I can never forget that my first reaction to the Toronto Blessing in 1994 was negative. I didn't believe it was of God. I didn't want it to be of God; I found the idea of falling on the floor and laughing hysterically rather offensive. Furthermore, if it really was of God, it would have come to Westminster Chapel first! I later affirmed it as being a genuine work of the Holy Spirit.
My reaction to the happenings in Lakeland was also negative, although in this case I still hope it is of God. I have learned that God offends the mind to reach the heart, that His choice of a sovereign vessel is often one that puts intellectual and dignified people right off. As I've stated in my book Out of Your Comfort Zone, God loves to show up in a manner that causes sophisticated people to say "yuck."
Those in the middle of the Lakeland phenomenon have claimed it fulfills prophecies regarding "last-days ministries"—when stadiums are filled, creative miracles are the norm and even the dead are raised. Indeed, claims to the dead being raised have already been noised abroad. I believe that the silent divorce between the Word and the Spirit will be replaced by the remarriage of the Word and the Spirit, the result being the greatest movement of God since Pentecost.
Are we at the beginning of such a move? If we are, then surely there will be one common denominator that links all the ingredients—the ministry, the worship, the claims: integrity.
I'll pass over for the moment my own expectation that there will be solid preaching and a clear presentation of the gospel. I will certainly put my prejudices to one side regarding personality, manner and style because, as I said, God often chooses people who might naturally offend.
But do we not have a right to expect integrity?
Behind this question lies another issue, namely, that of character versus gifting. Surprising as this may seem, this has been a heated issue. Character is more important than gifting, but some say no—gifting is more important. I believe this is why we have had so many scandals in recent years that have brought disgrace upon the name of Christ.
Because the gifts and calling of God are "irrevocable" (Rom. 11:29) it follows that one may literally live in dishonesty and immorality while their gift functions. This is borne out by King Saul's gift of prophecy flourishing when he was trying to kill David (see 1 Sam. 19:18-24). The fact that healings occur and prophecies are sometimes spot-on causes many innocent people to embrace everything uncritically.
The greatest freedom is having nothing to prove. Believe me, when the dead are raised it will make the front page of the New York Times. We won't have to "hype" any miracle to ensure the word gets out or that the crowds return the next evening. Instead, we'll be more concerned with whether the Spirit's movement is characterized by integrity and purity of character.
As I write these lines the jury of my mind is still out as to the authenticity of the Lakeland revival. If it endures, perhaps these words will serve as a timely corrective for both the participants and those who pray it is a mighty work of God—that nobody will bring Christ's name under a cloud.