I am forever thankful for my upbringing in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles. I was exposed to the ideas that God is alive, moving, and present in our lives. I have experienced His power, His guidance, and His grace in amazing ways. I have sung to the highest rafter, hands lifted high, and heart aflame.
I have also watched as Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Larry Lea, Richard Roberts, Fred Price, Creflo Dollar, Robert Tilton, Ted Haggard...and now Todd Bentley...have fallen off pedestals because of egregious hidden sin and lies. There could be many more names on the list, as almost everyone I know who has grown up in this movement has a local man (or woman) to add to the list.
The Pentecostal-flavored Christian faith is not at its core flawed. It is one that embraces the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, as "the spirit that guides us into all truth" (to quote Jesus in John 16:13). We recognize that our power to encourage, worship, correct, admonish, administer, minister, help, plant churches, and prophesy can only come through an active and vibrant relationship with the entire Trinity, and that the Holy Spirit is our power to walk out the Christian faith. It's not "added zest or zeal" as my Pastor reminds, but a real, living and integral part of our relationship with God.
I read a letter today that has peaked my interest. Dutch Sheets http://www.dutchsheets.org/index.cfm has written a letter about the recent downfall of heralded revivalist Todd Bentley of the Florida Outpouring in Lakeland, Florida. Of the many fine points he makes, one of them is the need for actual INTEGRITY among our ranks...(and I would add from the top to the bottom, as it were). So many in our movement follow the show, the big bang-boom-ba, and then blame the show on the Holy Spirit. Most of us know that with the right music and the right smooth-tongued preacher, it is fairly easy to get people worked into a frenzy. Sadly, I think most of the Spirit-chasers have hearts for God in the right place. I think many are seeking to know Him more and to be full of His Holy Spirit. But we have to keep our eyes on the LORD. We have to be discerning. We have to walk into all situations with our ear attuned the STILL, SMALL VOICE of God as much as it is attuned to the yelling and histrionics of some on a stage.
In short, we also have to have our own personal revival of the heart, that comes not in fireworks and parades, and full bands with forty-hundred singers; but in times of meditation on the Word, study, prayer, and reflection...and dare I say...fasting. The Holy Spirit can be present in the quiet. He can teach and heal in a bedroom, a boardroom, or a grocery store. There is no magic or incantation that "calls Him up" when several hundred people get together and have a hoe-down. The Lord desires to be worshipped in Spirit and IN TRUTH. When we are walking in the TRUTH, our worship will be sweet to the Lord, whether we are in a stadium or in a corner of our guest bedroom all alone. The Lord is always looking to "pour out His Spirit" on those who are seeking His heart.
Pastor Sheets makes another fine point. We have all of this focus on being "restoring" ministries or ministries for broken people...certainly!! The church at large must be in the business of restoration. But the other side of the SAME COIN requires us to be accountable and responsible to our community of believers DURING THE PROCESS OF SALVATION AND SANCTIFICATION!!!!! During, not after the tumble. There should be a reasonable expectation of integrity among our leaders. These few examples and countless other leaders have cut themselves off from anyone who will correct them or bring them under spiritual authority. They have shunned true community, and therefore have shunned the power of the BODY of Christ. They have spit in the face of the church, the body that God placed on earth to help us all in our journey. These ideas are the very backbone of the real Christian faith.
I am saddened that Sheets did not voice his concerns earlier. Many people seemingly have been uneasy, but have been hesitant to say anything. Paul would have called it out. He did this regularly in Scriptures when churches were off-kilter or false teachers were spewing lies. We are so afraid to offend sometimes or to squelch a work of the Spirit. We should be more afraid that shysters and unrepentant, unbroken sinners are leading the church into confusion and disarray.
As a body of believers worldwide, we must now more than ever seek the quiet place, where the Lord can speak TRUTH to us through his Word and by his Spirit so we can see our own failings first, and then we can discern the truth of world around us.
I am not pointing fingers. I, too, must submit myself to my own body of believers. I have to make time and space for the Lord to speak. I have to be on guard for heresy and ideas that will crumble my faith. I have, in the past, cut myself off and indulged in a life free from accountability. I thank God that His grace and mercy extends over us, and that He walks us through times when we are stupid. I am thankful for the cross and the atonement. I am hopeful that Spirit-chasers will get tackled by the Spirit and wrestled into a grace-filled, deep relationship with the triune God and will stop looking for hype and highs. Can't we learn from all of this??