Sunday, February 15, 2009

Floored Minister

The February edition of Christianity magazine contains a news item with the latest comments from various Christian sources on Todd Bentley’s extramarital relationship, his divorce and his subsequent demise as leader of the Florida “Lakeland Outpouring”

As these Christian commentators try to explain to themselves what happened at Lakeland we hear them tell of a frenetic pace of meetings seven days a week causing fatigue, burn out and pressure on Bentley’s marriage. We also hear about the need for accountability and the wrongs of one-man ministries. Mark Stibbe, vicar of St Andrews Chorley Wood, says “… it is also now clear that there came a time when Todd Bentley fell into the classic traps of money, sex and power”. Money sex, and power gets us all to a lesser of greater degree and it is not uncommon for leaders in quite standard ministries to fall in this respect and so I think Stibbe’s comments fail to do justice to the proprietary aspects of Bentley’s ministry.

I suggest that these commentators are skating over the surface and that the causes of the Lakeland debacle go much deeper. Not a single commentator remarks on aspects of Bentley’s ministry like, for example, Bentley’s claims to angelic visitations, Bentley’s “Jesus is old hat” message, Bentley’s “e-mail resurrections”, Bentley’s unsubstantiated claims of healings, the bizarre Toronto style blessings, trancelike crowd hysterics, and the susceptibility to gullibility logic and spiritual spin. So presumably in the opinion of Christianity Magazine’s commentators these things were OK and that if Bentley’s marriage had stayed intact, then such features of the Lakeland Outpouring would have been alright to continue. In fact in Rev Stibbe’s words “I am in no doubt that the Lakeland meetings were in the early days, a move of God’s Spirit”. I wonder why these apparent wonderful moves of God’s Spirit are so easily corrupted? Is Satan that good at his work?

“Lakeland teaches us many lessons” says Stibbe. It sure does, but frankly it looks to me as if absolutely nothing has been learned from the Bentley affair. Consequently I suspect that we are in for quite a few more unauthentic spiritual showmen, spiritual shamans and charlatans who serve up sensational spiritual junk food for those with tacky spiritual tastes. Leaders like Bentley are the product of hysterical irrational crowds who have a rapacious appetite for the latest spiritual spin and have the responsibility for putting leaders like Bentley in their position of influence. My conclusion is that unless the real lessons are learned the days of Christian personality cults, one man ministries, sex scandals, power patriarchs, and big money seven nights a week are far from over. And calls for accountability are next to useless if its only accountability between spiritual patriarchs. Mark Stibbe ends the article in “Christianity” by saying “… the culture of Christain Celebrity is now over”. I hope he is right but my guess is that Stibbe has got it wrong again; the next bizarre ministry will pop up again in few years time when memories have faded somewhat and spiritual boredom has set in; in any case isn’t Stibbe himself one of those lionized Christian celebrities?
Some of Bentley's followers? No these are Bentley's leaders!


Ben F. Foster Esq. (c) said...

I agree - there are a great many underlying principles to the alpha male ministries that aren't being adressed or considered. It feels like there's a taboo over questioning a `shaman`'s (love that phrase) motives, when their dirty laundry is advertised for all and sundry to so easily scrutinise.

But when all's said and done - absolute power corrupts absa-bloody-lutely.

Timothy V Reeves said...

"alpha male ministries" - you bet: David Koresh worked his way through quite a few females I believe!

(NOT to be confused with the "Alpha Course", I hope!)