Should errant Christian leaders be restored?

While I am taking a break from my series on Authority, power and rights in the New Testament, my near neighbour (at least from a global perspective, but we have never met) Sam Norton has started a series on a related topic: Does the priest have to be pure? In this he talks about the Donatists, whom I discussed here nearly two years ago. Sam gives an excellent explanation of why they were wrong to teach that the ministry of a Christian leader is invalidated by their personal sin.

This doesn’t mean that the sins of Christian leaders should simply be ignored. Unrepentant sinners like Michael Reid certainly should not be allowed to continue in ministry. But it does mean that those who fall should be allowed to repent and be restored, the process which was at least starting with Todd Bentley (but I haven’t kept up with that story) – and which the Donatists did not allow with the original traditores in late Roman times.

But this argument against the Donatists has its limitations in that it is not really applicable when a Christian leader not only falls into sin but also teaches that that sin is in fact right. This, arguably, is what many of the practising homosexuals in Anglican and other churches are doing: they are not only sinning (at least according to traditional biblical standards) but also teaching that what they are doing is right. But the argument against Donatism doesn’t mean that these people should be accepted, because unlike the traditores they are unrepentant.

Indeed the same can be said corporately of The Episcopal Church, which has this week demonstrated its lack of repentance over the Gene Robinson affair, as well as its contempt for the Archbishop of Canterbury, by approving the consecration of another practising homosexual bishop. This is a direct challenge to the rest of the Anglican Communion, which will renew the tensions which have brought it close to falling apart. But this teaching in effect approved by TEC is also rife in the Church of England.

I am now looking forward to the continuation of Sam Norton’s series. He promises to answer the question “what do we do when the priest isn’t pure?” In a comment I challenged him also to consider what happens when the priest is not “holding fast to the truth of the faith”. I hope he also applies these principles to the current situation in the church and the Communion in which he is a priest.

PS: I will not allow any comments here concerning Todd Bentley, unless they include significant and verifiable new information about him.

How not to burn out

Some good advice on how to avoid burnout, for Christian ministers everywhere when adjusted for their circumstances, indeed also for me – from someone who has been there and paid the price for it:

I can actually think of both moments, right, where I’ve burned out, or came close to burning out. I can think I was disconnected, in the sense of, you love God, you pray, your read your Bible, but I have a message tonight, I need to meet with Jesus so I have something for the people. And it gets away from “I just love you, Lord, here I am, like Mary sitting at your feet” which has been my message: the secret place, soaking, marinating. I mean… But sometimes the very message that you preach is the very thing God’s saying to you.

And then you get so caught up in the work of revival. I remember in Lakeland that the first six weeks of Lakeland I would set aside two to four hours before I would do anything else to wait on the Lord, or in the afternoons. And then you get so busy with all the appointments and media and all the work of revival. Pretty soon after the sixth week, you know, it dwindles down to “I’ve got a few moments here. God, what are we doing tonight?” And God still moved in power, God still moved in power. And you still love the Lord but you lose the preciousness of “I’m just here because I love you, and there is no agenda”.

And the very thing you are saying, you know, is “I may be going. Give me the twelve steps. Give me a goal. Give me…” But you’re right, God is saying to me “It’s about the rest, it’s about getting back to…” I built our ministry on that relationship. Of course I didn’t know there would be ministry, it was just I loved the Lord and out of that love for the Lord everything flowed. And I can think of both situations, you know, I just got disconnected from the Lord.

Todd Bentley, speaking on the latest video at Rick Joyner’s page of videos about Todd’s restoration, dated 27th March and entitled “Entering Rest” (starting at 03:57).

Later in the ten minute (starting at 9:11) Todd says:

I was so devoted to the work of the ministry. Ministry is not evil, but I got so caught up in the love of the work. That’s really what led, after ten years that’s what led to… there was no relationship left with Shonnah, with my first wife, there was none. And to me that was the biggest issue, was  the ministry became the mistress. And I never can have that happen again. I mean, that doesn’t mean I can’t have ministry and do ministry, but it has to be done different.

Good advice! May every minister of the gospel take it to heart.

More Rick Joyner videos on Todd Bentley's restoration

I wondered if Rick Joyner would keep up his promise to post weekly videos about the restoration process which he is leading for Todd Bentley. But he has done more than that: in the last week he has posted four new videos! These four, and the two earlier ones which I reported on here and here, are accessible from this page. Todd features personally only in the two most recent videos, because he was away from Rick’s centre spending time with Shonnah and the children.

In the first video, The Restoration Process & The Issue of Divorce, Rick speaks for 10 minutes about sin and restoration, especially in the context of divorce. He repeatedly states that he is not lowering biblical standards to condone divorce and remarriage. He makes it clear that sin is sin and needs to be repented of as such. He clearly has no intention of letting Todd get away with excuses for his behaviour. Instead he is looking for true repentance, which will open the way for God’s forgiveness and eventual restoration. Rick also clarifies that the restoration process will not be a quick one, that rumours that Todd will be returning to ministry in the near future are unfounded.

In the second video, Rick Addresses Lee Grady’s Charisma Article, again 10 minutes, Rick compares how Grady and Jesus respond to those they disagree with, and explains how Grady has strayed into areas where he has no authority as well as only partial information. The same advice should be heeded by any who make public negative comments about Todd or for that matter anyone else in public life. Of course Rick is himself making negative comments about a public figure, but note how gently and lovingly he does so.

The third video, Choosing Mercy over Judgement, 11 minutes, and the fourth, The Ministry of Reconciliation, much shorter at under 6 minutes, seem to go together in that both feature Bill Johnson as the main participant with Todd and Rick responding to them. I guess the videos were made together as all are in the same clothes. But the shorter one starts abruptly, and was posted four days later, suggesting that its first part had been edited out. I will not attempt to summarise Bill’s helpful messages. The most interesting thing that Todd says is that he had a good week with Shonnah and the kids, and was able to say sorry to Shonnah and reach a measure of reconciliation with her; but there are some concerns about her health. Oddly there was no mention at all of Todd’s new marriage and wife – but then the series is continuing.

As I will not continue to summarise or post links to each new video in this series as it comes out, I recommend anyone interested to subscribe, as I did, to e-mail notifications of new videos.

Good teaching for Todd Bentley on divorce and remarriage – on Facebook!

Among the many comments on my post about Todd Bentley’s remarriage there have been several questioning whether Todd had proper biblical grounds for divorcing his first wife Shonnah and contracting a new marriage with Jessa. I don’t want to defend Todd’s actions here, especially as he himself has admitted that what he did was wrong. But I do want to say that it is by no means as clear as some suggest that Todd’s new marriage should be called adultery. This is because the biblical teaching on divorce and remarriage is not as simple and clear-cut as some people seem to think.

I wanted to point my readers to the teaching on this matter of David Instone-Brewer, who is a research fellow at Tyndale House, the evangelical research centre in Cambridge. Unfortunately Instone-Brewer’s main website about divorce and remarriage is out of action at the moment, possibly only a temporary glitch. But I did find a link to a summary of his teaching, at a site called Playmobible which, amazingly enough, uses cartoons in Facebook photo albums to summarise Instone-Brewer’s teaching! I’m not sure if this is an example of Facebook being smart for once or of Facebook dumbing down even Bible teaching.

Anyway, I would recommend those of my readers who think they can easily condemn Todd Bentley for his remarriage to look at the album of teaching on The Four Biblical Causes of Divorce and the one on Roman Divorce. Don’t miss the notes underneath many of the images. These albums are not produced by Instone-Brewer but are endorsed by him. It would of course be better still to look at Instone-Brewer’s main site, but sadly that is currently not possible.

So, according to Instone-Brewer’s teaching, is Todd Bentley’s divorce and remarriage permissible? I would claim that it is on the grounds that he was apparently deserted by his first wife; he has been deprived of his marital rights and so can go free, according to the teaching of Exodus 21:10-11 at least if allowed to apply to men as well as women. Of course if Shonnah left Todd because of his adultery, that would be a different matter. But I have never seen any convincing evidence that Todd ever had sexual intercourse with a woman he was not married to. So, while Todd has admitted to mistakes in how he handled the matter, I cannot agree with many of my commenters that he has actually committed adultery or should be treated as if he has.

In the circumstances Todd should be allowed to start his new married life in peace, and to go through the proper restoration process which has already started before returning to public Christian ministry.

By the way, don’t treat too seriously this comment I made on the Lingamish blog.

Todd Bentley interviewed on video by Rick Joyner

Todd Bentley has appeared for the first time since he left Lakeland, I think, in a 12 minute video interview with Rick Joyner, posted at Rick’s website. This is promised to be the first of a weekly series. This is part of the restoration process which Todd has now begun.

Todd starts by expressing his primary concern for his children. He refers without acrimony to Shonnah as his ex-wife, and only in passing to his new wife Jessa. He notes that the “process” of parting from Shonnah has been going on for years, and has nothing to do with Lakeland. He agrees with Shonnah when she says she is sorry for “the way the public won’t move on when we have”. To that public Todd says:

I want to say I’m sorry for the pain, the hurt I have caused you…  I’ve been repenting and I want to repent and say to the church “I’m sorry”.

Rick points out that he bases his efforts to restore Todd on the command in Galatians 6:1.

Also I just found a long article about Todd’s remarriage at the website of Charisma Magazine.

Todd Bentley has remarried, probably

It would appear that Todd Bentley has now married Jessa Hasbrook, apparently the “woman whom he had extramarital affair with”. This is reported by Rick Hiebert at the Shotgun blog of the Western Standard, an apparently reliable source, as well as other more dubious sources which I will not link to. I do not endorse all the comments reported in this post. But I will keep an eye open for Rick Joyner’s response.

Please, no comments which simply condemn Todd and Jessa. I will expect good arguments for any positive or negative assessments of the situation.

UPDATE: A new article by Rick Joyner confirms this news, and also announces that Todd has now started his restoration process. Please read this article; I have nothing to add to it except my prayers.

Rick Joyner on unity and restoration

I have had to reject several recent comments on my posts about Todd Bentley, because they contain unsubstantiated allegations against Todd and others. My policy is to reject such comments as a matter of principle, and also because they might get me into trouble with libel lawyers. Among those who have persistently tried to breach this rule is a certain Susan. But I should thank her for giving me a link, in a comment I rejected as explained here, to a new article by Rick Joyner.

In this article Rick Joyner writes first about unity:

One reason there has been so much division in the church is because we have tried to unify around too much. The nation of Israel was only required to be in unity on two basic matters—worship and warfare. They were to worship Jehovah together in the manner and place He had prescribed, and they were to always be ready to mobilize and defend any of the other tribes that were attacked.

If the church would live by this same wisdom, her power, authority, size, wealth, and impact would multiply quickly. When we discuss being in unity about worship, we need to steer clear of the nuances that the Lord has given us liberty in, such as the style of music. However, we do need to be in unity about Who we worship and how complying with the biblical standards and teachings on morality, integrity, and other basics that should be common to all Christians. The Moravians stated the following: “In the basics there must be unity. In the other matters there must be liberty, and in all things there must be charity.”

As far as warfare is concerned, as Christians we should always be ready to mobilize with other believers to defend any of our brothers or sisters, or other churches, who are attacked. Presently, this is quite rare, but the times that I have seen it happen have resulted in a bonding together of believers in a special, powerful, and lasting way.

Amen! But how often we see Christians attacking rather than defending one another! This is my point in joining the “Religious North”.

Rick goes on to explain how he got started on his ministry of restoring fallen Christian leaders, when he was prompted by a dream to offer help to Jim Bakker. To Rick this is an example of how “as Christians we should always be ready to mobilize with other believers to defend any of our brothers or sisters”. So he writes:

It was for this same reason that when the situation with Todd Bentley happened and I was asked to help restore him, I did not hesitate. I was warned by some that helping Jim Bakker would cost me and my ministry very dearly, and it may have with some, but the favor of God is worth much more than the favor of all men. I know Todd has asked what I expect to get out of helping him, wondering why I would want to when it seems the whole church    is mad at him, but the dream the Lord gave me over twenty years ago is still as real to me right now as when I first woke up after having it. I’m not here to build a ministry—I’m here to do God’s will, but I also know the church will never be trusted by God or men until we have His heart for restoration. When the world sinned, turned away from Him, and fell into terrible debauchery, the Lord did not condemn it—He came and gave His own life to save it. Those who have His heart will do the same for those in trouble.

Again, Amen! But sadly some people (who I won’t link to) have used this article as an excuse to attack their Christian brother Rick. Well, following Rick’s teaching, I at least am ready to defend him, and Todd, when they are attacked.

Meanwhile, while I am again on the subject of Todd, there is an interesting update from Fresh Fire, dated 23rd January and also found thanks to Susan, which announces the return to ministry of Shonnah Bentley! She and her son Elijah will be visiting Fresh Fire’s Uganda Jesus Village in the spring. There is also in this announcement the following interesting, and in part surprising, news:

The first news item that we wish to bring to your attention is that Todd Bentley has resigned from his involvement with Fresh Fire Ministries Canada and will continue a process of restoration under the capable leadership of Rick Joyner and his association. Because Todd founded Fresh Fire Ministries, we feel it appropriate and honorable to give FFM’s name to him to use as he chooses when he starts ministering again in the future. We here at FFM are in the process of changing our name to reflect our present and future focus as we continue with the God-given mandate for this ministry. Check back with us soon to see our new name, logo and image.

So FFM is clearing the way for Todd to be restored to ministry and return with a new Fresh Fire organisation. It will be interesting to see how this works out.

"The Revolutionary Christ has been disguised as a moral policeman"

These words were written by Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy in 1919, but could have been written about the church today (thanks to Phil Groom for the quote, taken out of his context):

the Christianity which should have turned the world upside down has been turned into a method of keeping it as it is and meekly accepting its wrong-side-upness as the discipline of Almighty God. The Revolutionary Christ has been disguised as a moral policeman.

Sadly too many people, when confronted with preachers of “The Revolutionary Christ”, respond as moral police officers. Let the readers of my Todd Bentley posts understand. But this is not about him, it is about what has been wrong with the church for at least a century and still is today.

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.

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.