An Update on Lakeland from Peter
August 25, 2008
I was in the San Francisco airport on my way to Singapore and Indonesia when the news of Todd Bentley’s separation from his wife became public on August 12. When I arrived back home last week, I found that Doris had received and replied to around 1,700 emails and the stack of correspondence on my desk was unbelievable. It took me the rest of the week to catch up!
During the week I was gone, a major watershed occurred regarding the Lakeland situation as most of you would know. We are now on a new playing field. Lakeland Outpouring I, in which Todd Bentley was the main figure, is now history. Lakeland Outpouring II, in which Stephen Strader of Ignited Church is the main figure, has begun. The Outpouring started in a local church, went to a tent, and now is back in the local church. My suggestion is that we no longer use the term “Lakeland Outpouring” but rather distinguish between Lakeland I and Lakeland II because they are very different.
Let me talk a bit about the present, then revisit the past, then project the future.
It will sound surprising to some, but Lakeland II in Ignited Church, which you will remember was the original host church, is going very well. The big crowds and GOD TV, of course, are gone. Ignited Church seats around 700 in the main sanctuary and Stephen Strader reports that on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings they have to use their overflow room. It is comfortably filled on week nights. The morning training sessions continue with a couple hundred every day, and teams continue to move daily into the streets of Lakeland spreading the gospel. Percentage-wise the dramatic miracles and healings occur nightly with probably a higher percentage of salvations on a daily basis. Support from local pastors is improving considerably. The most interesting report is that every night some 30 percent are first-time attenders, meaning that people are still coming to Lakeland from the outside to experience Outpouring II. A lady from our church with a severe chronic back problem went to Ignited Church and came home healed! Such a thing does not usually happen when a public figure suddenly goes down the tubes, so we need to take our hats off to the apostolic gifts and role that Stephen Strader is demonstrating for us.
Speaking of the public figure going down the tubes, Todd Bentley now carries the label of a liar and a deceiver. I’m sorry to mention it, but I felt personally deceived in the same way when Ted Haggard’s sin was exposed and he was immediately removed from ministry. In the Lakeland I case, I am elated at the way things are turning out. The Revival Alliance with whom Todd was aligned on June 23 has kicked into action with a vengeance. Ché Ahn and Bill Johnson, like me, were overseas when things broke, but John Arnott stepped up to the plate and moved in apostolically. It has since become clear that Todd’s Fresh Fire Board could not have handled the situation, Stephen Strader and Ignited Church could not, nor could any of his other close friends. Only the Revival Alliance could. I am delighted that they are not buying into typical charismatic soft morality, also called “greasy grace” or “don’t touch God’s anointed” or “mercy must triumph over judgment,” phrases that have been used on other similar occasions as convenient religious cop-out excuses. They’re proceeding in love, but it is tough love!
Since this is an update, I will share some of what I know about what is happening with Bentley, but not all because some things need more verification and it is up to discernment of Revival Alliance what and when this will be revealed. Suffice it to say that there is more than I am going to mention. First of all, Todd has been removed from public ministry until further notice. He has resigned from the ministry he founded, Fresh Fire, so he is no longer a part of that board. It has become clear that he indulged in periodic drunkenness. He has no intention at the moment of reconciling with Shonna, nor does she with him. Their marriage has been torn for years by his emotional attachment with at least one other female whose physical contact went beyond hugging and kissing and holding hands. Enough said-maybe more details will be revealed later-but it was clearly immoral. All of this was skillfully concealed by lying and by swearing close associates who had observed his behavior to secrecy. Stephen Strader, for example, knew nothing of this before June 23. Apparently some of his board members did, but they did not have the ability to deal with it.
I hope this is the last time I will have to address the past. It is now history. But as history is written, I feel that I have some responsibility of helping to have history be written accurately, especially since I have turned out to be a lightening rod for a number of severe criticisms.
Most of you know this, but let me reiterate to keep it on record. Previous to around the middle of June, my interest in Lakeland was about a 2 on a scale of 1-10. Then I got a call from Stephen Strader, the host pastor who was a member of ICA, which I lead, with a passionate appeal for apostolic intervention because chaos and confusion had begin to invade the Outpouring I. Toward the end of the hour we were talking, I received one of my infrequent direct words from God: “Alignment!” Just one word, but I knew I had a divine command and responsibility.
Once I knew that God had assigned me to initiate some sort of apostolic intervention at Stephen’s side, I began praying and consulting with close colleagues. In less than two days I discovered that Todd Bentley had no formal, established apostolic alignment. I asked God how I should proceed, especially since I had no inclination to attempt an apostle-evangelist approach and expect that Bentley would submit to or even listen to what I had to say if I made an appointment with him in Lakeland. I felt that proper apostolic protocol would be for me to deal with one or more peer-level apostles to whom Todd had aligned apostolically. Since as yet he had no such alignment, I began asking God how such an alignment might come about. He directed me to my close friend, Ché Ahn, who himself is apostolically aligned with me and who also had been close to Bentley for years. Ché agreed that the best apostolic protocol would be for Todd to align with the Revival Alliance if he were willing. Ché called him and Bentley agreed to submit publicly to the Revival Alliance.
At this point some disagreements arose. I have already mentioned that I was consulting with several apostolic colleagues whom I trusted and whom I know trusted me. It is very necessary for us to understand exactly what the disagreement was about. It was about the most appropriate apostolic protocol for the occasion. After prayerfully listening to the different points of view with careful consideration of what was being said, the decision had to be mine. I believe that God’s word to me about “Alignment!” had to be directional. I concluded that the best protocol was to do the alignment first, then deal with the issues that had been raised. My other friends disagreed and urged me to deal with Todd’s problems first then do the alignment. I respected their point of view and I was very sorry that I had to follow God’s leading for me personally instead of taking their advice. It was not a comfortable decision.
Now let me address what was behind much of their disagreement with my apostolic protocol. They were concerned that if I appeared on the platform with GOD TV, many viewers would interpret it as my personal endorsement of everything that was going on in Lakeland I, and since they were so closely associated with me, they would be implicated as well. This was a legitimate concern, and one I seriously wrestled with as I made my decision. If I went to Lakeland and presided over the alignment, some might well take it as an endorsement. It was a risk, I knew. Let me say personally that all my life I have been a risk-taker instead of a play-it-safe person, and I have taken many hits for it. As an example going to the jungles of Bolivia as a career field missionary when I was 25 with my wife and a one-year-old baby girl was a serious risk. Both that daughter and another who was born in the jungle without medical attention came close to losing their lives during those five years. And we were criticized for our decision to take the risk by many, including parents!
Closer to the Lakeland I situation, I have a private list of no fewer than 18 high-profile Christian leaders starting from the 1970s until Bentley for whom I took risks. For each one of them I took serious criticisms and in some cases personal hits even much more serious than I have received in this current case because I endorsed or partnered with or provided alignment for them. Some were typified as “crazy!” However, I can pretty much discern winners, although not always. My track record for the 18 is 72% emerged as real winners (you would know most of them), 17% ended up losers (including Bentley), and 11% indecisive. I’m sorry for the losers, but they prove I am not perfect. The point I am making is that I am no stranger to taking risks and living with the fallout.
One fallout from Lakeland I is that several have resigned from ICA and other organizations that I lead because they no longer want to be identified with me. Others are still upset. Still, believe it or not, I think that everyone involved is still my friend. We just disagree.
I want it understood that I did not go to Lakeland on June 23 for Todd Bentley. I had never met him personally. I had no knowledge of and little interest in his ministry. I went because I received an apostolic plea to help bring order to the confusion and chaos that was sweeping through the body of Christ worldwide because of the television. I went strictly for the body of Christ at the invitation of the host pastor of the Outpouring I.
The final question is: Was it successful? Looking back, I praise God for using me and others to help bring order to confusion, which is one of the chief biblical tasks of an apostle. Stephen Strader, who has been keeping records, affirms that the evil that the prince of the power of the air had been subtly introducing into the Outpouring I started to be exposed and unraveled the day after the alignment, June 24! Spiritually, this is very understandable. Just about every leader I knew had discerned that Lakeland I was a mixture of the godly and the ungodly. We were praying in one accord that the evil would be separated from the good. My take is that God had decided to answer these prayers and in order to facilitate His process, He assigned me and the Revival Alliance leaders and others who were with us to align Todd Bentley apostolically for the first time in his life. When we did this publicly, spiritual transactions took place in the invisible world that would not allow the enemy to maintain the veil of secrecy he had carefully placed over the Outpouring. The evil was exposed, Revival Alliance had the authority to deal with it, and the net result is that order is replacing chaos in the body of Christ.
In my section above on “The Present” I gave you some details. Believe me, they are only the tip of the iceberg as I just learned from a new phone call even as I was writing this paper. The proper apostolic structure, happily, is in place at the time of crisis!
It is now important to recognize that from now on we have a different playing field. Two separate things are going on. (1) The Revival Alliance is dealing with Todd Bentley and the fallout from his sin that has been and continues to be exposed. (2) I have told you previously about a group of 11 apostles that I have formed into the Lakeland Outpouring Apostolic Team. We no longer need to deal with Lakeland I and Bentley as such. However, we have a list of 24 serious issues that have emerged from that unpleasant experience which need to be thoroughly discussed with the conclusions circulated in the body of Christ. If you have seen Dutch Sheets’ recent “A Statement and Appeal Regarding Lakeland” you will get a glimpse of some of the things that we agree need to become standard operational beliefs and practices, particularly in our charismatically-inclined evangelical segment of the church.
It will take time, but our Apostolic Team will get to work on the 24 issues after some of this present dust settles, and we will be back to you!