The buzz of the day is around the old hyper-charismatic mess. Steve Knight opines on John Crowder who’s big on “Tokin’ the Ghost.” Yes, sadly, you read that right. I don’t know if it’s Todd Bentley-ish or what. Uh-huh. Here’s a few words to the wise should you get to watching the YouTube videos at the ends of those links. (1) When someone claims to have been through a “dark night of the soul” that ends with “spiritual power”, there’s a 99% likelihood they’ve never read St. John of the Cross. (2) When anyone starts using the phrase “whole new dimension” or “whole new level”, run away. (3) When you’re being told to ignore all that you know and believe only in the transrational “greater reality”, it’s time to exercise some sharp discernment… and use your brain. Seriously, claims of “bi-location” where one person appears in two places at the same time? What’s up with that? Did a simpler explanation never occur to anyone, or is it supposed to be a sign of faith to run to the most outlandish explanation? So I guess they’ve got this “revival” thing going on in Lakeland, FL. My email is abuzz this morning, and I’m thinking of Robbymac’s Post-Charismatic? book (link to Amazon.ca).
It’s disturbing to me to realize that at one time I would have been excited by all of this. “Stoked”, even. But those days are behind me now. Thank God. It’s not that I don’t believe that God is capable of unleashing forms of revival that we don’t understand… or that he actually does it from time to time. He did it in the Great Awakening and at other times in history. Of this I have no doubt. I’ve done the Toronto Blessing thing, been to the laughing mecca, and been part of what in my own city was called “Prairie Fire,” a series of city-wide meetings attended by thousands where we had that whole laughing and falling thing going on left, right, and center. And I was on the dishing-it-out end. And just for the record, I never pushed anybody.
Ed Cyzewski speaks in favour of Bentley and the Lakeland revival, but I have mixed feelings. I’ve seen stuff that convinces me that there’s some of God in it despite the weirdness. And not necessarily because of the weirdness, I know too that there’s a lot that isn’t of God. By my observation, at the first hint of any stirring of the Holy Spirit, we seem pretty quick to start talking about airline charters and itinerant ministry. We may think it funny that first-century invalids camped out beside the Pool of Bethesda waiting for an angel to stir the waters, but we think nothing of hopping a flight to Toronto or Florida or Argentina if we get wind of the Holy Spirit moving someplace we’re not. And when he moves someplace where we are, we’re pretty quick to shout about it.
But here’s the thing. This was not the case with the major revivals of old. Manifestations were downplayed, as was even the visible moving of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was the focus, and his works in the lives of common folk was the goal and the cause for hope and rejoicing. Not open visions of heaven by spokespersons. And not outlandish claims of visiting Paul in the third heaven where he lives in a cabin and tells visitors that he co-authored the book of Hebrews with Abraham the patriarch. Angels were not the focus, nor were miraculous healings, large offerings, or claims of strange supernatural occurrences. David Brainerd saw some significant instances of the Holy Spirit meddling in natural affairs, yet it barely gets a mention in his journal.
So my take is, sure, God can do this kind of thing… but if he should ever do it in my midst or yours, be quick to go with that whole “messianic silence” stance and shut up about it until you have some very clear understanding about why it’s happening. Rather than spend all your energy preaching about whatever happened and “how you too can have it in your church,” figure out what God wants to do in your midst and put your energy there. If he wants it to spread, leave that with him. Did we think he was capable of landing and starting a mass revival in one geographic place on earth, but not of spreading it around a little without our help? Should this ever happen in your midst, you’ll have to realize that (a) it’s got nothing to do with you or any of your supposed meritorious acts, and (2) you are no wiser, more gifted, or of greater intelligence after the visitation than you were before. You’re the same old crack(ed)pot. The upshot is that I strongly suspect that most of what God wanted to do in Toronto, Winnipeg, Brownsville, Lakeland, Saskatoon, and anywhere else you can name is largely subverted and aborted when it was commandeered by people trying to control it, spread it, and make names for themselves. I think that God continues to honour the hunger in some of the folk who flock there, but it seems to me that the percentage of what’s God versus what isn’t tends to diminish over time. Trouble is, you often can’t spot the difference.
What do you think?