Tuesday, 19 August 2008

What can we learn from Lakeland?

I wanted to draw a line under my blogging on the subject of Todd Bentley and Lakeland but Phil Whittall's excellent post Todd Bentley, Revival & Discernment really got me thinking.

His ten point analysis gives much food for thought. And I am trying to make it personal to me - not what can we learn in a "know it all" way, but what can I learn in an "as I work out my own salvation with fear and trembling" kind of a way.

1. We should let history give a name to what is God is doing
. Really early on, in fact way too early on, it was called a 'revival' and Dudley was called an 'outpouring' and named by those involved. To my mind that is a big presumption and to be honest God's work rarely needs man's PR to make it a success.

Good point - instead of predicting the "next big thing" and chasing after where it is supposedly at, let's chase after God and His purposes and His call on our lives and see how history judges us.

2. This was the first 'revival' in a media age. There is no question in my mind, that this event was the first of its kind which spread virally and was 'sponsored' by a TV station (God TV) and that this was not always good. While, this TV channel is run by Christians it is still a TV channel. Sadly for us, being on TV is a still seen as a sign of legitimacy which shows that we still have a fairly naive and immature approach to media. Being able to watch in on the internet or on TV does not make it any more or less genuine.

I think I was already pretty cautious about the Christian media at large, and will be more so now. No matter how good the intentions, we are always getting an agenda. The same goes for conferences, books, speakers etc etc. Keeping a broader vision and staying connected widely across the body of Christ help us to have a context. "Power evangelism" is going on at St Andrews Chorleywood in the ministry of Mark Stibbe and others. UK Anglicans, on the front foot, seeking God for healing and conversion and seeing it. That is exciting - God is at work in such a variety of ways - but by their nature media channels push us into focus on the smaller amount of locations and ministries, creating an imbalance.

3. TV inflates and exaggerates. Saying you have a potential audience of 400 million people is very, very different from the number of people that are actually watching. Right now I have a potential readership of billions on this blog, in reality the number is one or two less than that.

The numbers game is a false economy. TV coverage focuses on the end of the camera, God's Kingdom perspective focuses to the ends of the earth. Let's consider the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the Church across the world. Not the millions looking to the one, but the one, me, looking to the millions, the millions of my brothers and sisters around the world on mission, under persecution, in poverty. The only one we should focus on is Jesus.

4. What is the deal with the nightly meetings? This seems to have become a modern mark of revival. Where did that come from? I've no idea why intensity has become more important than longevity but it has. It certainly accommodates demand, but it seems to me that saturation often does more harm than good and in the case of Lakeland we became saturated faster than ever before. Why do we exhaust so quickly what we want so badly?

Church programmes quickly overtake relationships. Do our structures consume or release, take or empower, bless or burden? Are our churches so resource hungry that our mission falters? Isn't mission supposed to be about getting out there and meeting people were they are not sitting here and expecting them to come to us? This challenges me more and more as I can get sucked into church activity daily and nightly - but always want space for my friends.

5. We made it about a man. Again. Todd Bentley may very well have a supernatural gift from God to heal people, this is not a good reason to let him preach dozens of nights in a row. It is not a good reason to let him exhort people to give. It's not a good reason for much except getting him to pray for the sick (although preferably without punching, kicking, kneeing, slamming or whatever). Why can't we let the gifted preacher preach, the prophet prophesy and the healer heal? So once again our shallow need for celebrity, and plenty of other causes, gave one person far too much prominence, where it was dangerous for him and dangerous for the campaign he was involved in.

More and more I see this play out. People really do want to make it about a person. I think this is where Ephesians 4 ministries are so vital - people need to play to their strengths. It is never about one person, one ministry - some of the variety is the beauty of being in a body. Let the musicians play, let the evangelists preach, let the teachers teach, let the pastors look after people and let the administrators try to fill in the gaps! Being right in one area doesn't make someone right in everything. I think Phil's blog, and his heart cry, needs & deserves much wider airing than it currently has. We need different prophetic voices in the Church raising their voices and being heard - but not a "one size fits all" approach. Phil's got a message on living simply, he has a challenge to materialism. But that doesn't mean he is the right person to speak on "power evangelism" - get Mark Stibbe to do that! Let's release each other and honour the good, not expect everyone to do everything.

That is why I enjoy the Brighton conference - as I have friends in India and Africa who I can hear from and catch up with. The range of speakers is a blessing - someone working in Russia, someone working in South Africa, Someone from Seattle - not just my little bubble.

Eldership is a team ministry. Leadership is a team ministry. People say to me "Are you part of Martin Charlesworth's Church"? What a false question. Nope - I am part of Jesus' church. Martin leads the eldership team of our local expression of it.

6. Charismatics want revival the easy way. Still.
We desperately want people to be saved without us preaching to them, healed without us praying for them, discipled without us befriending them, enriched without us sharing with them and the nations reached without us going to them. So when one man came, we went to him instead of to HIM.

Do I pray for things I am actually not willing to be part of? Do I look to people instead of God? Do I bask in the reflected glory of the ministry of others, rather than take up my own cross and follow him? Will I cross the oceans to hear a preacher when I won't cross the street to greet my friend? The heart of the great commission, Go, Make disciples, baptise them & teach them. God doesn't "do" revival on his own - otherwise he wouldn't have given us a blueprint or a mandate to reach the nations for Christ. But that mandate starts in our Jerusalem, then our Judea and Samaria, then the ends of the earth. Am I praying for revival in Samaria while not obeying my commission in Jerusalem? Is revival now a spectator sport, not a life consuming mission?

7. We're looking in the wrong places.
It seems to me that our eyes are fixed on America, hoping revival will come from there. It has the right language, the media channels and millions of Christians ready to give a leader national prominence and millions of dollars. When God decided it was time for Jesus to come he didn't send him to Rome but to Bethlehem. If we could be bothered we should be talking to the Chinese, the Indian, the African.

So true. We play it safe. They look safe so they must be safe. When I look around in heaven I am not going to see a room full of educated polite white people - so why does my bookshelf contain the majority of books by polite educated white Christians? Why are the blogs I read mostly polite white educated Christians? We all know about the Chinese Church but what are we learning from them?

There is a sinister side too: The level of "voice" someone has can be shaped by money and viewing patterns, not necessarily fruit or integrity. I am setting myself up for a fall if my ministry, or my theology, or my relationships are too heavily reliant on one person or a few people.

8. Why can't we have good doctrine and great power?
Personally I'm tired of this split where those with good doctrine see so little dunamis while those with all the dynamite just blow themselves up with it because they forget that theology actually is important after all.

Too true. I want to see both. I really do. We need people working in teams better. Let the teacher teach, the prophet prophecy and the healer heal. It does not have to be the one person, it is one body. I need to play my role in that body with what God has given me, while honouring all parts of the same body. Too often the single person approach to ministry means you only get a single track gifting: let's be a people moving in power and honouring Scripture, and that means all of us involved as a body.

9. Wacky, is well, wacky.
God has every right to use methods and people that do not conform to my expectations. His wisdom can appear foolish to me, but that doesn't mean that everything that is foolish is from God. That would be, well, foolish.

We must not throw out something because we have not seen it before. When Jesus walked on water the disciples didn't reject him because the "biblical" way would be to part the water with a staff! But I always consider why Paul spent so much time structuring "orderly" worship rather than allowing God to "just do His stuff".

10. Sadly, we love being fighting to be right.
I think blogs can be helpful places to get reactions and think through issues, it also becomes an easy way to take cheap shots and demonstrate a stunning lack of grace, charity, forgiveness, wisdom or discernment.

Yes that is true. Type "Todd Bentley" into google, or even "Todd Bentley Marriage" and you see a civil war within the blogosphere which is a tragedy. I read blogs by people I disagree with to broaden my thinking and challenge my assumptions. To engage not to attack. I know I am not right on everything, I am just trying to work out which bits!


Jongudmund said...

Church programmes quickly overtake relationships. Do our structures consume or release, take or empower, bless or burden? Are our churches so resource hungry that our mission falters? Isn't mission supposed to be about getting out there and meeting people were they are not sitting here and expecting them to come to us? This challenges me more and more as I can get sucked into church activity daily and nightly - but always want space for my friends.

You see that was precisely my point about church plants replicating institutions which already exist. It's very inefficient.

Blue, with a hint of amber said...

The existence of any institution not fully engaged with its mission or purpose is inefficient.

I take the point about duplicity of resources.

But if a new church is engaged in mission to unbelievers, as opposed to sheepstealing, then it is adding to the mission of the wider Church in that area, not taking away from it.

The question should be asked of each church if they are fulfilling their mission and purpose, not just if they are the newest.

Just a Disciple said...

A helpful set of comments. Thanks for sharing them with us.

I think I agree with Jongumund that we need to replicate relationships rather than institutions. So often we think about projects, plans and goals without really considering people.

We run courses and training, but the real issue is people want/need to be loved and cared for.

We seem to want to do that at arms length, and so anyone who interacts with a person directly quickly becomes elevated in their estimation because it is so rare..

If it were the norm, that we all related to each other 'relationally' those that minister with extra anointing won't replace the relationships on the ground, but will be able to bring their gift without being elevated themselves.

Perhaps then the fault is not so much with Todd Bentley or the media circus that surrounded him, but with us, and our lack of believing that we too can reach the needs of the people we purport to love.