The Lakeland Outpouring has a number of ministry leaders feeling conflicted. On one hand, Lakeland awakens our hopes for revival. Many people are being blessed and renewed. The worship is passionate, and God’s presence is remarkably strong. The reports of miracles are multiplying. Todd Bentley has an obvious gift and some ringing endorsements. Could this be the beginning of the revival we’ve dreamed of?
On the other hand, Lakeland stirs some serious concerns. Many of us are uneasy with Bentley’s claim of a face-to-face encounter with the apostle Paul in Paradise. We’re cautious about conversations with angels and revelations we’re told don’t need a scriptural basis. We wonder if some sensational claims might be exaggerated. Videos relaying stories of people being punched or kicked in the healing line don’t exactly calm our nerves. Is this really the direction we want to go?
These are not the prudish doubts of the rigidly religious. Many of us rejoice in the reports of positive fruit at Lakeland. We believe in healing, visions, angels and miracles. Yet we’re aware that the enemy can counterfeit God’s power and deceive “even the elect” (Matt. 24:24). Miracles are wonderful, but they don’t validate methods or messages (see Matt. 7:22-23).
It’s not faultfinding to ask honest questions while trying to make sense of something that is at once inspiring and unsettling. Despite the pressure to “get on board,” we can’t ignore the lessons of the past.
Order in the Mix
Perhaps Lakeland is best understood as a mixture of heaven and earth; God touching hungry people while using imperfect vessels—the only kind He has. There is a mixture of truth and error in every visitation. But with division brewing in the church and a lost world listening in, we need a way to separate the two.
No outpouring will be perfect, especially in its early stages. But we can’t miss the point that even our most well-intentioned actions can do serious damage if our passion for God’s presence outweighs our attention to proper order. Just ask Uzzah.
Everyone rejoiced when David set out to return the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. God’s glory was coming back! Amid the excitement, someone decided a new cart should carry the ark instead of the priests. God’s order was violated.
Then at Nachon’s threshing floor, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reacted and fell dead. The ark’s return was interrupted while a distressed king searched the Scriptures to discern the error (see 2 Sam. 6:6-11). After the necessary adjustments were made, the ark was brought home (see 1 Chr. 15:2-28). But for Uzzah and his family, the damage was irreversible.
I believe the charismatic movement is at a comparable moment. God has brought us to a holy threshing floor. It’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff. Many are rejoicing in a new move of the Spirit, but unless we’re careful about truth and due order in ministry, the damage to people—and to our mission—could be irreversible. If we have the heart of David, we’ll recheck God’s Word, make some course corrections and shepherd the ark all the way home.
A Good Floor Burn
The threshing floor requires effort. Searching the Scriptures is the best way to separate truth from error (see Heb. 4:12; Acts 17:11). Key leaders in honest dialogue release the treasure of collective counsel (see Prov. 15:22). Above all, a spirit of humility allows people on both sides of the debate to be gentle, acknowledge errors and repent of sins. There’s no room for a big head or a smart mouth at the threshing floor.
The threshing floor is not as electrifying as a rolling ark, but it promises a cleansing and a glory that transcends any present outpouring.
Can we have the wheat without the chaff? The apostle Paul points the way out of mixture into safety: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:19-21). In part, this is how the Holy Spirit threshes and cleanses the church (see Matt. 3:12).
Cynics may say nothing in Lakeland is of God. The trusting may say everything there is of God. But prudent leaders must discern the issues, safeguard the church and welcome the Spirit’s work at the threshing floor.
Speaker, author and prophetic minister David Cannistraci is the senior pastor of GateWay City Church in San Jose, Calif. His passion is to bring truth to people that aligns them with the present purpose of God in every area of their lives. For more information, go to davidcannistraci.org.
Issues of an Outpouring
As I’ve talked to leaders and searched my heart, five concerns with Lakeland have emerged. Please join me in praying that these issues will be settled at the threshing floor as we move forward.
1) The inadequate scriptural basis for some revelations and experiences. If our message is “Spiritual experiences are self-validating; everything doesn’t have to be supported by Scripture,” we’re open game for the enemy. Every message requires biblical grounding—especially if it’s distributed directly to the world by satellite.
2) Routinizing angelic encounters. Though angelic encounters are scriptural, they weren’t everyday experiences. Patriarchs, apostles and prophets didn’t play them up, and neither did Jesus. Their restraint makes sense because angelic encounters carry the potential for spiritual error (see 2 Cor. 11:14).
3) Sensationalizing visits to heaven. Paul downplayed his heavenly experience, refusing to describe it (see 2 Cor. 12:4). Did he suspect that the immature Corinthians might be vulnerable to deception if those experiences were normalized?
4) Talking to dead people. Although some frame these as simply visions, others are reasonably concerned about necromancy. Such accounts are attention grabbing, but it’s unclear what the benefits are for the church given the potent possibility of deception.
5) Dismissing evaluation. As a leader, I understand the frustration of being criticized. Todd Bentley has been the target of some very unkind comments. Still, it’s distressing when leaders who are passionate about truth and their responsibility for people have their questions brushed off as unbelief, religiosity or the devil’s work. Spiritual leaders are required to evaluate ministry. That should be welcome wherever prophetic gifts are in operation (see 1 Cor. 14:29-38).