All the well-intentioned passion for Holy Spirit outpourings is pointless if the body that’s lathering it up isn’t willing to be cleaned.
Spiritual lather. It’s not a biblical term, nor will you find a definition for it in the dictionary. But any Spirit-filled leader knows not only what it means, but also that there are two kinds of it. We produce the good kind by stirring up believers’ faith or gifts. We create the bad kind when we manipulate the crowd, hype an event, make bloated promises and exaggerate accounts.
If you’ve watched or attended the meetings in Lakeland, Fla., since April, you’ve seen both kinds of lather. When I first visited the outpouring, I was overwhelmed by the almost tangible hunger for God in the room. People were desperate to see Him move. Parents had driven thousands of miles in hopes that God would miraculously heal their children. Foreigners had flown halfway across the world to receive an impartation for their homeland. In that kind of atmosphere, it’s easy to stir up your faith, expect the miraculous and leave with a renewed vigor to see God’s glory cover the earth.
It’s also easy in such a setting for leaders to toss out grand, albeit empty, statements from the platform to get another rousing “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” chant going. It’s easy to prophesy flippantly when we’re led by spiritual goose bumps instead of the Holy Spirit. Although we want to see an authentic, supernatural outpouring, we don’t always know what to do once it arrives. So by default—because it’s what we’re used to doing—we lather up the crowd with manipulative statements and emotional pleas.
We forget one thing: Spiritual lather isn’t just to stir hunger and excite the spirit, but ultimately to propel us toward cleansing. Soap lather serves no purpose unless it’s used to clean; otherwise, it’s just fluff. Likewise, all the well-intentioned passion for Holy Spirit outpourings is pointless if the body that’s lathering it up isn’t willing to be cleaned.
I wonder if Lakeland leaves us in such a position. Obviously, we still have some in-house cleaning to do. 2007—and to a degree, 2008—were years of exposure for the body of Christ, with scandal after scandal leaving embarrassing stains. Lakeland continues to expose the best and worst of our charismatic-Pentecostal culture. In the midst of wonderful miracles and healings, it’s raised many valid questions that we address in this issue—some theological, some methodological. Yet at the core of these is a single topic: revival. Are we in it? Is Lakeland the start of it? Is Lakeland revival at all? Is revival necessary? Given our charismatic cultural tendency to overuse and misapply the term revival, we would do well to take a step back and ask a broader question: What exactly is revival?
We’ve tried to do that with this special revival issue of Ministry Today, inviting several respected leaders to offer their thoughts on various aspects of the topic—including what’s going on at Lakeland. Without a doubt, we haven’t answered every question that needs to be asked; time often does that. What we do know is this: Stripped down, revival is always about an empowering of the gospel that transforms believers and nonbelievers alike. It is a culture changer. And in the case of Lakeland and whatever outpourings or revivals lie ahead, it’s evident that ours is the culture that needs changing first—or more specifically, cleansing. Because while revival always brings about such cleansing, it usually comes with harsh fire rather than a nice, frothy lather.
Marcus Yoars is the editor of Ministry Today.