Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Post-Lakeland "Outpouring" Hand Wringing, Part 357

I don't know about any of you, but I for one am tired of hearing Charisma Magazine J Lee Grady's grandiloquent proclamations about excess in the Charismatic and Pentecostal circuses that we call "church" and "revival" and then his inevitable calls for concern over how it will play in Peoria and in the Wall Street Journal, how it will turn our "movement" into chaos, how we need to pray for God's grace to cover it all and turn it around.

This dramatic kind of editorializing just isn't very convincing any more coming from him. He acts like its Breaking News that "we are gullible" on the basis of what an unnamed Charismatic leader says about Charismatics believing the shtick of the Antichrist if he shows up.

J. Lee Grady is concerned about the recent debacle that occurred in central Florida when the so-called "Lakeland Outpouring", a nightly series of Charismatic revival services that took place in various venues there, suddenly took a tragic dive into ill repute. The lead "revivalist" Todd Bentley's sincere yet frenzied and at times violent ministry involved imbalanced and even bizarre doctrines and practices, coming forth in the midst of high powered praise and worship music ministry nightly.

At the core of it was Bentley's claims of having gifts of healing as well as prophetic authority to "impart" spiritual callings and exhortations that would give divine direction, restoration and renewal to those seeking God's grace. Hundreds of thousands from all over the world flocked to the meetings for a jolting encounter with a God, many hoping Bentley's transferable "anointing" could fill them like human NiCads with spiritual power that could be tapped all over the world to bring "revival" all over the world.

That was the End Time Plan of God, it was shouted from the Florida rooftops, but it all came to a rather abrupt stop when it became known that Bentley had engaged in an incident of "non sexual" marital infidelity with a female member of his ministry staff and that his wife Shonnah, having apparently weathered a similar incident in the past, had come to end of her patience with her husband and left Florida to return back to Canada with their three young children. Apparently, a separation had begun and Bentley knew that the story was about to break .. so there suddenly came a call from God to "turn the revival back" to the Ignited Church in Lakeland, under Stephen Strader's pastoral leadership, from where it started.

And then suddenly, the news broke .. shock turned to bewilderment. Bentley disappeared into the private circles of friends and the meetings he planned to hold around North America and England began to get cancelled. From venues filled with thousands, the "outpouring" now barely pulls seventy or so people a night. And the inevitable confusion, pain, sorrow, anger and disillusion has now cast yet another shadow across the hearts and minds of the "full gospel" segments of the Body of Christ .. and J. Lee Grady's unidentified pastor friend suddenly and tartly observes how gullible Charismatics and Pentecostals might seem to be.

Hello? What? The Spirit-filled Christian is gullible? Whoo, that's a really deep insight. Thanks for the hot tip, J. Lee. Many of the cultists we meet and speak with were former tongue talking church members. Gullible you say? What else don't we know about the Charismatic and Pentecostal galactic cluster?

That we need to be praying for the implosion of this "revival" and what it's done adversely in the spiritual and personal lives of far too many people is definite. That God's grace moved, as He always does, to touch people seeking Him for healing and deliverance quite APART from the lunacy that traipsed across the stages there is undeniable. That the Charismatic and Pentecostal movement just got another black eye because of the confusion, inconsistency, false doctrine and general carnality of this "move of the Spirit" is beyond question.

But for Grady to infer that Christianity itself hangs in the balance because a stout little Canadian Charismatic firecracker revivalist who had the ear of the church as he lost his priorities and is reaping what he's sown, that's just completely out of touch with the reality. To hear him wring his hands over and over about how we "might" have missed something here is eminently laughable. He hangs out with the Christian charismatic celebrity strata too much and believes their self-proclaimed adprint too easily .. plenty of room in Charisma itself was made the past few months for those Gullible Christians to freely imbibe the poison-laced kool aid this revival has been dispensing.

Bentley's delusional belief that revival will come "when all the streams" come together was nothing less than a vaguely magickal, almost pagan belief .. like the assembling of Power Rangers to join together in some spiritual critical mass to sweep the planet clear of sin, sickness and need. This got more play in Charisma and on GodTV then ever before .. and now, J. Lee is concerned?

As mi abuelo would mutter .. "iAy chihuahua!"

It's only become what it's become because J Lee and Charisma seem to defer to media guides, the buzz on the street and the religiosity of the church when they start to report on the Next New Thing - not the Bible (gee, remember that?) They are as bent towards making too much room for the marvelous and the miraculous then it should be in the church. Grady sounds like he sees what's going down but then just refuses to believe that it could become as spiritually toxic as it can get. The rest of Charisma's editorial staff are credulous people who simply refuse to learn from the history of the Pentecostal and Charismatic worlds, nor from the fact that sign-chasing Evangelical culture that likes armchair religion was a Biblically foretold reality Christ and the apostles warned us about again and again.

Every point Grady made in his massive missive has been echoed in Christian circles during the past hot summer months .. as well as in many other quarters in the Body of Christ. None of this was news to us, except perhaps the final failure of Todd to keep his house in order. There's no way that Ignited Church and Pastor Steven Strader could not have known about that fundamental imbalance in this situation. I only saw Shonnah Bentley on stage perhaps one time and she did not appear to be terribly interested in what was going on. There was a pall over her that I noted and said nothing about. Now it seems there was a reason - click here to read a post I did on how Bentley's sorry state has been turned into an apologetic for the spiritual wackiness that his apostolic and prophetic tribe engage in with little concern with Biblical fidelity but an utter passion to cover for each other.

It's hard to believe Strader and company, whose history has never been one of great discernment to begin with, couldn't have known of what was going on. That's a crock. Grady makes a big deal about "where were the Godly leaders" who preached out against error. THEY WERE OUT THERE! They WERE speaking out! J Lee just wasn't listening closely enough. How out of touch can he be?

And I'm not talking about the Reformed and Baptist critics who drive home their cessationist blather on the World Wide Web. The Godly leaders included a whole host of anonymous Charismatic and Pentecostal pastors and ministers who only wanted truth upheld and God's glory in it all, but sadly, many more thousands of their tribe who weren't discerning fanned the flames and hyped the lie. They were on many an online bulletin boards. They blogged. They had news spots. They were in the media. They were challenged by atheists on YouTube and hard questions at the workplace. They had innumerable debates in Bible studies, over cups of coffee at a small group study, in Christian book stores, in the church mother's living room .. etc. Godly leadership DID speak up and immature and/or rebellious members refused to hear!

Why is this news to him? WHY? It's because Grady is out of touch with the discerning church and acts as if his "discovery" of the inconsistencies of these imbalanced ministries were the uncovering of breaking news.

And the Lakeland crowds came out of as much as a desire to be touched by God as they were bored, sign-chasing lemmings who ignored any calls for discernment and actually despised those who raised questions as jealous spiritual losers, hypocrites and Pharisees. They plugged their ears up, spoke loudly in tongues and set their cars on cruise control down I-75. Some of them received from God because He is merciful and gracious to His children. Most, I suspect, did not come away with what they are looking for. Thousands in wheelchairs came and went without being healed. Thousands with terrible personal problems, besetting sins, inner woundings came and had a long hard cry and "the warm thrill" of emotional catharsis with a Bam sticker affixed to it .. and left the way the came.

What really is amazing is how quickly Grady now dismisses the "revival" as past news, as an unpleasantly checkered history you don't want to think about. Thanks to Grady, that's probably pretty much is the death kiss for it now. Only the die hards and those who haven't heard that Todd is elsewhere creating his new cottage revival industry and not in Lakeland are going to be coming. See, Bentley's movement is still moving, though with nowhere near the energy it once had. Grady seems to fail to realize that Bentley's ministry interns still preach and teach and worship back where it all "started," at Ignited Church.

That's makes me want to say "Wait a second? Wasn't this Lakeland thing going to be a new Azusa that would decisively impact the ages to come? Aren't special guests from all over the world going to come? Won't Rodney Howell Browne show up eventually? It's over?" Man, how inconsequential the Move of the Spirit now seems to be .. when we thought it wasn't about Todd .. but that it was all about GOD.

Let's see how much money GodTV spends streaming the services of young Apostle Humptyscrunch from Sheboygan, Wisconsin and see if the Psalmista Heather will be there to prop up the obligatory sacrifice of praise hour with more James Bond Girl moves before he gets under the lights to scream in a mike about the book of Joel and intimacy with God like intimacy with his second wife.

The real drama is ongoing right now and completely off Grady's radar screen. The real dramatics are taking place daily as Christian pastors and church leaders who didn't run away with the madness of Lakeland and who strove to maintain and uphold balance now have to deal with the personal carnage many Christians have been impacted by by this mess. The real challenges come when they have to help those gullible Christians deal with the personal impact of a cancer that remained or a heartache over a sexual abuse they suffered as a child that they still feel which didn't go away after a BAM Session. Or when a Lakeland bewitched board member of their church demands that they start having Friday Night Lights with a Bentleyite and open the community up to the River that THEY will make sure flows there.

I wonder where Grady's concern is about THAT issue and just how much substantial coverage that this will be given .. We already know GodTV isn't going to be airing any special webcast for that painful little reality.

If J Lee really cares about the gullibility of the children of light, he needs to start getting authors and speakers and conventions going about Biblical doctrine and discernment, as well as workshops done to help the victims of "revival" get the help they DESPERATELY need. I will watch Charisma to see if they can help undo the damage they've helped to do but I won't hold my breath.

And the band played on ..

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Why Spiritwatch Ministries does what it does ..

It's been a while since I last posted here and for that I'm sorry. Life and ministry beyond web based efforts never stops.

But the endtime apostacy hasn't gotten any better, of course .. and as I restart and hopefully redouble our blog input here, let me just share with you a video that illustrates pretty well why our ministry does what it does ..

There still is a difference between the holy and unholy, the profane and the pure.

The challenge today still remains as it always has - how to tell that difference.
At one time, making such determinations seemed easier, but in the unimaginably vast diversity of modern society, it's far easier to become deceived by any one with a good story and a few testimonials to what seems to be life-changing truth. The endless parade of fringe groups, movements and leaders of a variety of societal ideologies advancing compelling and yet deceptively unorthodox ideas never stops. In a free world, that's to be expected and if anything, it is escalating ..

As has been said so well before, anyone who wants to believe the moon is made of green cheese is welcome to it. But those who unethically, abusively and intentionally deceive others into thinking the moon is made of green cheese should be called out on the carpet and their deeds exposed.
We've seen and continue to hear from too many people whose lives are testimonies to the tender mercies they've encountered at the heavy hands of corrupt spiritual leaders dictating an authoritarian doctrine in the name of God which they've used to control and destroy human life all around the world. And again, that's what at the heart of what we call the endtime apostacy, and I intend to have a post out on that to better explain what we mean when we use this term.
Jesus Christ in Matthew 24 said that there would be false Christs who would arise before His own coming:

These are just a few of the more obvious blasphemies .. and we'll tackle a few more of these in our next post.