There is a common phrase in American Christianity: "Love the sinner, hate the sin." Recent events have convinced me many are willing to set aside the phrase when the sinner is a high-profile evangelist.
For years Canadian healing evangelist Todd Bentley
has been a controversial figure. He is covered with tattoos and piercings, he speaks openly about angel encounters, and he likes to relax by riding a Harley. Through the years his ministry has been responsible for many documented healing miracles, and thousands have come to know Jesus. He takes special delight in seeing God do miracles that turn the hearts of powerful African witch doctors and influential Islamic imams.
In April 2008 Bentley went to do a week of meetings at Ignited Church in Lakeland, Florida. The tangible presence of God and the outpouring of miracles was so profound, the local leadership and Bentley decided to extend the meetings. Word quickly spread, and they soon outgrew the church building. When I attended in early May (my availability due to previously scheduled business in nearby Orland0), the nightly sessions were held in the local sports arena, which holds about 8,000. Later the meetings moved to an outdoor setting that could hold 20,000+, and often did on weekends.
This month it was revealed that Todd Bentley has filed for divorce because of a relationship with a female staff member. All his meetings have been cancelled, and supposedly he is in hiding from various well-known pastors and evangelists who risked their reputations to be supportive of his ministry. Bill Johnson
, Senior Leader of Bethel Church
in Redding, California, (another man who has seen thousands of healing miracles during his years of ministry, but who is not flamboyant like Bentley), refers to the situation as a "major meltdown." I highly recommend Bill Johnson's open letter on the Todd Bentley situation
Because I attended the Lakeland revival meetings, and because I spoke positively about my experience in my own church (where I am part of the senior ministry team), I feel I have a personal stake in what's going on. So I am using this blog post to summarize my observations and feelings.
What Todd Bentley did is wrong. He removed the guard from his heart and allowed himself to be attracted to another woman, then acted on that attraction. As Jesus taught, it doesn't have to get physical to be adultery. He has destroyed his marriage and deeply wounded his family, which includes small children. He broke trust with the thousands who have given financial support to his ministry organization
. The many staff members and associate evangelists on the organization payroll will have to reorganize their professional and personal lives because of his behavior.
What Todd Bentley did is wrong, but his wretched life choices do not invalidate the work God was doing through him. "God never changes his mind about the people he calls and the things he gives them" it says in Romans 11:29, New Century Version. In more preachy language, the verse is translated by the Holman Christian Standard Bible as "God's gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable." A loving God gave Todd Bentley gifts, and Bentley was using them right up until the day his sin was revealed. If he never repents, 20 years from now he could still lay hands on someone and see them healed. If you have a problem with that concept, reread the Bible verse above.
If you do a web search on "Todd Bentley" today you will find hundreds of venomous posts, gleefully proclaiming the Florida meetings and all previous ministry by Todd Bentley to be the product of a fraud, a false prophet, or a deranged lunatic. I won't honor any of these posts by linking to them. Many are glad to see Todd Bentley brought down because his ministry activities violated their sense of how God does things. Others believe miracles ended with the death of the original twelve apostles, and think anyone who claims to move in a gift of healing or other miracles is at best deceived and at worst an operative of Satan. (I've never understood how someone being healed of cancer, etc. could be the work of Satan.) All who associated themselves with Bentley or the Florida meetings are now being attacked as well, in assigning guilt by association.
To me the Todd Bentley Affair has become a clear case of "hate the sin, destroy the sinner." How many of the happy bloggers have taken the time to pray for Todd Bentley and his family? How many took the time to evaluate his ministry in the light of all scripture? How many hope he remains a broken vessel as a permanent testimony of how a man can fail? If there can be such glee in a man's fall from grace, what does that say about the heart of the gleeful one?
"A Pharisee spirit breaks relationship with people when they fail, and no longer wants to be related to them. And they want to make sure they get punished for what they are doing." -- Kris Vallotton, from the podcast "Nothing Hidden" recorded August 19, 2008; available for free on iTunes.
Labels: adultery, Florida Outpouring, revival, Todd Bentley