Can We Avoid a Charismatic Civil War?
Some leaders say the controversial Lakeland Revival is forcing us to choose sides. But I don’t believe God wants to split our movement.
It’s been more than 10 years since charismatic prophet Rick Joyner predicted in his popular book The Final Quest that believers would experience a Civil War in the church. Joyner’s book, based on a series of visions he says God showed him, describes in graphic detail a turbulent conflict that redefines Christianity as we know it. Other charismatic leaders have echoed this theme since Joyner’s book was published in 1996. They have predicted that our movement will be divided between “Blues” (those who constantly live in the supernatural realm of dreams, visions and miracles) and “Grays” (those who rely more on their intellect), and that the Blues will win and usher in true revival as champions of the Holy Spirit’s power. Even in early 2008, before the Lakeland Revival erupted in Florida in April, some charismatic prophets were declaring that a great rift would divide those who believe in “the glory realm” and those who have a more conservative, left-brained approach to their faith. When God TV began its nightly broadcasts of evangelist Todd Bentley’s healing meetings in Lakeland, the Civil War prophecies reappeared overnight on hundreds of blogs and e-mail blasts.
|“Jesus prayed that we would be one. There is no record of Him praying that we would split over doctrine.”|
I’ll admit I was not paying too much attention to these Civil War predictions 10 years ago. But I was jolted into reality in May after I wrote an online column in which I raised honest questions about some of Bentley’s teachings and techniques. Even though I celebrated his passion and zeal, and praised God for the healings that were reported in Lakeland, I was immediately branded a revival critic and banished to the Gray camp. I became the bad guy because, by asking questions, I was “relying on my intellect.” To those in the Blue camp, my skepticism made me an enemy of the Holy Spirit and all things supernatural-even though I believe that all the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are for today! I tried to laugh this off at first. Surely, I imagined, my Christian brothers and sisters do not really think it is wrong for a Spirit-filled believer to test the spirits (which we are instructed to do in 1 John 4:1), discern truth (see 2 Pet. 3:17) or evaluate prophecies and angelic encounters (see 1 Cor. 14:29, Gal. 1:6-8). But now I realize that some people really want a war. They want the charismatic movement to split right down the middle. They imply that all those who do not embrace 100 percent of the current movement in Lakeland are “old wineskins” that cannot be used by God in the coming revival. I can’t even describe how much this hurts because I love people on both sides of this conflict. I love the Blues and the Grays, along with every other color in the body of Christ. I refuse to believe that God is trying to split us. Division is the devil’s work. I want to plead with everyone in our movement to reconsider the whole Civil War scenario. Instead of rattling sabers and stockpiling gunpowder, maybe we need to take steps in the opposite direction: 1. Let’s accept one another. The apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthians because they exalted certain gifts above others. He reminded them that every member of the body of Christ plays an important role, and that no individual part-whether eye, hand or foot-functions on its own. He rebuked this elitist attitude “so that there may be no division in the body” (1 Cor. 12:25, NASB). Most of us already acknowledge the importance of supernatural gifts of healing, prophecy, tongues and other demonstrations of God’s power. But in our zeal to recover these gifts, let’s not isolate those whose primary functions may be mercy, giving to the poor, teaching or intercession. We should cherish every spiritual gift-not just the sensational or the exotic. 2. Let’s admonish one another. Christians have not always been the best models of conflict resolution. When tension gets high we either avoid it (usually by saying nothing and hoping the problems go away) or we overreact (by childishly picking up our marbles and playing somewhere else). But the Bible tells us to work things out in eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation. In the case of Lakeland, there are some doctrines and methods that have come under intense scrutiny. Heresy hunters are having a field day as they toss their grenades and label everything in Lakeland demonic. But because I embrace Todd Bentley as my brother in Christ, I must take a higher road even if I don’t agree with his prayer methods or his claims regarding angels. Anything I say, even if it is corrective, must be said in love (see Eph. 4:15). Thankfully a group of leaders from various charismatic camps (both “Blues” and “Grays”!) are discussing the contentious issues surrounding Lakeland-and biblical confrontation is occurring. I trust this process will result in correction where it’s needed, apologies when necessary and more humility on all sides of the debate. 3. Let’s pray for one another (see James 5:16). Jesus prayed that we would be one. There is no record of Him praying that we would split over doctrine. So why in the world would any of us hope for a Civil War? Please pray for Bentley-and for the leaders who are speaking into his life during this season. And pray that the church will not only experience genuine spiritual revival but also true unity. Let’s work out our differences, support one another’sministries and focus all our efforts on one common goal: To tell a lost world about the love of Jesus.
J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.