When is “Revival” Genuine?
Some good stuff on the blogs examining the current excitement over in Lakeland, Florida.
I have had a number of people ask me about events which are gaining a lot of attention at the moment. In the UK, a series of ‘revival’ meetings being run in Lakeland, Florida by evangelist Todd Bentley are being shown daily on God TV.
As a result of my self-imposed TV channel poverty, I know little or nothing about the events in Florida. For the past few weeks I have been studiously avoiding commenting here on the blog about something I know very little about. I did read a piece over at Pyromaniacs, but felt that I did not want to reject these events which I have not studied.
I heard that someone said recently concerning these events, “I do not want to be an enemy of someone God calls a friend.” But neither do I want to endorse something wholeheartedly that, from what I have heard, has, at the very least, some significant stylistic differences to what I would be comfortable with.
These comments from Adrian Warnock echo thoughts from Terry Virgo who heads up the New Frontiers network of churches. New Frontiers is a Calvinistic Charismatic church, in the mould of Sovereign Grace in the US. After my conversion I spent the first two years as a Christian in the New Frontiers church in South Manchester. We like New Frontiers. New Frontiers can stay.
Here’s what Terry has to say:
One of the unique features of what has been taking place in Lakeland, Florida is that it is being daily shown live on God Channel. Turning on the channel, I was alarmed and saddened to find that immediately prior to the visit to Lakeland viewers were invited to send prayer requests by e-mail to an ‘upper room’ in Jerusalem where they would be laid on an ‘altar’. I was horrified and deeply saddened that Christians were being encouraged to do such a thing when the Scripture makes it clear that we have a great High Priest who has gone through the heavens on our behalf. An altar in Jerusalem is hardly relevant!
This certainly did not get me off to a good start and for some of us that could be enough to write off all that followed as utter foolishness.
My second ‘negative’ relates to how we weigh or assess what we observe. Sadly some would encourage us, in order to receive something from God in connection with the activity of the Holy Spirit, to allow Him to ‘offend our mind’ in order to ‘reveal our heart’. Undoubtedly there can be an accumulation of intellectual knowledge which sadly ‘puffs up’ rather than ‘builds up’ but we make a terrible mistake if we want to find out whether something is of God or not by simply kissing our brains goodbye.
The Apostle Paul warns the Corinthians about being puffed up because of knowledge. But he also mentions the danger of becoming puffed up in ‘taking a stand on visions one has seen’ (Col. 2:18). It seems to me that humility is required on all sides when trying to assess these things.
Test all things
The Scriptures tell us to test all things and we need to bring them to the plumbline of the Bible rather than abandon all previous knowledge accumulated by submission to the Scripture’s revelation.
In ’94 and ’95 we in Newfrontiers did not embrace the Spirit’s activity which was so rampant among us by abandoning our minds but by looking closely at the fruit of what was happening and searching the Scriptures. I will return to that later.
A third concern I have relates to the general atmosphere and ambience of the meetings which can be observed on the God Channel. Sometimes there is a celebration of ‘freedom’ which debunks the supposed formality of church life. In some ways this can sound similar to what those of us who have enjoyed the breakthrough of being set free by the grace of God have experienced when we have realised we are no longer ‘under law’. Praise God for the freedom we enjoy in breaking out of mere religiousness! But sadly there can also be another sense in which ‘freedom’ is used to cover what can become debased into a kind of abandonment and mockery that does not seem appropriate. Indeed, the editor of Charisma Magazine has recently warned about the dangers of putting bizarre behaviour on a platform with the implication that it is normative.
I think those are good guidelines and they’re echoed by a great "tick list" provided by the Pyromaniacs:
- Believing in the sovereignty of God and having read (and believed!) Acts 2, I know that it is at best extraordinarily unlikely that it will manifest any revelatory or attesting gifts that have not been in regular evidence among Bible-believing Christians over the last 2000 years (1 Corinthians 12:11) — which is to say, not any. For that reason…
- I know that any claims to revelatory or attesting gifts will likely fall short of Biblical standards. This really, really matters to God (Deuteronomy 13:1-11; 18:20-22), so it should really, really matter to me. Specifically:
- I know that if the majority of unbelievers aren’t, without any massaging or special sauce from the "revival’s" advocates, goggling in slack-jawed and clueless astonishment at undeniably supernatural events, and desperately scrambling for explanations, any claimed miracles are nothing like real miracles (cf. John 11:47-48; Acts 3:9-10; 4:16).
- I know that if it doesn’t center on and exalt the person and work of Jesus Christ, it’s not Holy Spirit-breathed revival (John 16:14; Colossians 1:18).
- I know that if it wasn’t produced by the preaching of the Word of God, it’s not Holy Spirit-breathed revival (Nehemiah 9).
- I know that if it doesn’t produce greater conformity to the written word of God, it’s not Holy Spirit-breathed revival (Psalm 138:2; Matthew 28:18-20; John 8:31-32; 2 Peter 1:19-21)
- I know that if it doesn’t produce holy living, which includes adorning behavior and specifically self-control, it isn’t Holy Spirit-breathed revival (Galatians 5:22-23).
- I know that if the leaders of it aren’t men well-known for embodying/pursuing the pastoral traits of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9, and specifically for being in subjection to, and for soundly teaching, the whole Word of God, it’s unlikely to be a Holy Spirit-breathed revival.
Love that list and it fits in with the admonition to test everything and to hold onto that which is good. Here’s what I wrote on the Pyromaniacs site in response:
I think the list of things to think about is a good series of checks. I especially like number 4 (it’s about Jesus) and number 7 (holy living).
A little testimony – I became a Christian in the Manchester (UK) Vineyard Church in May 1994, about a month after the Toronto Blessing spread to these Isles, having been dragged along by some Jesus Freak friends. I had an amazing super-natural encounter with the living God and it changed my entire life. Now, fourteen years later, I’m a former homosexual happily married with a beautiful baby son, preaching my socks off about the saving and healing power of Christ’s blood. I have some real problems with the excesses of some charismata, but I know that I met Jesus that morning and he changed my life forever (OK, he’d already changed my life forever, but you get the point right?).
Looking back at my experience in the mid 90s, the church I belonged to then (New Frontiers) entered into what God was doing through his Spirit but didn’t switch its brain off. That’s a good model to take peeps.