Written By Steven Strang
It’s time for the spiritual fathers to step up and help Todd Bentley, the former leader of the revival that has come to be known as the “Lakeland Outpouring.”In light of the tragic news of the break-up of Bentley’s marriage and some type of breakdown by Bentley himself (close associates are being tight-lipped), I believe his apostolic covering needs to minister not only to him but also to the larger body of Christ.
In June, at the request of Stephen Strader, pastor of Lakeland, Florida’s Ignited Church, Peter Wagner, head of the International Coalition of Apostles, agreed to lead an effort to address some of the concerns other ministers had voiced regarding the outpouring. As a result, Bentley and the revival in Lakeland were put under apostolic covering in what I consider a very healthy step
Too often in the “anything-goes-if-there’s-an-‘anointing’ ” charismatic environment there is no clear line of spiritual authority. But at Wagner’s leading, Bentley submitted to the authority of three mature men of God–John Arnott, Ché Ahn and Bill Johnson–who love him and who agreed to give him and his ministry apostolic oversight
I know all three of these men personally. Each of them has a stellar reputation and is known for his desire to see revival come to the body of Christ. Each endorsed the Lakeland Outpouring and on June 23 laid hands on Bentley to commission him to lead that revival
About a week ago Wagner issued a statement about the commissioning process, which I believe was needed and very helpful. Little did any of us know that within a matter of days revelations would come out about Bentley. In 20/20 hindsight perhaps we should have seen it coming.
- -Anyone who is in services 4 to 6 hours a day, 7 days a week for weeks on end is bound to have some type of breakdown.
- -Anyone who covers himself with tattoos while in the ministry raises questions about his stability.
- -Anyone who talks about the “Angel of the Healing Revival” that ministered to A.A. Allen and William Branham must have overlooked the fact that Allen and Branham both were discredited with moral shortcomings.
- -Anyone who baptizes people in the name of the Father, the Son “and BAM” is playing lightly with the Holy Spirit and is bordering on blasphemy.
Many of us who long for revival saw the hungry people coming to Lakeland and witnessed the powerful anointing. We recognize that God can use flawed people (because He uses us!), yet we had major questions about Bentley. But rather than censoring him, we wanted to help correct the problems.
Now is the time for Bentley to be corrected. But it would also be good for Arnott, Ahn and Johnson, as well as other leaders such as Wagner, to issue a statement to the body of Christ to help the tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands who were affected by the outpouring understand what is going on spiritually.
Because all of these men endorsed the revival, it might even be appropriate for them to issue an apology. Some of Bentley’s critics say an apology is necessary.
Perhaps some of the problems would have been prevented if men had spoken into Bentley’s life several months ago. As good as it is to have an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff to help the injured, it is much better to have a fence at the top of the cliff to prevent someone from going over.
The Old Testament is full of the stories of flawed men God used powerfully. He continues to use flawed men and women today. But at the same time I believe God sets a higher standard for leaders in the church, requiring them to live righteous and holy lives. It is not right for the leaders who encourage us to follow God with utmost devotion to fall into divorce and other sins while the mocking world watches.
Strader, the pastor to whom Bentley handed “the baton of the Outpouring” earlier this month and who is continuing the services at his church, said that a television news crew was outside his church Tuesday covering what is happening. Newsmen are usually skeptical of high-profile preachers because they’ve seen them rise and fall in the past.
Strader told me that his church, which seats about 800, was packed with people wanting a touch from God. But he admitted that many have been devastated by the news about Bentley’s marriage, including many of the young staff members who were employed by Bentley’s ministry, Fresh Fire. Bentley, his wife, Shonnah, and their family, also, are clearly in turmoil.
Strader mentioned as we talked that we have to be careful not to shoot our wounded. I was reminded of his comment during my daily Bible reading this morning, which included Galatians 6—a passage that says we need to restore those who fall with a spirit of gentleness so that we don’t fall into the same sin. But he also pointed out that there must be a reason why the story of Ananias and Sapphira is in the Bible as a warning to others.