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Todd Bentley

I wrote several posts a few months ago about Todd Bentley. We arrived home from holiday to discover he was leaving the Lakeland ‘Revival’ and separating from his wife. Three days later his ministry admitted he was in an unhealthy relationship with another woman. Many bloggers have waded in. Dan Edelen has a lot of wisdom borne of pain in several posts. Bill Kinnon is more fiery, especially on the backtracking by C Peter Wagner. There are numerous others.

Whatever my criticisms of Bentley, I take no pleasure in these events. Here are some thoughts.

Losers According to Bill Kinnon, C Peter Wagner has described Todd Bentley as a loser. Crudely, that seems to mean Wagner didn’t back a winner, so he inflicts this description on Bentley. Whatever I think of Bentley’s ministry, especially the violence, if you write people off as losers you dismiss the Gospel. In the words of an old Steve Taylor song, ‘Jesus is for losers’. Watch the video for the song here:

No, if Wagner talks like this, what Gospel does he believe and preach? Where does the Cross fit in? Dan Edelen talks much about charismatics needing to recover the Cross: here is a prime reason why.

This isn’t a time for casting stones, it’s a time for prayer and grace as well as church discipline (which after all according to Jesus was meant to be restorative).

Accountability Bill Kinnon links to Phoenix Preacher, who said on August 26th,

Scott and I knew about Bentley’s immorality two months ago, but couldn’t find anyone willing to go on the record.

It’s in the nature of wrongly relating to someone other than yourself that there will be deceit, but this implies that appropriate accountability structures were abused. Yes, it’s good that Bentley stepped down, but that seems to have been for the sin of having been found out. Why were others culpable in the cover-up? Was it conspiracy or fear? We may never know.

But there is not only the accountability to his organisation Fresh Fire and the wider church, there is also the question of accountability in marriage. In what I am about to write I am aware that ‘there but for the grace of God go I’, but – it seems one of the problems seemed to be Bentley’s protracted absence in Lakeland. Like many ministry marriages, Debbie and I have it built into our relationship that if a question arises of my being absent overnight or longer, we discuss it before agreeing. We have done so with respect to my forthcoming sabbatical early next year.

It must have been very tempting (and yes, I probably do mean ‘tempting’) for Bentley to stay in Florida rather than Canada, given what was happening. It must have been exciting for him. The emotional pressure on Shonnah to agree must have been huge. But the fatal flaw in the logic is the idea that the revival depended on him. I suspect that when I take my sabbatical next year, my churches (which have never had a minister on study leave before) will discover just how unnecessary I am! It is a salutary lesson.

Prophecy Clearly, Wagner’s ‘prophecy’ in June that Bentley would increase in this, that and everything looks pretty sorry now. While I am not one of those who believes modern-day prophecies have to be 100% accurate (as per Old Testament standards) because they’re not adding to Scripture, it does strike me that the prophecy concerned is just altogether too typical of the prophetic drivel that sometimes infects charismatic Christianity. It is the sort once characterised by a friend of mine as ‘Thus says the Lord, I love you O my children’. It’s all about how wonderful the recipient is. While I’m neither for the sort of word that reduces everyone to worm status, I thought the only person we were meant to big up like this was Christ. This stuff needs serious questioning. It’s linked to my next observation.

Personality Whatever happened to all those prophecies around the 1990s that ‘the coming revival’ would be ‘a nameless, faceless’ one? Rather than that, we still promote our personalities, and then (like the secular press) exclaim with horror when they fall. The personality cult is one of the most insidiously worldly aspects of evangelical and charismatic Christianity. Bentley often said on the stage at Lakeland that it wasn’t about him but Jesus. Nevertheless, others promoted him and he allowed it. He could have stepped out of the way more for his associates or others. He rarely did. This may have been a tactical error rather than malicious, but any of us called to a public rôle in Christianity need to learn and accept the hard lesson that it’s not about us, it’s about Christ, and our actions need to match up. That’s not easy, and it requires some holy ruthlessness on our part. Often we’re not willing. The attention or acclaim is too attractive.

So may God have mercy on Todd and Shonnah Bentley and the anonymous female staff member. May God have mercy on C Peter Wagner. May God have mercy on us all. We who are without exception sinners need grace – the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.

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About Dave Faulkner

I'm a British Methodist minister, married with two children. I blog from a moderate evangelical-missional-charismatic perspective, with an interest in the 'missional' approach. My interests include Web 2.0, digital photography, contemporary music and watching football (Tottenham Hotspur) and cricket.

Posted on September 3, 2008, in Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Hey Dave, it’s not as if he’s molested a 7 year old is it mate? Opps, that’s right Todd’s done that as well.

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  2. Paul,

    I see you’re an atheist, but one thing is, Bentley’s past would prevent him ministering in my denomination, much as we believe in forgiveness.

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  3. Dave
    I have noted your comments on the Florida events in past months, along with those from your neighbour, peter kirk. They have helped me consider my own evaluation of whatI have seen on God TV, read from some of the more vicious sites – from all viewpoints – not to mention what has been happening in my own home town .

    Your latest offering is right on. I too am very saddened by the turn of events, and all followers of Jesus must pray for healing and restoration in the Bentley family. It is also essential that the Church as a whole identifies and learns the lessons frm these events. At a local ministers breakfast last Satueday, I heard Todd described by a respected minister as one example of a other potentiasl time bombs f damaged and hurting lrleaders and families , in need of finding the Father Heart of God.

    On our knees, not very good Anglican that I am

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  4. Colin,

    Thanks for your kind words, and especially your tone. I only wish I hadn’t had to write something like this. May God have mercy on us all, as I said in my final paragraph.

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  5. I’ve just discovered this post (your blog’s feed has been down).

    I suspect that Todd was pressured against his better judgment to continue to minister at Lakeland, to return quickly from his break in July etc, by those who noticed a drop in numbers and a less enthusiastic atmosphere when he was away. I guess God TV were among those responsible, and maybe the Fresh Fire board and Ignited Church were also involved in this decision. While Todd might have done better to resist these pressures, it is hardly fair to put most of the blame on him, when, despite the claims of some, there was a board overseeing his ministry and paying his salary and it was probably their decision. Could you just decide to stop preaching for a few weeks because you felt your church was making too much of a personality cult out of you? Of course not, you are being paid to do a job and you have to do it!

    As for Peter Wagner calling Todd a “loser”, you need to look at this in context, from his original letter as published here:

    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.

    He certainly doesn’t mean here that Todd is a “loser” in the colloquial and pejorative sense of the word, the sense Steve Taylor had in mind. Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet – there are some people out there who are doing everything they can to discredit Wagner as well as Todd and every other charismatic leader, and some of them seem to consider it is OK to misrepresent people on the basis that the end justifies the means.

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  6. Peter,

    Thank you for a thoughtful comment, as always. I think your reconstruction of the scenario is possible, although I guess we’ll never know.

    I had actually read the entire Wagner quote you cite before I wrote what I did. However, I came to a different conclusion from you. I fear it’s Wagner in ‘me, me, me’ mode trying to justify his own actions. I think this is a point of genuine different interpretation between you and me. As a charismatic myself, I have no desire (unlike the others to whom you rightly refer) to discredit or misrepresent every charismatic leader. However, I do have concerns for the integrity of charismatic Christianity, as you do.

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  7. Thanks for the reply. I guess we will never know about Wagner either, unless he has more to say.

    Will you be at the meeting next Saturday evening? If so perhaps we can meet then.

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  8. Peter,

    Thank you. I hope to be at the meeting next Saturday, but I have a Synod all day in Luton, so it depends how that goes. It would be good to meet – whether there or some other time. I’m sure there’s more we could talk about than Lakeland.

    Every blessing.

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  9. Don’t worry, if we meet I won’t just want to argue about Todd Bentley.

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  10. No, I’m not worried. It would be good to meet anyway. There is far more that unites us!

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  1. Pingback: Sabbatical, Day 80: Rebuilding Trust; Todd Bentley’s Second Coming « Big Circumstance

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