Category Archives: Ministry

The Florida Outpouring: Movement of the Spirit?

If you haven’t heard about the healing revivals going on down in Lakeland, FL then you have been living in a cave. News of the anointings and healings has spread quickly. People are coming from around the globe to experience what is being called the Florida Outpouring. Some people are calling it a move of the Holy Spirit, the miracle work of God. Other people are more skeptical of the authenticity of the healings.

Tullian Tchividjian, grandson of Billy Graham, was quoted as saying that “Hugh Hefner is not nearly as dangerous to the church as someone like this.” As Tchividjian says, “I would pay much more attention to those people who have stood the test of time. I would pay very little attention to anyone who comes and says, ‘God told me something that he’s never told anyone else, and you can’t find it in the Bible.’ It’s a lie, it’s that simple.”

However, some people might argue that such criticism in unwarranted. How can we judge a person’s heart and what happens between him and the Lord? Who are we to say that God did not tell Todd Bentley and his ministry to start kneeing and kicking people as a means to heal them? Who are we to quench the spirit?

Melinda at Stand to Reason challenges the significance of this new movement and the notion that such movements are the norm. As she says,

Let me say it straight out: This is just weird. And for some reason, a lot of Christians have a taste for the weird, as though the weirder something is the more likely that the Holy Spirit is behind it. The Spirit could be behind some weird things, but it’s sure not a sign of the Spirit’s working. And the outlandish claims and actions exciting the audience at these gatherings sure seem to assume that the weirder the more spiritual. Pentecost must have been a pretty weird day (though it doesn’t seem quite as strange as these new claims), but Acts gives us no reason to believe that was the regular, steady diet the Spirit served up for the new Christians.

Bene Diction Blogs On has been covering this story in detail for some time now. Living in Canada, he is quite familiar with Todd Bentley as well as the similarities to another neocharistmatic movement from the mid 90’s known as the Toronto Blessing. Among other things, Bene Diction made note of the connection between the Nightline story on Todd Bentley and his announcement to take some time off. Bene Diction goes on to compare Bentley to Peter Popoff, Jim Bakker, and other suspect ministers and ministries. As he says,

I’ve no doubt Todd Bentley will be back. Think Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Peter Popoff. Benny Hinn, Richard Bonnke. There will be no transparency and honesty coming from the Fresh Fire crowd or God TV about finances, lies, heresy, and we won’t be seeing repentance unless it suits the powers behind Lakeland to get the show back on the road; it’s easier to get him out of the way for awhile until the public shock and outrage dies down. There are 50 more ‘apostles’ ready to take Bentleys place, but they don’t have the crowd manipulation skills Bentley has. Yet.

William Dembski, research professor of philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, experienced Bentley’s revival service and healing claims for himself in Denton, Texas. In a sad series of events, Dembski tells the story of his 7-year-old son’s battle with autism and his families decision to give Bentley a chance to work a miracle. Their experience left them empty with many unanswered questions especially from their children. Dembski wraps up his thoughts on it all in this way.

Neither my wife nor I regret going. It was an education. Our kids are resilient. But the ride home raised a question. We found ourselves avoiding talking about the event until the children fell asleep. Then, as they drifted off in the early morning, we talked in hushed tones about how easily religion can be abused, in this case to exploit our family. What do we tell our children? I’m still working on that one.

How can we evaluate the validity of a movement based on movements of the Spirit? What does that mean exactly? If we were to test it based on a relativistic worldview, we might conclude that if it works for you then great. However, there are so many flaws in this line of thinking. What if shooting a guy in the head feels good to me? What if eliminating a people group because they don’t belong to my tribe feels good to me? We could go on with this argument. If it’s based on feelings, where can we draw the line while remaining consistent in our commitment? We cannot completely discount our feelings but at the same time we cannot completely trust them either.

More to come…

Russell Crowe Trains for the Ministry

Check out this hilarious advertisement with a young Russell Crowe…I mean, John. Oh, how times, technology, and Russell have all changed.

(HT: Scotteriology)

Gospel Translations Project

If I was bilingual, I would immediately get involved with this ministry. The goal of the Gospel Translations project is to translate biblical books and articles into as many languages as possible in order that preachers, teachers, and laypeople across the world may be encouraged and strengthened by the wealth of writing that is available to most of us in the English speaking world. It is all open source which means that the translated books and articles will be free resources. If you are bilingual, I would encourage you to check out this ministry and get involved. This project is a great opportunity to be a missionary to another country and people group even when you are unable to relocate.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

The Calling of Present Circumstances

I have been reading Edmund Clowney’s book Called to the Ministry for several weeks now. Though it is a small book, I have had little time to dive into it. As I have slowly worked through it, I have found numerous little gems. Anyone who knows me has endured several discussions on the topic of calling. I believe this word and concept has been stretched significantly. Some people use “calling” and “the will of God” interchangeably. I find this synonomous usage to be problematic on several levels. What does “calling” refer to? How broadly should it be applied?

Clowney takes the first half of the book to establish the Christian’s primary calling to God. A person cannot consider calling on any level prior to or outside of the preeminent calling to God himself. God calls people to faith in Him through repentance and belief in Jesus Christ first and foremost. Clowney establishes this point quite well.

In particular, I found the following passage to be both sobering and convicting. Speaking of our calling to service, Clowney says:

What opportunities do you perceive? The first doors are in the room where you are. The has given you a certain set of present circumstances. Paul refers to this as a man’s “calling” (I Cor. 7:17). Like the heritage of an Israelite in the land, it is the “lot” or “portion” that the Lord gives you today. Here you must begin; indeed, here you must be willing to remain until other doors of opportunity are perceived and opened. The surest way to miss future opportunities is to ignore present ones. Perhaps this lesson is hardest to learn for those who are preparing for future service. Since education has gained such importance in our culture, young people often spend years being educated before any purpose in their education becomes apparent.

Meaningless course-taking becomes a way of life, more real than the vaguely conceived future, but yet not life in earnest. To conclude that the major decisions affecting the course of life must be made under such circumstances can be depressing indeed. It is heartening to remember the promises of God’s faithfulness, but action is needed, too. In the student’s calling, there are today’s opportunities which God sets before us to prepare us for those of tomorrow. In the lonely student you befriend, the confused roommate you encourage, the article for the college paper that you write, or the Sunday School class you teach may lie the key to your future. It is in the service that you render whether in the classroom orout of it that your gifts are proved and manifested.

But you must seize the opportunity in the soberness of wisdom and the zeal of love.

Though Clowney uses students as an example, I believe these words apply to many of us. Too often we can be caught looking past our present circumstances by putting our hope and worth in future “realities.” We can treat everything leading up to that point as a stepping stone, a means to an end. However, let us always consider how we might serve God in the present. Let us not look past the opportunities and needs of the many people who cross our paths on a daily basis.

Don’t Waste Your Pulpit

A great encouragement to consider the gravity of preaching and the glory of God every time you step up to the pulpit. The way we preach communicates what we think and believe about God and the Bible. So what does your preaching communicate?

HT: Irish Calvinist

The Monday Muse: Contextualization

There are several buzz words that have emerged in recent years within the Christian community. Emerging, emergent, relative, missional, postmodern…all words that will commonly be mentioned in conversations about ministry in the 21st century. Frequent many Christian blogs and you will find several occurrences of these words. Another such word is contextualization. This word is born out of a particular question. How do we effectively communicate the gospel within the context of our communities, cultures, and lives? It is an extremely valid question that has been asked by missionaries for many years. It has often been ignored by the church within the American culture. The assumption has been made that American culture is homogeneous. It is all the same. If this is true, then a canned product can be used by every American church to reach its community.

However, this is a grave error. American culture is extremely diverse. Smalltown Indiana is very different than inner city New York. This means that a canned product will not be sufficient. In fact, a canned product may prove to be harmful. Each church, each believer needs to thoughtfully consider the make up of its surrounding community and find ways of communicating the gospel in a way that connects with people within that context. So we must be open to people using different methods in different locations. But can there be a danger to such openness, critical evaluation, and willingness to change? So here’s what I’m getting at:

At what point does contextualization cross the line into compromise?

Carried Away for Jesus

This is such a strange story. A Catholic priest, trying “to raise money for a spiritual rest-stop for truckers in Paranagua” (Brazil), strapped himself to a chair tied to hundreds of balloons and lifted off in an attempt to break the record for the most hours flying by balloons. It begs the question, how far are you willing to go for Jesus? Are you willing to be carried away for Him?

The sad part is that the priest was reported missing about 8 hours later and they have yet to be able to find him. Authorities say that the priest is an experienced skydiver and had a parachute pack strapped to him as well. Hopefully they will find him soon. Like I said, strange story.