As he has just returned from a trip to visit the revival in Lakeland Florida, I asked Jason Ellsworth to comment on a recent article written by J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine (click here to read the article). Following is Jason's excellent reponse. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. -Bob Edwards
First and foremost I want to communicate that God is on the move in Lakeland. Many people are being healed daily. There is great inspiration and encouragement in the body. Leaders from churches around the world are flocking to Lakeland to “catch the fire” and are seeing God do significant things back home in their churches. I would encourage mature believers to go and soak up what God is doing.
Comments on Lee Grady’s article: I think that Grady has made very valid observations. It’s a good article, written to help pastor those visiting the Lakeland services.
Most people ask me, "Do you think it's real?"
I think God is genuinely moving in Lakeland and through Todd Bentley. I am very aware of the propensity to hype, manipulate crowds on some level. I think we would be naive not to recognize this. One thing I did not see there was someone pastoring what was happening. I wish that there were people in authority helping steward this move of God. At the same time, I don't believe that the lack of pastoring is the end of the world any more than I think the inclusion of hype mixed with a real move of God is going to nullify the God's work.
I grew up in Pentecost and I saw lots of hype, manipulation, and poor pastoring and yet I am the product of all of that mixed with the pastoring of the Holy Spirit in my own life. I think God is willing to use weird people, immature people, and fleshly people to do his work. I pray that these people mature and grow into this calling. I pray that Todd learns to pastor the revival more. In the end I am confident that the Holy Spirit will pastor our hearts and mature us through all of this.
I also think maybe God chose Todd (in all his immaturity), because he knew Todd would be willing to break through a lot of things other men would hesitate around.
I also realize this... We can embrace the power of God and the move of God, but we don't have to do ministry like Todd Bentley. I'm wired very different than Todd Bentley. I would dial down when he pumps it up. I would try to help encourage and love when he moves on to the next hungry soul without a second glance. My hope would be that God would deposit what He is releasing in Lakeland, FL in me and release this kind of power through my life... through my life, my lens, my calling, in the context of my style and my ministry.
As for Grady's warning against angels, I think the problem is not with the ministry of these angels (which I would suggest most of us have little revelation and authority on the subject). The problem may be with Todd’s immaturity in communicating to the masses. Todd definitely wants to glorify God not angels. But I imagine that he's walking in a grace where he's seeing and interacting with angels (very normal according to Biblical example) and because he's not sensitive to the masses he just blurts out things that are hard for those of us not walking in the same realm to swallow. Immaturity doesn't nullify God, but it can muddy the ministry. And Todd would do well to learn to move in this realm but make less of a show about it. Perhaps in the future we will become more accustomed to his reference to angels and we won’t pay so much attention to that aspect of this thing.
I don't think it's wrong to expect angelic involvement. (Many of us have been through phases in our lives where we were looking for demons around every corner.) We learn the balance in time. But it seems to me that most of God's supernatural work (through Biblical example) involves the ministry of angles. So, I'm very open to the ministry of Angels as they are used by the Father to work His will in the earth. They significant key is that we remain grounded in the Word, the Spirit and the Church.
As for highlighting the manifestations...
I'm even struggling with the idea of Big meetings and TV crews. I know God is using it to get the word out, but wouldn't it be cool if Todd just moved into a house in Lakeland. People could just come by and get healed or prayed for...
I'm not knocking Todd in how he deals with the manifestations. I obviously haven't had to deal with a significant amount of that stuff in my own ministry. But I remember that John Wimber would have people sit down in chairs for prayer because (he said), "there was nothing holy about falling down on the ground." If people manifest the Holy Spirit, let them, but we don't have to parade it on the stage. (good point Grady) However if it happens on the stage does that make it wrong? No. Again, I don’t hear too many stories about people reading Charisma Magazine in their living room and flailing around under the power of the Holy Spirit. This is something that God is releasing through Todd’s ministry. This is how Todd has learned to cope with it. Perhaps the best thing we can do is talk about it. When we discuss these things they can be put into proportion and demystified to some degree.
In addition one night, Bob Jones even mentioned that there was both Holy Manifestations and Demonic Manifestations occurring. He said that we should be aware that it's not all Jesus at work. Don't glorify the shaking and similar phenomenon. Glorify God when good comes from it.
Bob Jones made a great point. Something the leaders should take to heart more.
I think that leaders of churches would be wise to soak up what they can and encourage the release of God's power in their churches and in the lives of their congregants. But they should use their maturity (especially charismatic pastors that have lived through other moves of God and learned lessons) to pastor their people well. Like any move, if fostered well we could see great results and growth in the lives of our people. If not fostered well we could see people get hurt and burned out and be dealing with the scars for years.
I’m not prepared to speculate the long-term deposit this outbreak of the Holy Spirit will leave. However, through history God has consistently released outpourings of the Holy Spirit through individuals like Todd Bentley. A portion of people received what God was doing and the church leaped forward, revived and alive. Other segments of the church have ignored these outbreaks and remained static. They didn’t have to deal with the mess of the revival but they didn’t reap the benefits either.
Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, But much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.”
Oxen are messy. You’ve got to shovel up the poop! But they multiply the harvest greatly! I would encourage pastors and church leaders to embrace this move (even if you’ve been wounded in the past). Just be willing to pastor people through it!
Other observations about this outpouring:
It's not like Toronto or Brownsville. There's not the same weighty glory that was there. (However it may increase in time according to Bob Jones.) I did experience some of that glory sensation there. I felt it more than any other time in the past several years of my life but not with the intensity I had hoped for.
In the end, all the things worth criticizing are small in comparison to the greatness of God. There is nothing like watching people get healed from disease and hearing reports from doctors about the unexplainable miracles of God in their patients. That made the trip worth while! There are hundreds of people being healed each week. People with life-threatening cancers are being touched; returning home to their doctors to find out that there is no cancer in their bodies. People are getting up out of wheel chairs. Deaf ears are being opened. Vision is being restored. Complex nervous and blood disorders are miraculously reversed. I love this stuff! I left the Lakeland Revival with great hope, encouragement and inspiration! I am aware in both my intellect and my spirit that God is up to something great! I will continue to praise God for what He is doing there and around the world.
Let Your Kingdom come and Let Your will be done on the earth just like it is in Heaven!