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Discernment and Disaster

Thursday, November 21, 2013 | Comments (5)

by Cameron Buettel and Jeremiah Johnson

On June 23, 2008, C. Peter Wagner and sixteen other high-profile charismatics—including many of the big guns of the modern apostolic movement—gathered in Lakeland, Florida, to affirm the Lord’s blessing on the ministry of Todd Bentley, and to commission him as a fellow apostle. Just days later, the wheels would begin to fall off Bentley’s ministry, and the ensuing scandal would expose both his unrepentant immorality and a shocking lack of discernment on the part of several key charismatic leaders.

The whole Bentley fiasco would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic and blasphemous. We’ve previously discussed some of the bizarre claims he made during the Lakeland revival. Even the most casual observers had plenty of reasons for concern about Bentley’s teaching and practice.

How those red flags failed to catch the attention of the New Apostolic Reformation remains a mystery. What is clear is that Wagner and his modern apostles failed to warn God’s people about Bentley’s heresy (Galatians 1:8-9; Ephesians 5:11), and instead were eager to affirm and bless his ministry as a true work of God.

Here are just some of the highlights from Bentley’s “apostolic alignment,” which you can watch in full online: part one, part two, part three, and part four.

  • Peter Wagner is the first speaker during Bentley’s commissioning. He asks three of the other assembled apostles—Bill Johnson (pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California), Che Ahn (pastor of HRock Church in Pasadena, California), and John Arnott (founding pastor of the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, home of the notorious Toronto Blessing)—if they “perceive the grace of God given to Todd Bentley as an evangelist to lead the Lakeland outpouring?” Each affirms that they do.
  • Wagner then affirms Bentley through a prophecy regarding the blessings that he claimed the Lord was about to pour out on Bentley’s ministry. His exact words: “I take the apostolic authority God has given me, and I decree to Todd Bentley: Your power will increase. Your authority will increase. Your favor will increase. Your influence will increase. Your revelation will increase. I also decree that a new, supernatural strength will flow through this ministry. A new life force will penetrate this move of God. Government will be established to set things in their proper order. God will pour out a higher level of discernment to distinguish truth from error. New relationships will surface to open the gates for the future.”
  • Wagner then turns the mic over to Che Ahn, who continues to bless Bentley’s ministry. He says, “Recognizing that God has chosen you and appointed you to bear much and lasting fruit at this Lakeland revival and revival around the world; recognizing that He has called you as an Ephesians 4 evangelist and a revivalist moving in signs and wonders, knowing that you have walked in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing Jesus in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, and growing in the intimacy and knowledge of God; we, as your brothers and your friends who have a deep love for you, Shauna, and your whole family, we just esteem you. We are here to stand with you and support you, and we are here to commission you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and in the power of Jesus’ name, with special oil from Chuck Pierce.” Pierce is another apostle who could not be on hand for the event, but sent his blessing in the form of some “revival oil.”
  • Ahn then anoints Bentley with oil, knocking him to the ground. Bentley would spend the remainder of the ceremony lying on the platform, “soaking” in the power of the Spirit as Johnson, Arnott, and several of the other apostles delivered prophecies about Bentley’s greatness and his important role in God’s plans to pour out His glory in the church.

Of course, that’s not what happened. Not long after his commissioning, Bentley was exposed as an adulterer, a liar, and an occasional drunk. The facts of Bentley’s sin are matters of public record, and the point here is not to revisit the gory details of his immorality. Instead, the point is that the modern apostles—who claim to hear from and speak on behalf of God—could not have been more wrong about Bentley, his spiritual condition, or where his ministry was headed. It’s not clear where their prophecies of blessing came from—but they clearly did not come from God.

The fallout from Bentley’s moral failure has been telling. Peter Wagner wrote a lengthy and fascinating explanation of his involvement with Bentley. In his version of events, he went to Lakeland not for Bentley, but for the sake of God’s people—to “bring order to the chaos and confusion sweeping through the Body of Christ worldwide because of the television.”

Wagner confesses that he didn’t know Bentley prior to his commissioning, and claims that the apostolic alignment was his attempt to bring Bentley under the authority of other apostles. But compare that with Wagner’s words of unequivocal praise and blessing during the alignment ceremony. In fact, apostle after apostle proclaimed nothing but blessing and favor for Bentley. If they truly were speaking on behalf of God—the same God who was about to reveal Bentley’s immorality—how did they all manage to get the message so wrong?

Worse still, it seems Wagner had heard rumors of corruption and ungodly activity at Lakeland. But he says he ignored advice from others to address those issues privately before the alignment, a choice he defends by saying, “I had to follow God’s leading for me personally.” In effect, then, his explanation of the whole debacle is, If you don’t like the way I handled it, blame God.

That kind of blame shifting has gone on since sin first entered the world (Genesis 3:12), and it still doesn’t hold any water. The fact is, Wagner and his fellow apostles usurped authority that doesn’t belong to them. And that for people who supposedly speak for God, they show an alarming lack of biblical discernment and understanding.

And some of them have yet to learn the folly of their ways. Rick Joyner is the head of MorningStar ministries and was one of the apostles who spoke during Todd Bentley’s commissioning ceremony. He’s also the man who ushered Bentley back into ministry, writing in 2010:

I felt that it was time to release Todd into limited ministry in our church because I had the leading of the Lord to do this. To me, this always trumps every other reason, but I had some other reasons, too.

In just a few lines, Rick Joyner summarizes everything that’s wrong with the modern apostolic movement. Personal intuition is not the same as direct revelation, and it cannot be allowed to trump biblical truth. And if a shipwreck like the Todd Bentley fiasco isn’t enough to alert everyone in the charismatic movement to the need for careful, biblical discernment, it’s frightening to think what it will take.

As for the modern apostles, their track record is unimpressive to say the least. Fallible prophecy, inaccurate spiritual impressions, and dangerously poor discernment were not characteristic of the New Testament apostles, and neither should they be hallmarks of church leaders today. In fact, the greatest argument against the modern continuation of the apostolic gifts and the office of the apostle might be the modern apostles themselves.


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#1  Posted by Steven Teel  |  Thursday, November 21, 2013at 3:08 AM

Excellent post. I would occasionally and briefly watch that circus while it was on tv. I was in shock and awe that THAT is what is passing for "church" these days to some people. Yet, much to my surprise, no one was really talking about it amongst non-charismatic churches. No one was addressing the lack of scripture, no one was addressing the unbiblical antics that were happening...nothing.

Thanks for bringing this up as it is a perfect example of the charismatic craziness that is slowing taking over.

#2  Posted by Ben Enders  |  Thursday, November 21, 2013at 5:09 AM

Caution should also be exercised when supporting ministries that in turn support these blatantly false teachers. This cancer spreads quickly and we cannot take for granted that because it is not obviously visible that it doesn’t exist. Pentecostal and charismatic teachings, Spiritual Formation and all of their subjective mystical teachings ultimately lead us farther away from scripture. Joshua 1:8 and 2 Tim 3:16, 17

#3  Posted by Vance Schwyhart  |  Thursday, November 21, 2013at 5:27 PM

I was once involved with a bible study, where Todd Bentley was considered a credible teacher. I, and others sounded the alarm, but it made no difference to some that continued to support this man that had a ministry in Uganda. I, and others left that study, as we were so diametrically opposed to one another in our teaching. It is so strange, but not surprising, that there are so many common elements with what was taught at the Strange Fire Conference by Conrad Mbewe that Africa is such a hotbed of activity in these abhorrent teachings. This ministry has many claims of fantastic healings and resurrections from the dead and is building quite a following to this day. It is one thing to bring the Gospel to these areas of the world, but to bring false teaching, and distortions of the nature of God the Father, the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus, and the revelations of the Holy Spirit, cannot go without confrontation. That is how Jesus confronted error with the false teachers of his day.

Keep up the great work of calling this movement out. We need this type of discernment and this type of discernment teaching. I can't thank you enough for the availability of teaching on your website and on Christian radio over the years. God is using this ministry of GTY and John MacArthur to expose great errors in this movement.

#4  Posted by Ed Arrington  |  Sunday, November 24, 2013at 10:25 AM

I am encouraged by all the folks that chime in to express their concerns. However, it is too late to think that we might hold these pseudo apostles, prophets and teachers at bay...they have a foot hold in the church. That said, we must speak louder than they do, engage them when ever possible, and call them for what they are; hirelings. They care nothing about their congregates, and threaten those who speak the true in love. I believe they have always been in the church; they are the tares, the wolfs in sheep's clothing, the son's of Satan. We should speak the truth in love to our families, and friends that are tied up in these false churches. Ask questions , and keep asking questions, in hopes that the Holy Spirit will yet do a work in those we love...

#5  Posted by Darrell Williams  |  Monday, November 25, 2013at 6:09 PM

It is even more of a tragedy that after hearing and reading these facts of false teaching being wide spread; that there will be more to fall under this false traps of false prophets. There will be some to define and defend this unrighteous and wicked movement and we as true servants of God must not give way to allowing this foolishness to continue to enter into the Church of Christ our LORD. We must continue to pray unto God for His fence to surround us and enable the boldness of speaking TRUTH in the love of Christ unto all. And let us also pray for the repentences of the wicked and for the strength of the people of Christ JESUS.

CORAM DEO