:
Tim, I don’t blame you, if you are not interested in Todd. But a lot of people are, as I can tell from my statistics. And many of them are writing a lot of nonsense about him. By contrast, most of my other posts, even on controversial subjects, attract few readers or commenters. I don’t blog to get attention, but I don’t want to bore people by writing posts which no one reads.
I stand by that, but I must also admit that this is only part of the story. Another aspect is that recently I have not been inspired to blog much about anything else.
But there is more than that to it. Some people may think of the Lakeland revival as something inconsequential, last summer’s fad which can and should be forgotten quickly in a new year with its new challenges. But to me Lakeland, and Todd Bentley’s part in it, was something of real significance for God’s purposes for the world, or at least for the western part of it.
So, with apologies to Tim and the other commenter, I will write one more post about Todd, bringing out some lessons for the church from this affair. I won’t promise to write no more about Todd after that, but I will try to keep it to a minimum.
I believe that at Lakeland God was testing his church, at least in the West, to see if it is ready for the next step in his purposes. Here are some things that he wanted to find out:
- Is the church forgiving, of sins committed by people before they become believers?
- Is the church accepting, of people who don’t wear the expected clothes, etc?
- Is the church characterised by grace, or does it legalistically apply Old Testament rules out of context for example about tattoos?
- Is the church listening to everyone, or only to those of a certain background and age?
- Is the church teachable, or does it only accept teaching from those who confirm the doctrinal prejudices it already holds?
- Is the church non-judgmental, or does it reject people quickly because of unsubstantiated allegations against them?
- And perhaps most importantly, is the church open to the work of God the Holy Spirit, or is it quick to claim that certain manifestations and ministry styles cannot be from him?
Of course God knew what his church was like. But did the church? Did it know that on each of these issues, when brought to its attention in the person and ministry of Todd Bentley, it would to a large extent be found wanting? Yet it was found wanting: Todd’s childhood sins, unconventional clothing, tattoos and youth (but he is as old as Jesus ever was on earth) were presented as disqualifying him from ministry; his teaching was rejected as novel without being given a proper hearing; his recent sins have been exaggerated and considered unforgivable; and his ministry style has been lampooned and rejected as not genuinely from God.
In the story of the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11), although she was actually guilty, in response to Jesus’ words the scribes and the Pharisees dropped their stones of accusation against her. In the case of Todd Bentley, although there is in fact no evidence of physical adultery but only an admission of an “inappropriate relationship” and a divorce action, Todd’s accusers in the church are not prepared to listen to the one they call “Lord” and drop their accusations. I think the scribes and Pharisees get the better of this comparison.
God grieves over the state of the world, lost in sin and shame. He is looking for a church, a people, who he can use to reach it with the message of the gospel. But mostly he finds professing Christians who are self-righteous, legalistic and unwilling to accept anything or anyone not meeting their own expectations. He longs to revive his church and use it to bring in multitudes of the lost. But he cannot do so while it is led by such people, people who would not accept the lost if they did come in. This is a time for the church to repent, before God brings his judgment on it, discarding the old wineskins and creating new ones to contain his new people.