Thursday, June 26, 2008

Healing outpouring: Lakeland Florida and Broxburn Scotland...

[this is going to be a long post, sorry]

Have you heard about the 'revival' that is going on in Florida at the moment?

Neither had I until the Sunday before last, when the pastor in our church preached a whole sermon about it (which you can download here, if you want). The basic message of the sermon was: God appears to be working though these people; people are being healed; but they do things differently from the way we would do them; but if God is working through these people, who are we to judge them...?

The thing was, the preacher didn't go into detail about what they were doing that was different, or even what was happening, so I was a bit confused. So I had to go and read up on what is happening.

It seems that a few months back, a preacher called Todd Bentley (of 'Fresh Fire' ministries in Canada) was invited to speak for a few nights at a church in Lakeland, Florida. It was just a routine thing. But a few nights into the run, stuff started happening, so the team stayed a bit longer. And the stuff kept happening and getting bigger and bigger. Within a couple of weeks the church they were meeting in (on a nightly basis) was overflowing and they moved into a stadium (yes, a stadium!) down the road - which they managed to fill on a nightly basis. You can watch all this - every night - on God TV (on Sky or online at www.god.tv).

What stuff? Well, people were claiming being healed in remarkable ways. And (unusually) people were being healed in the streets of Lakeland during the day, not merely in the meetings in the evenings. They (the Fresh Fire folk) say that they have been given an anointing which is highly transferable - in other words, they heal you one night, you can then go on and heal someone else the next day, they can go on... and so on.

And now, as is often the case with such 'revival' type happenings (although the Fresh Fire folk have stopped calling this a 'revival' as revivals come and then go, but they think this current season is here to stay) various members from the Fresh Fire team have started going out into other parts of the world to share the blessing. And some of them have come to a place only a few miles from my home. And I went to a meeting last night...

But before I tell you about that, I have to tell you about my take on the Florida stuff.

-Todd Bentley in Florida-

Last week I listened to a downloaded podcast of one of Todd Bentley's sermons from Lakeland. It was quite an ordeal. I have now heard the words 'anointing' and 'impartation' enough times to last a lifetime. Also, Todd Bentley has one of those voices that sounds like he should be voicing a comedy character in an animated movie - not quite like, but with similarities to the voice of Pumba in The Lion King. And he went on and on and on and on making the same point over and over and over again. But there was nothing fundamentally flawed with the message, it was just delivered in a manner that I don't relate to. Very Pentecostal. However, there was nothing astoundingly new or original in the sermon I listened to.

I've also watched clips of the healing services, etc., on YouTube and - to my untrained eye - it all just looks like exactly the same sort of stuff we've seen for years with the likes of Benny Hinn at the front [note: due to many things I have seen and heard, I am quite skeptical of Benny Hinn's alleged healings]. Indeed, I've read some reports who compare Todd Bentley to Benny Hinn. So we see people coming to the front at meetings, being prayed for, some falling over, some not, a few people shaking, some weirder manifestations, and so on.

But for all my skepticism, it would appear that some people are genuinely being healed. On one YouTube video clip, there was someone with x-rays of a broken arm (taken before the meeting) and an unbroken arm (after the meeting). Sure that could be faked, but it would have to be deliberate false witness, not merely being carried along by emotionally driven belief (which is what I believe most of the 'false healings' to be). Certainly, I can see no evidence that any of the Fresh Fire team are doing this as a show or for personal gain. They seem to believe it, they seem to think that this is the way that God is healing people through them, and lives do seem to be being transformed. Of course, we'll have to wait a while to see if there are lasting benefits, but I'm prepared to believe that (at least) some of what is going on is the hand of God at work.

[As a quick aside, way back in 1994 when the 'Toronto Blessing' stuff was happening, a team from Toronto came to Edinburgh and I went along to some of the meetings. There I saw weird stuff, fake stuff, genuine stuff and found myself doing 'carpet time' in a church for the first time in my life. There followed a spate of other 'Toronto-esque' meetings in various churches, some of which I was at. One in particular was truly awful, the preacher (an American whose name I thankfully can't remember) was a smug, egotistical, control freak who quite definitely was simply pushing people over at the front - so much of what was happening was clearly fake, entirely due to emotional manipulation and certainly not due to God. And then I saw a preacher who I respected more than most - one of the most practically holy people I know - rolling about on the floor in laughter making miscellaneous animal noises. Having known this man for several years, I know that he would not be taken in by the hype or the emotional stuff, but would only go under the influence of the Spirit. So despite all the nonsense that was going on in that place, Jesus lived up to his word "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Matt 18v20), but on that occasion I suspect it was in spite of what was going on at the front, not because of it. And I must say that the man I respect fell under the influence of the Spirit very early in that meeting and was completely oblivious to what was going on at the front - I like to think God took him aside to spare him from having to listen to all the nonsense.] But anyway...

- Craig Kinsley in Broxburn -

One of Todd Bentley's associates, Craig Kinsley, who was at the original meetings in Lakeland, has come over from the USA (with his wife Lori) to Scotland, essentially to bring the anointing with him and pass it on to folks here. They're having meetings in Broxburn Academy every night between now and Sunday - hosted by New Life Christian Fellowship. I went last night to the first meeting he was speaking at (Craig is the second speaker from Fresh Fire to come to Broxburn, someone else came a few weeks ago and another speaker is coming in a few weeks time...).

I know I have a tendency to err on the side of critical skepticism (as all three of you, my regular readers, will have noticed by now), but I'll try to rein in my skepticism here, because I really did want to go into this with an open mind. Was God there? Was he going to do stuff? Or was it all just hype?

The meeting allegedly started at 7:30, but it was fully 8pm before things got going. We were meeting in the assembly hall of Broxburn Academy - which is a fairly drab rectangular space with no particular artistic merit and certainly no 'atmosphere'. After a short welcome by someone from NLCF, we went into a time of worship - mostly songs I knew. Starting with 'Days of Elijah' and 'The battle belongs to the Lord' (haven't sung that for a few years) and a few other - stereotypically pentecostal - songs declaring the triumph of Jesus and the defeat of the devil, before lapsing into songs of longing, 'Rain Down', 'Sweet mercies' and the like [Marcus, I kept on expecting the keyboard player to sneak the 'Hill Street Blues' theme in during 'Sweet Mercies' like you used to do, and was disappointed that he didn't...]. The band were generally quite good and refreshingly down to earth, but they did labour each song a bit too much and over-syruped a few of them. I have never sung 'To be in your presence' quite as slowly as we did last night. Every line took about a minute. The band was clearly just the regular band from Broxburn, not an imported professional bunch, but they did a good job. The worship leader was great on the keyboards but didn't have the greatest singing voice. The drummer and bass player did their jobs perfectly (i.e. made good music, but you hardly noticed they were there) and the two other vocalists were good, but oddly positioned at the opposite side of the stage from everyone else. The musical highlight was when one of the vocalists (the bloke) started playing his trumpet brilliantly. Trumpets in worship can be horrible grating things, but this was really smooth and soulful. And I'll not pass comment on the time he played the panpies during one song (only one though, phew). The worship was fine, but went on for well over an hour - which was too long.

However. In addition to the five members of the 'worship team' on stage, there were four other folk with 'woship team' badges on. These folk spent most of the hour waving huge flags about in front of the stage, often obscuring the words on the screen - just as well I knew most of the songs. I have nothing against flags in worship... no, actually, strike that... I do have something against flags in worship, but can tolerate them if they're used sparingly and discretely. If you must have flags, have them at the side or (preferably) at the back. Not in front of the screen. What was going on at the front with the flags (and also with sticks with no flags, which was even weirder) was not worship, it was performance, and a distracting performance at that. At least there was no interpretive dance.

So the worship was an OK, but overlong experience with dull moments and annoying flag waving. This was followed by a short "say hello to the person behind you" (who turned out to be someone I know) break and an uplift of the offering. In big buckets. And the guy at the front kept emphasising that we should be generous, God loves a cheerful giver, who cheques should be made out to, and that they were tithing the offering and sending 10% to Fresh Fire in Florida. Which he said far too many times and every time he said it I heard it as "we're keeping 90% of this for ourselves" - there were only about 300 folk there last night, in the previous run of meetings they had up to 1200 people a night. They must have raked in -literally- buckets of money. I passed the bucket without putting anything in.

Then Craig Kinsley took the mic and started speaking. Having listened to the Todd Bentley sermon I was expecting the worst, but Craig was a reasonably engaging speaker with no annoying quirks, no repetition, no comedy accent, etc. Phew.

He started by giving his testimony (which you can read on his website if you want), basically he was raised in a fairly dead church, went off the rails, did drugs, came back to God, went to the Pensacola revival and had a serious vision, which turned him around and set him off on the track of ministry. All fine so far. Then he said he was going to preach prophetically (slight warning bells) and spoke at length about what is happening in Lakeland and what he believes will happen worldwide in the Church in the next few years - actually he didn't put a timescale on it and acknowledged that he wasn't sure if it will happen in his lifetime. But he believes that the end is nigh and the second coming will happen 'soon' [note that, of course, Jesus himself had no idea when the second coming would occur and - as Tony Campolo once said - the only people who do know when the second coming will be are tele-evangelists]. But before the end we will see Churches meeting in stadia, whole cities turning to Christ and whole nations being transformed. It was a great, motivational, message. Nothing I hadn't heard before, but nothing terrible. Hope (as I have said before) is a very good thing indeed. But the thing that struck me about this message was that it was remarkably unremarkable. For all the hype, there was really nothing outstanding about it, it was just a bloke (albeit one who claims to have had angelic visitations and actually seen Jesus in a vision) telling his (believable) story and describing his hopes for the future - which he calls prophesy. Along the way he did dip into the bible a few times (Malachi 4 and Hebrews 11) and made some reasonable points about faith, life and healing. But he did speak for the best part of 80 minutes, which was way too long.

Then we got to the ministry time. I had arrived at 7:20, worship was about 7:55 to after 9pm, Craig spoke until about 10:30 or so. It was already late and I knew this could go on for hours yet. What I really wanted now was to see the stuff, perhaps be prayed for myself (still undecided), and then go home before midnight, knowing that I would likely be woken twice in the night by my young son (1:55-2:10 and 6:05-6:20 it turned out to be, with daughters finally waking me for good at 7:05).

Early on in the night I had a bit of an internal discussion with God regarding why I was there. Two things are worthy of note. One was that I noticed a lady a couple of rows in front of me with badly arthritic hands - very swollen joints, at unusual angles, and I thought 'if I see her hands healed, I'll know this is real'. The other thing was that I made an unusual request of God - and I don't know where this came from - but I asked to see the tongues of fire... Anyway, that was earlier.

When it came to the ministry time, Craig called out for a few specific groups to go forward for healing. The very first group he called forwards was those with arthritis, and the lady in front of me went forward. He also called for those with chronic diseases, things the doctors had never got figured out and a few other specific things. Maybe about 80-100 folk went forward. Much to my annoyance, he didn't call forward anyone suffering from migraine. If he'd specifically called for that, I'd have gone forward. But I didn't really fall into any of the categories of folk he called out. So the folk who went to the front lined up in two rows and Craig wend from one, to the next, to the next, and blessed them, generally spending not much time with each. For most of them he seemed to hold their head in both hands, say a few words (he had the mic off at this point, so I have no idea what he said) and then do a little jerky thing with his hands just before letting go and moving on to the next. Perhaps about half of the people fell into the arms of catchers and were lowered to the floor. With a small minority, however, he held them in different ways and spent longer praying with them. However, he managed to get through all of the folk at the front in only a few minutes. He then turned his attention to those who hadn't gone forward and commanded blessing - of various types- on us. He told folk to put their hand on wherever they needed healing (I placed a hand on my head) and commanded healing for those people. He did mention back pains and migraine specifically there (but that was after he had told us to put hands on the places in need of healing). He then called a few of the folk who had been at the front and had returned to their chairs to come forward and testify. An old lady with hip problems reported that the pain had gone and she could waggle her hips, a younger lady with problems following a shoulder breakage reported that her arm was all tingly as if something was happening.

And then it was 11pm and the folks I was with decided to go. I decided to leave too.

I hadn't seen the tongues of fire. And I hadn't specifically seen the hands of the arthritic lady. But I kind of feel that I did see her healed. Remember, the original doubting Thomas thought he needed to place his hand in Jesus's side before he would believe, but actually needed less evidence than that...

Those are my thoughts at the moment, I may have further reflections as time goes on, but that's more than enough for now. Thanks for reading this far down the page, now please comment.

6 comments:

David Meldrum said...

Ricky
Interesting stuff; I have a number of questions about what you wrote, but this may not be the best place for them (and I have a pile of work to do); my personal reflection (Lakeland related stuff has been kicking off down here for a while) is that whatever the packaging and the cultural trappings that we are unfamiliar with, God is really at work here. I can also say one person I know personally very well went to Florida and has been clearly healed of a long-standing and troubling disc problem.
I'd also lovingly say that skepticism, doubt and questioning are one thing (as well you know about me from my sermons) are one thing, but I feel 'assuming' what God is doing to 'protect' someone we both respect is entirely another...
Lots of love
Dave

Ricky Carvel said...

Dave,

Feel free to ask any questions you want, on this forum or by e-mail, facebook or even by phone. But I am going on holiday on Saturday for a while and may be away from e-mail for a bit (although wi-fi zones in cafes are increasingly appearing in strange and remote places, even in rural Argyll).

Were you at the 'Toronto-esque' service in Dundee that I am referring to? I didn't remember that. Well identified after all this time. While time may have blurred my recollections of that evening, I do remember that TC was 'out of it' very early on and would have missed most of what was going on. And I made no assumption there, I just 'like to think' that ;o)

And what of skepticism, doubt and questioning? I went. I saw. I believed. Stuff is happening. People are being healed. There is wine, even if the wineskin seems a bit odd to me. Indeed, there are some very strange vessels that can hold wine. While there were things about this particular vessel I wasn't impressed with (flags, hype, money issues, etc.) the wine was still there - in reasonable abundance.

Part of my internal dialogue with God early on in the meeting last night was me asking God if he was there and if this was of him, and all I can say was that I got a very clear "yes" - and that was before the sermon had even started.

Good luck with your pile of work.

Ric.

Marcus G said...

You know some of my thoughts, cos you've read my blog.

I am interested in your evening, and when I get to Florida later in the summer I may see the Lakeland version. I do prefer the "everybody can play" version of prayer ministry to the "come to the expert" version, but then these are a matter of taste & preference.

We are strange things, we human beings, and what a delight it is that God works with us. That he should touch and heal is a wonder beyond words, and that it should also be beyond understanding is hardly surprising, though often disturbing.

I'd rather he blessed us in ways with which I was uncomfortable than that he failed to bless us, or even that he had to perform entirely to my instructions & expectations. That would make him quite small.

And that I find myself smiling at the Tony Campolo quote & not thrilling at the sense of how the Lord is going to move in the Western world may reveal more of my heart than it ought.

Or it may be discernment.

But I would be less than wise to claim I knew for sure which.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ricky

I read with interest your synopsis of the evening - I was there myself and agree with a lot of what you said. I personally found the sung worship a real struggle and really did want to enter into 'the spirit of things' however I found that it was incredibly loud (and I am well used to loud enthusiastic worship)! I would like to encourage the team from Broxburn that are hosting this to keep it up, but would also like to comment on the length of these evenings (and yes, the pastor's comments on how to spell thousand during the offering I thought was unnecessary - even if he was joking). I thought there would be more room made for listening to God, words of knowledge and praying for healing and impartation and I came away feeling quite disappointed. I really tried to listen to God during the worship but it was so loud I just couldn't 'get into the zone'. I do believe this move is of God and long for more of it. I don't think it is necessary to have hyped up sung worship for an hour in order to enter into God's presence. My husband actually went home after the worship and didn't stay for the talk. He came with a headache and the loud bass/drums from the speakers made it worse! We both found the flag waving distracting. I think it would be best done in the overflow at the side of the main room! Not sure if I'll go back to Broxburn, but we are pressing in for this at our church and am determined to pray more for people that I meet that have a need for healing.

Duncan said...

Hi Ricky and thanks for your comments.
I was there at the end of October and so was the presence of the Lord and a hunger for Him. The numbers were smaller. The meetings were gentle and finished by 10.30 with most people prayed for and touched in some way.
Re the comments about money. That always sticks in peoples craw, but the reality is people have to be encouraged to back up an outpouring by giving in to it. Nobody will know the great cost to the people at Broxburn, both in time & energy, worship giftings and the sacrifices made to get the speakers who carry this anointing.It is costly to administer. In reality the big picture of how the Lord chose such an outpouring in such a place as Broxburn has more substance to it than seen by those who pop in and for whatever reason seek, evaluate,hunger or spectate. I'm glad you come out and say you sensed God in this and I'm sad at the things that disapponted you, but remember the Scripture(my paraphrase)"Where theres no ox in the stall theres no mess either!" Undoubtably there will be stuff thats a bit untidy and good criticism can help, but hopefully not quench. I don't know of any outpourings (revivals) that did not attract criticism, sometimes opposition, misunderstanding and some fallout. The key is to keep looking to the One Who longs to awaken a generation, and that will take a mighty big shock. Its not just about miracles and healings, these signs shall follow. It is about the Saviour,Healer Jesus who longs to encounter us and when I was at Broxburn for several meetings He was there and He was honoured.I pray that this move will be infectios and multiplied to light many fires in a land that desperately need revival.

Anonymous said...

It is a year on and I just came across this blog. I started watching Lakeland on God TV last year and came across the website about the services in Broxburn not long after. I have been to a few of the services over the last 6 months (when clearly the huge numbers have all disappeared-it seems strange to me to even imagine this-)as they continue to invite speakers over from abroad.
I can totally appreciate many of the comments you made- but one thing struck me when reading your thoughts-it felt more like a critique or review of a west end show. I was reminded of the verse about man looking at the outward appearance and God looking at the heart. There were things I wasn't comfortable with either but I do know God was there and He has been challenging me about being open to Him even if it is does not look like how I want it to be. We are told to judge it by its fruit-and I know God has used it to release fruit in my own life. The thing is-these kinds of services facilitate the ability to corporately enter and beseech God for His presence. I may find it hard to 'hear' Him when lots of other things are going on but afterwards-somehow I feel that change is being released in my own life and it is visibly evident. What I am learning about is 'pressing in' for more of God and that is why I can appreciate the longer times of worship. I think God will satisfy us when we are truly hungry and thirsty for more of Him-anything that stirs up the hunger can only be a good thing-no matter how it is packaged. A year on and I am still hungering-maybe when we get to the point where we are so hungry and thirsty for God that we are willing to repent and fast and pray and worship and beseech God, when we become so lost in the presence of God, it is then that we will see the release and transformation we so desire -not as the ultimate aim of our worship but as an outpouring, almost by-product of knowing and experiencing God. I think we need to get beyond the outward manifestations-forget about our desire for miracles, the supernatural and once we learn to worship Jesus just for Him and to know Him more intimately then we will receive the promise that we will find Him when we seek Him with all our heart. Surely seeking Him with all our heart has to be what this is all about it and the goal of every Christian. My heart is longing for all of us in Scotland to know Jesus more intimately and my prayer is that what Broxburn is doing is just the kindling and God's fire will come to all of us. I will go back- not because of the people, the worship, the speakers-but when you are hungry enough and when you know there is real food-you will seek it out without caring about the packet it comes in.