Todd Bentley: From Restoration to Resurrection Power

In March I reported that Todd Bentley is coming to Dudley, England in July, to minister at Trevor Baker’s Revival Fires venue – which is very much smaller than the NEC to which Revival Fires invited Todd in 2008, before his marriage breakup. But when I wrote in March, and indeed until quite recently, this year’s visit had been announced on Todd’s website but not at the Revival Fires one. There was also no mention of it in the Revival Fires magazine Summer 2011 issue. I can’t help wondering if this was because Trevor is no longer as enthusiastic about Todd as he was in 2008.

But now, I see, this visit has been put on the Revival Fires conferences page, indeed at the top of the page as it is now their next conference. And apparently Trevor and his Revival Fires team will be ministering together with Todd, so they are not just letting him use their venue. More details are given on the page, including the conference title:

From Restoration to Resurrection Power 2011 with Todd Bentley

21 – 23 July 2011, £10 registration per person. Session times are Thu & Fri at 7.30pm and Sat at 10.30am, 2pm, 3.30pm and 7.30pm. Evening meetings are open to all. Held at the ARC.

Todd BentleyCome join with us as Todd shares his process of restoration, which will be followed by resurrection power! Do you want to see the curse of sin, sickness, disease, death and poverty broken? Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1) and you can know resurrection power in every area of your life. …

This looks like being an interesting conference. I would like to hear Todd sharing about his process of restoration. It’s not far from our home, but I’m not sure if my wife and I will be free to go.

Todd Bentley is coming to Dudley, England in July

Todd Bentley at LakelandI was interested to find, when researching for my post Whatever happened to Todd Bentley?, that not only has Todd resumed an international public ministry under the Fresh Fire name, but he has also announced a visit to Dudley here in England, on 21st to 24th July 2011. Fresh Fire writes:

This is not a conference. It’s a gathering of the Hungry & Thirsty from across the United States to see the OUTPOURING of the Holy Spirit and the Glory of God burning over our entire state. Bring the lost, bring the sick, bring those who are hungry and thirsty. Sound the Alarm, it’s time!

I guess this has been copied from the publicity for Todd’s US tour without being edited to be appropriate for England.

The venue announced is the home of Revival Fires, whose leader Trevor Baker invited Todd to England in 2008, but as yet there is nothing about this at their website. My wife and I recently attended a conference at Revival Fires, led by Lance Wallnau – audio recording of at least a part of this available.

There are of course a number of issues related to Todd Bentley’s return to public ministry, which I look at in my other post.

Raised with Christ: Review part 6

Sorry for some delay to the continuation of this series. I have been busy blogging on other matters, both here and at Better Bibles Blog.

As I write part 6 of this review of Adrian Warnock’s book Raised with Christ, which I started herepart 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, I note Adrian’s report that the book has now been launched in the UK, although not all Christian bookshops yet have it in stock.

In chapter 11 of the book Adrian writes that in response to the resurrection we Christians should let ourselves be transformed to live holy lives, not to earn salvation but in response to it.

By gazing on the resurrected Jesus we will be transformed and will find that Jesus himself is at work within us, changing our appetites and desires. (p.148)

Our biggest problem is that we do not see Jesus as he is. (p.149)

Adrian argues that how we should see him is not still as the one suffering on the cross but as the resurrected one. He continues by looking at the two picture of the risen Christ in Revelation chapters 1 and 19. As we see him as he is, the appropriate reaction is “reverence, awe and wonder” (p.156), but not terror, because we belong to him.

In chapter 12 Adrian moves on from the individual to the corporate, and discusses revival, times when “the church seems to be resurrected from a state of near-deadness” (p.160). He writes that “Today we do not speak much about revival” (p.160). That may be true in his circles, but in some of the circles I move in there is never-ending talk about revivals – history of past ones, rumours of present ones, and hopes of future ones. So it is interesting to see Adrian’s take on this matter. For him

Revival is nothing more than a wide-scale outworking of Jesus’ resurrection power. … “a powerful intensification by Jesus of the Holy Spirit’s normal activity.” … the Spirit of revival is always available to us. Thus, when a revival comes, we should recognize it as a greater manifestation of normal Christianity. (p.161, quoting Stuart Piggin with Adrian’s emphasis)

If we experience personal revival and it begins to spread, then, history suggests, church growth will result. (p.162)

In other words, revival is not something exceptional which we should just long for, but is what should come about if we as Christians are individually revived and live in the light of that. Adrian illustrates his point from stories of revival in Acts and in church history. He also points out that

Today, from a global perspective, we are seeing the largest revival the world has ever seen. (p.166)

He remembers how as a teenager he was involved in a mini-revival which I was also on the edge of, and which I talked about in one of my first posts here. He avoids commenting on controversial recent “revivals” in North America, with effects around the world, such as the Toronto Blessing and the Lakeland outpouring. But he does agree with the expectation of many of those who talk about revival today:

There is biblical warrant to optimistically expect a global end time revival before Jesus returns. (p.167)

This leads Adrian into chapter 13, “Reviving Prayer”, which he calls “potentially the most important chapter in this whole book.” (p.169) He recognises how revival always follows special seasons of prayer – but Christians are expected to do God’s work as well as pray.

However, I was a little concerned at Adrian’s suggestion that some particular kind of prayer will produce revival, and that the prayers of Elijah, as commended in James 5:16-18, are the best model for that. Certainly there is a lot to be learned from what Adrian has to say about Elijah at prayer, but I’m not sure why he links this to revival. Also he fails to recognise that 1 Kings 17:1 is a record that Elijah “prayed fervently that it might not rain”, that this kind of declaration in God’s name is a part of prayer. Perhaps, applying to revival what I concluded here, if our prayers were a little less “Please, God, send revival, if it is your will” and a bit more “As the Lord lives there will be revival” (at least if we have heard from God that this is his intention), we might see a bit more of the revival.

In chapter 14, “God’s Reviving Word”, Adrian finishes the part of his book about revival with a look at how God speaks today, primarily through preaching and by speaking personally through his written word. Adrian’s emphasis on how God’s word is alive is a welcome contrast to the picture which sometimes comes out of the Reformed camp, of the Bible as a collection of lifeless propositional truths to be analysed and synthesised into a sound theology. Adrian illustrates his understanding with a selection of verses from Psalm 119. He concludes with:

We must learn to feast on God’s Word and to drink in his presence through prayer. If we want to be connected to the power made available to us through Jesus’ resurrection, God’s Word and prayer are the most effective tools we can use to access that power. (p.194)

Continued in part 7.

Benny Hinn is being divorced

People are searching my blog for news about televangelist Benny Hinn’s divorce. I wrote about Benny before, here, but with no mention of divorce. But if people are looking here for news, I will give them some, second hand …

The BBC and the British newspapers have not yet found this worthy of reporting, so I am reliant on the US newspapers, via Google News and also through a link I found from a tweet by Rich Tatum (seen through Facebook) to the story as reported by the LA Times blog.

The Washington Post has more details than the LA Times and some response from Benny’s camp, so I will quote part of its report:

The wife of televangelist Benny Hinn has filed for divorce from the high-profile pastor, whose reputation as an advocate of prosperity gospel has attracted millions of followers and criticism from lawmakers and watchdog groups over his lavish lifestyle.

Suzanne Hinn filed the papers in Orange County Superior Court on Feb. 1, citing irreconcilable differences, after more than 30 years of marriage. The papers note the two separated on Jan. 26 and that Hinn has been living in Dana Point, a wealthy coastal community in southern Orange County.

“Pastor Benny Hinn and his immediate family were shocked and saddened to learn of this news without any previous notice,” Benny Hinn Ministries said Thursday in a statement. “Although Pastor Hinn has faithfully endeavored to bring healing to their relationship, those efforts failed and were met with the petition for divorce that was filed without notice.”

This is of course very sad, and reminiscent of the high profile divorce of Todd Bentley a couple of years ago. In this case there is no suggestion that any other woman, or man, was involved. Very likely the main underlying issue is that the high pressure work of a modern American evangelist is incompatible with a normal family life.

Believing the words of a donkey

I remember hearing a folk tale from Central Asia, about a well known character called Molla Nasraddin, which went something like this:

One day Molla Nasraddin’s neighbour knocked on his door. “Molla, may I borrow your donkey”, he asked. “I’m sorry, but no”, replied Molla, “my donkey isn’t here.” Just then they both heard a loud “Hee-haw, hee-haw” from Molla’s back yard. “Shame on you, Molla!”, said the neighbour, “You lied to me!” “Shame on you, neighbour”, retorted Molla, “for believing the words of my donkey and not my words!”

I was reminded of this story by a post by David Matthias at The Road to “Elder” Ado, Dudley Outpouring on the BBC, and by the subsequent discussion in the comments. I had already seen this BBC programme (which has probably now disappeared from iPlayer) as my attention had been drawn to it by a comment here at Gentle Wisdom, to which I replied twice.

The issue I take with David’s post, and all the more with the comments on it by Eutychus, is the way that they seem to put more store by the words of the sceptical BBC presenter than by those of the respected Christian leader Trevor Baker. David makes it clear that he believes Trevor’s claims; Eutychus seems to imply the opposite, as I explained in the following comment which I repeat in full here because it has not yet been approved:

Eutychus, sorry if I misrepresented you. I accept that you didn’t exactly suggest that anyone was lying.

But you did criticise the fact that “people automatically assume the reliability of what others tell them”, which implies that you expect people to be sceptical of what others say. That is not a specific accusation of lying, but it does imply that you think that some Christians do lie about such things. The context in which you write suggests that you have Trevor Baker in mind.

Also you DID summarise your position on healing: “it’s become my casual opinion that healing, along with other spiritual gifts, genuinely occurs in christian contexts …”

We can agree on this last point (although not on the continuation of your sentence). So suppose that you, or I, do at some stage witness a notably miraculous healing. We are sure enough of it that we want to tell others of it, to glorify God and bring them to seek him. But we do not have medically verified proof of the healing, or perhaps we do have it but not permission to make it public. Should we keep quiet? If so, why? Only in an attempt to placate scoffers?

So, do we believe the words of a donkey, or of an unbelieving television presenter whose understanding of Christian healing ministry seems about as profound as a donkey’s? After all, as Jesus recognised (Luke 16:31), people like her will not be convinced by any amount of evidence, even if someone rises from the dead in front of their eyes. Or do we believe the words of our Christian brothers and sisters, unless we have good evidence on which to doubt them?

Yes, God can speak through the words of a donkey. He did once, to Balaam, and thereby, in the apostle Peter’s words, “restrained the prophet’s madness” (2 Peter 2:16 TNIV, cf. Numbers 22:28-30). So maybe he will indeed speak to us even through the words of sceptics.

But Peter went on to write that “in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires” (2 Peter 3:3 TNIV). The apostle warns his readers not to listen to their scoffing, and writes that he is writing to them

to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. 2 I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Saviour through your apostles.

2 Peter 3:1-2 (TNIV)

The words we should ordinarily listen to are not those of the scoffers, but of the biblical authors and of Jesus himself.

Benny Hinn, blessedness, and Benedict

Doug Chaplin seems to rejoice that, as reported by Ruth Gledhill, the preacher Benny Hinn was not able to enter Britain yesterday, because of the technicality that he did not have the required letter of invitation. In the process Doug writes that

you can hardly call the selling of asking of donations in return for miracles a religious activity.

Well, in that case I trust that Doug is immediately going to stop asking for donations, by passing round a collection plate or whatever, at any services of the Eucharist. After all, at least according to his “Catholic” doctrine, the central point of the Eucharist is the “miracle” of the bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Christ. Either that or he should stop claiming to be a minister of religion leading a “religious activity”.

Here is the comment I made on Doug’s post:

Does your church pass round a collection bag or in other ways solicit donations at religious gatherings? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye before complaining about others who do just the same.

Maybe this comment is not quite “Gentle Wisdom”, but I hope Doug knows me well enough to take the word “Hypocrite” as friendly banter.

However, my point is a serious one. What is the real difference between Doug, a stipendiary (I assume) priest of the Church of England, living on money from worshippers and Benny Hinn doing the same? Is the difference just the large amount of such money received by Benny (short for Benedictus, “blessed”)? Are the complaints fuelled by a hint of jealousy about his private jet? Or is the real issue that Anglo-Catholics like Doug and Ruth do not believe that the blessed Benny’s message and miracle ministry are genuinely Christian? In that case they should say so straight out and not pretend that this is a matter of asking for money.

Personally I don’t like Benny Hinn’s style. I also have serious issues with how both he and very often the Church of England seem more interested in taking people’s money than anything else. And although I do believe his ministry is genuinely Christian, although like any preacher’s not perfect, I would defend his right to preach it wherever he wants to. But of course that does not make him immune to border formalities.

I would say just the same about another Benedictus clothed in white expected to visit the UK next year. I hope someone remembers to give the Pope the right letter of invitation.

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.

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:


Tominthebox gives news of Todd Bentley

Tominthebox News Network announces in its usual satirical style that Todd Bentley is returning to revival ministry, but using a “Probationary Podium” to keep his feet on the ground!

One thing in this report does seem to be true: the Lakeland Outpouring has officially ended, just over six months after it started in April. Ignited Church in Lakeland kept the nightly meetings going in their own building even after Todd left in August. But their website now says:

Welcome to the Ignited Church, the epicenter of the Lakeland Outpouring. It began April 2, 2008, and continued through October 12, 2008.