I think I've been more worried about the complete and utter silence about the Florida Outpouring than anything else. Terry Virgo's probably one of the most prominent UK leaders who has a blog and he's said nothing yet about it yet (which is odd considering how one of his latest Firstline bemoans how disappointed he is that he hasn't seen revival yet). And the critics!? Remember how potty John Macarthur and Hank Hanegraff went about Toronto? So where - I asked myself - were the opinions on Florida? I think the most dangerous position of all is to be in what Ern Baxter called; "The paralysis of analysis" - essentially pure static because we are too busy and too scared to form an opinion.
Mark Heath provided the first link for me to the torrent of blogs warning that Todd Bentley is the anti-christ and so on. It seems that apparantly Todd Bentley has an angel that speaks to him called "Emma". That name apparantly is the name of some pagan god so it must mean that a demon is controlling Todd Bentley hence everything is bad about Florida? My poor older sister - she is called Emma too ... What is with that?! Can angels not have names? Gabriel? Michael? Lucifer? (I was going to provide some of the links to these posts but I don't think I will bother. You can find them ... if you really want to).
I liked a carefully open but cautious post that Janelle wrote - she is going to go but is wary of the excess and emotionalism. It's wise to be wary. Like her, I've never lived through a revival but I suspect that there will ALWAYS be emotionalism and excess in a revival. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones wisely said;
"There is no problem of discipline in a graveyard; there is no problem very much in a formal church. The problems arise when there is life ... Problems are created by life and by vigour and the problems of the early church were spiritual problems, problems aarising because of the danger of going to excess in the spiritual realm".
I find it slightly odd that a sincere (I am sure) commentator on Janelle's blog can express "concerns" with healing and manifestations of the Spirit in Lakeland but go on to write that air conditioning is a gift from God. Who are we to decide what is a gift from God and what is not? I feel so deeply that we've got to be very careful here. When does "discernment" become "quenching the Spirit"? What's worse - the crime of "jumping on every spiritual bandwagon" or "resisting every spiritual bandwagon"?! How do we keep the balance? Is it enough to remain "open but cautious" - that all too frequently ends up meaning saying "No!".
It seems to me that the key concern with most people comes down to Todd Bentley himself. In short - he's an offence to some of these "discerners". I can get that. The man is short, ginger-haired and covered in tattoos with a piercing in his lip (and goodness knows where else). But let's be consistent here. Ephesians 4 makes it clear that the ascended Christ gives these people as GIFTS. And they are not perfect - and won't be till we get to heaven. Look back over the Word of God for starters. Let's try to put ourselves in the context of being under the leadership of each of these men in the Bible. What would we have blogged about them then?;
1. Moses. What would it have been like to be in the "Desert Outpouring"? Signs and wonders followed this man! We had to flock to him because he was leading us through the desert to the Promised Land! God had appointed him our leader. But then a whisper goes through the camp - a whisper of concern and discernment. "Did you know that Moses killed a man back in Egypt? He's a MURDERER!". Maybe we can forgive that because it was in the past. Even though believing that God can use someone with a criminal record - what about watching him hit the rock the second time in anger? And hearing the word spread round the camp that he was barred from entering the land. Hmm ...
2. David. What would it have been like to be in the "Israel Outpouring"? Such an exciting, militant time! God raised a shepherd boy up to be king (and imagine particularly if you were there since the time in the Cave ... the old crowd). But then! David commits adultery ... and what's worse murders the husband of the woman he slept with. And then goes on to have another child with the ... woman. Who is his HEIR! Surely that's unforgivable?! How can God call him; "A man after His own heart?!".
3. Elijah. Wow ... the "Prophet Outpouring"!! Signs and wonders and miracles again!! Raisings from the dead - exciting times. And the pinnacle of it all when Elijah's fan club is gathered at the mount to see fire come down from heaven in response to Elijah's prayer! What greater vindication that Elijah was a man of God!? But then Elijah disappears!! And the word begins to spread round the camp that he is a coward - was scared of a WOMAN - and has run to hide. Fear?! From a man that called down fire!? Fear - fire!? It doesn't add up!
4. Peter the apostle. Okay so maybe his beginnings wouldn't be quite to our taste (no theological seminary and a bit of a rough vocabulary) but the fact that Jesus Christ singled him out and said; "You are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church" maybe brought him some kudos. But then Jesus Christ called him "Get behind me Satan!". Doesn't that equate to a bit of church discipline? But then even worse the word gets round that under pressure Peter swore under oath he didn't know who Jesus Christ was. He betrayed Jesus Christ. But then even worse when the Holy Spirit had fallen and Jesus had gone back to heaven, it seems that Peter and Paul - the two leading apostles - had a fall-out. Because Peter started behaving like a JEW again?!
5. Paul the apostle. How can we follow a man who just days before his "conversion" was murdering Christians?! He stood by while our beloved Stephen was stoned to death and approved it. And okay if we overlook his dodgy beginings we do admit that he writes some good letters to the churches - very doctrinal and they read well. But why does he have to start talking about his "3rd heaven experiences" and go and not tell those Corinthians to behave?
I'm sure that I will have offended someone - but I hope my point's clear. Even in the Bible no man of God was perfect. So if we don't want to accept that God is using Todd Bentley or Rob Rufus - then WHO is acceptable? C J Mahaney? John Piper? John MacArthur? Okay they may not have tattoos or piercings or dodgily-named angels that we know about but surely they dabble in what Jerry Bridges calls; "Respectable Sins". Mahaney has admitted he is a proud man - yet no one has problems in following his leadership. No one even writes a blog criticising him.
I know the Bible says; "Be not many teachers brethren for theirs is the greater judgement". I always thought (and maybe it does) that the "greater judgement" came from God. Maybe I was wrong and maybe that was the Bible warning that the greater judgement comes from the church. All I am trying to say is in this Christian celebrity-obsessed culture, let's cut these guys a little break. NO ONE is perfect. But despite that the ascended Christ still continues to give apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers. Maybe, just maybe God wants to use them - despite not being perfect. I for one am prepared to keep watching Todd Bentley and see what God may be doing with him!