Lessons for the church from the Todd Bentley affair

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.

God is alive & well …

From the latest presentation on my church‘s electronic noticeboard (a plasma screen inside the foyer but visible from the street), which we had long before digital picture frames became the latest in gadget:

God is alive & well

If you don’t understand the context here, or recognise the bus in the top right insert, see this post by David Keen, and his first and second roundups of reaction.

Personally I think the “Agnostibus” campaign is great because, just like the Alpha campaign with its questions like “Is this it?” and “What am I doing here?”, it makes people think. But I doubt if it will stop anyone worrying.

The Agnostibuses are not only in London; I saw some a few days ago in Dawkins’ home town of Oxford. But there are none in my home town of Chelmsford, only buses asking those Alpha questions.

UPDATE 2nd February: This slogan can now be seen on the side of a real bus, courtesy of this site:

bus-god-is-alive-well

The best job in the world?

The BBC has an article about what has been billed as “the best job in the world”:

six months working as a “caretaker” on Hamilton Island in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

And it comes with a £70,000 salary and a luxury villa. I must say part of me is tempted.

I have an advantage over most possible candidates in that I can “call on first-hand knowledge of the region”. I haven’t actually landed on Hamilton Island, but I did visit two neighbouring islands in the Whitsundays group, on my 2003 tour of northern Australia. At this time I snorkelled and scuba dived (only a short sample dive) in these waters, and learned to identify quite a lot of the local wildlife.

On that trip we sailed past the mountainous Hamilton Island, and I saw something surprising. On most of the islands in the group there was nothing visible inland except for tropical rain forest. But on this island I saw what looked from a distance like strange vertical rock formations. From closer up it became clear what they were: skyscrapers! It seems that much of the island is covered with huge tourist hotels.

For Hamilton Island, I discovered, is the favourite destination for Aussies seeking the winter sun and a bit of fun. This is their equivalent of what the Canaries and Ibiza are for us in England. I don’t know first hand what the hotels are like, but I can guess by analogy from the hotel I did visit on nearby Long Island, which, although tastefully hidden behind the beachfront coconut palms, was dominated by a karaoke bar.

So maybe Hamilton Island is not quite the kind of paradise that it is painted as. Maybe the job on offer would in fact be the best one in the world not for a nature lover but for someone who loves to party in the sun.

Todd Bentley on lust and adultery

Rick Hiebert of the Western Standard, a Canadian newspaper, posts an extract from the Open Heavens Bible, study notes on lust and adultery. Here is part of it:

Curses: Open Doors of Lust and Adultery

The spirit of lust and adultery saps strength and life. It pulls its victims down paths that lead to the place of death. “Remove your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others, and your years to the cruel one” (Prov. 5:8,9). Our honour is our strength and vigor, but when we fall into lust and adultery, we give our years to the cruel one. …

The Proverbs writer continued to warn his reader abut the dangers of lust: “But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of hell.” (Prov. 9:18). It’s amazing what kind of demonic powers and demonic spirits work with the spirit of lust–adultery, sexual sin, perversion, and pornography. Don’t give your strength, your years, and your vigour over to the crual one or to the spirits of death that are released in the midst of sexual sin. Flee from lust and the curse of sexual sin–choose to live a life of purity, as a vessel of honor, fully consecrated to God.

Who wrote this? According to the product page (still at the Fresh Fire website), these are part of

Todd Bentley’s teachings and personal notes.

Now I have tried to keep this site free from criticism of Todd Bentley. But even his friends and supporters can’t help noticing the glaring inconsistency between what he writes here (or has been written in his name) and his behaviour – even if we consider only what he has admitted.

In a previous post I referred to demonic influences behind those who express such hatred for Todd, and anyone offering him a measure of support. But we must also realise that, as Todd himself has taught, there are “demonic powers and demonic spirits [who] work with the spirit of lust–adultery, sexual sin, perversion, and pornography”, and it seems that Todd has given place to these in his life. He needs to continue to follow his own advice:

Flee from lust and the curse of sexual sin–choose to live a life of purity, as a vessel of honor, fully consecrated to God.

Church leaders and the steward of Gondor

John Meunier has an interesting and provocative post in which he compares church leaders with the steward of Gondor, in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. He suggests that, just as the stewards of Gondor started to see themselves as kings,

the leaders of the church start to imagine they are Christ. …

It was this impulse and arrogance that caused the Reformation. But the Reformers were just as eager to become the voice of Christ themselves.

The stewards’ pretensions didn’t last long when the true king arrived. I hope that not many church leaders have this kind of attitude. But any who do will find themselves embarrassed, to say the least, when Jesus returns in his glory and settles accounts with them. Tolkien was surely aware of what Jesus had to say about stewards (the KJV rendering at least) such as Luke 12:42-46.

Why does Todd Bentley inspire such hatred?

Why does every mention of Todd Bentley, on this and other blogs, inspire such hatred? Why are there always some professing Christians who respond with such vituperative language? For example, early today I received here the following comment, which I did not approve:

Peter Kirk – You can rot in hell where you belong for being exactly what you are a self righteous hypocrite who supports liars, adulterers, thieves, deceivers such as Todd Bentley and friends

And that was all because I had asked that commenter to provide evidence to back up allegations made in a previous comment which I did not approve. While I accept that Todd has done wrong, I am not endorsing listing him among “liars, adulterers, thieves, deceivers”.

And then I found this from another commenter on another blog:

Todd Bentley is a FRAUD
Todd Bentley has committed FRAUD

What will you try to convince people of next Mr. Kirk?
That the holocaust never happened?

Again this was prompted by a request for evidence in my previous comment:

I “question the fact [your word] that Todd Bentley has committed fraud” because I have seen not one jot of evidence to suggest this. I would remind you of the biblical commands not to make accusations without two or three witnesses, and not to spread malicious gossip.

The commenter still did not provide a jot of evidence of the alleged financial fraud. Neither he nor I may appreciate Todd’s fundraising techniques, but that does not make them fraudulent. There doesn’t seem to be anything illegal in the arrangements reported by Rick Hiebert, suggested elsewhere as indicating fraud. So in the absence of any evidence to the contrary we must assume Todd’s financial affairs to be legal. But presumably in this absence of evidence the commenter thought he could prove his point by SHOUTING and associating me with holocaust deniers (see Godwin’s Law).

And these two are just a small selection of what has been directed at me personally, not to mention what has been directed at Todd, his friend, and anyone who has been seen as lukewarm in condemning his sins – not just the admitted ones but the ones alleged with no evidence.

Perhaps the explanation is in this comment from Will:

Ok.
Things are getting a but demonic here,
first off we are not to attack one another this is not lifting Jesus,

Secondly you shall not receive a rebuke against an elder unless it be in the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses.this is not in an email form but personally. …

Indeed, Will, and thanks for supporting me. I’m sure the demons are having a field day with discussions like this, laughing aloud as they watch Christians tearing one another down and apart. These are the same ones who rejoiced in their victory of ending God’s work in the Lakeland revival, by the ancient means of sexual temptation. Now they want to destroy the fruit which came from it (people are still publishing testimonies of healing at Lakeland, such as this one from a rock star who was healed: “oddly enough, ever since I went to the dude Todd Bentley that everyone is saying is a healer; my back has been feeling better”). And they want to destroy any possibility of Todd repenting and being restored to ministry. So these demons stir up hatred within Christians, or within those who call themselves Christians but are actually in their control, and incite them to, among other things, write hate-filled blog posts and comments.

The biblical authors Peter and James tell us to resist the devil who seeks to devour us, and he will flee from us (James 4:7, 1 Peter 5:8-9). On this basis I have been responding to many of the negative comments about Todd with positive truth. But Paul teaches us not to give the devil a foothold in our lives (Ephesians 4:27). So I will not allow on this blog comments filled with hate, or with unsubstantiated allegations, against Todd or against anyone else including myself. Please don’t waste your time trying to post them. I will also no longer respond to such posts and comments on other blogs, unless I decide that it is important to do so in a particular case.

I pray that those who are commenting negatively about Todd will be filled anew with God’s love and compassion even for those who have fallen into sin, and will start to write and speak only positively and in accordance with God’s love.

And I pray that Todd will turn away from his inappropriate relationship, repent of all his sins, and seek reconciliation with his wife and children – and that Shonnah will be filled with love and forgiveness as they try to work this out together. I look forward to the day when Todd will be restored to a ministry which will be even more powerful than we have seen at Lakeland.

PS The Official Todd Bentley Facebook Fan Page, which I linked to here and here, seems to have disappeared from Facebook. I wonder if this is a temporary glitch, or if the administrators decided that it was too much work keeping this free of the same kinds of negative comments which I am discussing in this post. There is still an unofficial fan page, which is attracting some negative comments but is probably not being read by Todd, and his Myspace page is still available. There is no sign yet of the promised new joint statement by Todd and Rick Joyner.

Jesus and Authority

If the “Son” is sent by the “Father,” and if the “Son” comes to do the will of the “Father,” does it not stand to reason that God wishes by this language to indicate something of the authority and submission that exists within the relationships of the members of the immanent trinity?

– Bruce Ware, quoted here (see also here).

It is the nature of the second person of the Trinity to acknowledge the authority and submit to the good pleasure of the first.

– J.I. Packer in Knowing God (1973), quoted here.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. …”

– Matthew 28:18 (TNIV)

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

– Philippians 2:9-11 (TNIV)

So is Jesus the one who submits to authority or the one who exercises it?

A new note about Todd Bentley

The keepers of  The Official Todd Bentley Facebook Fan Page have posted a new note which is in fact an article from Charisma magazine, Todd Bentley Enters Restoration Process by Paul Steven Ghiringhelli. (Thanks to End Times Prophetic Words for the link, but I do not endorse the commentary on the article given there.)

There is also a new wall post at the fan page, written by its administrator, as follows:

Hello fans! This fan page was set up for those to love and encourage Todd during his time of rest and restoration. Todd Bentley does frequently check this page and leaves personal comments at his leisure. Please leave tasteful comments that express your love and encouragement. Please do not leave comments that will be interpreted as insensitive or to purposely offend Todd Bentley. We understand that there are a lot of people who are hurt, confused, and offended. There is a process behind the scene that the public is not aware of and we ask for your patience as we all wait for Todd to be restored. He will also be releasing a statement on his behalf with Rick Joyner shortly, that will explain his heart and his actions. Please understand that this is not the page for you to unleash your frustration but your love for Todd. So let’s please be respectful and enjoy this fan page.

Thank you for becoming a fan and God bless you.

This was posted after the Charisma magazine article, and so the “statement on his behalf with Rick Joyner” to be issued shortly is something different. Note also that

There is a process behind the scene that the public is not aware of…

The Charisma article, dated December 2008 but apparently written in October, includes a number of interesting points:

Todd Bentley … was planning to move to the campus of MorningStar Ministries in Fort Mill, S.C., in late October in search of healing and restoration.

Interestingly, the now deleted comments on this blog quoted at End Times Prophetic Words, in the name of Robert Ricciardelli, were posted in September from an IP address located in this same small town of Fort Mill, SC. Were they perhaps from someone with inside information at the MorningStar campus? Fort Mill is very near to Charlotte, NC, where Ricciardelli has his base.

In the current case, Joyner said Bentley does not believe his marriage to Shonnah is salvageable. “[Bentley] has also taken steps to make the relationship with the girl that was inappropriate, appropriate,” Joyner said.

He explained that both Bentley and the unidentified woman have expressed “deep remorse” over the situation, knowing they were “two wounded people who fell into a trap.” Joyner said Bentley acknowledged that even if his marriage were to fail, his timing for beginning a new relationship was “terrible.”

Joyner said that though it is tempting to judge, observers must remember that all parties involved are struggling to do what’s right. “A divorce is one of the most traumatic things you can go through,” Joyner said. “For a while, Todd had spun down into some pretty deep hopelessness.”

Ahn echoed Joyner’s sentiments. “Our goal is to restore Todd to his relationship with Jesus,” he said. “His restoration as an evangelist is secondary. …”

There is not really any new information here, except perhaps for the claim that Todd has made the relationship with the girl “appropriate”. It is hard to know what exactly this means. But we mustn’t forget that it takes two to salvage a marriage. There are all sorts of reasons why it will be very hard for Shonnah to take Todd back at this stage.

All the bloggers out there who are showing a seriously unforgiving attitude to Todd need a reminder that in insisting that the marriage be restored they are effectively requiring Shonnah to forgive Todd and forget what he has done. Would they be prepared to do that if their spouses were involved in the kinds of relationship which they claim Todd is involved in? If she has made the decision, quite reasonable in the circumstances, to start a new life apart from Todd, there is nothing that Todd can do about it except go through with the divorce.

We need all the more to pray for Todd and Shonnah.

Apologies to Robert Ricciardelli: it wasn't him gossipping about Todd Bentley

I wish to apologise to Robert Ricciardelli of Vision Advancement Strategies, a member of the International Coalition of Apostles led by Peter Wagner, for accusations I have made against him on this blog, and in comments elsewhere.

Certain comments were made on this blog in September 2008 in Robert’s name which purported to reveal private information about Todd Bentley and the woman with whom he has admitted an inappropriate relationship. Some of these comments have recently been picked up and quoted by another blogger, and linked to elsewhere including here.

Both in September and again in comments on the recent posts, I accused Robert of spreading gossip about Todd. But now Robert (in comment 84 here) has denied making the comments in his name in September, and has reported that someone else has been making inappropriate comments in his name.

It is clear that the imposter posting in Robert’s name is sinning by doing so, bearing false witness in putting Robert’s name on his comments even if the reports are true, as well as spreading unverifiable private information, i.e. gossip, presumably with malicious intent against both Todd and Robert.

It also now seems clear that the genuine Robert Ricciardelli is not spreading gossip. So I now apologise to him and to anyone else reading this for suggesting that he might be, and withdraw any comments to that effect.

I have deleted from my blog the comments apparently made by the imposter and my responses to them. This refers to comments on this post, also some on this more recent one. Since my post “Thoughts on Todd Bentley, healing, and the dead being raised” (dated 20th September 2008) was primarily a response to the comments on an earlier post in Robert Ricciardelli’s name, and several other comments were made in his name on this post, I have deleted the post and all its comments.

I don’t know if the information in the deleted comments is true or false. I do know that it is personal information about two people who are not currently in public ministry, and that it has been reported by someone who has been proved a false witness for misrepresenting their own identity. I would therefore urge bloggers, indeed all Christians, to avoid repeating or giving any credence to this information. The name of Todd’s lady friend has I think never been revealed by any reliable source. And in the absence of any verifiable evidence to the contrary everyone should accept Todd’s own statement that the inappropriate relationship between him and her started in July 2008.

Recession Epiphany

Dave Faulkner, a Methodist minister in my home town of Chelmsford (but we have met only very briefly), writes an interesting post for the feast of Epiphany (today), about the recession and what the church can learn from it. He suggests that the companies which are failing at the moment are marked by vision which is either too broad (Woolworths) or too narrow (Waterford Wedgwood).

He characterises Woolworths as

Something of a hotch-potch in recent years, doing several things reasonably but none of them well.

And that makes them sound like many churches. They try to do this, that and everything, because X, Y and Z are all things that a church should supposedly do, but they overstretch themselves and do few of them well.

By contrast, Waterford Wedgwood are in trouble because

Who’s buying bone china tea services any more? …

All of which implies for me that a company like Wedgwood has had too narrow a vision. … And maybe that too has been a problem in many churches. … I’m not arguing for some corporate-style approach to vision and mission statements, but I am saying that a time of crisis is one that should make us remember the basics of why we exist.

If companies are to succeed in a time of recession, they need a clear vision and focus which needs to be for what their customers need. And, in a time when many parts of the Christian church are in decline, if local congregations are to succeed they also need a clear vision and focus. If they continue to do just what they have always done, or try to do everything without focus, very likely they will not survive – although churches tend to fade away whereas companies suddenly collapse. But with the right vision and focus, truly given by God, even in these times churches can and will survive and grow.