In my last post I tried to express the point — which I believe with all my heart — that the senior men of God around a leader who falls must be called to account. I know that’s painful and I know that could sound like a big call from a little guy.
On June 23rd, a bunch of the most senior men of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement gathered around Todd Bentley and — whatever it was they thought they were doing — endorsed, commissioned, blessed and promoted Todd in his ministry at Lakeland, Florida. If you missed it, here it is:
A number of leaders felt that a lot was wrong with that meeting. A lot. It amounted to Todd’s dad publicly handing him a credit card with no limit and telling all present to let him buy whatever he wanted. Many leaders felt this was not what the meeting was there to achieve, and did not want leaders who — implicitly — represented them, speaking on their behalf in such glowing fashion about Todd, and so fully and freely endorsing his ministry.
Among these is Dutch Sheets — the man with the name only an American could be given! — a man I have a great deal of respect for. His concerns and grief became public a few days ago — curiously, the same day all this stuff emerged about Mike Guglielmucci. Dutch wrote an open letter (which at present is plastered across the front of his site).
It is a long and impassioned appeal to his fellow senior leaders in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements in the US and beyond, and it MUST be heard by leaders here in Australia. In the hope that my little blog reaches some of them who may have missed Dutch’s letter in the midst of all the noise surrounding the Guglielmucci matters, I reprint a portion of it here.
I urge you to read it. I urge you to be prayerful. I remind you solemnly that this is a very senior Christian leader in public repentance. This is a man doing what in Bible times would have looked like a bloke walking around in sack-cloth and ashes, refusing to eat or bathe or smile. This is serious stuff, because we are in a watershed season for this branch of the Body of Christ. Please hear that, folks.
Here’s what Dutch wrote:
The fact remains, however, that we have failed the Lord and His people in many ways — not just with Lakeland but in countless other situations — and must repent if we are to be trusted in the future. And as you also know, no repentance is effective if watered down and couched in excuses, therefore, I intend to be brutally honest:
We, the leaders of the charismatic community, have operated in an extremely low level of discernment. Frankly, we often donâ€™t even try to discern. We assume a personâ€™s credibility based on gifts, charisma, the size of their ministry or church, whether they can prophesy or work a miracle, etc. (Miracles and signs are intended to validate God and His message, not the messenger; sometimes they validate the assignment of an individual, but never the personâ€™s character, lifestyle or spiritual maturity.) We leaders in the Church have become no different than the world around us in our standards for measuring success and greatness. This has contributed to the body of Christ giving millions of dollars to undeserving individuals; it has allowed people living in sin to become influential leaders — even to lead movements, allowing them influence all the way to the White House.Through our lack of discernment we built their stages and gave them their platforms. We have been gullible beyond words — gullible leaders producing gullible sheep.
When a spiritual leader weâ€™re connected with violates trust, is exposed for immorality or falls below other accepted standards of behavior, it does not exonerate us simply to say we donâ€™t condone such behavior. Those we lead trust us to let them know whom to trust. We have failed them miserably in this regard.
For this lack of discernment, and for employing and passing on inappropriate standards of judgment, I repent to the Lord and ask forgiveness of the body of Christ.
We, the leaders of the charismatic church, spin our involvement and fail to acknowledge our responsibility when other leaders fall — all of which stems from our self-preservation and pride. Enough of the spin — weâ€™re no different than Washington, DC. Every time another embarrassing and disgraceful situation is exposed, the dancing begins. It seems that no one bears any real responsibility except the man or woman who actually commits sin. Incredibly, we even blame â€œrevivalâ€ itself — the pressures, attacks, weariness, the â€œrevival is messyâ€ argument, etc., saying it is responsible for the failures. This is disgusting. Those of us on boards of fallen leaders, those who helped give them a voice, put them on TV, published and endorsed their books (yes, I have), etc., are not exonerated simply by saying we donâ€™t condone the wrong behavior or that we didnâ€™t know. Weâ€™re supposed to know.
I donâ€™t believe anyone is expecting perfection from us — I know Iâ€™m not. Weâ€™re far too human for that. But we are expected to have enough humility to look the world and those who follow us in the eye when we miss it and say, â€œwe were wrong and we are sorry.â€
Our careless accountability has caused the body of Christ to be spiritually raped and abused. It has produced disillusionment and brought immeasurable reproach to our God and cynicism to His message. Concerning Lakeland, what was called the â€œgreatest revival since Azusa Streetâ€ has become possibly one of the greatest reproaches. We, the leaders of the charismatic church, are responsible.
For not accepting and acknowledging our responsibility, for caring more about our own reputation than Christâ€™s, I repent to God and ask forgiveness of the body of Christ.
Our procedures and standards of accountability are incredibly inadequate. We have provided camaraderie, not biblical accountability. For those on Todd Bentleyâ€™s board who had previous knowledge of his marriage problems and said nothing, it was more than a mistake — it was reckless, foolish, and irresponsible. For those on the stage the night of his aligning and commissioning who knew and said nothing — ditto. For those there who didnâ€™t know, my question is, â€œWhy didnâ€™t you?â€ You were trusted to know. That is one of the purposes of public commissioning and the purpose behind the concept of endorsement. Iâ€™m not trying to point the finger; Iâ€™m endeavoring to get us to be honest about our failures — we have serious credibility issues. Have I ever laid hands on, commissioned or endorsed anyone without adequately checking them out? Yes, but you better believe Iâ€™ll be more careful next time! And we must not single out Lakeland. Weâ€™re all guilty.
What about the leader in my city who ran with some of the leading spiritual fathers in our nation — sincere and good men, I might add, and not all â€œcharismaticâ€ leaders — who sang his praises and helped build his stage — all while he was doing drugs and having sex with other men? But we shouldnâ€™t blame only the high profile cases — what about those of us who unknowingly have had adulterers on our staffs or appointed elders that turned out to have compromise in their life? Sounding familiar yet?
This is so epidemic that every member of the body of Christ stands guilty — what pastor or leader did you follow that turned out to have sin issues? What ministry did you support that was unworthy? There is plenty of blame to go around. The big question becomes not â€œwho do we blameâ€ but â€œhow do we fix this mess?â€
Leaders can live in sin — adultery, homosexuality, financial wrongdoing, drugs, etc. — for years without it being realized. They can offer completely unacceptable lifestyles for the body of Christ to follow and still keep their TV programs and lavish lifestyles. In the name of grace, compassion and forgiveness we have lowered the standard so much that often there isnâ€™t one. We have bought into the lie that true discipline is â€œshooting our wounded.â€ We have made a mockery of biblical restoration, making â€œministryâ€ — not healthy individuals, marriages and families — its ultimate goal. The fact is, integrity matters. No, we donâ€™t need legalistic, pharisaical standards, but we must have standards. For this lack of biblical accountability, I repent to God and I ask forgiveness of the body of Christ.
We, the leaders of the charismatic church, have built on hype, sensation, innovation, programs, personality and charisma. This has produced: shallowness; false movements; novice leaders — gifted but immature and untested; a deficient understanding of God’s word; the building of man-centered rather than kingdom-centered churches and ministries; competition rather than cooperation; humanistic, self-centered Christians who donâ€™t understand sacrifice and commitment; Christians without discernment; superstar leaders; a perverted and powerless gospel; prayerless and anemic Christians; a replacement of the fear of the Lord with the fear of man; and a young generation that is cynical of it all. We are responsible, not the devil; he takes what we give him.
For this compromise in the way we build, for giving the Church watered-down wine, commercial Christianity, a flashy but weak Church and hype disguised as anointing, I repent to God and ask forgiveness of the body of Christ.
Galatians 6:1-5 is an appropriate reference with which to end this statement: â€œBrethren, even if a man caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one shall bear his own load.â€ NAS
My passionate prayer is that God honors this repentance — I believe He led me to do it and therefore, will — and uses it to begin a process of cleansing and healing for all of us. In order for the coming great awakening to bear maximum fruit we must have both, as well as a course correction that sets us on a path of wisdom leading to life. There is no doubt that past moves of God have been aborted, ended prematurely and contained error or heresy that have wounded, if not destroyed, many. The Healing Revival of the â€™40s andâ€™ 50s, the Charismatic Movement, Discipleship Movement and Jesus Movement are all examples. My heart is to help shape a movement, the fruit of which will last for decades — better yet, forever. And I have great expectations for us — I am not a cynic.
My passionate prayer is also that Todd Bentleyâ€™s marriage survives and thrives — that he turns his heart fully toward Christ and toward those with whom he is aligned, and allows them, as God leads, to put him on a path of complete restoration. I thank God for those who were touched by the Holy Spirit at Lakeland and while watching it on God TV and the web. May we all move forward into all God has planned for us in this awesome season of endless possibility.
With great hope,
(You can also download an MP3 audio of Dutch talking about the Lakeland Revival.)
This is EXACTLY the spirit in which — as best I could — I wrote my last post and the sort of sentiment I was trying to express. But I cannot say what a leader like Dutch can say, and I urge you to read this carefully, and the full version as well.
If you have been “close” to the ministry of Mike Guglielmucci or others closely associated with him, and you are in a great deal of pain, grief, confusion and anger right now, please read these words as spoken to you. I do not expect them to make things suddenly better for you, but I would ask you to understand that the Lord DOES know what’s going on, and he is doing a deep redeeming work in the entire movement. There is a pruning going on, and a sharp blade hurts, but it cuts cleanly.
(I’m hoping my next post will be a transcription of a wonderful message by Art Katz, which I mentioned in my last post. I’m doing that myself and I’m awfully slow.)