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The Lakeland Series:
A Case Study in Advanced Prophetic Listening
Guest Commentary: Greg Austin
[ Part 4 ] [ Part 5 ] [ Part 6 ] [ Part 7 ] [ Part 8 ]
August 1, 2008
As the fifth full month opens since the outpouring began, stirrings and debates over
and its featured point man Todd Bentley continue to ebb and flow. The event seems to have leveled off a bit though it continues. Meanwhile, Todd's flaws have begun emerging into clearer focus--as the reports of some objective observers would tell it. Lakeland
It's been nearly 7 weeks since my last commentary on this. You'll remember that from the start I have maintained the following: 1) this move is not the "move" we have been prepared for, 2) regardless of Todd Bentley, this move is yet from the Lord and He has something for us to receive in it, 3) God is really after something greater than the move itself (ie, the move is a tool to something higher), and 4) the only way we will discover what God is really after is by intensive listening as we have never known before.
So it is with a listener's heart I have continued. Actually, I've been removed a bit from things for a while because I lost my high-speed connection for live viewing. At the same time, I've received various negative forwards "about Todd" from the usual sources--all of which I have "put on ice" as they interfere with my listening. During this time, I have actually begun hearing quite a bit, which I hope to start sharing shortly.
But in the meantime, the Lord led me into contact with another devout mature listening seeker over these things. His name is Greg Austin. Greg is an out-of-church seeker with almost 40 years of experience in the Lord. Having read an initial very balanced "take" of his on
back in May, I wrote asking him for an update if he had any. His response was awesome--so awesome that I asked his permission to publish it, to which he kindly agreed. (You can read more about Greg at www.gregaustin.org.) Lakeland
Before I share his commentary, let me be very clear what I mean by saying Greg's response was "awesome." By "awesome," I do not mean I agree with all Greg's premises, perceptions and conclusions, though they have great merit. I am not forwarding this to say, "This is what I believe too." No. By "awesome" I just mean, Greg demonstrates an absolutely excellent listening heart underneath his points--listening of the caliber I have exhorted you to. That is what comes through his writing. And that is what I want you to listen for and to emulate as you read. Because that is the only kind of spirit that will lead us to the higher truth awaiting us from the Lord--the real prize I see--in all of this.
At the end of Greg's letter is a response from me. I ask you to pay attention to this also, because it holds keys to what I'll be sharing in days to come. "So without further ado," please welcome Greg Austin into your presence..
From: G2kemerge@aol.com [mailto:G2kemerge@aol.com]
Sent: Thursday, July 24, 2008 11:44 AM
Subject: Re: Your comments on
Thank you for writing regarding the
meetings. I have been immersed for nearly three months now, in the controversies surrounding what is being called variously, The Great Florida Outpouring, The Lakeland Healing Revival, and other names. Lakeland
Quite honestly, I have become weary of the volumes of communications that have now been written between myself and other leaders, worldwide. However, multitudes of honest, hungry Christian believers are being affected by
, and questions continue to come my way that must be answered. Lakeland
My sense of Todd Bentley and associates and the
meetings is at once complicated and simple. Let me say that I am biased strongly towards grace. I don't possess a judgmental heart, and I hate the "gotcha" spirit that is rampant in some "Christian" circles. I am definitely not part of the "heresy-hunter" crowd. Lakeland
In all things, I want to be certain that I know "of what spirit I am." This means that it's possible for me to have the spirit of Saul of Tarsus and not the spirit of Paul the Apostle. As a good friend pointed out, "same man, different spirit." I want always to reflect a redemptive, restorative spirit - which is the Spirit of Christ.
Therefore, even if what I deduce seems to be negative, it is only negative in the sense of bringing correction to error, and not the destruction of tender hearts.
Further, I readily confess that I do not possess all knowledge or understanding. There are things I am not privy to, and those I leave with God to sort out. Having made these statements, I will address your specific question regarding
As time has gone on and I've had opportunity to carefully assess what I've personally seen, heard and read from
- not from second-hand reports, I would say the following: Lakeland
1) Many honest, hungry people have gone to
and have received blessings from the Father, because their hunger and thirst was for Him and for His righteousness. There is a spiritual law: God will not deny Himself. If a seeker asks God for bread, He will not give him a stone. If the leader of any meeting is engaged in supra-biblical practice and honest worshipers reach out to God, God will reveal Himself, bless, heal, etc. regardless of the presence of someone in leadership who may hold to spurious doctrinal beliefs. Lakeland
2) I have listened to and observed grievous doctrinal and practical error not only espoused by Todd Bentley, but also by his various associates and some of the local
leadership. I have spoken to these errors with some in leadership. Some of the concerns we've discussed have been addressed and some have not. There is an on-going discussion regarding some of these concerns. Lakeland
Allow me to specifically mention my chief concerns
A. The issues surrounding angelic encounters - This subject has been covered well by J. Lee Grady from Charisma Magazine, and others, so I won't take the space here to address it.
B. The issue of a "tangible, transferable anointing." Although I have separated myself from the organized institutions of the church, my background is a mix of Southern Baptist, United Methodist and Assemblies of God. I have spent thirty-seven years now as a Pentecostal/Charismatic believer. My biblical education has focused on theology: I possess a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology, a Th.M. and a Th.D. This is not to say that I'm some sort of theological expert - I bow to the potent superiority of multitudes of scholars more brilliant than I. However, I do understand the formats essential to discovering biblical truth. Simply stated, I cannot find any scriptural support for the claim of the "tangible, transferable anointing."
The question then arises, what is being "transferred"? And this question is a focal point of ongoing discussions I am having with other charismatic leaders.
C. The issue of physical violence being used to promote healing or the release of the "power of God." The catchall question is "Do you believe God can do anything?" We used to bounce that question off the seminary walls and got no relief from any answer. One can easily state, based on the omnipotence of God that He is able to do anything. One can also state with certainty, based upon the holiness and the righteousness of God that there are things that God cannot do. God, for instance, is incapable of sin. It is a Self-limiting function of God that would prevent Him ever from committing sin.
The proponents of physical violence - the head-butting, kicking, striking and choking - that has been magnified at
would hold to the "God can do anything" philosophy. I would rather overlay that belief upon an image of my Savior. I simply ask, "Can I imagine Jesus, walking along Galilean shores, finding a blind man, a woman with an issue of blood, even a demon-possessed boy, and kicking them, striking them, choking them?" My answer, based upon my knowledge of the character of God and the Spirit of God and the Person of Jesus is an unequivocal and resounding, "NO." Lakeland
D. The issue of "Third Heaven" visitations and communication with dead saints. Direct quotes are available regarding Todd's testimony of having visited heaven, meeting with the Apostle Paul at his "little cabin in the corner of heaven" wherein Paul explained his authorship of the Book of Hebrews, as it was "dictated" to him by Abraham. This is all extra-biblical teaching, and well beyond the [sentence not finished]
E. There are 'character' issues. Without taking the space here to elucidate these point by point, I will give only brief examples. 1) Todd's claim that his tattoos were received prior to his conversion. One need only view a smattering of videos from
to know this claim is false. Numbers of people have personally known Todd from the time of his conversion until now who all testify that these tattoos are recently acquired. If this is the case, why not simply speak the truth about them? 2) Todd's claims of the nations in which he has preached and the numbers of souls converted under his ministry. The claim of preaching in 65 nations is dubious, based upon those who worked with Todd during those years. 3) I'm personally wrestling with the fact that Todd was incarcerated for sexual molestation of children and that he has testified that he beat his mother on a number of occasions. I do know that God can forgive and "re-create" the heart and spirit, but Todd's history of abuse and physical violence combined with his many testimonies of kicking, beating, choking, "leg-dropping" and "full-mounting" those he ministers to causes me pause. Toronto
F. Reliance upon prophetic utterances from questionable sources. I don't ever want to be any man's judge; however, the appearance of Paul Cain and reliance upon his prophetic words, and even of Bob Jones - I know I'm touching the "untouchable" here, but I must speak what I believe or I am become a liar - is of dubious value and is perhaps dangerous to those who would follow after the words spoken by these men.
I know and am persuaded that God can and will forgive and restore those who have fallen. I am quite prepared to receive a forgiven, restored vessel as my brother and as my equal. I simply want to have peace in my soul that such restoration has taken place, and that someone of known reliability can vouch for that restoration. I have not been convinced of this in the cases sited above. If I am wrong, I am willing to be corrected, but until such corroborative testimony is forthcoming, I will maintain my position.
Meanwhile, I personally [am] friends with a number of people who have visited
and were blessed. Their reports stand in contrast to the things I have observed and have examined. In fact, mentioning the word "examined," let me state that I have had several years of very close encounter with the Holy Spirit. I am no stranger to the things called "revival" and that are taking place at Lakeland and other locations around the nation and the world. Lakeland
The following is a quote from a private communication between myself and [another spiritual leader]:
Finally, I am concerned about the direction that so-called "charismatic" ministry is headed. If it's all about shaking, falling down, being drunk, getting under a "glory cloud," seeing "orbs", finding gold dust and jewels, and stuttering uncontrollably, I want NOTHING to do with it.
I have shaken, and I've fallen, but those were momentary experiences and had little to do with life as a whole or with my walk with God. I have said over and over to crowds, "I'm not impressed to see you fall down, I want to see how you walk when you get up." If character isn't being transformed, if a walk isn't being deepened with Jesus, if greater love for Him, for His Word, for His character and for people isn't the result of these physical manifestations, then the manifestations are not only worthless, but they are dangerous, seeing that men and women become seekers of experience more than they are seekers of Christ.
These, Chris are only a few of my thoughts regarding
. The effect these meetings are having on the greater Body of Christ is another matter altogether, and one I won't attempt to address here. Lakeland
I pray God's continue presence in your life and ministry.
In a message dated 7/24/2008 11:38:05 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
This was an awesome and much appreciated response! Thank you for your time, and the quickness of your answer. I have personally taken an extreme posture of listening regarding
, and have encouraged those of my own "readers circle" to do the same. Lakeland
There is an as yet unfathomable tension between our capacities for spiritually receiving from God and spiritually discerning what is of God. This tension is exacerbated each time a new outbreak of spiritual reality impinges itself into this realm. The greater the expression of that reality, the greater the tension aroused.
Having repeatedly seen this pattern of inconclusive wars of words arise over past moves, I've been quickened now to believe there is something about the tension itself over which God wants to bring us as a people, for which reason He purposely allows it to form around all Holy Spirit outpourings. (I don't subscribe to the belief in "pure" revival.) I'm coming to believe these outpourings are not as much about the healings or the accompanying errors as they are about us as a people, and something God is after in us.
My heart keeps telling me we have a new chance to "get something right" that has never been gotten right in previous generations--if we can only stop to listen long enough--however long that may take--to overcome the tension barrier. My belief is that the tension has never been resolved because no generation has yet found the grace to wait and listen long enough to discover the secret of its resolution.
If you are open to it, I would like your permission, should I be led, to forward your response to my own reader's circle as an example of the kind of listening I am exhorting them to. [ ]
So, keep listening! (And if you "hear" any more that provides still greater light, please copy me on any post you may make about this anywhere.)
Next: Reflections on Lakeland -- Part 4
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