So last weekend, Holly and I drove up to Seattle to experience a revival service at The Citadel.
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of a revival service, think of it this way. A bunch of fired-up, speaking-in-tongues, lifting-holy-hands, jumping-up-and-down type Christians assemble in a church service to receive an impartation of the Holy Spirit, which usually manifests itself in a phenomenon that many call being ‘slain in the Spirit’ — the experience of feeling so overcome by the presence of God that you lose your sense of balance and ability to stand, so you fall over. Other
symptoms outward manifestations include things like being overcome with tears, bouts of holy laughter, and in extreme cases, dry heaves, hiccups, animal noises, and voting Democrat.
(Okay, so I made one of those up. I’ve never actually seen anyone hiccup in the Spirit.)
Oh, and I forgot a big one — often times, revival services are marked by incredible testimonies of physical healing.
And not just the my-headache-is-gone variety, but serious stories of improbable healing and recovery… tumors disappearing, limbs being restored, the blind receiving their sight, the mute breaking forth into song… even resurrection of the dead.
If all of this sounds hard to believe, that’s because it is. (That’s what incredible means.)
Which is why many people, both Christians and non-believers alike, tend to shrug off these tales as the overactive imaginations of overly eager, delusional God fanatics with nothing better to do. The skeptic will tend to characterize such faith healers as charismatic charlatans who use emotionally manipulative techniques like cold reading to deceive their faithful and fill their coffers. If you’ve never seen or heard of it before, the whole spectacle can seem like a gigantic load of crap.
Being prone to skepticism from time to time, I understand this reaction. And even though I’ve been part of many revival services (especially during my year of service with The Master’s Commission in Spokane, WA), it’s not something I experience on a regular basis. It’s not part of my standard of normal church behavior.
Which is why I’ve been so fascinated by all of the hoopla surrounding what folks are calling the Florida Outpouring, the series of revival services led by evangelist Todd Bentley in Lakeland, FL that have attracted tens of thousands, prompting services four times a week and three changes of venue.
I watched some of these services on GODTV at my mom’s house a few nights ago, and while I wanted to believe what I was seeing, there was a part of me that felt like it was just way too out there. But I couldn’t take my eyes off it, either. The more I sat there, the more I felt a resonance within my spirit for what was happening on the screen.
And Holly, who didn’t grow up in this type of tradition, was feeling that draw, too. And she had heard awhile back that my cousin Kamaria’s church was having revival services, so we decided to go.
I’d like to say that I felt this rush of discernment and somehow I knew that this church would be on the up and up… but mostly I figured, hey, my cousin goes there and she ain’t crazy… plus Seattle is way closer than Florida.
We went, we received an impartation, and you know what? We’re revived. I could go into greater detail, but most of that is between me, my wife, and God.
But Hol and I were talking on the way back last night, and she brought up a series of questions which led to some good dialogue, which I shall attempt to recap in this post.
Let’s assume that not everything is on the up and up with all of the tent revivals that make the news and attract all the attention. And not that I’m claiming this, but just for the sake of conjecture… lets assume that Todd Bentley is specifically living in sin, that his motives are completely corrupt, and that much of his theology is off-base.
Does that mean that God can’t or won’t use him to bless people?
Doesn’t that reek of scandal? Why would God ever pour His Spirit out through impure vessels, people who say the right things but do the wrong ones?
Because of His mercy. His desire to reach people and draw them in through the miraculous is greater than His anger at the sin in the hearts of those whom he uses.
Which is not to say that if Todd Bentley, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, any of the Kansas City Prophets, or any other high-profile Christians are spreading heretical teachings and have drifted into apostasy, that they will not be judged.
Because surely they will be judged, as will we all.
Even those who are convinced that the whole thing is a load of crap.
So my thing is, why risk it? If the whole thing going down in Lakeland is a sham, and all of the reports of healings are just delusional Pentecostal propaganda, then God will deal with those leaders at the appointed hour.
But that doesn’t change what Jesus said, that those who have faith will be able to do all the same things He did… even greater things.
Yup, that’s what He said.
And that’s what’s happening in Lakeland. Real life signs and wonders in the 21st century. You can tell me that stuff like that doesn’t happen any more if you want to, but there are twelve different families of formerly-dead loved ones who would beg to differ.
So of course it makes sense that some folks think that faith healers are full of it, because that’s what people thought about Jesus.
I paraphrase a line from Bill Cosby when I say that this:
If Jesus caught his share of flak for doing the Father’s will, what makes Todd Bentley think he’s going to come out unscathed?
I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for mixin’ it up with me.