The Local ‘Florida’ Meeting

I started writing my posts about Todd Bentley and the ‘Florida Outpouring’, because I had been invited to a meeting locally to discuss whether we should do something in Chelmsford about it. That meeting took place yesterday afternoon. Much of it was fine, but today I am kicking myself about parts of it.

What was good? Quite a bit, actually. There was a clear distinction between the problematic aspects of Bentley and the sense that God was nevertheless doing something. Maybe not all that it was always claimed to be – there was an acknowledgment that in the excitement, too much might be being claimed at times. The two or three people present who had actually been to Lakeland recognised that some things should be rejected or put aside. They carefully linked the work of God to the concentration on worship there. They recognised that Bentley behaves in certain ways, because he is a particular personality type, and others would behave differently. They affirmed that the Florida style should not be transplanted or copied, but that the genuine struggle to find a local expression should be undertaken. We all accepted that conversion is the greatest miracle. Everyone expressed pastoral concern for people with different views or attitudes. We raised questions about ‘Why go to a particular location to receive?’ and kept talking about discernment.

Having said that, why am I today uncomfortable? I felt there was a rush to get something done. People said that unless we acted quickly, the moment might pass. Instead of having a harvest, we might have just the rotten fruit at the end of the harvest. Is that a tacit acceptance that this is something passing? Does God have no room for the cautious, who genuinely take time to weigh something up? Who puts us under pressure to rush: is it God or the enemy? I think that needs debating. Of course, salvation is urgent, but as someone who makes his best decisions slowly, I’m a little nervous.

Then – let’s suppose we’re right that Bentley behaves in a certain way as a consequence of being a particular personality type. He probably differs from me in three, if not all four sections of Myers Briggs. Is that a reason for checking in our brains at the door? I still think not. This is where the Body of Christ comes into play, with differing gifts all contributing to the whole. Those of us who feel called to use our brains as an act of worship have something important to offer here. Yes, the ‘experiential’ type people can help ensure we don’t become dry and dusty academics, but we bring important gifts to the Body, too.

My other discomfort was over something slipped in near the end that – to my shame – I didn’t challenge. I had made it clear in the meeting that I felt the ‘violent’ approach of Bentley was wrong. One man who had been to Lakeland spoke of how God had told him to punch someone who needed healing on the arm. Later, this person told the man that he was much better. Does that prove he was right, or am I still right to be queasy about this approach? I think the latter. Why do we accept such claims so easily? Is it because we are so desperate for something to happen that we drop our critical faculties? ‘The Lord said’ trumps everything. It needs weighing.

The meeting concurred that we needed to meet for further prayer (although there was also general consensus about ‘doing something together’). I am awaiting an email with a suggested date for a day of prayer. I shall have to raise my concern at that point and not feel inhibited or pressured to stay silent.Technorati Tags: , ,

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