Healing Revival

Charismatic friends and relatives have been sending me links to God TV which is nightly broadcasting the revival in Lakeland, Florida.

So what do I think?

It has been interesting processing my thoughts about charismatic culture, particularly the dynamics of revival meetings.

My first time in a charismatic church was almost 30 years ago at a “revival meeting.” The special speaker was literally a former circus performer and later discovered to be a charlatan. In spite of that, when I was in the healing line, Jesus met me there.

Since then, I have had a full range of charismatic experiences. There were several years that our church was involved in the renewal movement influenced by the Toronto blessing. We had, what seems like hundreds of meetings, both large and small, that were quite similar to the Lakeland meetings.

What do I miss? I miss corporate expectancy and openness to whatever the Spirit of God might do.

In that kind of a setting, there is almost always a mixture of emotionalism and supernatural ministry. It is not always possible to distinguish between what is real and what is hype.

This kind of manifestation is familiar to me, and I am not offended by its strangeness. Somewhere in the mixture, people encounter God, often in ways that are contrary to their sensibilities and preconceived ideas of experiencing Him.

As the hype of revival grows, so does the number of people hesitantly hopeful that God might touch their life, that He might hear their plea and have a cure for their need.

While the atmosphere of revival often builds faith, it also creates the notion that one must go to a special location to receive from God. Once there, people will do almost anything to be touched by the guest minister.

It is in this fertile soil of desperation that sincere people are ripe for being taken advantage of, for being abused, and for being led into false teaching. I am not going to address the motives of those who minister at these revivals. I would hope that most of them are sincere.

The charismatic, prophetic, and renewal movements are heavily influenced with false teaching from various other movements – Latter Rain, Dominionism, Kingdom Now, Restorationism, and the New Apostolic Reformation. While you might not be exposed to these teachings at special meetings, one should be aware that this is the background of the ministers who are involved.

Hopefully Rob McAlpine’s book, Post-Charismatic, will be a helpful corrective to the long history of aberrant teaching among charismatics.

My advice, stay wide open to the supernatural work of the Spirit and to the possibility of experiencing the power of God. He can move in ways completely outside our realm of understanding and control. However, be cautiously aware that the ministers themselves may not purely express the ministry of the Spirit.

In the meantime, I wonder what revival would look like apart from the package of church revival culture – special speakers, special meetings, special offerings. What does an outpouring look like in the streets without an audience? I wonder if the people of Myanmar and China will receive a special outpouring.

I am interested in your thoughts about this.

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40 thoughts on “Healing Revival

  1. When I hear about Revival I always think that the bible doesn’t say much about it apart from one of a few times Eg Psalm 85 “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” Surely an outcome of God reviving His people must be that we rejoice in Him? Grace, I wonder if revival outwith a package of church revival culture would incorporate us rejoicing in God . I believe I have seen some of this in Asia while on vacation a few years ago where God was the delight and focus but healings , fellowship, church planting, giving to the poor, looking after orphans resulted. Revive me Lord.

  2. I love the way the Spirit works in these things. She’s uncontrollable and wild. She moves in both charlatans and in those seeking healing. And when all is said and done, nobody really knows how to package it in a way that can be sold. As it should be.

    I think that revivals have a way of creating a sense of possibility and expectancy that is missing in the traditional modes of church. People come willing to remove the defense mechanisms.

  3. I don’t have any additional thoughts, although I also have several decades of experience in this sphere of Christianity. I wanted to say that I so appreciate your wise and measured response. I want to stay open, as you say, to what God’s Spirit can do and I also long for the day of seeing revival in the way you speak of it. God bless you Grace

  4. While I am a firm believer that the Holy Spirit moves, sometimes in marvelous ways beyond our ability to comprehend, I am not sure the word “revival” conveys this very well. It is a term so laden with history, some good but a lot of it pretty bad, that it is almost like fingernails on the chalkboard for me.

    And, I often think that revival, or perhaps the lack thereof, is a method of justifying our lack of missionality. By this I mean, that if we can blame the Holy Spirit for not working around us then we can justify being lazy spiritually. So, we can pray for “revival” and if it does not come then it is God’s fault.

  5. Grace I think it’s important to be careful not only in what we may fall for or what bandwagon we may be inclined to jump on, but also in how we judge ( as you pointed out) . God is so much wilder than we imagine, I think. We always want to put God in some box, with reasonable limits that we can understand, or at least have some (false) sense of knowing God’s intent or method.
    The fact is even if the whole “revival” is a fake out circus show with smoke and mirrors, God can still use it, He is still there.
    I also would like to add that “revival” I think is often a misnomer. Just because we put aside this time and this place and we have this speaker or this healing ministry, doesn’t make it relevant to what God is up too.
    Only God can bring revival, our hearts may have to be inline to receive it, but God does it.
    We humans are always trying to get credit for something we had so little to do with..
    God is not subject to time, space, (please forgive me any of you really religious types) any of our preconceived ideas, religious constructs or methods we consider correct.
    What ? Are YOU going to tell Jesus he can’t heal on the Sabbath?

  6. I had two people email me about the Lakeland revival, specifically in regards to the local tv news taking note of it. So I thought, hm, let’s check out what the tv people reported on. “Healings verified perhaps?” I eagerly wondered. I would love, love, love for a genuine move of supernatural healings from God to be real in this nation.

    But when I viewed the tv report it was basically telling how many people are driving in for the meetings. They interviewed a few people in the parking lot who claimed God was doing big things. But no big things were actually documented. Just hyped out.

    And so, with a sigh, and a bit of a cynical edge, I searched around the net for what the fuss is with Mr Bentley and this so-called revival in Lakeland, Florida.

    And my conclusion, is it is more of the same from the old school charismatic hype machine.

    As others have noted here, and Grace in your eloquent post, God doesn’t seem to mind revealing himself or drawing people towards faith through the spiritually ambitious. I think the apostle Paul may have said a thing or two about this.

    Why are charismatics so gullible? Why do intelligent men and women blindly believe hyped up reports rather than embrace a spirit of inquiry (which, said another way, is healthy skepticism).

    Why does Bentley, who really has an interesting track record if you read up on him, stage healing meetings in stadiums? If there truly is a move of the Spirit of God would he limit it to a stadium? Is it just me and my romantic, idealistic thinking that wonders if a healing movement would actually Move out into the community, out into poor places where there is little healthcare of money for the best healthcare? Is it just my cynicism that asks, Why do healers stay behind church walls and lack transparency and verifiable supernatural healings?

    It smacks of fraud, a kind of magician like showmanship. Give the people what they want, and they will come.


  7. I too lived through the Catholic Charismatic renawal, John Wimber conferences, and the Toronto “blessing”. While what is going on in Lakeland is nothing NEW, I think it is great that folks are being healed. Despite the hype.

    However I dont like the focus on emotional phenominion and Todd’s theatrics.

    Jesus gave it away. So should Todd.

    Katherine Kuhlman, Amiee Simple Mc Phereson etc had their share of hype. No one liked Smith Wigglesworth at the time. Yet…

    Running away from Charismatic stuff as a remedy is not an option.

    Focusing on the one thing we were designed to focus on. Jesus is.

    If this brings folks to Jesus then alright. It is not about me.

  8. Grace,
    I have to admit that I had no idea what you were talking about. Guess I’m a little behind on the news.

    I appreciate your balanced response to this. A part of me rolls my eyes at hype like this, but then I have to remember the patience, kindness, and goodness of God. He had and still has relationship with me in the middle of my own hype.

    I still get sad for those who may be abused by this (even if the “revival” starts out well) and/or think that something is wrong with them if they don’t get their miracles. That level of hurt and misunderstanding can take a long time to heal.

  9. Grace,
    I too wrestle with all of this. I am no stranger to these types of meetings and God knows we need His empowerment to do the work of the Kingdom, especially in the trenches. I want to be careful here; I just can’t take the showmanship in these types of environments –gifting seems to trump character. It begins to feel like a family with an alcoholic parent, all the crazy making stuff going on but in the midst good things are happening. How do you hold both? I love, love, love the activity of the Holy Spirit. I am cautious, cautious, cautious of the theology that accompanies these type of meetings….and I question the use of “revival”…is culture really being changed in Lakeland? I don’t know…can we look back and see that Toronto changed culture? I know I went to Toronto and was profoundly touched personally, but I am not sure it was a “revival”.
    As you can see, I am torn. I wrestle, but mostly for right now I feel cautious of meetings that seem hyped and teachers that teach a message that I can’t square with a theology of the kingdom. Thanks for posting for many this is an important wrestle.

  10. Well here is where we need to determine the ‘who’ that is doing the healing…

    Is it Bentley? If so, by all means show up to his ‘crusade’…

    If it is the power of God, then why chase some odd ball that claims to be doing the healing out there in Florida?

    Let’s just for arguments sake limit all healing attempts to those that are indeed incurable according to the MD report. No need to show up if lifestyle changes or doctor visits could be done. Having people simply claim they are healed is no way to determine a person’s ministry effectiveness. I don’t know of any people in the gospel narratives that sought out Jesus for the thrill & went about blind but claiming their healing anyway. Let’s get down to just what God is willing to do through those that claim to have that extra-spiritual UMPH that is truly the power of God that they have been blessed to dispense…

    No need to let in all the kooks in the first place. “I was a newt once, but I got better…”

    Any so-called prophetic type should be able to discern a true illness or what is simply in the mind of the beholder…

    Standing up there ‘doing the stuff’ is a silly litmus test for its authenticity. But I am not claiming that I have that special anointment of God to be so empowered… :)

  11. Okay…I’m on a rant, I’ll admit it…

    Here is the big problem I have with these so-called ‘revivals’ or special moves of God: “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ (or Toronto or Pensacola or Lakeland) do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.”

    We have substituted the Holy Shrines of ancient Christianity with the new Pentecostal Meccas of outpourings/revivals. People get all twitterpated about the next ‘spout where the glory comes out’. And it is a certain personality that is at the center with its associated PR & claims & underground network of getting out the hype…

    And now with the instantaneous access via web cams & internet communication, the hype spreads even faster than the wild fire that spawned it…

    If God indeed decides that He is not going to be available to any saint that does not make the effort to get to Lakeland, then I would have to rethink that maybe He is a respecter of persons. And is geopraphically more concentrated in specific areas than is commonly believed.

    You may find such a God more appealing. I do not. If you feel you need to make a hajj to Toronto or Lakeland or Podunk Wherever, then go. Just don’t make it out to be the next best thing since Jesus walked the earth. I tend to strongly disagree. But if God is truly present in the hearts of every believer, then seek Him there first.

    BTW: in the account of the blind man Jesus healed with the mud made from His spit, He instructed the man to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. Here is one account where Jesus directed someone to go to a specific place to complete or receive or manifest a healing. I can understand this principle to be the same today. But the response has to be from Jesus first as the initial directive. Showing up at a Bentley crusade hoping that there is more of a chance for getting healed is Christian superstition IMHO. But like I said before, personal results will vary…

  12. Grace and all, I found an interesting site on the straw man arguments that charasmatics use to have people overlook the stuff that we just know is wrong. See what you think: http://www.spiritwatch.org/firethree.htm
    It is written by a man who seems to believe in the giftings but wants to stay away from the hype. It helped me process this because I have heard each and every argument into putting my brain and spirit on hold and not saying anything.

    That said, Albmo over at Windblown Hope had an excellent article too today. I’m so glad to process all of this with all your voices. As I wrote on his post today: “If I dismiss anyone else and limit God amoungst them then I return to my legalism and bind myself back up in the very chains that I put on them. I have to allow freedom to be free. I have to allow God to show up there so that I will have faith that he will show up here. I have to believe he loves them in whatever state He finds them so that I will understand that he loves me in whatever place he finds me today. I hate it but maybe I’ll be able to put this angst behind me and go on with my life.”

  13. Joseph quoted Jesus in saying:

    “…So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ (or Toronto or Pensacola or Lakeland) do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.”

    Thank you so much, Joseph, for putting your finger on what I couldn’t swallow about this. Something was gnawing away at me in it, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. But you pointed out words that I had temporarily forgotten, and immediately, I said, “That’s it!!”

    That’s what bothers me about Pensacola, Brownsville, Lakeland, et. al. It’s the idea that we have to go somewhere to find a move of the Holy Spirit.

    Sigh….when will the body of Christ stop seeking a human mediator? We don’t need one!!

  14. Slight modification, because Jesus is human, too:

    Sigh…when will the body of Christ stop seeking a mediator other than Christ himself? We don’t need one!!

  15. There are a couple of passages of scripture that I have been wrestling with for the last few months, and this thing with Todd Bentley seems to bring it even more into the forefront.

    Matt 10:40-42 “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”

    1 John 3:9-11 I wrote something to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have first place among them, does not receive us. This is why, if I come, I will remind him of the works he is doing, slandering us with malicious words. And he is not satisfied with that! He not only refuses to welcome the brothers himself, but he even stops those who want to do so and expels them from the church. Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.

    The first passage is about receiving others and finding Christ in that other person. The second passage is about refusing to receive others – mostly to protect your own interests, titles, positions, or doctrines. The church is full of Diotrephes’s – in some ways – that’s what a denomination is. I think we have 37,000 denominations or something like that because we as Christians refused to receive one another. Can we find the Christ in Todd and reject the false doctrine and hype? (I believe we all have tons of false doctrine (except me of course))

    You know, I think I will go down to Lakeland soon – I hate to get things second hand. I’d love to see healing and miracles in the streets in Indianapolis, that would just be dandy.

  16. … correction on post above – passage 1 John 3:9-11 should be 3 John 1:9-11 …. sorry (I’m not even close to understanding 1 John 3:9-11 yet)

  17. pastor astor,
    Anticipation and hunger for God’s presence often produces visitation. Yet that same hunger invites manipulation and hype. I wonder if they can be separated.

    Thanks for the link. It reminded me of the truly miraculous things that happen during times of visitation.

    Yes, I’m not sure that revival is the correct word. The fruit of revival/renewal should result in loving others. I believe that overall, we have been very self-indulgent in times of revival.

    I agree with everything that you said except this: “nobody really knows how to package it in a way that can be sold”.

    That’s what I have a problem with, and when you combine it with “people willing to remove their defense mechanisms, the result is sadly sometimes a charismatic circus claiming to be a move of God.

    Thanks Ron!

    Yes revival is a word laden with baggage, yet it conveys the mentality of revivalism which is evident in these gatherings.

    I honestly believe that the next real outpouring that we will see in America will be in the streets, not on a stage.

    I totally agree. I would be one of the first to say that God can move completely outside our boxes, and that he can and will touch individual hearts regardless of the setting.

    There is likely a mixture of false claims and true claims of healing. Why is there such a susceptibility to hype among charismatics? Why the chase after the latest minister with a promised anointing?

    “Jesus gave it away. So should Todd.”

    The financial things I have read concerning this are especially distasteful.

    If you went to church, you would know about these things. ;)

    Great points. God was right there in the middle of our charismania. I think the disappointment of those who walk away “untouched” is very sad.

    More later!

  18. Could it be the close proximity to the Bermuda Triangle that Florida is the place these revivals break out in? :)


    Here is where the example of, “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him” differs from what is being passed off as a healing circus!

    Let’s simply use Jesus as the example. Sporadic healings. Moved on if crowds reacted in the wrong way. Told those He healed to be discreet about it. Accepted worship from those He healed because, well, He was God…

    Now, let’s constrast that with what passes off as the healing meetings today: in one night there are more claimed healings than in Jesus’ entire ministry. And remember, He was the premier healer. So, let’s just review what such a “sign” should more closely resemble: for any one saint we may be blessed to be the one a healing happens through once in a great while throughout our lifetime. And if one truly did have such a gifting that was, well, continuous, then do it like Jesus did. Single line. No advertising. No big arena. No crowds. No hype. No offering. Period.

    No attempt to multiply the healing by working the crowds to start receiving their miracle. No cold calling. No glitz, high-tech production. Just low-key, humble, no-name healing. No frills. No accepting the praise of men. Jesus is the only one that is lifted up. And if a healing is not dispensed, then don’t attempt to paint it out to be something it is not… :(

    Doing it this way just might eliminate 80%-90% of the goofiness factor & it minimizes the ego getting in the way.

    In fact, if God is directing, empowering, or anointing one specific individual to do such things, it is as the Spirit wills & it is a gift to The Church, not one denomination or Apostolic Tradition…

    Have all such high-profile types like Bentley get off their high donkey, get humble, dispense with the hype & avoid the PR crap. Then I will be surprised to hear about a person that was indeed healed by having them recount it to me in person. I will be much more open to such a claim because of a personal testimony that I can determine has resulted in a change that I can perceive as I hear them tell it. And any second hand anecdotes I will keep at arms length. I do not have to take such reports as gospel IMHO…

  19. Wasn’t the greatest ‘revival’ ever Jesus’ 3-year earthly ministry?

    Our idea of a ‘revival’ related to a concept of Holy Ghost conviction. Not like Jesus who went about doing good, healing the sick & preaching the Good News…

    We equate ‘revival’ with fear & dread, not good news. It is couched in the fire insurance offer to avoid that divine grip of an angry god…

    Maybe the ministry of Jesus is not the way the Holy Spirit decides to work today. Maybe we try to categorize too much. Use the term revival loosely instead of terms like phenomena or effect or curiosity. We try to identify the genuine markers for what is accepted as revival. There is a desire to see great anguish & copious repentance & manifestations of some strange type. I think revivals a recent Protestant phenomena in Church history. Could be part of the social climate or technological advances or cultural receptivity that is the underlying factor more than the Holy Spirit crashing in on a specific area & deciding to ‘do revival’!

    Then there is the temptation of course to reconstruct/reenact/reimagine revival over here or over there. We want God to come down & do some things The Church should be doing. We want God to show up & do a special effects display. We want God to come down & really show those low-down, no-count so-and-so’s that yeah baby, God is going to get you now! Watch out!

    What we want is to use the Holy Spirit as a puppet for revival however it is envisioned…

    And when something comes close to fitting our preconceived notions, then by golly we gots it! We gots revival!

    I think it starts of course with The Church. What some wish to see as a need for ‘renewal’ I see as a need for more maturity. More sober mindedness. More cooperation. More focus. More kingdom minded stuff…

    Society would indeed be salted & lit if only The Church did what she is supposed to be doing…

    But that is The Church’s commission, not the Holy Spirit’s to catalyze independently through revival. It’s through the members of the body, not through supernatural phenomena of inexplicable origins. But maybe I think in terms of the very limited geographical impact of the historical revivals & the limited time of their effectiveness…

    If there is empowering to be done, it is in the lives of the individual saints of God, not the seekers of signs/wonders or the heathens that should be seeing such good works they begin to praise the Father in Heaven…

  20. Sorry I’m a little slow in commenting on this. I kind of moved on from this, but I’m seeing several others chime in on their blogs, and of course that prompts more thoughts….

    Thanks for the balance in your post.

    I tend to be slow in judging an apparent move of God–not because of fear of “touching God’s anointed” as much as fear of God–not wanting to find myself attacking something He is genuinely doing. (See Gamaliel in Acts 5:33-39)

    I have always felt, and agree with those who have said so, that we shouldn’t necessarily have to go someplace to receive from God. But when there are these apparent hot-spots, I think what happens is when people have to sort of make pilgrimage (which is Biblical, by the way), there is an expectancy that arises when you make the trip.

    I know several pastors locally who have already been to Lakeland. I am not motivated to go simply because my pilgrimage is taking me another direction. I don’t dispute that God is doing something there–despite the hype–but I don’t think that’s the only place He’s moving. I’m with you–I want to find out what He’s doing on the streets, and what that looks like.

  21. Joseph

    “in one night there are more claimed healings than in Jesus’ entire ministry”

    That I have to diagree with, I’m afraid:
    [Mat 4: 24] “…and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.”
    [Mat 8:6] “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.”
    [Mat 12:15] “Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick
    [Mat 14:36] “…and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.”
    [Mark 6:56] “And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.”

    …and theres more…

  22. yeah – Andy M

    John 21:25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

  23. Joseph

    “in one night there are more claimed healings than in Jesus’ entire ministry”

    That I have to diagree with, I’m afraid:

    You actually believe the little towns out in the backwoods of Judea larger than all the people that have already gone to Lakeland? And what % do you think were sick?

    All the claims of being healed from back aches & hangnails & cigarette addiction in one night would probably be more than all the people Jesus ever touched…

    But I am a very outspoken skeptic. And to put Bentley on par with Jesus, is, well, not helping with the argument here…

    I am convinced that a ‘gift’ of healing not at all as Bentley parades it as. Just my own strong opinion of course. There is nothing that I have heard about happening in Lakeland in any way resembles what Jesus did. Could be showmanship an additional office or anointing that goes unlisted in Paul’s epistles?

    Jesus would not do ‘it’ the Bentley way. And any actual miracle that happens there based on the faith of the recipient, not on Bentley’s power or special unction. Heck, pray to a statue if that is what can focus your faith. Save the money that would be spent on the trip…

  24. yeah – Andy M

    John 21:25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

    Sorta like the rebuke Jesus gave to the Bentley-type disciple that set up a tent outside of Bethany for a healing revival? :)

    Certainly the manner which Jesus sent out the disciples unlike the circus atmosphere that occurs at large revivals/crusades of the Lakeland type?

    But then that is what discernment is for, correct? Test it & see if it passes the original manner which healing was done?

    I think most of the concerns regarding Lakeland are the sober result of a post-charismatic climate that now has been defined. It is a good example of how not to do it. But if such a methodology is your cup of tea I am sure whatever you put into it to sweeten it up will not be something I wish to consume. And I would caution many to give it the ol’ taste test. Gaze upon the video feeds. Read the blogs. And if by chance you get the urge to go to Lakeland, then do us a favor & report back what it is you see+hear. I would be curious to find out what you discover.

  25. Okay…I am done with the devil’s advocate stance. If you want to believe Lakeland & Bentley genuine works of God that express supernatural power then do so…

    I will you with this thought: Let’s just look at contrasting ‘methods’ of how to offer a healing ministry…

    Contrast Bentley’s PR with that of the team approach of The International Order of Saint Luke. I think this is an Episcopal associated organization, but definitely not high profile with glitz & glamour…

    I am a big proponent of ‘team ministry’…

    No lone rangers in the healing arena. There was a divine design nestled in the way Jesus sent out the disciples in pairs…

    Don’t even think that one individual is God’s point man! It should always be a group or a team so that the elevated status of a certain individual is avoided…

    I would be a part of a genuine healing team. But I would never set out to be someone that claims “I am” specially empowered to be a healer…

    From what I gather in the gospel narratives, only One used the “I am” statements appropriately…

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