A Lesson From the Lakeland Revival [Excerpts]
A couple of weeks ago I invested an hour and a half in watching Lakeland: The Movie, a documentary about Todd Bentley and the Lakeland “Revival.” You may remember that in April of 2008, a preacher and revivalist named Todd Bentley was invited to Ignited Church in Lakeland, Florida. The plan was to have Bentley there for five days of revival services. In the end he stayed for four months.
The revival was marked by what were said to be great manifestations of the work of the Holy Spirit—speaking in tongues, ecstatic prophecies, miraculous healings and even the claim that somewhere around thirty people had been raised from the dead. Just about every major media outlet covered it at one time or another. Most of them went looking for evidence that miracles had actually happened; not surprisingly, not a single miracle was ever verified.
By August the revival was beginning to slow down a little bit and Bentley decided to leave Lakeland and to take the revival on the road. Teaching that the Holy Spirit could be passed from him to others by the laying on of hands, he would tour the country and take this outpouring of the Spirit with him. But no sooner did he leave Lakeland than the media exploded with reports that Bentley and his wife would be separating. Apparently he had been carrying on an inappropriate relationship with one of the women connected to his ministry. He and his wife soon divorced and shortly afterward he had married this other woman.
This documentary made me both angry and sad. I was outraged to see Bentley’s complete disregard for Scripture, his disregard for what the Bible tells us about the miraculous gifts, about maintaining good order in services, about so much else. What made me sad were the many looks at the people who had followed Bentley. There were many people, well-intentioned, I am sure, who gave up everything they had to follow him.
As I watched this documentary and as I considered Todd Bentley, I realized that he is so much like every other false prophet, every other ungodly religious leader before and since. When he came to the end of his time, an end that would come in a cloud of moral scandal, he simply walked away from his followers, leaving them lost and alone. His sin, his selfishness, his departure, left these people destitute and wandering.
But then I thought of a religious leader who two thousand years before had come to the end of his ministry, and he too was about to go away. But Jesus Christ was no Todd Bentley. Jesus had to go away, he had to leave his followers behind, but he is the one leader in all of history who could rightly and truly say, “It is actually better for you if I go away. It’s better for you if my time here comes to an end.”
He said this to his most committed followers, to the disciples who had been following him since the very beginning of his ministry. These men had given up so much: They had given up time and money and comfort and vocation and esteem in the eyes of others and so much else, and all of this to follow Jesus. And then Jesus told them that he would be leaving them. We can only imagine the shock and disappointment they must have felt.
[TBC: Jesus did more than tell His disciples he was going away. In John:14:3, Jesus said, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."]