Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fresh Fire in Florida?

Since returning from California two weeks ago I have been watching the events taking place at Lakeland Florida under the leadership of Todd Bentley. This is being televised nightly on the GOD channel via both satellite and the internet ( Whilst I share the concerns of some who have been put off by certain aspects of the revival, it does seem to me that this is a genuine expression of the outpouring of God's Holy Spirit, and the emphasis is on healing and the manifest presence of God (they refer to it as 'the Glory'). One pastor friend of mine in Northern Ireland took his leadership team to the meetings.

'The place was immediately filled with an awesome sense of the presence of God as a team of young men began to dance to a worship song. The leader explained that the team (dancers and singers) was made up of young people whose lives had been messed because of drugs and rape etc. We then went into a time of worship that I would defy anyone to even suggest was not of God! It was truly amazing as we worshipped a truly amazing God.'

My visit to Bethel Church in Redding, California, served by Bill Johnson as Pastor, showed me the same phenomenon in a different setting. There, the revival has become systemic and is rooted in the local church. 'Seldom a week goes by' said Bill ' when we don't see at least one hundred miracles in this church'. There I could see the final outworking of what is going on in the Lakeland arena and being taken, it seems, by visitors back to churches around the globe. Local churches burning with revival fire - all of God's people full of passion for Jesus - many getting healed and saved on a regular basis - missionary teams going out from these centres with mercy missions empowered by the Spirit and God's love - the supernatural as a part of the normal Christian life.

So, I cringe at some of the things I see in Lakeland, but I refuse to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I choose instead to remember:
  • that Todd's obvious shortcomings are a real reminder that he is not God
  • that I am not his judge (neither am I God!)
  • that television is a very poor medium for communicating spiritual experiences, being focussed on the carnal and the outward
  • that I long for the presence of God however disturbing or different that may be.

As my Irish Pastor friend put it, 'As a Leadership Team we are all in total agreement that our visit to Lakeland was an awesome Spirit filled experience. It made me feel that it was better being inside the Upper Room than standing outside.' I am sure that he's right, so I pray for 'More Lord!' 'More fire, more power, more healings, more glory'!