You are hereWhat, in God’s name, is going on?

What, in God’s name, is going on?


Articles in the LOOKOUT section of this website span a number of decades and are re-published on behalf of Adrian van Leen for research purposes. Original dates are being added to articles so as to place them in their correct historical setting(s). Adrian has endeavoured to be as fair and accurate as possible at the time of the original writing, but please note that the original article information may no longer reflect the subsequent or current actions, values, beliefs, positions, opinions, teachings or policies held by individuals, groups and/or organisations referred to in the original published article at the time of writing. As people change and move on, the same often applies to related Internet links; some links referred to in articles may have been changed or may no longer be available online.

LOOKOUT represents the ministry of Adrian van Leen and Lookout Ministries Inc. and therefore remains the intellectual property/copyright of Adrian van Leen and Lookout Ministries Inc.

 

WHAT, IN GOD’S NAME, IS GOING ON?

 

Some years ago Aussies, and others, were flying off to Toronto, Canada, (to John Arnott’s Airport (Vineyard) Christian Fellowship) to ‘catch it’ – and what they ‘caught’ brought disruption and even division to quite a number of families and churches back at home; then came Pensacola Brownsville Assembly of God, some 18 months later, in, Florida, USA (with pastor John Kilpatrick and evangelist Steve Hill).  Hill gave himself a more dramatic background than was real, made claims such as: ‘We’re seeing miraculous healings, cancerous tumours disappear and drug addicts immediately delivered’, and with Kilpatrick, attempted to ‘export’ the Brownsville experience to other parts of the USA – as well as to the world – replacing Toronto as the place to visit to see evidence of ‘the Holy Spirit at work’.  Australians, and others, visited Brownsville and attempted to ‘bring back’ the Brownsville experience, or at least promoted the notion of people spending a great deal of money to go to Florida to get the experience for themselves.      

Subsequent investigations of the Brownsville experiment and its leaders raised serious concerns about ‘dramatised stories’; healings claims; financial accountability, and more. 

Then along came Lakeland, Florida. Toronto was no longer really laughing. Brownsville had fizzled out, and Lakeland became the big ‘outpouring’!  At the centre of this supposed work of the Holy Spirit was the ‘Ignited Church’ and Canadian imported ‘evangelist’ Todd Bentley.

 

BIZZARE BENTLEY

All sorts of amazing and dramatic claims were made about Bentley and Lakeland, such as this (mild) website one:

‘Revival at Ignited Church, Lakeland, Florida — Todd Bentley is conducting a Revival Healing Conference at Ignited Church, Lakeland, Florida and God has started moving in an amazing way. Revival has broken out at Lakeland and each day God is moving powerfully. People are being saved, healings are taking place. Angels are visiting the meetings. Not only are the miracles happening at the meeting but people watching on the webcast are getting healed, people at the meeting are ringing their sick friends on their cell phones and people are getting healed!...

Todd began declaring the holiness of God - commanding every spirit of infirmity to go now!!! — SHOFARS BEGIN BLOWING ALL THROUGH THE CROWD —  The healing anointing is so strong... it’s flowing through the building!!!...

TODD HEARS THE ANGEL IN THE ROOM...

BAM BAM BAM HE VIBRATES TO THE FLOOR!...

A lady comes running up on the stage! TODD STICKS HIS FINGER IN HER EAR... SHE SLAMS TO THE FLOOR!!! Her ear pops open!!!...

Every member of the family has gotten a miracle... the mother got FOUR GOLD TEETH this morning…

TODD WHISPERS… I CAN FEEL AN ANGEL… GOD LET YOUR HOLY PRESENCE FALL TONIGHT…

Todd notices that there appears to be angels all around the little girl on the floor! — TODD BREAKS OUT IN HOLY LAUGHTER AND FALLS ON THE LITTLE GIRL…

JUST GET THE KERNEL INTO THE FIRE!!! —  Prophet Bob Jones told Todd today to WATCH FOR THE  POP CORN prophecy to be fulfilled. A popcorn kernel has a small bit of moisture inside of each kernel... and when heat is applied, it POPS!!! It’s contagious...

Get the young people into the fire... the children and the youth are the popcorn kernels in the prophetic word!...

Who is Todd Bentley?  —  Todd Bentley started Fresh Fire Ministries and he has web casts, podcasts, blogs and all about his ministry.’
(http://hubpages.com/hub/Lakeland-Revival)

The controversial Todd Bentley is quite a character.  He has a criminal record, including for sexual abuse; he claims to have been abused; claims to have been addicted to drugs, alcohol and sex; his arms, legs and torso are heavily covered in tattoos; has a chin stud and sometimes ‘sports’ an eyebrow stud and earrings.  This was all exploited to the limit as the conversion success story and to make him more relevant and identifiable with today’s youth.

‘In his late teens, Todd had a dramatic encounter with the saving and delivering power of God. This experience brought Todd out of a lifestyle of drug and alcohol addiction without cravings or withdrawal symptoms. He was also delivered from a lifestyle involving criminal activity, youth prisons, drugs, sex, satanic music and bondage.  Todd’s miraculous conversion to Jesus was much like the Apostle Paul’s on the Damascus road. Todd was instantly transformed into a radical disciple and soul winning evangelist for Jesus.

God has drawn Todd into deep and intimate places of prayer.  These extended times in God’s presence has released a fresh prophetic and miracle-healing anointing.’

(http://freshfire.ca/index. php?Id=8  see also: http://www.freshfire.ca/index.php?Id=101)

While a number of websites have now ‘pulled’ his biographical notes, claims, sermons, videoed performances from their websites – including the Canadian ministry he started and ‘owned’ – Fresh Fires – he still had details of his Facebook self promotion on that site (at time of writing in September ‘08) – http://www.myspace.com/tdbentley:

Todd & Shonnah Bentley and their 3 children; Lauralee, Esther and Elijah live in Abbotsford, BC, Canada. Todd is the founder of Fresh Fire Ministries. Todd Bentley and his team take God’s saving, healing and delivering power to the nations. Todd travels throughout North America , sparking revival fire and equipping the body in power evangelism and healing Ministry. As well, Todd and his team conduct many healing crusades throughout Africa , India , South America, Europe and beyond. Thousands have been saved, healed and delivered. Todd believes the body of Christ needs to be strengthened and encouraged. He ministers prophetically, corporately and personally as well as brings forth the word of God with the power and demonstration of the Spirit — God confirming His word with signs and wonders following. God has released an increase of the healing anointing into Todd’s life to the point where the blind see, the deaf hear & growths dissolve as Jesus still heals every sickness and disease.’

Apart from his, often bizarre, performances – such as his yelling: BAM! BAM! BAM! and physically assaulting people in his ‘healing’ activities (sometimes very aggressively) - Bentley made excessive claims of healings and resurrections; claimed he had regular contact and guidance from angels, including one called ‘Emma’, whom God helped him see; that Jesus stepped out of heaven to visit him; and a great deal more which was outlandish, certainly unbiblical.

 

BENTLEY’S VISITATIONS –
Brown eyed Jesus and an
assortment of angels

Bentley has claimed: ‘I saw heaven open and the Lord literally step out of heaven…he had the brownest eyes that I’d ever seen – kinda remem, reminded me of the movie “BAMBI” – had these big brown eyes.  He had long brownish-black curly locks that went down past his shoulders…ten rainbows came from the Lord…I saw hills and I saw lions and I saw rivers of oil and I saw all kinds of butterflies and giant bumble bees…the brightest colour from the Lord was pink’  (revealed on YouTube on several sites, e.g.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdwBrB8cCOk& feature=related)

In an article (or transcript) on angels, Bentley states: ‘I’ve had angels come as shimmering pillars of light with such brightness about their person that I couldn’t make out the details. I had another angel come to me looking like he was about 6’ 4" tall with 24" biceps...I first saw the angel called Healing Revival on December 5 of 2000 in Grant’s Pass. The angel came to me again in Albany the next February. He stood in the church service with his body going through the ceiling of the church. Then the Lord told me the angel’s name and that he was the same angel I saw in Grant’s Pass earlier. God also revealed to me that this angel was involved in the ministry of John Lake, William Branham, and John Knox in Scotland. This angel, the Lord said, is from the North West Healing Revival and is manifesting again as a sign that God is restoring the Voice of Healing revival and opening up the ancient wells.  In our ministry over the last year, this angel has come frequently and on many different occasions. When He comes I get a gift - the ability to diagnose people’s sicknesses with my left hand. At times this angel brings words of knowledge; I get very accurate details from God including people’s first, middle and last names as well as nicknames, the year they were injured, the color of their vehicle and the state they are from…whenever this angel shows up the miracles go off the charts…I release the angels right now. I loose them in heaven now in Jesus name…Recently, I had an angel come to me in Kansas City. He said, “Todd, my name is Promise, and I’ve come to bring the fulfillment of God’s promises. I’ve come to bring the fulfillment of the prophetic words spoken to intercessors…the angel of Promise has come into meetings where I was speaking...Emma was the angel that helped birth and start the whole prophetic movement in Kansas City in the 1980s. She was a mothering-type angel that helped nurture the prophetic as it broke out...  In the middle of the service...in walks Emma. As I stared at the angel with open eyes, the Lord said, “Here’s Emma.” I’m not kidding. She floated a couple of inches off the floor. It was almost like Kathryn Khulman in those old videos when she wore a white dress and looked like she was gliding across the platform. Emma appeared beautiful and young-about 22 years old-but she was old at the same time. She seemed to carry the wisdom, virtue and grace of Proverbs 31 on her life.  She glided into the room, emitting brilliant light and colors. Emma carried these bags and began pulling gold out of them. Then, as she walked up and down the aisles of the church, she began putting gold dust on people....During this visitation the pastor’s wife (it was an AOG church) got totally whacked by the Holy Ghost- she began running around barking like a dog or squawking like a chicken as a powerful prophetic spirit came on her...Then angels started showing up in the church. I believe Emma released a financial and prophetic anointing in that place.’ (http://www.etpv.org/2003/angho.html)

 

AUSTRALIAN/NEW ZEALAND CONNECTION

Bentley held meetings at Fusion Church in Auckland, New Zealand between February 28 and March 2 before visiting Brisbane, Queensland, in March 2008, where he spoke at Revolution Church’s DownPour Conference before going to speak at Lakeland, Florida.

Bentley’s Fresh Fires Ministries promoted the New Zealand/Australia trip:

‘Come and join Evangelist Todd Bentley and Fresh Fire Ministries staff for a “whopping good time” as we journey to Auckland, New Zealand and the Gold Coast in Australia. These meetings will combine both conference and crusade. Numerous prophetic words have been spoken over both of these nations regarding an amazing revival of healing, deliverance and harvest.’     (http://www.freshfire.ca/index.php?Id=&Act= show_event_details&event=278)

The New Zealand Prophetic & Glory Conference with Bentley, held in the Auckland Town Hall, was promoted like some entertainment show, complete with a morning and afternoon ‘Matinee Blowout Session’. (http://www.nzrevival network.org/modules.php?name =News&file=article&sid=118)

Todd’s Brisbane visit was promoted by a number of churches (apart from Revolution Church) including the (not your average or traditional, Baptist Church) Parkridge Baptist Church: ‘DownPour Conference with Todd Bentley — From Wednesday, 05 March 2008 To Friday, 07 March 2008 — Every day — Location: Revolution Church’

At this Conference Bentley’s message (and book – still promoted by Revolution Church) informed Aussies they could get some real Heavenly insights and visits:

‘God wants to bring you into a heavenly experience with Him. He doesn’t want to wait until you get to heaven to show you His supernatural realm where you can: experience the throne room, see the sea of glass like crystal, receive visitations by angels, or get caught in the liquid-honey, glory cloud of His awesome presence... You too can visit paradise like Paul, or see angels ascending and descending the heavenly ladder as Jacob did, or be taken by the Spirit into visions of God like Elisha. God says, Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place . . . (Rev. 4:1). How would you like to see the things the Father is doing; not just glimpse, but see into heaven just as Jesus and John did? In The Reality of the Supernatural World, revivalist Todd Bentley inspires you to develop a kingdom now mindset by exploring the keys to tearing open the heavens in your life and ministry, and examining what those supernatural visits and experiences are all about.’ (http://www.revolutionchurch. com.au/catalog/product_info.php?c Path=42 &products_id=72)

At the Gold Coast meetings the senior pastor from His Way Church International, Auckland, New Zealand, Rob DeLuca, (who believes himself to be a prophet) gave a prophecy to Todd Bentley:

Todd, I saw a vision, and it’s concerning four revivals that are going to take to place in the world. I saw a human boomerang flying out of Canada and it hit the nation of England, it hit the nation of Australia, it hit the nation of New Zealand, and it came spinning around.  I saw “Todd Bentley”—your name on the boomerang, but I knew that it was the Lord showing me that it was you, and I saw it fly back around and it came and hit America.  But, there was a bit more accuracy to it. It hit the state of Florida. The Lord is showing me that what took place in Pensacola, and also what took place in Lakeland with Rodney —you’re gonna bring something very strong to Florida. I see something BIG in Florida. Then I saw the Lord turning you into a human nail, you know, like a spike nail. I saw the hand of God, I saw the Father hit this hammer and it hit you and it went straight into the ground of Florida. I saw a scroll attached to this nail and it said, “The Kingdom of God has now come.” I really believe that what has taken place in the last 20 years in Florida, will be rekindled and rebirthed from your coming and going to Florida. A matter of fact, I will be even more bold to say that I believe that there is going to be a massive work where it’s so fruitful, that there will be seasons of time in Florida from Canada.  I saw it hit England, Australia, New Zealand, but I saw it going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. But I really believe that it’s not just going to touch thousands, but tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands. It’s going to be something that’s going to be heard around the world
(http://www.hiswaychurch.com/assets/Prophetic_Word_Todd_Bentley.pdf; http://www.hiswaychurch.com/hisway_church_ new new_zealand_homepage.htm#)

 

THE APOSTLE WHO DIDN”T WANT TO BE LEFT OUT IN THE COLD

Stephen Strader, pastor of the Ignited Church in Lakeland, Florida, invited Bentley to come to his church for a one-week series of meetings in April 2008. With local and international promotion – especially through the Internet, the meetings grew in number and went for months, attracting both rapturous plaudits and expressions of concern.  The meetings went from the church building to a 10,000 set ‘bog-top tent – and the crowds kept coming (though some observers noted that there were often {or always} empty seats in the big tent).  

As Bentley gained greater fame (if not notoriety) for his unorthodox messages and methods, others decided join the bandwagon.  Peter Wagner (teacher on ‘spiritual mapping’, ‘territorial spirits’, the ‘third wave’; ‘Father ‘ of his ‘New Apostolic Reformation’; head/leader/executive/Presiding Apostle of: Global Harvest Ministries, World Prayer Center, Wagner Leadership Institute, International Coalition of Apostles (ICA), New Apostolic Roundtable (NAR), Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders (ACPE),Apostolic Council for Educational Accountability (ACEA), Apostolic Roundtable for Deliverance Ministers (ARDM)) became involved and led a special ‘alignment’ or commissioning of Todd Bentley, part of the way through his Lakeland activities.

Wagner, and others involved with his (and related) ‘Apostolic’ and ‘Prophetic’ ministries, sent off loads of emails to almost anyone on their email lists. The result is that numerous copies of emails from various people are immediately forwarded on to friends (and others) and become part of the almost-self-circulating collection of documents that can be sighted, or are quoted, on many Internet websites and blogs.

On June 25, 2008 Wagner forwarded emails detailing his impression of Todd Bentley’s ministry; how God told him to ‘align’ Todd Bentley in ‘Apostleship’; described the ‘alignment’ or commissioning (also available on Youtube Internet videos) and promoted his Apostolic ‘blessing’ of  Todd Bentley AND his wife:  

‘As all of you know, what I believe to be God-orchestrated circumstances over the past three weeks or so have brought me mainstream into the Lakeland Outpouring and the controversies surrounding it...Let me remind you that Doris and I have been very close to other similar outpourings, especially the John Wimber signs & wonders phenomenon of the late 70s and 80s and well as the Argentine Revival of the 80s and 90s. We believe we have paid our dues in terms of the ability to discern truth from error and also in receiving severe and often painful criticism for some of the judgments we made in supporting those two movements...We saw or felt nothing that would cross the lines we have previously experienced in high-profile revival...last night, June 23, when we held a ceremony of apostolic alignment for Todd Bentley...A few of us met with Todd personally before the service, and we found him to be a wonderful individual. Doris and I had never met him before…We were on the same page! In fact, we like each other!...I took the podium and called around me Todd, Ché, Bill and John. I then called to the platform a number of apostles whom I had chosen to stand behind us: Stephen Strader of Lakeland FL, Karl Strader of Lakeland FL, Jeff Beacham of Sydney, Australia, Rick Joyner of Ft. Mill SC, Doris Wagner of Colorado Springs CO, Sharon Stone of Burton, England, Paco Garcia of Chiclana, Spain, Clarice Fluitt of Monroe LA, Richard Maiden of Scottsdale AZ, Michael Maiden of Phoenix AZ, Joshua Fowler of Orlando FL, Barry Boucher of Ottawa, Canada, and Wesley Campbell of Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada…When I finished...Ché, Bill and John laid on hands and anointed Todd with a special new “Be Revived” oil that Chuck Pierce (who was in Africa) sent for the event. Todd went down under the power of the Spirit and the three prophesied over him, commissioning him as the evangelist to lead the Lakeland Outpouring. Then most of the backup apostles prayed and prophesied as well. The power of the Holy Spirit was so heavy on that event that you could almost have cut it with a knife! It was quite evident to those present that this was a groundbreaking event.’

‘LAKELAND OUTPOURING APOSTOLIC ALIGNMENT - June 23, 2008 - C. Peter Wagner - - A warm welcome to those of you who are present in this tent and to you who are watching through GOD TV. You are about to witness an event which could well have historic implications not only for the Lakeland Outpouring but also for our nation and for many other nations of the world...This is a ceremony celebrating the formal apostolic alignment of Todd Bentley...I have a question for the three apostles: Do you perceive the grace of God given to Todd Bentley as an evangelist to lead the Lakeland Outpouring? [Answer: “I do.”] I have a question for Todd Bentley: Do you recognize the apostolic authority of these three men in your life and ministry, and do you desire to establish an apostolic alignment with them and with Revival Alliance? [Answer: “I do.”] With this affirmation we will move to a formal commissioning, equivalent to “offering the right hand of fellowship” as the three apostles did to Paul in Jerusalem. This commissioning represents a powerful spiritual transaction taking place in the invisible world. With this in mind, I take the apostolic authority that 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.
· A 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 gates for the future.
[To Ché Ahn] Ché, you may now proceed.’

(http://gloryofzion.org/lakelandreport.htm
http://www.thelakelandrevival.com/2008/06/honoring-todd-bentley-man-of-god.html
http://vodpod.com/watch/835371-todd-bentleys-apostolic-and-prophetic-commissioning
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkrtac7IgXs&eurl=)

 

Wagner claimed that his ‘being assigned to preside over this momentous occasion’ (Todd Bentley’s commissioning) came about because of  ‘God-orchestrated circumstances’ and raised significant ‘historic implications’ for the world. He declared that Bentley’s activities were in keeping and fulfilment of a prophesied ‘extraordinary spiritual awakening with signs and wonders, and…Todd Bentley has been leading one of the more obvious fulfillments of those prophecies.’ Comparing Bentley with John Wimber (and also with the Apostle Paul), Wagner declared that he and his wife, Doris, had more than enough experience with such movements to be able to discern problems: ‘we have paid our dues in terms of the ability to discern truth from error…We saw or felt nothing that would cross the lines…we found him to be a wonderful individual. Doris and I had never met him before…We were on the same page! In fact, we like each other!’ Claiming ‘the apostolic authority that God has given’ Wagner then ‘decreed’ that Bentley’s power, authority, favour, influence, revelation would all increase; and further decreed everything from ‘a new supernatural strength’ to ‘a higher level of discernment to distinguish truth from error’ would accompany Bentley’s activities.

That was toward the end of June 2008.  Peter Wagner was singing a VERY different tune by late August 2008.

In the intervening month, Bentley took some time out, and shortly after returning announced that he was separating (heading for divorce) from his wife, Shonnah (who had also been blessed by Wagner and his apostles at Bentley’s commissioning).  First reports of his marriage problems were denied; then blamed on pressure of travel and ministry AND on the opposition of ‘heresy hunters’ and anti-Pentecostals: ‘FUSION CHURCH STATEMENT RE TODD BENTLEY - Tuesday, August 19, 2008 – ...the constant stream of hate and attack that has come against Todd and the revival from those within the Body of Christ who have been against it from day one...Speech is creative. When we attack a brother and speak of his ministry and a move of God in terms like “strange fire”, “New Age”, “false revival” and “deception”, we partner with the enemy to kill steal and destroy. We are convinced this campaign of destruction has had a huge effect on Todd and his family, and the revival…This revival was 100% God ordained and birthed…This is God’s revival. It will therefore continue, and spread around the world’
(http://www.fusion.org.nz/modules.php?name=News) – AND then, finally, there were admissions of inappropriate sexual relationship with another woman. It was also admitted that Bentley’s marriage problems had been active and ongoing for some three years – LONG before he began his Florida, Lakeland meetings – LONG before all sorts of ‘prophets’ and ‘apostles’ ‘prophesied’ over him and ‘decreed’ additional power and authority for him and his questionable public performances.

In emails that received wide circulation in late August 2008, Wagner declared that: ‘Todd Bentley now carries the label of a liar and a deceiver. I’m sorry to mention it, but I felt personally deceived in the same way when Ted Haggard’s sin was exposed and he was immediately removed from ministry…First of all, Todd has been removed from public ministry until further notice.  He has resigned from the ministry he founded, Fresh Fire, so he is no longer a part of that board.  It has become clear that he indulged in periodic drunkenness.  He has no intention at the moment of reconciling with Shonna, nor does she with him.  Their marriage has been torn for years by his emotional attachment with at least one other female whose physical contact went beyond hugging and kissing and holding hands.  Enough said-maybe more details will be revealed later-but it was clearly immoral.  All of this was skillfully concealed by lying and by swearing close associates who had observed his behavior to secrecy.’

Wagner also claimed that he had not really been interested in what had been happening at Lakeland, and that it was not his idea to go there to commission Todd Bentley – ‘I got a call from Stephen Strader, the host pastor who was a member of ICA, which I lead, with a passionate appeal for apostolic intervention’. Bentley, on the other hand, had previously informed Charisma Magazine that it had been Wagner’s initiative! ‘In a newsletter released earlier this week, Bentley said Wagner was the one who suggested having an official ceremony in which Bentley could be commissioned.’

It was clear, from what Wagner declared, and confirmed by others as well, that Bentley’s immorality had been known by others, but been kept secret; that concerns had been expressed before Wagner got involved; that Wagner claimed God told him to be involved; that Wagner – and many of his Apostles – lacked the discerned they claim their ‘apostolic authority’ gives them; that Wagner’s ‘Apostolic decreeing’, ‘alignment’ and empowering of Todd Bentley was meaningless or deceptive or empty grandstanding. Even Chuck Pierce’s ‘special new “Be Revived” oil’ (sent over from Africa for Bentley’s ‘alignment’) turned out to be as effective as used dishwater.   

Wagner’s efforts to distance himself from Todd Bentley is almost ‘unseemly’, especially considering the fact that some members of his Apostolic Association warned him against becoming involved – and he chose to ignore them.  He, almost arrogantly, declared that Assemblies of God pastor, Stephen Strader, and his Ignited Church, having invited Bentley to ‘minister’ there (and having supposedly invited ‘Presiding Apostle’ Peter Wagner to ‘align’ Bentley) couldn’t deal with Bentley and his problems, neither could Bentley’s Fresh Fire Ministries leadership team: ‘Todd’s Fresh Fire Board could not have handled the situation, Stephen Strader and Ignited Church could not, nor could any of his other close friends.  Only the Revival Alliance could.’
(http://www.globalawakening.com/group/group.aspx?id=1000015990)    

Wagner’s empire, if some his own ‘Apostles’ are to be believed, is becoming a divided and disintegrating (??) empire.  According to Robert Ricciardelli (who had been/is?) an Apostle in Wagner’s ICA, has declared in several Internet blogs that he, and many others in the ICA, are disillusioned with Wagner and want to distance themselves from his involvement with Bentley.

Ricciardelli made numerous revealing and critical comments on various blogs, including Charisma Magazine forum/blogs – unfortunately a number of blogs have now been deleted, and articles on Todd Bentley been removed from the Internet.  Check things out further for yourself by searching/Googling ‘Robert Ricciardelli’.

 

QUESTIONS AND WARNINGS

The owner of CHARISMA Magazine, Steve Strang, and the magazine’s editor, J Lee Grady, are both ‘Apostolic’ members of Wagner’s ICA. Both, through Charisma Magazine, initially gave support and approval of Bentley and his Lakeland activities and then began to be cautious.

Strang acknowledged some of the developments should have been recognised well beforehand:
‘-Anyone who is in services 4 to 6 hours a day, 7 days a week for weeks on end is bound to have some type of breakdown.
-Anyone who covers himself with tattoos while in the ministry raises questions about his stability.
-Anyone who talks about the “Angel of the Healing Revival” that ministered to A.A. Allen and William Branham must have overlooked the fact that Allen and Branham both were discredited with moral shortcomings.
-Anyone who baptizes people in the name of the Father, the Son “and BAM” is playing lightly with the Holy Spirit and is bordering on blasphemy.’

He later added that: ‘…many people are talking about the situation and wondering why there wasn’t more discernment… Why, with so many mature leaders present at Bentley’s endorsement, was the gift not used or, given what we now know, why was there not a word of knowledge? Why was it that, as millions listened and a prophecy was given that Jesus would appear in person on the platform on a specific date, not one person expressed a word of caution? Could it be the intimidation of crowds, the awe induced by Christian celebrity or the absence of the childlike voice that needed to burst the bubble? What the church should be hungering for today is not “extreme prophetic” but “accurate prophetic.”’ (http://www.strangreport.com/2008/08/its-time-for-spiritual-fathers.html
http://www.strangreport.com/2008/08/emperor-has-no-clothes.html)

Grady goes from initial support to ultimately asking: ‘Why did so many people flock to Lakeland from around the world to rally behind an evangelist who had serious credibility issues from the beginning?  To put it bluntly, we’re just plain gullible. From the first week of the Lakeland revival, many discerning Christians raised questions about Bentley’s beliefs and practices. They felt uneasy when he said he talked to an angel in his hotel room. They sensed something amiss when he wore a T-shirt with a skeleton on it. They wondered why a man of God would cover himself with tattoos. They were horrified when they heard him describe how he tackled a man and knocked his tooth out during prayer. But among those who jumped on the Lakeland bandwagon, discernment was discouraged. They were expected to swallow and follow. The message was clear: “This is God. Don’t question.” So before we could all say, “Sheeka Boomba” (as Bentley often prayed from his pulpit), many people went home, prayed for people and shoved them to the floor with reckless abandon, Bentley-style…
Why didn’t anyone in Lakeland denounce the favorable comments Bentley made about William Branham?...
Why did God TV tell people that “any criticism of Todd Bentley is demonic”?...
Why did a group of respected ministers lay hands on Bentley on June 23 and publicly ordain him? Did they know of his personal problems?...True revival will be accompanied by brokenness, humility, reverence and repentance—not the arrogance, showmanship and empty hype that often was on display in Lakeland.’

Between his initial support and his ‘Life After Lakeland: Sorting Out the Confusion’ comments above, Grady also warned:  ‘1. Beware of strange fire…2. Beware of bizarre manifestations…3. Beware of hype and exaggeration.’

He questioned the lack of discernment in regard to angels and other matters: ‘Weird teachings about angels have become the norm in some charismatic circles today. It’s time to demand sanity on the subject. At a growing Brazilian church in Boston, a pastor told his congregation he was having regular conversations with an angel. Weeks later he set a chair on the stage for the heavenly visitor, whom he said was attending Sunday services even though no one could see him. The pastor eventually wrote a book containing messages he had supposedly received from the angel. The man’s teachings became so bizarre that he was eventually removed from his denomination for promoting heresy…what will happen in other sectors of our movement as leaders promote teachings about angels that range from the mildly weird to downright wacky:  * Evangelist Todd Bentley, leader of the Lakeland Revival, stirred up interest in angels when he wrote about Emma, a female angel he said wears a long white dress, floats above the floor and resembles Kathryn Kuhlman.  * A young evangelist who was preaching in Canada last spring held up a jar with a feather in it and told the congregation it belonged to an angel who visits him. He said the angel was coming to the service to release riches and healing to those who wanted prayer.  * Leaders of the prophetic movement often speak of angels that bring healing, wealth or special anointings. Some have described angels as tall as skyscrapers while others say they have seen tiny angels the size of insects. One prophet spoke of angels who are sleeping inside the walls of churches. Another segment of believers claim that the glowing circles of light that often show up on photographs are angels in the form of “orbs.”  With such exotic teachings on the rise, we desperately need some biblical guidelines. If you believe everything you hear these days, angels can be huge, tiny, spherical, male, female, feathered or non-feathered. What’s next? Yipping dog angels? Mermaid angels with fins? Court jester angels with bells on their hats?  Since my earliest days in the charismatic movement I was always taught that the Bible is our guidebook for doctrine and practice, and that the early church’s experience in the Book of Acts should be a pattern for us. This would direct us to assume that if a spiritual experience is not in the Bible, then it should not be considered normative for us today.’

Both Strang and Grady both raised serious questions about Bentley’s acceptance and promotion of William Branham – but AoG Pastor of Ignited Church, Stephen Strader, who invited Bentley to Florida, made the following interesting and revealing comments:

‘Our congregation has known the outpouring of the Spirit for more than 50 years. Through the leadership of my father, Karl Strader, our church experienced the Latter Rain Movement, Voice of Healing, Jesus Movement, Charismatic Movement, Word of Faith Movement, Prophetic Movement, Renewal Movement, Apostolic Movement and many others…Honestly, sometimes I think that the body of Christ hasn’t learned a thing from our past mistakes. We rejected the Latter Rain, Word of Faith, Prophetic movements—virtually all of them when they first appeared. And most were dismissed simply because we couldn’t understand them.’
(http://www.ministrytodaymag.com/display.php?id=17760)

Strader is naively wrong in claiming that such ‘movements’ were dismissed because people in Pentecostal circles simply ‘couldn’t understand them’ – these movements were rejected by Pentecostal leaders because they were heretical, Biblically unsound, just plain WRONG!  

The mad scramble for ‘anything new’ that has come to characterise so many Pentecostal churches and leaders today reveals an appalling lack of sound theology, Biblical grounding and understanding of Church history. Strader’s comments are not in keeping with many of the early, and even current, leaders of the Assemblies of God in America.

Bentley’s Lakeland performances, behaviour and morality have brought Christianity into ridicule and disgrace. Collectively they have been referred to as a ‘fiasco’, ‘scandal’, and much worse.  Not everything that supposedly happens in God’s Name is actually from God!

What happened with Bentley in Lakeland, Florida, has been referred to as a ‘revival’.  It is nothing like a true Biblical, or historical, revival.  It has been far closer to a mass manipulated ‘rock concert’ stage performance than anything Biblical.  It has raised serious questions about the whole ‘entertainment’ approach to Christian worship and evangelism that has become almost entrenched in many parts of the Christian community.

It has raised very serious questions about the trend, amongst some Pentecostals, of using disabilities and illness for healing ‘entertainment’ shows.  It has bordered on manipulating gullible, desperate and seriously ill people to publicly promote the ‘healing performance’ of ‘healing evangelists’.  It’s high time that the morality and un-Christlike nature of this sort of thing was publicly questioned, exposed and diminished.  It is one thing for Christian groups and individuals to pray for healing of the sick, as we should – it’s entirely another matter to turn their tragedies into ‘Christian feel-good’ entertainment.

It has raised very serious questions about the real nature, intention and purposes of today’s many ‘wannabee’ ‘Apostles and Prophets’.  We need a return to servanthood Christian leadership and a rejection of the status seeking and self promoting authoritarian (and often downright ‘dictatorial’) forms of leadership that have become popular and common in many Christian circles today.

It has raised very serious questions about the use of emotions over reasoning and Biblically sound thinking, in vogue in far too many sections of the Christian community around the world. God gave us brains – to USE, not to bypass or allow to atrophy.  We still have the Bible – with more versions, translations and paraphrases than ever in earlier history – BUT it needs to be read far more than it is by most who claim to follow Jesus.

It raises very serious questions about the ‘Christian celebrity status’ that focuses on ‘personalities’ to guide, lead, direct or bring in ‘new moves of the Spirit’.  We need a far greater focus on Jesus Christ; on the Biblical role and work of the Holy Spirit; on the old, plain, simple and powerful message of the Gospel of Grace.

Christians across the denominational divides need to learn the lessons of history and recent events, so that Christ can be honoured and presented to a world that still needs him, in contemporary, but less sensational or scandalous, ways.  The true Gospel message is scandalous enough, without adding discreditable behaviour.

 

BUT THERE’S MORE…SADLY…

Around the same time that Bentley’s Lakeland activities were imploding in the USA, the Assemblies of God/Australian Christian Churches in Australia suddenly had to go into damage control.

In late 2006 emails and forum postings buzzed around the Internet with people from around Australia and overseas being asked to pray for prominent AoG and Planet Shakers’ youth pastor, Mike Guglielmucci, e.g.:

15 Oct 2006, 12:20 PM - Don’t know if anyone else has heard this, but I was at worship practise this morning and out worship leader told us that Mike Guglielmucci has just found out that he has a blood disease. It’s shocking news - and I just think that we need to uphold him and his wife and family in prayer at this time

16 Oct 2006, 12:25 PM #5 - My youth pastor has been diagnosed with a blood disease. I believe that God can heal him, but yeah, still, he’s in need of prayer.

16 Oct 2006, 05:05 PM #8 - when i heard he was sick, i laughed... not because i am happy he is sick, but because while he was at our church he was healed of:
Glandular Fever
Blood Clot in his brain
Brain Tumor
Burst Ear Drum
God is so going to get the glory for this one... just like the other ones. But keep praying!
(05 Sep 2008, 10:42 PM I wonder if any of that was real, and if not, if porn is to blame?)

Since 2006 Mike Guglielmucci, has been claiming that he was seriously ill with cancer. This resulted in people around the world praying for his healing; sending him financial donations; having him speak at conferences and youth rallies to tell the story of his cancer – sometimes wearing oxygen nose tubes to add to the heart-strings appeal.  Early in 2008, while involved with music and songwriting activities at Brian Houston’s Hillsong  Church, Guglielmucci produced his song: Healer, which debuted second in the Aria music charts.

Mike Guglielmucci is the son of prominent AoG/ACC National Executive Board member and founder of South Australia’s Edge Church, Danny Guglielmucci, and wife, Sharonne.

Danny Guglielmucci and his wife Sharonne are the Senior Ministers of Edge Church International, a dynamic multi-site church based in Adelaide, South Australia. Danny’s strong apostolic leadership, coupled with his genuine pastor’s heart, has been instrumental in seeing this vibrant church grow from just 30 people in 1994, to over 5,000 meeting across three locations in Adelaide. He also oversees Edge Church’s most recent church plant in Bristol, England.

Mike Guglielmucci had some involvement in his father’s church and then became an AoG credentialed youth pastor, serving in Perth at Lakes Christian Life Centre between 1999 and 2003 before moving to Melbourne’s Planetshakers City Church. In 2007 he and his wife, Amanda, briefly returned to Adelaide before moving to Sydney. He then became part of Sydney’s Hillsong Church and spoke, wrote songs and sang for them.  Hillsong and Planetshakers had promoted him (AND his cancer) at various functions and recorded him on CDs and DVDs. With his background and involvement in several prominent AoG Churches and programmes, his heart-wrenching cancer story was very believable, prayable, promotable, and saleable. 

As one forum/blog contributor from Britain expressed it: ‘27 Aug 2008, 03:27 AM #368 - Hey guys. Thought I’d drop by and give you an idea of how this is affecting things over in the UK. Unfortunately over the past month or So Mike’s story has really hit the headlines, primarily through the Soul Survivor youth event where over 30,000 young Christians have been praying for Mike’s healing from cancer, watching the videos of his recording, and singing the song “Healer”. I fear that there is going to be some really tough fall-out from this.  When we returned from Soul Survivor last week, we played Mike’s “Healer” story and video to our youth congregation in our church in the UK. Last Sunday, one of our young female worship leaders from our youth church sang “Healer” to our main congregation of around 500 and told them all about Mike’s battle with cancer.’

 

FRAUD and DECEPTION…

 

Then came the August 2008 bombshell.

Mike Guglielmucci was a fraud. His stories of cancer were fabrication. He NEVER had cancer.  He DID have problems – he had been addicted to pornography, according to him, since age 12. His story of having cancer was developed to cover up his porn addiction.  It seems that his porn addiction conflicted with his Christian upbringing and church related activities and persona, expressing itself in physical symptoms from vomiting to hair loss.

As the British blogger put it: ‘27 Aug 2008, 03:27 AM #368 - …Mike’s deception was not only public, but was publicised! He was not living secret lies or even hiding his other life, but was publicly promoting his lies and making more and more material about his battle! Releasing statements and videos to spread the lies all over the world.’

(Some of the preceding blogs/forum comments came from: http://www.gush.com.au/)

It seems that, not long after the production of the latest Hillsong DVD which included him, Guglielmucci couldn’t cope with his own fabrications and his addictions. He apparently ‘spilled the beans’ on himself to his wife and then to his parents.  It seems this was NOT a case of a fraudulent liar being caught out by others, rather of a young man who had trouble living with himself, his 16-year long porn addiction and two years of deliberate deception.

After informing his family AoG/ACC church leaders were notified and swift action followed. A media release stated:

‘National Executive Statement
Representatives of the National Executive recently met with Michael Guglielmucci.  At this meeting he read a statement indicating that his claim to have cancer was untrue.  His credential with the ACC was immediately suspended.
The National Executive is taking this matter very seriously and is awaiting the results of medical tests before determining the full extent of the discipline that will be imposed upon him.
We are very concerned for the many people who have been or will be hurt by Michael’s actions and we encourage all of our churches to pray for all those affected.
Yours sincerely,  Alun Davies,  National Vice President  20 August 2008’

(http://www.aog.org.au/Media/NationalExecutiveStatement/tabid/1413/language/en-US/Default.aspx)

Hillsong leadership forwarded the following email to people on their listing:

‘20 August 2008 - In the past 24 hours it has been brought to our attention that Michael Guglielmucci’s illness is not what we have been led to believe.
Michael has confirmed that he is not suffering with a terminal illness and is seeking professional help in Adelaide with the support of his family.
This news has come as a great shock to everyone including, it seems, his own wife and family.
Please pray for the Guglielmucci family during this difficult time.’

Various statements made by his wife, father and others, indicate that for years he fooled them all by being dropped off at a hospital or doctor’s clinic and then going in by himself. Neither his wife, nor his parents, ever went in and accompanied him to the doctor or oncologist.  Most people find this incredible to believe or accept.  His parents acknowledge that he had been ill as a child and in his teen years, but apart from the symptoms, they remained oblivious to their son’s true illness, or his pornography addiction. 

Dan Guglielmucci acknowledged to the media that: ‘When he was about 12 he did vomit all the time, he’d get really, really sick…He was in the Adelaide Children’s Hospital for seven weeks at one stage; he didn’t eat and we thought we were going to lose him…They gave us the option of putting him in a psychiatric ward to see if there was something psychological but we felt uncomfortable with that at the time. We signed him out from hospital and then he would go a few months and then he would get sick again…we’d always do the proper thing but they couldn’t get to the bottom of it until now.’  Perhaps psychological assessment when he was 12 or during his early teen years may have helped prevent the disaster that followed.  He is apparently now having psychiatric treatment.

His wife, Amanda, is staying in their home in Sydney, while Mike is having treatment in Adelaide.  She is hoping, in spite of everything, that their seven-year-old marriage can be still be salvaged.

The AoG/ACC acted promptly; limited media exposure and comments; and basically have said no more.  Some, who may be AoG/ACC members, or at least sympathetic, have had difficulty in getting official statements and responses, since the initial ones around the 20th August.  Part of the damage control seems to have been – it’s now dealt with; no further correspondence to be entered into; move on; over and out!  Dan Guglielmucci’s Edge Church has no visible (if any) statement or update concerning Michael Guglielmucci. It’s as if he has disappeared or no longer exists. This deliberate silence may effectively frustrate extreme critics, but it also prevents caring and concerned Christians from praying in an informed way for Mike, Amanda, his parents, and all the people who have been hurt, damaged, disillusioned and turned away from Christianity.

The Christian forum, Gush, attempted to obtain original primary documentation for accuracy and fairness (rather than just relying on secular media reports) but found a deep reluctance from AoG/ACC leaders to provide the information: http://gush.com.au/showpost.php ?p=407639&postcount=366

It has been estimated that more than 300,000 people have watched Youtube presentations of Guglielmucci singing his best selling hit, Healer, along with the fabricated story of his suffering with terminal cancer.  Websites, blogs and forum postings have spread the message further and faster. NOW people around the world and throughout cyberspace are slowly catching up with his confession of deception and corrupting addiction to pornography.  The results have, sadly, been predictable.  There have been the extremists who blindly accept it all and even suggest that this is God’s doing, proving that even the vilest sinner can be used to bring hope and healing to others, while at the other extreme there are those who are almost gloating over the very public downfall of another (Pentecostal) pastor.  Most people are somewhere in between, and are trying to be honest, express their feelings, and yet wanting to allow God’s Spirit to bring healing, grace and forgiveness.  The following are just a few expressions from several blogs and forum postings:  ‘Why would he do something like this? How on earth did he manage such an elaborate hoax? Why did no one work out what was going on before now? What else where we lied to about? If someone that seemed so solid can be so messed up how can anyone be trusted? Was the positive impact he had on my life for real? questions, questions, questions. I literally feel physically sick just thinking about it!’

‘I’m trying so hard to be non-judgemental and as loving as I can be in this situation, but it’s just so hard. It’s hard when I know that my own grandfather is dying from cancer (asbestos, used to lay carpets and tiles etc). It’s still hard to come to a realization that he won’t be here in a few months time. I don’t know. I just can’t say anything. All I can do is cry, because I’m so angry.’

‘I don’t think you could love God and have a love for your neighbour, without being angry about Mike Guglielmucci’s (MG) actions. Imagine the amount of people who feel confused and manipulated by his deception, as well as the tainted perception of Christianity that would be either created or reinforced in the minds of non-Christians. Let us not live in fairy land here and pretend that as Christians we should not be angry.’

‘Mike has had a failing in his life and it’s been made public, which I imagine is quite shameful for him personally (although potentially also liberating as the issue is no longer hidden). I would encourage everyone to respond with the same grace and compassion that God has shown each of us.’

‘Professional Blogger’, Melbourne-based Alister Cameron, commented: ‘Now begins a long and painful exercise of self-examination. And I’m not talking about Michael… that goes without saying. I’m talking about Planetshakers and about the AOG. The obvious question is this: How could no-one have known? Not even family! What kind of “system” can promote someone to such a place of influence and yet can fail to enforce a regime of accountability and scrutiny?

The thing about the Christian church in general, and Pentecostalism in particular, is that its history is littered with stories of fallen heroes. And this is not something to speak of lightly. It is very, very painful stuff from which people never fully recover. People trust religious leaders like they trust very few other people and when one falls, it leaves a deep and very painful wound that will always leave a scar…

In a place like Planetshakers this kind of catastrophe will impact different people in different ways. For some it will not challenge just their trust in leadership… it will challenge their spirituality, their faith. That’s just what happens.

But see, the thing is… we KNOW that’s what happens. It’s happened many times before! And it will happen again.

So why don’t we learn from the massive damage of past leadership failures, and expect (and demand) a level of accountability and transparency from our leaders? I simple ask this: How many church leaders in this country — and in Pentecostalism in particular — have explicit structures of accountability and transparency in their lives and ministries so that it would be extremely, extremely hard for them to get away with immoral behaviour for any length of time?

To leaders who resist these kinds of structures and strictures, I’d say… tough! It’s a very high call, so deal with it. It’s the price you pay to honour God and to honour the seriousness of your position of influence and leadership.

We’ve had too much spiritual abuse. Too many (especially young) people have been burned beyond recognition. Surely the least we can do is wise up to what’s going on here! And not to make too fine a point of it, I find it is almost a feature of Pentecostalism that the more senior a leader becomes, the more unconstrained his movements become; the more unaccountable we allow him to be.

Why did Michael not feel safe enough to confess his fraud to an intimate friend and co-leader, ages ago? Why did he find himself promoted to senior leadership, all the while carrying this deep inner turmoil that never came out?

The answers to these questions should be none of our business. But they are, when they spill out and hurt so many people. And spare a thought (and prayer) for the Guglielmucci family. Hurt indeed.

Never mind cancer of the human body. There is a cancer of the Body of Christ here and it’s called leadership. Even in Pentecostalism we are far more man-centric than Spirit-centric. We place so much on human leadership and so little on Spirit-leadership, and this sort of debacle is the fruit of it.

And lest you think it has anything to do with the size of a church, it doesn’t. Homechurch or Megachurch… leadership abuse and failure hurts people just as much in either case.

I, for one, have so much respect for Ps Danny, Michael’s dad. I can’t imagine his and his family’s pain right now. I’ll be praying for them.

Meanwhile, I hope the shockwaves of this earthquake lead to better “construction methods” in the structures of church leadership, designed to make sure it’s much, much harder for a leader to fall like this again.’  (http://www.alistercameron.com /2008/08/21/pastor-michael-guglielmucci-planetshakers/)

We strongly endorse the preceding comments and questions raised by Alister Cameron. We believe Mike Guglielmucci’s story is an extremely sad one – and one that should have been avoidable.  His problems should have been recognised much earlier.  He should not have been promoted into leadership. Sickness (even pretended/non-existent) should not be used in ‘public arena’ performances and sympathy promotion. Leaders need to take responsibility. 

What is the AoG/ACC leadership, around Australia, actively doing to bring healing and help to the many people – young people, especially – who have been deeply hurt and disillusioned by all this?

It is very clear that not everything that is promoted in God’s Name is Godly, God-honouring, or God approved – and that can be very damaging. Anyone with even a basic understanding of the Bible would understand that God must grieve at all the deception, manipulation, cover-ups, and inaction to effectively deal with it all - while his name is used by those responsible.

Lessons should be learnt from all this; Lessons should be learnt from all this; Lessons should be learnt from all this; Lessons should be learnt from all thisBUT will they be??

 

(First published in TAKE A CLOSER LOOK, Vol. 29   No. 4; Aug-Sep 2008)