Friday, July 02, 2010

"The day [Todd's ministry]...died"?

[Originally posted at Bene Diction Blogs On, Feb. 9, 2010]

Sometime during the past couple of days, Rick Joyner, who has been in charge of Todd Bentley's restoration process, released a "Special Bulletin" which explains from his perspective how things are coming along with that.

Joyner admits that the bulletin is long overdue. But if you consider what happened last Friday--which I have been blogging about here since then, it could be very timely.

There's not a word of mention of how police were called to Todd Bentley's open revival service at the Morningstar compound to ensure that a handful of protestors were silenced and ordered to leave--one being bodily carried out of the auditorium. In the many words of the bulletin, there is just one sentence that may touch on what the protestors were yelling about.

However, the police incident involving Todd Bentley probably gave an impetus to Joyner to release this statement quickly as possible, in order to reassure Bentley's friends that Bentley's critics are just wrong, wrong, wrong.

It's damage control, in my opinion, without Joyner letting his readers know what the latest damage is.

I hope that other bloggers address some of the specific thological issues that Joyner raises, but I have some thoughts of my own that I would like to mention about what he has to write.

Joyner writes:
After nearly a year and a half of working with Todd, I recently felt that it was time to release him into some limited ministry in our local church. This does not mean that Todd has been released back into ministry in general, nor does it mean that Todd is nearing the end of his restoration process. We do not know how long this will be, and as from the beginning, we want to be confident that it is the Lord’s timing with each step that is taken....Before Todd will be fully released back into ministry, we will ask for a council to endorse this, which will be composed of those who are respected throughout the body of Christ as true elders in the church....

"limited ministry in our local church" I want to deal with that specifically first, so I will pull up something from later in the bulletin.

Joyner adds:

....We have received many testimonies from those watching our meetings on our IPTV channel at I’m sure that at least some of the explosive growth of those watching MorningStar TV is because of Todd. Since MorningStar TV is already being watched by people in more than 140 nations, I have heard a few concerns that this seems like Todd is being released back into international ministry. I can understand this objection; however, I do not agree with it. People are free to watch or not watch these meetings, just as they are free to come to our church or not come. We have visitors from many other nations in virtually every meeting we have, so what is the difference except in degree? Whether they visit our local church or if they watch our services on Morningstar TV, sometimes Todd will be ministering. I am glad to take the heat to see as many people touched as we are currently seeing....

Joyner may not "agree" with those who argue that Bentley is not really ministering locally, but it's "local" in name only. When you say "local", you have in mind something that is quiet, with little publicity. You don't have Morningstar TV broadcast live over the internet. You don't have Joyner and Bentley, in the midst of a restoration video inviting the world to come to stay at the Morningstar hotel. You don't keep hinting, in this statement and some videos that a revival is brewing. You let other Christians notice what is going on and publicize it for you.

If Joyner is merely wanting to have Todd reach the surrounding area, why speculate that this Morningstar "revival" could be the start of a regional revival that Joyner has waiting for for thirty years?

A "mini-Lakeland" is better than Bentley packing his bags and heading for Wembley in England, say. Todd can sleep in his own bed, and everyone seeking revival can come to him, and stay in the Morningstar hotel, eat waffles prepared by the Morningstar cafe cook and tip the Morningstar cafe waitress before walking over to the Morningstar bookstore to buy some Morningstar tapes and CDs.... The responders on Friday reportedly came from a "sheriff's office", which may mean that Fort Mill itself is quite small and that the Morningstar compound is in the countryside. Having people come to a "local outpouring" would directly benefit Joyner's ministry in a way that Todd hosting a revival in Texas, say, wouldn't.

If what is happening in Fort Mill does well, it could be the start of a "great American revival" that Joyner is expecting--as noted in the statement. If what is happening at Fort Mill splutters and dies, Bentley was just engaging in "local church ministry". Either way, Joyner is covered and Bentley just putts along.

Joyner adds:

"....As far as his spiritual health, Todd is probably now in a better place than many other ministries I know. However, he does still have issues that could hurt him, or cause problems in the future, some of which we have not even addressed yet..."

Thanks for kneecapping the reputations of "other ministries [you] know", Joyner.

Joyner then goes on at some length to discuss why he believes that deeply flawed people should sometimes be allowed to minister. I can imagine though that some of my readers would want to be more careful when bringing back someone into preaching, teaching and evangelism.

He writes:

"....Many leaders feel that these embarrassing falls from those in high visibility in the church are causing many to stumble, and doubtless they do. However, the self-righteousness manifested by many when this happens is probably causing far more to reject the church and our message. How can anyone trust our message of redemption and restoration when we will not even restore our own fallen?

Restore, I would suggest, need not necessarily mean to have Todd Bentley doing exactly what he was doing before. The Lord allowing Bentley to fail in such a public way might be His way of trying to tell the evangelist that a different line of work might be better for both Bentley and the church. But Bentley wants badly to be an evangelist again, so he and Joyner will never address this basic question.

I would like evidence that non-Christian people are worried about Christians not forgiving Christians to the degree that Joyner cites. In my own experience, any questions that non-Christians have about forgiveness have behind them the argument that they feel that Christians set too high a standard for non-Christians.

Certainly, my readers would want Bentley to be truly repentant and then forgiven. But I can think of a few examples in the church where "restoration" wouldn't mean returning to the exact same job that you did before.

A bit later in the statement, Joyner uses a trick that is intended to get angry dogs chasing you off your tail. He throws Bentley's critics a rhetorical bone and hopes that they stop pursuing Todd so ardently:

....Many years ago, I was shown Todd’s calling. I know that what he has yet to do will greatly eclipse what he has already done. As Bob Jones said when the Outpouring broke out in Lakeland, “This is just previews of coming attractions.”

Even so, one of the greatest concerns I had about Lakeland was the prima donna attitude that began to manifest on Todd. People with this syndrome don’t think the rules that apply to others apply to them. This will cause you to start thinking you are the main reason for the revival, not Jesus, and not the lost. You’ll start seeing yourself as more important than any one person is, and even essential to the plan of God. This is the root of pride, which likely caused the fall of Satan, and has caused many falls since.

It was fairly obvious at Lakeland that Todd might have a problem with pride, so Joyner can safely concede this. What is also obvious is that he "lied like a rug" sometimes. But Bentley has never sought to correct nor apologized for the false things he said. Doing so would be evidence of repentance. Evidence that I suspect we may wait a long long time for.

Was Todd heretical? Try to bend what happened and attribute it to pride, as that is easy to apologize for.

If Bentley were to start saying that he had taught some perhaps heretical things or that he had lied in the pulpit, it would warn the wise that Todd had a problem with these things and that people should watch for them in the future. Pride, however, is more subtle. Bentley could act as if he were very humble, but actually not truly be so, and it would fool many. If that is the only gross sin that Joyner sees in Bentley, Todd could could easily fool Rick Joyner too.

What I find surprising about Todd's alleged lapse into a "prima donna attitude" is that this comes right after Joyner rattling off some of the great things that Todd has done in the past. I'll add a little emphasis for something that I find a bit amazing for anyone to allow have mentioned about themselves:

We were recently visited by the leader of more than twenty-two hundred churches in India. He told us about how people go to villages all over his region and ask young children their names, and a good number will say, “Todd Bentley.” Their parents named their children after him because he led them to the Lord in his crusades there. This church network, one of the strongest and fastest growing in India, credits much to Todd’s work there. His crusades did not leave new believers who had to make it on their own, but left churches, orphanages, and schools by raising up and working with strong local leaders. Of course, this was not done just by Todd, but by his whole team.

Can we have this fellow's name, and a statement from him? Better yet, can we have enough details so that third parties can check out the truth of what he says? Bentley may have done some good work in India, but considering that his ministry had a record of declaring people healed of illnesses who then went ahead and inconveniently died, it would be good if people who don't have an interest in seeing Bentley restored said some of these things themselves.

Is this network in southern India, which already had millions of Christians, or is it in the heavily Hindu parts of India, where Bentley's efforts might have done more good?

Can we meet little Todd Bentley Prasad, say? (I'd hate to have that name if Bentley became infamous on a worldwide scale, it goes without saying.)

I hope that Bentley didn't have anything to do with bragging that little Indian kids are named for him. That would show that his alleged "prima donna complex" is harder to kill than Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator in the first Terminator film.

As the Bentley critics were reportedly crying out that Bentley was an "adulterer" last Friday, Joyner's latest statement might be a good place to address these concerns and obviate the need for more police to show up to listen to Bentley's sermons in the future. But this is all that Joyner writes:

"....I hope to address most of the questions people have about this process and to help clarify the doctrines of marriage and divorce which the whole church is in desperate need of."

I thought that the statement of what Todd Bentley believes on divorce and remarriage was done? Not that it greatly matters to me, as I know Bentley will--surprise--discover that divorcing his "starter wife" and marrying his former intern is just swell. But I do know that the question is urgent to some. They will even go to Bentley and berate him in public, so you think that Joyner would finally drag out the "Reasons why you shouldn't think that Todd Bentley is an adulterer." They would have been handy to have on Friday night, eh?

The effect of the whole statement is to reinforce To Bentley's friends that everything is fine and that tough questions should not be asked, lest you be even worse than Todd Bentley at Lakeland, morally. It's like a sleeping drug, intended to gently lull your spirit to sleep.

I wonder if Rick Joyner owned the same pop psychology book that my parents owned about how to talk with assertiveness. One of the techniques that the author, whose name escapes, reccomended was called the "Broken Record" technique. Like a record with a skip, you force the other person is the conversation to acknowledge your central point by saying it over and over again. Perhaps Joyner feels that if he says "Everything is fine. We have to restore Todd Bentley," over and over again, Bentley can win on points in the 162nd round of his rhetorical boxing match with his critics.

But I think that the men who came and yelled at Bentley last week were at least partly frustrated that Bentley doesn't seem to respond to the concerns that they think are important.

And isn't that what a repentant person might do? "A gentle answer turns away wrath", it is said.

No matter what turbulence that Bentley might face, Joyner adds that he will be Bentley's co-pilot for a while longer:

When I was a flight instructor, I could fairly accurately tell which mistakes a student would make. I would not let those students solo until they had made those mistakes with me in the cockpit so they would not kill themselves. However, no matter how much I tried to explain their tendencies that I considered dangerous to them, until they actually made the mistakes while flying, they did not get it. It was time for Todd to start flying again, but I am going to be very close to him for a while, for his sake, and for anyone else who might later get in the plane with him.

It's perhaps sadly appropriate, in the mind of Bentley's critics anyways that I read this statement within a week of the anniversary of "The Day The Music Died." It's been argued that the pilot that sad day misread his instrument panel and flew down and not up, leading to the crash.

As I have shaken confidence in Joyner's ability to read Todd Bentley's "instrument panel" correctly, as it were, he will perhaps forgive me if I chose to take the bus instead. Buses are not known to fall out of the sky.