Lakeland Revival

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The Lakeland Revival or Florida Healing Outpouring was a Christian revival which began on April 2, 2008, when Evangelist Todd Bentley of Fresh Fire Ministries was invited to Ignited Church in Lakeland, Florida, by Pastor Stephen Strader. Bentley was originally invited to be in Lakeland for only five days but remained there for over six months. Through its airing on GOD TV, the revival became well known by Pentecostals and charismatics worldwide.[1] By May 29, Bentley's ministry estimated that over 140,000 people from over 40 nations had visited, and 1.2 million had watched via the Internet.[2] By June 30, over 400,000 people from over 100 nations had attended.[3]

In June 2008, Nightline carried out an investigative report on Bentley. Some days after the broadcast, Fresh Fire Ministries released a statement announcing that Bentley was taking time off "to refresh and to rest" and their Lakeland broadcasts on GOD TV were put on hold.[4] One week later, GOD TV announced Bentley would resume the Lakeland meetings and the broadcasts continued. Bentley's and Fresh Fire's leadership of the revival ended on August 11, but the revival continued until the last service on October 12, 2008, at Ignited Church.[5]

The Florida Outpouring was in many ways similar to revivals that occurred in the 1990s, notably the Toronto Blessing in Canada and the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Florida. However, the Lakeland Revival had a greater focus on divine healing along with a call to evangelism, was much shorter than these two revivals, and was nearly inseparable from Bentley. The revival displayed many "ecstatic manifestations" and some participants claimed "esoteric experiences", such as divinely inspired visions and prophecies. In addition to claims of numerous miraculous healings, there were at least 30 claims to cases of resurrection of the dead.[6]

Background[edit]

Ignited Church was originally a subsidiary of the now defunct but once prominent Carpenter's Home Church. In the 1990s, Carpenter's Home Church experienced revivals influenced by the Toronto Blessing and Rodney Howard-Browne.[7]

Services[edit]

The main focus of the services were on what supporters believe to be divine healing of conditions such as cancer, deafness, diabetes, and paralysis.[1] Testimonies of miraculous healings were common at the Lakeland meetings.[8][9] The New Testament records many incidents of Jesus healing the sick, and belief in its contemporary practice is important for Pentecostal and charismatic Christians. The hope of supernatural healing explains some of its popularity, as there were many first-person accounts of miracles.[9][10] The lack of medical corroboration of the healings was questioned by mainstream media; an ABC Report concluded "not a single miracle could be verified."[3][4]

Participants in the revival were also known to sing, laugh, and shout ecstatically, and many would fall down under the influence of the Holy Spirit, according to revival leaders.[1]

Finances[edit]

The Lakeland Revival did not charge for attendance, but attendees could contribute to voluntary offerings that funded building and staff expenses.[4] In response to questions about finances, Strader and Bentley stated in interviews that the Lakeland Revival had been funded entirely from these voluntary donations.[11] The event changed venues on a number of occasions, starting at the Ignited Church and sister church in Auburndale, and moving to the $15,000 per night Lakeland Center and Marchant Stadium. After outgrowing its previous venues, the revival meetings moved to an air conditioned tent that seated 10,000.[2] On August 3, the revival meetings returned to Ignited Church.

Bentley said that he would open the books for independent auditors.[2] However, requests for financial disclosure from World Magazine were met with a comment that Bentley was "too busy keeping up with what God is doing"[12] to provide financial information.

During the revival, Bentley's spokesperson said that Bentley continued "to draw his standard salary, set by his board, from his office in Canada. It is a modest salary and is in the five-figure range," and that Fresh Fire Ministries is audited annually.[2] A newspaper in Vancouver reported that Bentley owned a home in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada, a 2007 GMC Sierra, and a 2003 Harley-Davidson motorcycle.[13]

Decline and impact[edit]

Main article: Todd Bentley

Bentley severed his association with and departed the revival under controversial circumstances on August 11. He admitted to his staff in August that he and his wife were separating and resigned from Fresh Fire Ministries.[5] The revival continued with visiting speakers at Ignited Church until October 12, 2008. While Ignited Church continued to proclaim ongoing revival services after this date, the previous worldwide interest had faded.

The revival's impact was widespread due to the internet and satellite television. Stephen Strader has said that Ignited Church will launch an International Apostolic Center and Ignited Network of Ministries, designed to bring together Lakeland inspired revivals.[5] Evangelist Hamilton Filmalter was commissioned[14] by Todd Bentley to launch the Portland Outpouring.[14] Within weeks Hamilton Filmalter put together a team[15] that included Hearts of Fire International Ministries evangelist Reverend Aaron Winter.

Controversy[edit]

The revival generated some controversy among members of the Christian community, as some leaders questioned (or even outright rejected) its authenticity.[12] In response to concerns raised over the revival, George O. Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God USA, of which Ignited Church is a member, issued a statement on revival in June 2008.[16] While not mentioning Lakeland specifically, the statement cautioned against over emphasis on charismatic manifestations and miracles, stating that "Miraculous manifestations are never the test of a true revival. Fidelity to God's Word is the test".[17]

Some skeptics challenged the revival on the basis of the evidence put forward for the healing testimonies and sermon content.[2] Some criticism stemmed from some of Todd Bentley's unorthodox practices, which included shouting "Bam, Bam!" while praying for the sick[18] and testifying to having had visions of an angel named Emma.[19] Bentley's most controversial claims consisted of twenty cases where he said the dead were raised.[20] In an effort to verify reported healings, Bentley's staff said they welcomed as much documentation as people were willing to give, including verification from doctors.[2] Nightline's June 2008 investigation was unable to independently verify any of the healings.[4]

At times, the healing services were criticized in mainstream media and on internet blogs for the occasional violence done to the participants,[3][20][21] in the tradition of Smith Wigglesworth.[22][23] Todd Bentley was known to forcefully kick, hit, smack or knock over participants. In one incident, a man was knocked over and lost a tooth. In another, an elderly woman was intentionally kicked in the face. Bentley held that the Holy Spirit led him to such actions,[3][21] saying that those incidents were taken out of context and adding that miracles were happening simultaneously.[20] Trevor Baker, who had invited Bentley to the Revival Fires Church in Dudley (UK), also defended these actions, saying: "He never does anything like that without first asking for the person's permission."[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Faith-Healing 'Outpouring' Overflows Venue". TheLedger.com. April 25, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Rhee, Alice (2008-05-29). "Revivalist Claims Hundreds of Healings". MSNBC. Retrieved 2008-06-10. 
  3. ^ a b c d Lake, Thomas (June 30, 2008). "Todd Bentley's revival in Lakeland draws 400,000 and counting". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Thousands Flock to Revival in Search of Miracles". ABC News. 2008-06-09. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  5. ^ a b c Ghiringhelli, Paul Steven (2008-10-13). "Lakeland Revival Officially Ends". Charisma Magazine. Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  6. ^ Hunt, Stephen (2009), "The Florida ‘Outpouring’ Revival: A Melting Pot for Contemporary Pentecostal Prophecy and Eschatology?", PentecoStudies 8 (1): 38 
  7. ^ Hunt 2009, p. 41.
  8. ^ Reed, Travis (July 10, 2008). "Religion Today". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-07-30. 
  9. ^ a b McMullen, Cary (June 22, 2008). "Florida Outpouring Revival Concerns Pentecostal Leaders". The Ledger. Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  10. ^ Smith, Peter (July 18, 2008). "Evangelist Todd Bentley brings healing ministry to Louisville". The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY). Retrieved 2008-07-30. [dead link]
  11. ^ "Geraldo Rivera, Todd Bentley, and the Lakeland Revival". Christian Crunch.com. June 18, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  12. ^ a b Leonard, Rusty and Cole, Warren (2008-06-30). "Same old Scam?". Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  13. ^ Province article retained at Fresh Fire Ministries
  14. ^ a b http://www.cnnw.com/MinistryinaBigTent.html
  15. ^ http://www.prlog.org/10135065-hearts-of-fire-internationals-aaron-winter-partners-with-revival-at-the-portland-outpouring.html
  16. ^ McMullen, Cary (2008). "Florida Outpouring Revival Concerns Pentecostal Leaders". The Ledger. Page 3-4. Accessed 14 January 2011.
  17. ^ Assemblies of God USA (2008). Statement on Revival. Page 3. Accessed January 14, 2011.
  18. ^ "Bam! Pow! When Prayer Ministry Gets Violent". Charisma Magazine Online. June 18, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  19. ^ "Honest Questions About the Lakeland Revival". Charisma Magazine Online. May 14, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  20. ^ a b c Reed, Travis (2008-07-28). "Florida revival drawing criticism-- and thousands of followers". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-08-17. 
  21. ^ a b The Good News of South Florida - Local
  22. ^ Todd Bentley The Reality of the Supernatural World (Shippensburg: Destiny Image, 2008) 263
  23. ^ William Hacking Smith Wigglesworth: A Life Ablaze With The Power Of God (Tulsa: Harrison House, 1972) 46 "Wigglesworth said, "Close your eyes." Then he commanded, "In the name of Jesus come out of him!" He struck the man in the stomach, sending him halfway across the front of the hall."
  24. ^ "US Child Sex Offender Is Coming to Preach in the Midlands; HE CLAIMS TO CURE VICTIMS BY BEATING THEM," Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England), 6 July 2008

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