If you haven’t seen the Todd Bentley Show, otherwise known as the evangelist/healer/prophet at the center of the Lakeland “Revival,” then go to YouTube, search the name and return when you’ve watched at least a couple of videos. That may be almost impossible for some of you, but you need to see at least 5-10 minutes of what is the current center of evangelical attention. If you can’t look away, I’ll understand.
How can we describe Bentley’s revival? Take the KC Prophets, add a downgraded version of Benny Hinn, season it with Rodney Howard-Browne’s Laughing “revival” and top it all off with the Biker-Church-Store-Front-Christianity that has gained ground in this era of purpose-driven, subculture dominated evangelicalism.
Bentley is crude. Raw. Violent. (If you haven’t heard him talk gleefully about the people God has told him to kick, run over and batter, then keep working that YouTube search.) He’s phenomenonally ignorant. He’s an obvious liar who is claiming resurrections into double figures. His raw ambition for major media coverage isn’t even subtle. He’s self centered and hearing voices telling him to do terrible, violent things.
I could go on and on and on. Bentley is symptomatic of the fringes of unbounded evangelical Charismania and health/wealthism. He’s the freakish tornado that the weather of American evangelicalism seems to spawn every few years. The trail of damage is there to see.
But does he have anything to do with Jesus?
Particularly, does he have anything to do with the Jesus we all worship? The Jesus of the creeds? The Jesus of the historically grounded faith of the Church? The Jesus of the Gospels and all of Scripture?
When I teach about Jesus, I point out several things that are usually overlooked.
For starters, Jesus did things that other “charismatic” prophets, healers and exorcists did, but what impressed those who experienced and witnessed these miracles?
1) His miracles were assigned to his authority, which was tied to his teaching. It was the authority of Jesus that stayed with the witnesses. It clearly connected him to God.
2) His healings were immediate, total and public.
3) His healings and exorcisms did not depend on possible exaggeration or subjective reports. The blind saw. The lame walked. Lepers were healed. The dead were raised.
4) Jesus’ miracles extended into “nature miracles” that showed power over weather and creation itself.
5) Jesus didn’t set up a “show.”
6) Jesus wasn’t trying to get personal acclaim. He actually told many whom he healed to not say anything.
7) Jesus’ healings and exorcisms often caused fear and a demand that he leave the area.
8] Jesus was teaching the presence and power of the Kingdom of God.
9) Jesus sometimes refused to do miracles when asked to do so.
10) Jesus didn’t do bizarre, insane things in the process of healing or exorcisms.
11) Jesus also claimed to forgive sins.
Todd Bentley embarrasses me as a Christian. Of course, I probably embarrass some of my family. I am an American who is sometimes embarrassed by other Americans.
Some view Bentley as demonic and his movement is clearly about taking advantage of the desperate desires of his audience to be healed or to see their loved ones healed. I would judge him to be a criminal and a man who will prove to be a showman, a phony and a con artist.
The relationship to the real Jesus is absent, or so distant, so distorted and so perverted as to be microscopic.
I can evaluate Bentley, but I can’t judge him. God will judge him and God will judge me. I pray that the Jesus I’m seeking is the one who will recognize in me faltering faith and imperfect sincerity, but a reality of trust and love for Jesus. For Bentley, I can only pray God’s mercy.