Wednesday, April 23, 2008

God doesn’t require evangelists to wear three-piece suits or to have impressive theological degrees. He uses nobodies.

A Holy Ghost Outbreak in Florida

Charismatics are flocking to the sleepy town of Lakeland, Fla. to attend evangelist Todd Bentley’s unconventional revival services.

Todd Bentley is not exactly your grandmother’s evangelist, but that didn’t stop grandmothers from lining up to get prayer from the 32-year-old preacher last week when he opened his 14th straight night of revival meetings in Lakeland, Fla. People of all ages—including plenty of retirees with bad backs and partial deafness—crammed into the 700-seat Ignited Church to watch Bentley pray for the sick and to hear testimonies from the healed.

“If you need a miracle in your body, stand up!” Bentley shouted, waving his tattooed arms over the crowd. “There is healing in the atmosphere! Sometimes people feel fire or heat. It’s Jesus!”

The audience was pumped. Many had been coming to the meetings since April 2, when a four-day conference began and then zoomed into overdrive. Others had just arrived in Lakeland from out of state after hearing reports of the revival on the Internet. The night I attended, host pastor Steve Strader said more than 90,000 people had watched the meetings online.

“Tumors are going to be pulled out of people’s bodies tonight,” Bentley announced with a grin. “It’s gonna pop tonight!”

The scene inside this church, a former Scotty’s home-supply warehouse, was beyond unconventional. Teenagers with spiked hair worshiped God side by side with soccer moms and scruffy, pony-tailed bikers. After an hour of singing they cheered Bentley as he took the stage looking like a roadie for a grunge band.

Heavy-set with a beard and shaved head, the Canada-born preacher is rough around the edges. He wore jeans and a black T-shirt that said “Legend Killers” on the back. The metal studs in his ears and left eyebrow glistened in the stage lights. His tattoos covered both arms and most of his neck.
By his own admission, Bentley is a walking miracle. He should have died 15 years ago—but his life was spared when a burly stranger carrying a large white Bible knocked on his door and delivered what Bentley calls “the fieriest hell-and-damnation sermon I’ve ever heard.”

Immediately after his conversion at age 17, Bentley began spending four to 12 hours a day in prayer and Bible reading. It wasn’t long before he was preaching to huge crowds.

A high school dropout, Bentley has conducted healing crusades in dozens of nations including Ecuador, India and Tanzania. His staff says crippled people have left their wheelchairs behind numerous times.
But his methods are far from polished. When he prayed for people in Lakeland, he usually began by laying his hand on their heads and then yelling, “Bam!

Often the people fell backward to the floor. After one elderly woman fell, Bentley told the audience: “She doesn’t know why she fell down.” The woman then laughed and said to him in the microphone: “Because you pushed me!” He prayed for her three more times that night, and she said she could hear better.

“I’m feeling the presence of God so strong in here!” he shouted. More people ran to the stage, dodging teens who had swooned on the floor. A teenage girl walked up to Bentley on the platform and said a lump on her neck had just dissolved. During the past three weeks people have testified of being healed from heart conditions, skin rashes and back problems, and many said scars disappeared.

Bentley says he refuses to give this outbreak of Pentecostal revival a name, but some have already dubbed it the “Florida Healing Outpouring.” Strader, the former pastor of Carpenter’s Home Church in Lakeland, said a New Zealand preacher prophesied in March that Bentley would be used “like a boomerang” to trigger a national revival that would start in Florida.

Many charismatics are wondering if the protracted meetings will become a phenomenon similar to what happened in Rodney Howard-Browne’s meetings in Lakeland in 1993, at the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church in Canada in 1994 and at Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola in 1995.

It’s too early to tell if this outbreak is the next Toronto Blessing—which lasted for several years and spread revivalist fervor to dozens of nations. If the crowds in Lakeland keep growing, Strader will have to move the meetings to a larger venue since his building and parking lot are already at full capacity.

Those who can’t visit Lakeland should be encouraged to know that God doesn’t require evangelists to wear three-piece suits or to have impressive theological degrees. He uses nobodies. If anything is obvious from the Lakeland revival, it is that God wants to anoint and empower ordinary people—even those who dropped out of school or got messed up in drugs—to take His radical love to a world that is desperate to see the raw power of God.


J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma. You can learn more about Todd Bentley’s revival services in Lakeland at the Ignited Church Web site, ignitedchurch.com. Last weekend Bentley announced that he has canceled his bookings in April so he can keep the momentum going, at least through early May. Starting Thursday, Apr. 24, the meetings are being moved to Auburndale Life Church in Auburndale, Fla., about 10 miles from Lakeland.

1 comment:

The Hedonese said...

While its true that God in his sovereignty can use nobodies in spite of their lack of learning/skill/holiness/zeal/effort etc etc, we shud nonetheless pursue them for if God can do great things with nobodies, imagine what he can do with somebodies hehehe