Following the fallout from Lakeland I’m seeing lots of different explanations for what happened. People seem more polarized than ever. While some people like Lee Grady moved solidly in to the critic’s camp, others like Patricia King are laying part of the blame on the revival’s critics . While the Lakeland event has subsided, the tension continues. The conflict between may just be beginning.
What has brought us here? For far too long the church has looked a lot like the Corinthians.
2Co 11:3-4,20-21 NET “But I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his treachery, your minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus different from the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit than the one you received, or a different gospel than the one you accepted, you put up with it well enough!… For you put up with it if someone makes slaves of you, if someone exploits you, if someone takes advantage of you, if someone behaves arrogantly toward you, if someone strikes you in the face. (To my disgrace I must say that we were too weak for that!) …”
The more things change the more they remain the same. Instead of pure and sincere devotion we want quick fix spirituality, healing, and prosperity. We want blessings but no sacrifice. We want the benefits without the cost. We want the power and the glory. We want a free ride. Those who want to provide those things for us lift up the name of Jesus but which Jesus is it? Even in Paul’s day people preached Christ but it was a different Christ, a redefined Christ. In the charismatic movement discernment isn’t much more than a gauge of feelings or proclaimed manifestations. This isn’t enough, it has never been enough.
People, especially charismatics desperately want to see “revival” or an “outpouring” in their own life. They will go to great lengths to will some sort of healing or manifestation in to existence. I was one of those people back in the “laughing revival” in the old Toronto days. If you get enough people mesmerized with enough repetitive singing they start seeing and feeling precisely what they want to. Doubt does creep in later but it is usually stuffed in to the back as you go with the flow of everyone around you. On a historical note I was a part of a church that experienced the “Toronto blessing.” It completely imploded when one leader’s moral shortcomings became apparent to all. People were devastated. One of the most dedicated whole life mission kind of Christians I knew walked away from church and has yet to return.
There are some who don’t want us to “judge” Todd and just pray for him and his family. I acknowledge that we can’t judge someone’s heart or the purity of their motives. Only God knows the motives our hearts. That doesn’t mean we can’t discern the facts and look at the factors that lead to this unravelling disaster. What so many of the ‘we can’t judge’ crowd miss is how much spiritual, social, and emotional death and destruction that is sown in the body of Christ because of this. These events are far bigger than just one man or one family. To ignore the causes and the impact of what happened at Lakeland is to do a terrible disservice to the weary and the wounded.
A lot of pro-lakeland people are accusing the critics of being Pharisees, bitter, jealous or even demonically inspired. The truth is a lot of the most poignant critics are people who care. People who care about the weary, the crushed, the disappointed and the wounded. They are the survivors from past disasters.
These disasters happen because of deep theological and systematic flaws. Most people in charismania don’t want to consider this. They don’t want the charade to end because it would call in to question so much of what they have invested in. Deep down inside many of them know. The doubts at the back of their mind filter forward to the front. “After all these conferences, books, tapes, impartations and manifestations I’m no different. Maybe there is something wrong with me because everyone else talks about how powerful their relationship with God is. I just need to really pray and get committed.” Doubts are pushed back and people trudge on. Sadly many of us started pealing back the layers of this onion and discovered there is very little substance at the core. What is left is our own pride and selfish desire for more wealth, more spiritual power, more prestige and more glory. Read this testimony of a woman who came out of Lakeland to get a deeper picture of this.
We have to return to substance. Those us who know better have to stand up and in the words of Paul “contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Today we have more of an opportunity than we’ve had in the past. Up until recently our groupings, denominational and otherwise, have insulated us from each other. In the past when major events would break out one would have to drop in to participate in the experience. Today with the advent of blogs, forums, and online video we can watch things unfold in near real time.
There are critics that went overboard with mockery and inflammatory rhetoric, no question. But there was an amazing amount of collaboration and cooperation among people. Some people did a lot of work sifting through stuff like video, property records, and websites. At times it was a bit surreal seeing voices from the hard core fundies, the truly reformed and the post-charismatics all echoing the same concerns. It was clear that an impact was made. Public figures really have to watch what they say because there is a whole army of people ready to double check all the facts. Those on the outside were able to document the errors and excesses of the movement. Even if they did it in an inflammatory way the video evidence was incontrovertible.
We must continue to leverage new media to bring a measure of accountability to the body that has not existed. Many of us have abdicated our roles to speak up. As the details about Todd’s flaws are revealed it is exceedingly apparent that people would have known and they said nothing. No one wanted to stop the “glory” train or perhaps I should say gravy train.
As Paul advised Jude we must earnestly contend for the faith. To contend for something is strive for it in the face of opposition. My thanks go out to those who have contended for the faith in face of criticism and slanderous attacks. There is more to come. It appears very few are learning what they need to. Charismatic Christianity has as much credibility as a sub-prime mortgage and there is a deep need for a tremendous turn around.