**This is what I wrote just before the news broke that Todd Bentley and his wife are probably going to get divorced**
Well, I saw Todd Bentley the other night.
Shane Claiborne calls this type of thing "spiritual masturbation." It feels good for a second, but doesn't really produce anything.
It used to come down to the miracles for me: if they're real, then something's going on and we shouldn't squelch it. It no longer means anything to me whether or not anyone is getting healed in the revivals.
Why doesn't it matter? Because even if every single healing is genuine, the thinking behind what is happening at the revivals is cancerous to Biblical faith. Absent is the gospel of Jesus Christ effecting transformation in followers. Absent is the Jesus of the Gospels. The Jesus who takes up his cross on my behalf. Who demands that if will be his follower, I will do the same. The Jesus whose greatest command is "love each other," and who demonstrates that love by being publicly stripped of dignity, denounced as a charlatan and a phony and a failure, appearing a helpless loser, getting his body torn to shreds, and in the end still praying "Father forgive them..."
Here, I need Jesus, but I also REALLY need to be in the presence of Todd Bentley. I need to come under the anointing. I need the revival to fall on me. I need "the fire." I need to believe everthing I'm told. I need to give money to the ministry(cliche, over-spiritualized pleading and promises of tenfold reward included in the price. Verbatim quote- "Maybe you'll write one check for $100,000!!!")I need to experience a healing miracle. I need to fall over. I need to be on that stage, I need him to touch me and say "bam," I need to listen to him posture around the stage and proclaim to large crowds the huge success of his ten-year healing ministry.
Evidently it's still a big secret for many that just because you say Jesus' name all the time doesn't mean you have the real Jesus in mind. There, I've let the cat out of the bag. Looks like the Christian music industry has some serious housecleaning to do. Let me say it again for emphasis, and for those who have not heretofore understand this very simple concept:
Just because you say Jesus' name all the time doesn't mean you have the real Jesus in mind.
"In mind." His first command in the book of Mark, Repent--change your mind, the way you think. Change your faulty, incorrect, small-picture, blinders-on, TV-conditioned, junk-food stupor induced, prescription drug fogged, Wal-Mart approved concept of who God is into a concept that is shaped by the Jesus of the New Testament.
In Todd's gatherings, there is no cross, no Gospel, no love of enemies, strangers, poor, helpless, and rejected, no forsaking of wealth(unless it's to unload all your cash into the ministry's coffers), no rejection of empire, no death to self, no transformation of the inner being. Implicit or explicit. Just the glitz and hype that America desperately needs to satiate its incredible appetite for the Next Big Thing. Wealth, religion, media and the illusion of safety and security failed to give us what we wanted, so now we're trying emotionalized circuses with rockstar ministers upon whom we're told our hopes for healing/success/wealth/revival/spiritual progress depend.
The good fruit Jesus was looking for(and didn't find) on the fig tree would be the product of inner transformation, the absorption of the gospel into one's bones and marrow, the intimate knowing of the real Jesus, followed by sacrificial, self-emptying love for people that don't deserve it. That's quite a different recipe than super-spiritual talk and Christianese prayers aimed at instantly changing circumstances to secure the most enjoyable, healthy life we can think of.
Todd Bentley himself doesn't really bother me. He's just another guy that got it wrong. I am however, extremely disgusted at the church culture that produced him. To produce real disciples, one needs to stick to the real Jesus. The real church is very simply, directly, repeatedly described by Jesus himself. So simply that it's a wonder there's still even a discussion about how to "do church." Did we not read even one of the Gospels?
Oh look, here it is: Love your neighbor. Love your enemy. Care for the sick. Comfort the rejected. Befriend the poor. Give water to the thirsty, food to the hungry. Pray for the Kingdom of God to come. Preach that the kingdom of God has come. Point to Jesus incessantly. Repent and believe in Jesus. Take up your cross and follow Jesus.
***So that was my opinion two days ago. Now things are, well, confirmed for me. Like I said above, I care about 15 cents for whether these miracles are actually taking place. Loveless Christianity with lots of miracles is simply not Christianity.
When pretentiously named God TV says "any criticism of Todd Bentley is demonic" we have to start asking "who are these religious absolutist crusaders trying to lord it over Jesus' sheep?"
This is why I am light years more attracted to the work of someone like Shane Claiborne, than the neo-Pentecostal ringmasters and manipulators. Because when Shane talks, I forget about Shane and I see the Kingdom of God springing forth from Christ's all-consuming love. I don't have to ask "is he for real?" because he and his activities are not really the focus. If he sinned dreadfully and fell from public favor, "the move of God" would not suffer one iota. People in grassroots movements like the Simple Way, whose website begins with "Dream Big, Live Small," are being transformed and ceasing to obey the masters of hype, wealth, empire, advertising, celebrity, and crowd opinion in favor of the red-letter Jesus. Here's one amazing story where a crowd raised $80,000 at one event to dig wells in Africa for those without water, ALMOST $2000 OF IT RAISED BY HOMELESS PEOPLE WHO SCOURED THE GROUND DURING THE EVENT, LOOKING FOR SPARE CHANGE.
Oh BTW, whenever someone says "any criticism of this is demonic," it's demonic.
Here is what I want out of a revival(and hopefully what Biblical revival would look like):
1. The purification and incessant proclamation of the gospel.
2. The transformation of people's inner being to the point where they are loving sacrificially like Jesus insists they do in Matthew 5-7, and throughout the gospels, producing the "good fruit" of John 15.
3. A total lack of celebrities. The media would not know what to do with it, because those effecting the biggest change would be in the shadows. Those who were in the spotlight would not take very much credit, nor would they frantically insist(into the microphone) on their own humility with statements like "It's not me it's God!" They would JUST BE. And they would talk about Jesus a lot. The real Jesus.
4. Many "quiet miracles" happening nowhere near tents, microphones, stages, or anointed ones. Happening among the poorest of the poor, those not even seeking them, and provoking a widespread and deeper knowledge of Jesus and his Way.
5. Conversions, not under the banner of hype or empty promises, but under the gospel. The ongoing conversion of followers of Jesus. Also under the gospel.
6. A desertion of the empire's norms and expectations, and an engagement in lifestyles that are preposterous and foolish and seem to promise no empirically verifiable reward whatsoever, but that are characterized by simplicity, community, and cross-love.
I'm sure I could go on. I'll leave it at this: Many people have said to critics of Lakeland "get your own revival."
I respond with: "We have, and it's on!"