Saturday, 16 August 2008

"Fresh Fire Ministries" update...

Todd Bentley's ministry, Fresh Fire Ministries, have updated their statement regarding the situation that started to unfold last week.

"We wish to acknowledge, however, that since our last statement from the Fresh Fire Board of Directors, we have discovered new information revealing that Todd Bentley has entered into an unhealthy relationship on an emotional level with a female member of his staff. In light of this new information and in consultation with his leaders and advisors, Todd Bentley has agreed to step down from his position on the Board of Directors and to refrain from all public ministry for a season to receive counsel in his personal life."

The full transcript is here.

This whole situation has a lot further to run - and we need to pray. Looking at various blogs and forums you see a massive schism forming between camps of people who either endorsed or opposed the Lakeland situation. It really is desperate. The people who oppose this are all over it like a pack of hyenas, while those who seek to support Todd are struggling as in the midst of the confusion it just sounds hollow.

It makes me consider previous occasions when situations have unravelled and I remember the very deep sadness felt by everyone. Both Fresh Fire statements deliberately make clear that they are not talking about adultery having taken place. Let us pray that the situation does not descend that far. People who defended the situation just days ago on account of there being no-one else involved are already on shifting sand as more information becomes public.

I remember being devastated when Kevin Prosch, a wonderful worship leader, highlight of mid nineties Soul Survivor, and author of my favourite song "Love is all you need", was removed from public ministry by his Church after admitting to adultery. Songs like "His banner over me is love" and "He is the Lord, and He reigns on High (Show your power)" are still common in churches across the world, not to mention "Lord of the dance". That was such a shock at the time - the first time a leader significant in my life had fallen in their moral walk. In situations like that it just feels like no one wins.

The other case that I vividly remember was even more complicated. I had been to a "Biblical Evangelism" conference arranged by UCCF and the speaker was a guy called Roy Clements from Cambridge, a stalwart of conservative evangelicalism, member of the EA Council and held in very, very high regard by the students I encountered. I met several people that weekend who were scathing about charismatics, including me, to my face, even at the dinner table, that the weekend is best left forgotten. But it was interesting the pedestal this preacher was on in their eyes. A few months later and there were marital difficulties and he was removed from his position in his church and went on to become a major voice within the homosexual evangelical movement and strong critic of the way he had been treated. The same people who put him on a pedestal were left absolutely devastated.

Both those experiences helped me to see how crushing it is when people fail, and also how dangerous it is to lift people so high. I think the media bandwagon that followed Todd Bentley made everything so big, so quickly, on an almost unprecedented scale. It now needs to have a good long hard look at itself. The "success" was beamed into living rooms of millions of people across the nations, and so the effects of problems arising are so much bigger too, and so far outside of the usual local church fellowship and support.

It is all so very sad, and we need some of the big hitters, the big players, the leaders whose words people listen to, to come out and make statements and give guidance, fathering & mothering hurting believers through a difficult time. And we need the christian media to beam those messages and those encouragements and those warnings into those millions of living rooms in nations across the world to help sure up the damage they partly liable for.

Pray for Todd & his wife - there is always a way back. The alternative is too sad to even consider.


dave bish said...

That's a helpful analysis. I'd think the recent Tim Keller & David Powlison paper on not passing on bad reports is probably useful too.

Jongudmund said...

I didn't know anything about this until I got back from Soul Survivor, but I agree with what you're saying here.

FWIW I think any backlash against Todd Bentley is actually misplaced anger against the cult of celebrity Christians. I think what most people are fed up with is the constant hyping up of people by the Christian media. Suddenly you have to love (or hate) Todd Bentley and I think people resent that. So when TB fails to be the great hero he's been annoyingly portrayed as, people celebrate.

FTR I always felt a bit cautious about Todd Bentley's ministry because a) I'm always a bit cautious about new Christian fads; and b) some of what he said was weird and 'out there'.

There is another point of view which is that those who are serious about advancing the Kingdom are the ones who Satan goes out of his way to destroy. And the way Satan typically destroys Christians is through sex, money or power/pride. In a strange way, Todd Bentley's fall may actually authenticate that was he was doing was of God.

Peter Kirk said...

Thanks for this. The "big hitters" on the North American charismatic scene like Bill Johnson are already getting involved and giving their guidance - see this comment on my blog.