I called it “Apostolic Fallout” a couple of weeks ago, and a few days after that I asked, “Is Bently Taking the ICA Down With Him?” Before I go further, I want to clarify that this is not really about Lakeland, or Bentley, except insofar as they illustrate symptoms of a larger problem. That’s where we need to focus our deep consideration at the moment. Leadership of the Lakeland revival-thing has been passed back to the local leaders and Bentley has properly been removed from ministry at least for a season. Now is the time to consider some bigger questions.
In my mind, one of the biggest questions at hand is what an apostle is in our present postmodern times and what their ministry looks like. First up is what’s being taught by Peter Wagner’s “International Coalition of Apostles” and its various arms. Now that the Bentley mess is coming unglued and the fallout is raining down upon the revival and the leaders who touched and endorsed it, I find it interesting to watch some of them run for cover.
About ten days ago, Barb the former leader wrote A Call For Honesty, in which she reviewed some of the post-Lakeland aftermath, particularly the involvement of Peter Wagner’s group of apostles. “This is what they have already said or will eventually say,” she predicted:
1) We knew of the problems (otherwise where would be their discernment?)
2) That they were not really putting their full endorsement on Todd
3) That it is a good thing for the body of Christ that they were brought in when they were. That only God knew this was brewing and he wanted to have His men in place to take care of the situation
4) And this is the biggest one: That it was actually their commissioning that allowed the truth of the facts of Todd’s life to come out. They will use this to put fear into people that the Apostolic anointing is not to be take lightly and “All will be revealed when alignment is brought into the Kingdom of God.” It is their great giftings that are to be revered. They are the heros. They are the leaders.
In my opinion, this will not hurt this new Apostolic movement. It will only strengthen it because the followers of this movement have already been prepped for how to follow the re-writing of history and the spin that they have to believe to belong.
The responses began from Wagner & Co., revealing something of a rift in the organization… as well as the predictable beginning of Wagner’s distancing of himself from Bentley after speaking so positively of him just short weeks earlier. The contrast is quite remarkable, as Grace outlines it very well, setting the quotations in juxtaposition to one another. When you read through it, the section “It was them, not me” will sound like outright falsehood. And yes, I agreed with most of what Barb wrote about the way this would be portrayed after-the-fact… and Grace outlines much of how the “spin” began. This week, Barb had to say “I Did Not Want To Be Right.” I hear that, but unfortunately, she is right in most of what she said (I believe this will hurt the ICA, but other than that…). What prompted her post this week was the second letter that came out from Peter Wagner (alternate link) on the aftermath of this whole affair.
C. Peter Wagner, who takes the title of “Presiding Apostle” over his coalition of “over 500 recognized apostles,” wrote in his update this week,
I have a private list of no fewer than 18 high-profile Christian leaders starting from the 1970s until Bentley for whom I took risks. For each one of them I took serious criticisms and in some cases personal hits even much more serious than I have received in this current case because I endorsed or partnered with or provided alignment for them. Some were typified as “crazy!” However, I can pretty much discern winners, although not always. My track record for the 18 is 72% emerged as real winners (you would know most of them), 17% ended up losers (including Bentley), and 11% indecisive. I’m sorry for the losers, but they prove I am not perfect. The point I am making is that I am no stranger to taking risks and living with the fallout.
There you have it. The pre-eminent apostle of the “Second Apostolic Age” has ruled: “Todd Bentley is a loser.”
It could be just me — or Barb and me — but I’m having a hard time finding a precedent for an apostolic ruling of another Christian leader as being a “loser.” I know Paul (who actually was an eminent apostle) had a beef with some who called themselves apostles and touted their ministry… but I don’t think he called them “losers,” or the applicable Koine Greek term, even though I’m sure he used some pretty strong language. Well, maybe he said something like that privately to Luke, followed by “And don’t
blog write about that!” So even if he did say something so harsh, it was evidently not preceded by the phrase, “Okay, take a memo…” with the intent that it be publicly distributed far and wide through the Christian churches of the time. It just seems that this would not be characteristic of “apostolic” behaviour.
Paul did write to the Corinthians about some people he disagreed with but who claimed to be apostles — and claimed to somehow be better or more “right” as apostles than Paul and The Twelve. Somewhat sarcastically, he called them “super-apostles,” and went on to support his own apostolic claims in the opposite manner from the “super-apostles,” by extolling his sufferings. Where he did make what would be considered apostolic claims, he called himself a fool for speaking in this way. Wagner, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be
afflicted affected by this same sort of humility as the apostle Paul. Is this a fair comparison? Well, perhaps not. But I would expect anyone claiming apostolic authority today to make the effort to follow such a pattern. Instead, Wagner is offering statistical verification of his accuracy in discerning “winners” and “losers” in ministry as proof of his apostolic track record.
I believe it was back in my freshman year of Bible College, we were assigned in one of our courses to read and report upon Peter Wagner’s On the Crest of the Wave: Becoming a World Christian, then still a new book. A few of us discussed the book among ourselves as we read it. Being freshmen, we had no idea who Peter Wagner really was nor the esteem he held in missiological circles at the time. Being somewhat cynical, one of the impressions a few of us shared about the book was that the author seemed rather arrogant. A stand-out phrase for us was the paragraph that began, “Research I have done…” where he went on to offer the conclusion of the research without making any mention at all of the research methodology or actual statistics. Naturally, we faulted his conclusion… and among ourselves, we mocked, “Research *I* have done…!” Our discussions and further education eventually granted us further knowledge of Wagner’s reputation and credentials. I admit I felt that my initial reaction must have been rather foolish, but upon further review I have to say that I must have been closer to the truth at the time than I realized, and something of that assessment seems to have remained accurate even to the current time.
A quick check of the ICA website reveals the opening sentence: “ICA is currently the largest professional society of apostles known with nearly 500 apostles as active members who pay dues, attend an annual meeting, connect with each other, and provide mutual support and accountability.” (emphasis theirs). I didn’t know there were “professional” apostles as opposed to… hhmm… “lay apostles”? Or those who just didn’t renew their paid membership subscription? Examination of their literature on the site and in other writings (see Grace’s samples) suggests a very thorough classification of the types of apostles and their qualifications, which selectively include and exclude some of the biblical qualifications. The lengthy list of categories for apostleship strikes me as being so thoroughly modern that it’s almost laughable. Still, I wouldn’t have nearly such a problem with it if it were couched in verbiage stating that the classifications were merely Wagner’s functional descriptions, not authoritative in any way. Of course, as an apostle of the “convening” kind, perhaps he considers his descriptions, ipso-facto to be authoritative. He does say that the mere use of the title of apostle conveys some kind of power. Presumably, so does some kind of “alignment,” a concept that seems to appear on Wagner’s lips (or pen) almost out of thin air, and seems to mean something along the lines of placing oneself under the direction (think “control”) of another person… or something to this effect. (This is where Bentley came into the Wagner picture, or vice-versa.)
Let’s just say I’m skeptical, shall we? Am I saying that there is no present-day ministry of the apostle? No — I actually do believe in the continuation of apostolic ministry. It’s just that as depicted by some of these professional super-apostles, we aren’t seeing it. Perhaps some of the “amateurs” are more rightfully qualified… which would be, I suspect, closer to the actual facts of the matter.
My informal appeal to post-charismatic and missional bloggers for the month of September might be to spend some time thinking and writing on the forms of leadership (apostolic or otherwise) which we need to see in the church today. What characterizes this form of leadership? How do we recognize leaders, and how is their authority derived and exercised? There are a number of large and significant issues at play here, and I believe that this expression of what the ICA calls the “Second Apostolic Age” which “began roughly in 2001” is failing to produce the genuine expression of apostolic leadership that the church needs to help it become established, to grow, and to mature. If you blog, offer your ideas for interaction and link back here; if not, feel free to enter a long and rambling comment on the matter below. Maybe we’ll discover just what an apostle is these days — and how we’d recognize one.