False Unity and the Lakeland Revival Cult (Part 1)
The so-called “Lakeland Revival” or “Lakeland Outpouring” has produced a new Charismatic cult of dogmatic religious zealots, who claim to be “Christians” birthing a “new form” of Christianity. They speak Christian lexicon—the words, phrases, idioms, expressions associated with Christianity—but their doctrine, or teaching, their theology, their ways, the values and culture they advocate and promote are all far from comporting with orthodox or genuine Christianity.
Plain and simple, this whole phenomenon is nothing but just another of the long list of “Christian cults” that have sprung up in church history. To the discerning and experienced, the signs of cultism are all there—glowing and flashing like a neon sign. And, cultism is, in effect, synonymous with the occult. Thus, there is no such a thing as an innocuous cult, because all cults are ensconced in the occult, and usually in a plurality of ways.
The Bible informs us that Satan, formerly named, Lucifer, before his rebellion and consequential expulsion from Heaven, is the craftiest and the most subtle of all the creatures God created. He is the master-deceiver, who possesses supernatural abilities for deception. Mere humans, especially unredeemed humans, are no match for angelic beings, of which creational-class are Satan and his fallen cohorts. Satan himself, was one of the arch-angels, the highest echelon of angelic order, which resulted in him possessing supernatural power that, in his apostasy and rebellion, he now uses for evil and destruction. Thus, to the uninformed, naïve, and carnally-minded, cultism and even what is blatantly occult, is often difficult to detect or discern. But, not to the Spirit-led, Spirit-infused, Spirit-Baptized, and Spirit-taught. To them, the truly “spiritual,” cultism and the occult are as blatantly obvious as the proverbial nose on their face. They can spot it a proverbial mile away. When “deceiving spirits” are afoot and at work, their spiritual antennae go up, their internal spiritual radar begins scouring the atmosphere, and the Holy Spirit within their human spirit sounds the alarm like a reverberating air-horn, declaring, “Something is not right here; this is NOT OF GOD, but is the work of the Deceiver!”
Such is the case with this latest of occult “Charismatic” cults—”The Lakeland Healing Revival” or “Lakeland Outpouring,” whichever title you prefer. The spiritually-discerning are not the least bit deceived or even for a moment disconcerted by this phenomenon, but rather immediately know without a shadow of a doubt it is a counterfeit, no matter how many purported miracles and decisions are reported. The true and infallible test of the workings of the Holy Spirit is inward workings of transformed hearts, repentance, and sanctification, not signs and wonders affecting the outward and physical. Regardless, the fact remains that those who worship in (Holy) Spirit AND TRUTH are still the TRUE worshipers that the Father seeks (Jn. 4:23,24). Satan, the prince of the power of the air, is able to exercise supernatural power on the earth affecting the outward and physical, but he is powerless to perform the inner workings of the heart. Genuine salvation and having relationship with God is a heart matter, not a soulish or fleshly matter. The Holy Spirit and the Truth (Word, Jesus) ALWAYS agree; they are never contradictory of one another. Operating in spiritual power, even if it is the Holy Spirit, is only one-half of the requirements of being recognized by God as being “true worshipers” who are engaged in true worship. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote, “You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool GOD ANYTIME!” And He is the ultimate judge, whose “opinion,” judgment or assessment, is the only one that ultimately counts!
Make no mistake about it, Todd Bentley, and all of the acclaimed leaders who have now allied and aligned themselves and their ministries with him and his ministry, including the elitist International Coalition of Apostles, led by C. Peter Wagner, have birthed and christened a CULT of religious ragers and ravers, complete with their Harley-Davidson-like culture of hedonism and copious body-tattoos and -piercings. So now, in true fashion of all cults, the cult’s leaders are now “training” and “commissioning” any and all of their adherents following their pied-piper lead down the path they have forged to worship of false gods and the demons behind them as “street-evangelists” to go out anywhere and everywhere to “evangelize” and “proselytize” the “unbelieving” with their deviant brand of “Christianity” with all its cultural distinctives and peculiarities.
These are the “new Charismatic Hare-Krishnas” going out into the highways and byways compelling (button-holing, strong-arming, demanding, commanding, and in some cases physically assaulting) the infidels to come into their new found cult and the “kingdom of the cults.” Like all cults, the leaders of the Bentley Bangers, are indoctrinating their followers with the tenet that to validate their “conversion” and “commitment” to the “cause,” they must go out and spread the word to the uttermost parts of the earth. Churches and the new universal church, the Internet, are being invaded and pervaded with the new cult’s “evangelists” declaring to Christians and non-Christians alike that this is the “new” God-approved “Way,” and if you don’t accept and approve of this “move of God” and all its weirdo ways, cultish and counter-cultural conduct, anti-biblical teachings, and occult practices, then you just can’t be a genuine Christian, nor can you be of God. For after all, this is “THE new thing” God is doing, and if you were of God, you’d be on the bandwagon waving the banners and declaring your allegiance to this “new god” of “revivalism.”
Moreover, now that a litany of acclaimed and self-proclaimed “spiritual leaders” claiming “universal authority” as “the global gatekeepers” have lent their credibility to this “new way” by publicly declaring their approval and affirmation of the new cult and commissioning its primary leader, Todd Bentley, there is a new wave of “unity” preaching spreading across the globe like wildfire, positing to all spiritual leaders that if they do not get in line and begin to march in lockstep with the teachings, practices, and cultural ways of this movement, they are missing God and are enemies of God and the Spirit. The message of the Charismatic Costa Nostra to all Charismatic leaders is that you must “go along to get along,” otherwise you will be shunned, ostracized, black-balled, and discredited.
In light of these recent developments, I am compelled of the Spirit to write what I hear the Spirit speaking to me on this matter of “unity” and what true “unity of the Spirit” really is and what it is not. The following is the first part of an excerpt of my book, Charismatic Captivation, which was first published in 1996, twelve years before the Lakeland phenomenon. It is prophetic in that it reflects what the Spirit taught me about the matter of true unity of the Spirit, as opposed to personal opinion or understanding. Of particular importance is the reference I make in the article about a “movement” I referenced earlier in this article that began in 1948 with which Todd Bentley has openly and repeatedly associated the Lakeland Outpouring. He has stated over and over again that the Lakeland Revival, like its predecessor “revivals,” such as the 1992 Lakeland Revival under Rodney Howard-Browne, Toronto, Brownsville, et cetera, are all a resumption, renaissance, or revival of the “movement” mentioned in the article. YouTube, MySpace, and similar Internet portals host scores of video clips in which Bentley makes these claims as ostensible validation that the nascent Lakeland Outpouring is a genuine move of God. Moreover, when it is understood that C. Peter Wagner openly proclaims that the “New Apostolic Reformation” he claims is being forged exclusively by ICA members is likewise an outcropping or extension of the same earlier movement, it becomes glaringly obvious why Wagner hurriedly formed a possee of noted ICA members to appear on the Lakeland stage to put their “seal of approval” upon the “revival” one day before shocking revelations that had been suppressed for, at the minimum, weeks by organizers and insiders were about to come out about Bentley’s decidedly and undeniably ungodly personal conduct, including adultery and being intoxicated during meetings.
Due to its length, I will have to break the article up into three parts and even cut some of the original text from those parts. So, in order to digest the full import of the article, I encourage you to look for the other two parts in subsequent postings.
Balancing The Scales of Unity
I believe in unity among believers—wholeheartedly. I believe it is vital to the Body of Christ in order to accomplish the purposes and plans of God on Earth. More importantly, beyond believing in it, I want it. No, I covet it! That is, I have a strong desire for it. I much prefer unity over disunity, harmony over disharmony, accord over discord, concord over controversy, agreement over disagreement, amity over animus. Don’t you?
We know God likes unity too. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit spoke about it in Scripture:
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! (Ps. 133:1)
I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me. (Jn. 17:23)
being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:3)
until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (Eph. 4:13)
And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. (Col. 3:14)
I believe in and strongly desire unity, but I believe in Biblical unity. There are more versions of unity than just the Biblical one, however, that are not based in the principles of God’s Word, Will, and Ways, but in a far different philosophy and agenda. For example, there is the Muslim version of “unity” in which everyone in the world must worship Allah and practice the Koran, and the entire population of the world is divided into two classes—“the faithful” (believers) and “infidels,” the latter of which should be despised and alienated by the former. There is the Catholic Church’s concept of “unity,” in which all the religions of the world are coalesced into a single “unified” “universal church” that all espouse or indulge Catholic doctrine. Then, there is the humanistic, Age of Aquarius, New Age concept of utopian unity poetically and melodiously articulated by the hedonistic pied piper of the 1960s, John Lennon, in his idyllic ode to Godless one-world collectivism (i.e., socialism, communism) in which there is no heaven, no hell, no life after death, nothing worth dying for, but only “living for today” in a fallacious “peace” of passivity and total surrender to Satan’s machinations, Imagine:
Imagine there’s no heaven; It’s easy if you try.
No hell below us; Above us only sky.
Imagine all the people…Living for today.
Imagine there’s no countries; It isn’t hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for; And no religion too.
Imagine all the people…Living life in peace.
You may say I’m a dreamer; But I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll join us; And the world will be as ONE.
Imagine no possessions; I wonder if you can.
No need for greed or hunger; A brotherhood of man.
Imagine all the people; Sharing all the world.
You may say I’m a dreamer; But I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll join us; And the world will live as ONE.
And, that’s just to name a few examples of so-called “unity” prevalent in this world system of the last days!
Pentecostals and Neo-Pentecostals have been taught yet another adulterated version of unity that has actually become chains of bondage to them. The centerpiece of that version is the hypothesis of “covenant relationships.”
In a nutshell, the premise of “covenant relationships” is that since all believers have come into a covenant-based relationship with God through Christ and His shed blood, and consequently have been “adopted” into the Divine Family (all of which, of course, is most true), then therefore, by virtue of that union, all believers have also automatically entered into a permanent, binding covenant with every other professing “believer” who has likewise become a partaker of the same transactions. Hence the term, “covenant relationships.”
This precept of “covenant relationships” with which most Charismatics are familiar, were first introduced in the writings of the principals involved in the spawning of the New Order of the Latter Rain Movement that emerged in Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1948. Thus, it is important in scrutinizing this concept for the purpose of assaying its validity, to keep in mind that it was a key patch in the fabric of “the manifested sons of God” doctrine—a primary component of Latter Rain theology—which the vast majority of legitimate theologians consider heretical. Nevertheless, Latter Rain adherents continued to promulgate their version of “covenant relationships” during the Pentecostal Movement that spanned the late 1920s through the 50s, the Charismatic Movement with all of its sub-movements that began in 1960 and ebbed in the mid-1980s, as well as the nascent Prophetic and Apostolic Movements. It was during one of the sub-movements of the Charismatic Movement—the Shepherding Movement of the 1970s—that the fallacious concept of “covenant relationships” was widely promulgated and accepted, and consequently was woven into the very fabric, foundations, and functions of the Neo-Pentecostal Church.
The primary emphasis of the “covenant relationships” teaching is the interdependence and “koinonia” (i.e., commonality) among believers that proponents predicate on the fact that believers become “blood-brothers/sisters” by virtue of our having been adopted into the Family of God. Typically, purported pretext, or scriptural support, for this version of interrelations or relationships among believers relies heavily upon Luke’s account in the Book of Acts concerning what took place in the Early Church in the days immediately following the original Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit:
And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common [Greek, “koina”; hence, “koinonia”]; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
This passage is indeed a key source of information about the supernatural atmosphere in the Early Church following Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, appearance, and ascension that prevailed as a result of apostolic anointing and impartation. It truly was an ecstatic time! As the Body of Christ, individually and collectively, were being transformed into a collective Holy Habitation of the Spirit of God, and were gradually becoming more and more cognizant of who they were through the apostles’ teaching, their commitment and dedication to one another increased commensurately. There was a commonality, koinonia, that developed among them, in which they were bearing one another’s burdens in both prayer and practice, and living a life-style that was a daily practice of vivid connection with the Spirit of God and one another.
In trying to understand this commonality, it is vital to understand that it developed as a direct result of the early believer’s devotion “to the apostles’ teaching,” preeminently. The apostolic dimension, when a group of people truly receive and devote themselves to it, will produce a supernatural atmosphere—an anointed ambience—in which the supernatural is commonplace. And when I say, supernatural, I am not referring only to the signs and wonders of healing, deliverance, and the miraculous, that were taking place through the apostles, but also to the signs and wonders—the supernatural—that was taking place in the interrelations and interactions of these people. It is not “natural,” that is, normal human nature, for a group of people to be collectively and individually “devoted” to much of anything. It is not natural for a group of people to “day by day,” consistently and persistently, “continue” in anything, much less something good and noble. Moreover, it is certainly not natural for a group of people to day by day continue in something “with one mind,” and especially not in the Temple (church). But then to continue with one mind not only in the Temple but also as they broke bread together in Christian Communion in one another’s homes, even doing it with “gladness and sincerity of heart,” confirmed beyond doubt that what they were living in was truly a supernatural atmosphere! No wonder they were “having favor with all the people!”
This was genuine commonality, koinonia, or interdependence at its finest! This was living out in daily life Jesus’ Commandment, which He said summed up all the law and the prophets—Love God and love one another. This was the essence and summation of the “Christian Life.” For this brief moment in time described in Luke’s account, the Early Church was a living paragon of Truth. They were “true worshipers,” because they were worshiping God both in spirit and in truth, simultaneously. There was no separation between the spiritual truths they espoused and the application of those truths in their daily lives. This snapshot of the Early Church when koinonia was its centerpiece, is the model that the End-times Church should be attempting to emulate and regain.
So, lest I be misunderstood, let me hasten to say I wholeheartedly believe the principle of interdependence and commonality among believers is a valid principle, that is, within its Biblical bounds and framework. It is an incontrovertible fact that all genuinely Born Again believers have been “adopted” into the Family of God, and as a result have become spiritual brothers and sisters in the Lord. So also, the New Testament especially is replete with passages reminding us of our especial responsibility toward “the Brethren.” Thus, in no way am I demeaning or diminishing the validity of the special familial-type relationship in which the Brethren all share, or the special responsibility incumbent upon each of us regarding our brothers and sisters in the Lord. A study of the “one anothers” in the books of the New Testament will bring to light the privilege and responsibility really entailed in Jesus’ command to “love one another.” Moreover, I would wholly concur that this privileged responsibility inherent with our special fraternal relationship has very real and pragmatic application in the natural realm and by no means is to be construed merely as spiritual rhetoric.
The Perverting Effect of Latter Rain Mysticism
Nevertheless, while the precept of interdependence and commonality among believers is certainly a valid one, as is the case with a number of other facets of truth, the version of “covenant relationships” that so many Charismatics have been indoctrinated with is a distortion and perversion that “exceed(s) that which is written,” going beyond the God-intended meaning and application delineated in Scripture. A common denominator of all heretical teaching is the “super-spiritualization” of perfectly valid principles presented in the Word of God that are intended to have a fairly natural, pragmatic application, and on the other hand, “naturalization,” or codifying in the natural realm, those things which essentially are spiritual metaphors and not intended to have a literal or natural application. The term that describes such super-spiritualization is: “mysticism.” Mysticism was quite prevalent in the doctrines of the Latter Rain Movement. Unfortunately, due to the continued strong influence of Latter Rain teaching upon the Neo-Pentecostal church, mysticism and mystical doctrines remain quite prevalent in the theology and culture of the Pentecostal/Neo-Pentecostal church today.
The version of “covenant relationships” that has now permeated much of the Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal church is a product of this spiritually toxic rue of Truth mixed with mysticism. Under the auspices of the fallacious and errant teachings, the application of this Scripturally-valid principle of interdependency and fraternal responsibility among believers is extended far beyond its import and true intent, and is conveniently transformed into very unscriptural chains of spiritual bondage and captivation. While believers are to value and validate fraternal relationships, as well as demonstrate a certain measure of indefatigable and unconditional commitment to one another, those relationships in terms of their application in the natural realm in the here and now are not sacrosanct or inviolable, and they most definitely do have limits. Understanding and acknowledging those limits is imperative to avoid excess and error.
Be sure to read Part 2 of this series.