Friday, July 02, 2010

The Todd Bentley/Lakeland documentary

[Originally posted at Bene Diction Blogs On, Mar. 26, 2010]

Sometime this summer, Todd Bentley, and his Lakeland “revival”, will be the subject of a new documentary.

It’s by Roy Petersen, an American filmmaker now based in London, England. He will soon be finished and has his agent looking for a way to either distribute it or show it on television. He has a channel on YouTube.

He kindly agreed to an interview by e-mail, which follows. Thanks to him.

While this is not a biography of Todd Bentley--as Petersen notes--he will be a central figure of it, and an interview subject.

You can see Roy for yourself in this video, at 2:02 of this "for fun" version of a trailer of his Bentley/Lakeland documentary.

As I am not the type of person who would get a tattoo of Todd Bentley on myself, what I thought would be best is to record his verbatim answers. (He explains himself well.) Then, I will offer my comments as the first comment on this post, which Mr. Petersen is more than welcome to respond to.

[UPDATE: Apparently Roy is kidding about having a tattoo of Todd Bentley. Good to hear. But a smiley-face emoticon would have helped to make this clear. :) ]

Based on the snippets I saw online, he ran into a lot of nice people at Lakeland who have a heart for Jesus. Yet, based on the ongoing fruit of Lakeland, well, I have some concerns.

I would like to thank him for his graciousness and hope that I will respond in kind. With due respect to him, I hope that his finished documentary will dispel my worries.

Despite the fact that we seem to disagree about Mr. Bentley, I very much look forward to seeing the completed project. It will be a must-see. I wish him the best of luck. Truly.

I think that I have spotted some possible parts of his video online. I'll do another post linking to them.

Our Q and A interview follows…

Here is my Q and A style interview with Mr. Petersen. I've italicized his answers.

1. Where are you based? I think that you might be English?
I might be English, but I’m an American married to a Brit. I was born in NYC. I’m based in London, in the Old Towne of Camden.

2. How long have you been a filmmaker for? Can you suggest some titles of things that you have done? TV channels or news programs you may have worked for?

I guess I’ve been a filmmaker since graduating from film school, Regent University in Viginia Beach Va., Pat Robertson was my chancellor.

I’ve worked as a producer/director for The 700 Club, where we did a travel series that incorporated comedy and profiling ministries. I then went on to Belmont Mills Entertainment in Charlotte area, where I attended Morningstar as a church for about a year.

In the UK I’ve done a few things in Christian media, but I’ve been working on short comedies, corporate films & various series for a more mainstream audience. I got into documentary through doing comedy and loving improvisational stuff like Christopher Guest’s work. Some of my comedies have gotten round the festival circuit.

On the web, I found a good audience for my blog “Free Donuts”, and films that show well-known preachers out of their element, behind the scenes. So time with Bill Johnson talking about his MacBook Pro brought thousands of hits, or with prophet Bobby Conner street witnessing to some goths proved very popular.

I then went on to do some simple, hand-held short docs on prophetic and visionary artists. These are done for a more mainstream audience, and have gotten some good mentions on Channel 4’s documentary site. 3.

3 Are you a Christian? A Charismatic? (I ask merely to see whether you have a base to build on, or whether the things that Bentley talks about are somewhat new to you. You can do good work either way...)

Don’t think I would have survived years at CBN without having a strong faith in God. I moved into the charismatic/prophetic movement in 94 with the birth of the Toronto Blessing. I speak in tongues regularly.

4 When was the first time that you ever interacted with Todd Bentley? How did you hear of him?

I was familiar with Todd’s ministry from the start, but my first interaction was when he called my last name out of a crowd of about 600 people in a church meeting. There was no way to know my last name, since there was no registration, and there weren’t any other ‘Petersens’ in the audience so....

He gave my wife and I a prophetic word about ministry that was accurate and really strengthened us in faith.

5 What led you to think that Todd Bentley might be a good documentary subject? Why make one on him?

I think Todd’s the perfect subject for a film: he’s a bold, unique figure, and loves the camera. Todd is not what the average person would picture as a healing evangelist.

After having seen the documentary “The Hoover Street Revival” several years back, I always thought it’d be great to capture a real revival as it happened.

When I got to Lakeland it was to film the Florida Outpouring as the movement that it was. I thought the raw and edgy events that were happening, the signs, wonders & reported miracles were a perfect setting for a behind the scenes documentary on revival.

The first thing I filmed was a healing that happened with Jeff Lewis, the evangelism director. We just went out on the street, had a prophetic word for a lady, and when Jeff prayed, the lady got healed. That is on youtube, called The Midas Touch.

6. Have you interviewed Todd Bentley for the documentary yet? Have you interviewed Rick Joyner? If so, when did you interview them yet? If not, do you hope to...or have they said no? (If they have said no, did they offer a reason?)

It took a long time to get an interview with Todd.

When we camped at Lakeland for a couple months in July/August of 08, there was just no access. We did get to spend lots of good time with Roy Fields, and were able to capture how people’s lives were transformed by the Holy Spirit.

As the Outpouring moved on, a friend was working at Morningstar, and he was able to help get a great interview with Rick Joyner, Bob Jones, lots of other ministers there.

Mo’star were truly open and friendly to the idea of me filming their 08/08/08 event, and their breakout meetings which were begun by students touched by the power in Lakeland.

Unfortunately, with the crisis in Todd’s life and his leaving the ministry, we did not get time with him until July of 2009, and then again last month at the return of Fresh Fire training school.

We were able to get a second interview with Rick, which was shorter than I had hoped, in where he talks about restoration.

7. If I recall correctly, I remember that you wrote that you were a "fan" of Todd Bentley. Did I understand you correctly? If I did...why do you say this?

To be a real fan of Todd, you’ve gotta have a tattoo of him on your right shoulder. I’ve got mine.

8. How long have you been working on and filming the documentary?

Since May of 2008. We’ve had about 4 seasons of filming: first Florida, then South Carolina, Washington DC, and then South Carolina again. With 130 hours of footage, we’ve finally got an assembly in place and are continuing ahead.

9. Do you have a working title for it?

I want to call it “The Five Fingers of Glory” but others just lean to “Lakeland”.

10 When do you hope to have it finished by?

June 2010.

11. Have you sold the documentary? Who to? Are you funding it by yourself for now?

We’ve got a sales agent in London who is representing the film. Funding comes personally and from friends and trusted producers. The desire is a mainstream audience, although I am not averse to it being in the Christian media stream.

12 What are some of the interesting things about Todd Bentley that you hope to point out in your documentary?

I think the most interesting thing about the documentary is how many people follow Todd’s ministry, and have been affected by it. The numbers of Lakeland-- up to ten thousand a night. How his style and mannerisms have been emulated. I think he’s the first rock star healing evangelist.

I think the documentary will show interesting things about the culture of revival, and also the pressure that a world-wide, nightly-televised revival can bring on someone.

13. According to what you are seeing and filming so far, what are some of your impressions about Todd Bentley?

Todd’s just Todd. A lot of controversy, misunderstanding and hype surrounds the guy, but what you see is what you get. He’s got strengths and weaknesses like anyone else.

Todd does this stuff for a living. The operation of miracles and faith is what he does- it’s his job. He shows a boldness and an enthusiasm for God that very few have. The fact that he’s back shows he has a persistence of vision, and resolve to see God move despite his circumstances.

I mean, what does a healing evangelist do? They pray, read the word, meditate and go onstage to heal people, in Todd’s case he works out in the gym, but then onto the next gig. It’s very rock star.

Along with that comes the controversy and emotional stuff that comes from people wanting their miracle, wanting to be changed.

14. You're probably aware that there are booklets and a teaching video that are overtly critical of Bentley, not to mention the various Internet critiques. What criticism of Bentley have you seen? How credible is the criticism, in your opinion?

Dude I’ve seen the wide variety of anti-Todd material out there, especially on the web, especially during the Outpouring. A lot of it is taken out of context. A lot of it is gossip & hearsay. Some of it is delusional.

An interview I did with Heather Clark, a worship leader from Canada, has some great insight. The Youtube critics, she said, are like angry drivers-- they’ll yell and scream at you from their cars, but when face to face they just don’t have the guts to say what they might from their auto.

For me, it’s like having beer muscles, to be so critical just from afar.

15. I'm guessing that it was you who filmed interviews with the Operation Save America protestors at Morningstar? What do you think of them and their actions?

OSA - Yes, I interviewed my old friend Ante, who I actually lived with in early 2000. I remember spending many hours discussing the virtues and vices of rock music over coffee with Ante.

Although I do love and appreciate Ante very much, I think his actions were not fruitful and it was not a biblical way to approach the controversy of Todd. I understand the need for prophetic acts of protest, but what happened at the protest wasn’t prophetic.

If they have an issue with Rick Joyner or Todd, well, get a private meeting with them or something. Or, just pray for them and deal with the stuff that is happening in their own lives and churches.

16. Have you seen any secular TV programs or videos about Todd Bentley?

No. I know that the Oprah network is planning a special on him for early next year.

17. Have you read any of Todd Bentley's books? Watched his teaching videos? Listened to his teaching tapes?

I have soaked to many of Todd’s books, records and teachings, yes. I like his music CD with Kevin Prosch the most.

18 Can you offer a guess of how many times you have heard Todd Bentley preach in person?


19. Is there anything more that you care to add? Something that I missed that you think is important to say?

My film on Lakeland is not a biopic of Todd Bentley. It’s about the Grace and power of God during a season of heightened miracles, visions and works of faith. It’s like a hurricane hit Lakeland in April of 2008, and the film witnesses the aftermath.

UPDATE: Revelant comments from the comment thread at BDBO:

1 Rick Hiebert on Mar 26th, 2010 at 11:49 am
Let me take off my reporter’s fedora and put on my blogger’s cap.

I like Roy Petersen. He seems like a godly and smart fellow, who knows what he is doing. I really would like him to do well with his documentary. Even if I don’t agree with what he will say, it will be well worth seeing.

And I am grateful that he answered my questions. In respect of this, I’ve tried to keep most of the editorializing that I may do in the comments here. He deserves to speak for himself, and I have tried to let him do so in the post itself.

But, I have some concerns about his approach, which I would like to share. As I noted in the main body of my post, I hope that I am pleasantly surprised by the documentary. But, I fear that I may not be.

In no way do I want to say that Petersen will certainly make the missteps that I outline below. I trust his professionalism, and his knowledge of how to do things right.

Like him, and the various people that I have seen thus far in his video snippets, I want to see true revival badly. I see that some of these people whom he has filmed truly have Jesus in their hearts, so it would be very sad to see them be disappointed.

But, based on Petersen’s remarks, I see possible potholes in the road ahead of him that I hope that he is able to steer around.

I don’t expect him to agree with me about Bentley. As a former journalist, I realize that it is impossible to be entirely objective. But while it is all right to have a point of view, and to express it , I am concerned about even-handedness here.

Mr. Petersen is a fan. You wouldn’t expect someone to have a tattoo of Todd Bentley to slam him in his film. But I made sure to ask what sort of coverage and research he had done on Bentley, and I fear that he may either not be doing enough research or discounting what he heard. Unnecessarily, when I think his viewers will be wondering “What about…”

I’ll use an example—nine years ago, I was amongst the very first reporters to ever cover Bentley. In our conversation, he came across as a hail-fellow well met. He was talking to a magazine which would usually be sympathetic to a Christian faith healer like him. I had no reason, at the time, to doubt the truth of what he said. But I did realize that many of my readers would think that faith healing of the sort that Mr. Bentley practiced was wrong or misguided. So, I found a representative of the local society of skeptics to offer commentary as balance so that my readers could decide for themselves.

Then, I did two follow-up stories for my magazine, which tended to demonstrate that Todd Bentley had a tendency to lie, a gross character flaw which would, sadly, turn up again and again, most spectacularly at Lakeland.

In my defense, though, I had nothing to go on at first besides Bentley’s word. But Mr. Petersen does. There are videos, news stories, and even two critical books specifically about Bentley and Lakeland. Certainly, he would want to discount the people who say wild things such as Todd has the name of a demon tattooed on him. But there are thoughtful critics of Bentley, such as Todd Friel, Phil Naessens and Andrew Strom, who have the chops to criticize Bentley’s theology as well as his actions. There’s the ABC Nightline story. The World magazine coverage.

Of course, Mr. Petersen is free to quote who he wants to in his film. But I would caution him that many in his audience will have read or watched some of these critical things. I gather, from some of his answers, that he anticipates that some people will be critical of Bentley. So, I would suggest that his documentary would be improved if he would be able to cite what he thought as the most telling of these critiques and then discuss them. I wouldn’t want his viewers to think “So there is no answer to such-and-such a critique?” if that can be avoided. Hopefully, he is way ahead of me here.

I realize that he doesn’t want his documentary to be 17 hours long. I get that he likes and admires Bentley. But, a judicious use of, and response to, criticism of Bentley would be very useful in his documentary. Will we see it? I hope so. ‘I’ve interviewed A and B and plan to quote X and Y” would have been a reassuring answer from him.

Which brings up the fellows from Operation Save America. As I hope that everyone has picked up from my posts at BDBO, I wouldn’t do what they did—it’s not my style and why make Bentley a martyr– but I understand why they felt the need to do as they did. I tried to give them a fair hearing.

I think that Petersen happened to see that as a way to add drama to his documentary dropped into his lap. Also, in his defense, it may be hard and costly for him to fly around getting critics of Bentley on film. It was providential that this happened, in my opinion, and I am confident that he will be professional in his handling of the OSA.

But, I think he well knows that it would be very easy for a naughty documentarian to use the Operation Save America crew as a “straw man”. He would be aware that most Christians, even some of Bentley’s critics, would blanch at interrupting Bentley’s service, even if it was, for argument’s sake deserved on Bentley’s part.

If he were naughty, Petersen could chose to not quote the more reasoned critics of Bentley and instead quote the OSA types sounding a little wild. The audience watching would then go “Eeeewwww!” and the OSA folks would slap their heads and say “D’oh! We were used to play into Bentley’s hands!”

I don’t think that will happen, though. I have faith in Petersen . But you understand my concern.

I empathize with Petersen. The only time that I probably will ever get to interview Bentley, he came across as a nice fellow with a neat story. My editors at the magazine way back then didn’t see Bentley as a “rock star”, but they did say that I should concentrate on the “guy in his early 20s” of all the faith healers that I was suggesting a story on, as he was the most interesting and newsworthy. So, Petersen’s instincts about Bentley’s newsworthiness are on the right track. But I hope that he proves to be less a fan and more someone who knows that a little professional distance is useful when putting his documentary together.

Mr. Petersen admits to being a fan of Bentley—look at his tattoo—. I proffer this advice in an effort that –if Bentley has come around and Lakeland was valid (both of which I sincerely doubt)—that he will be able to be make a documentary that will be persuasive due to its professional approach and even handedness.

I wouldn’t expect him to make an overtly critical documentary on Bentley, given his point of view. But, if he can remember that Mr. Bentley critics will be watching the documentary, I would respectfully suggest that it will help him to be wiser in making it.
I don’t want Petersen to be kicked in the pants by reality once his documentary hits the screen, if he can avoid it.

I want to see a documentary, not something that is a hagiography. Petersen has the skills to follow through…but will he? Will it be an apologia for Bentley, or something that reflects a true look at him and his revival, warts and all?

As I mentioned, I empathize with Petersen. I do think has God done the occasional good thing through Bentley and at Lakeland. But this would have been in spite of all the bad theology and worse actions and rotten fruit that has been the result of all that happened. Absolutely, mention the good. But be open eyed and level headed too. Just because all Christians ache for true revival, be frank when deciding whether Lakeland was one. The world of the unsaved knows the difference between true and false revival, even when we Christians pretend not to.

Mr. Petersen, I note, describes the aftermath Lakeland this way. “It’s like a hurricane hit Lakeland in…2008, and the film witnesses the aftermath.”

Hurricanes are always bad.

I have tried hard to offer some observations that will prove to be “when iron sharpens iron.” I’ve decided to share as I have now because if I do have some valid ideas, it would be good to have Petersen consider them before he is entirely finished.

I think that Mr. Petersen may disagree with some of the things I comment on here. But I hope that I at least offer what I say in a good spirit that he can respect.

It’s because I want him to do an excellent job that I have commented as I have.

I hope that, if he wants to, he will consent to answering questions once his documentary is out. I do hope it proves newsworthy.

I look forward to anything that he might have to add here. I welcome it, in fact.

I wish him the best of luck, honestly. He may need it with Mr. Bentley’s critics.

2 Brandon on Mar 26th, 2010 at 1:47 pm
I won’t lie — it’s kinda creepy that he has a bentley tattoo.

3 Bene D on Mar 26th, 2010 at 10:50 pm
Excellent questions Rick. Good baseline. Appreciate you reaching out to Mr. Petersen to discuss his work.


Also appreciate your back story on this interview.

No one at BDBO is yelling, screaming or shooting the messenger prior to the completion of his production. I echo the hope he gives you a post release interview.
We can only know if the film faithfully witnesses the Lakeland aftermath if we extend the courtesy of watching it.

Can’t find online info for Belmont Mills Entertainment.
His CV is here.

4 Roy on Mar 27th, 2010 at 12:57 am

Thanks for releasing my interview word for word, and for the interview itself.

Appreciate your insight to keep objective on the revival. The OSA group is not the only voice of opposition in the film, and every good film needs opposing voices and balance.

This will certainly not be a hagiography of St. Todd or St. Roy Fields- or St. Anybody– but a tour of what happened at Lakeland and the various subjects involved and affected by it. Although it might be fun to do a hagiography. Hmmmm…..

As to the tattoo comment – Do you really believe I belong to the Todd Bentley fan club and have a tattoo of him? I won’t answer that, I will just leave it to you.

A more appropriate trailer to the film can be found here: and here

Thanks again. Great to dialogue.

5 Treehousedaddy on Mar 27th, 2010 at 7:35 am
Is this journalism or a very long ramble ? Guys, re-read Mr Petersen’s answer about the tattoo that obsesses you. He did not say he has a tattoo OF Todd Bentley on his shoulder. He obviously has a highly developed sense of the comedic and is having a joke at your expense — and it’s about all those people who adopt the speech mannerisms, buy the same kind of Bible and change their dress style to match whoever is the shining light of the moment. Can’t you tell ?

Petersen may have spiky hair but he knows tattoos or piercings would look plain silly on him, so he doesn’t have any.

6 Rick Hiebert on Mar 27th, 2010 at 9:38 am

Great to hear from you.

Thank you for clearing up the tattoo comment. Suffice it to say, in my defence, that charsimatics can be so unusual that such things are possible. As I have a dryish sense of humour myself, I should have caught it. But I use smiley faces.

It’s also very good to see that you are thinking about objectivity too. Hopefully you know to follow through on it.

I guess we will see, in the finished product, how you do. That said, I am reassured that you realize that you need to watch for it too.

7 Bene D on Mar 27th, 2010 at 11:20 am
Rick Hiebert’s insight is part of who he is, and I commend him.

It’s not just his talent, it is something he has earned, worked for and cultivated.

Comedic is innate and also cultural, be patient with those who miss the nuance, eh? This blog has people stopping by from all walks of life.

We’ll see in my culture is a respectful and open one, not a statement of diminishment.

8 Treehousedaddy on Mar 27th, 2010 at 11:14 pm
I wouldn’t want to diminish Mr Hiebert since the Bible tells me unequivocally that God loves him exactly as much as he loves Mr Bentley and Mr Petersen.

Are you saying it is unnacceptable to challenge one another? From beginning to end Mr Hiebert writes about his concern that Roy Petersen would not be objective about Todd Bentley; that is hardly journalism if journalism is about telling a story with reasonable objectivity. It reads rather clearly like Rick already expects Roy to be unbalanced. And that is why he fell for the tattoo joke, not for cultural reasons.

9 Joyce on Mar 29th, 2010 at 5:15 am
(big sigh)…I’m glad that Mr. Petersen posted a link to another trailer of the movie. I hope it will be an evenhanded documentary. I’m thoroughly annoyed though at his interview assertion that OSA should have contacted Bentley privately while elsewhere in the interview stating how difficult it was for he himself to get to Bentley. His answer to question number six says that during the Lakeland period “there was just no access” to him. He also states that “It took a long time to get an interview with Todd”, and it required having a friend working at Morningstar to get interviews with Rick Joyner, etc.

10 Roy on Mar 30th, 2010 at 8:02 am
I guess it all depends on what you’d call objectivity. How do you definte what “is” is? as Bill Clinton once said.

As a believer I have pre-supposed the move of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, renewal and revival- for me I would never be able to downgrade what I feel is God-activity.

Objectivity comes when I see that other believers in different camps/tribes/denominations disagree with this stuff– or disagree with Todd Bentley as a minister after he’s had a fall from grace and restoration.

This is their opinion, and in making a film I don’t think I could demean those with a difference of opinion, just as I could not demean anyone gracious enough to appear on camera for the documentary who are more within what I hold as truth.

This is not an expose, or a tabloid/gossip film. People will need to decide for themselves what is real and what is not, what works for them, and where God is in the complex dealings when He shows up in power.


11 Lawrence on Mar 30th, 2010 at 8:07 am
I’m confused. When a person states “I’ve got a tattoo”; would it not be disingenuous to doubt the person’s veracity?
That is, if I say, “I’ve got a tattoo on my shoulder” but don’t have one, that makes ME a disingenuous person aka a LIAR?
sic: “7. If I recall correctly, I remember that you wrote that you were a “fan” of Todd Bentley. Did I understand you correctly? If I did…why do you say this?
To be a real fan of Todd, you’ve gotta have a tattoo of him on your right shoulder. I’ve got mine.” [cool word: "sic" means "like this" in Latin]

What did Jesus say? Mt. 12:36 “But I say to you that every idle word, whatever men may speak, they shall give account of it in the day of judgment.”

But he is a loyal fan and follower of TB and also the TB [Toronto "blessing" actually a delusion, I was into it and it took me years to get rid of all those kundalini sarayu devils. I know the Campbells, Stacey and Wes fairly well, Mike Bickle etc and they are genuine but genuinely FOOLED by this.]

So a proponent of this so-called “renewal” can hardly be objective!

12 Hopesome on Mar 30th, 2010 at 9:26 am
Todd may ‘create a lot of fascination’, even idol worship but currency in that department ……………..well………………….doesn’t count for much as Jesus does not have a ‘HALL OF FAME’ unfortunatley!

Only man does

13 Joyce on Mar 31st, 2010 at 4:46 am
Lawrence ~ I don’t think it necessary to call Mr. Petersen a liar about the tattoo comment. It was a little thing called tongue-in-cheek humor. Unfortunately that can be hard to convey in print.