Bentley bends: B. C. healer, televangelist withdraws for his own healing
VANCOUVER – It wasn’t his outrageous claims of raising the dead that finally landed Todd Bentley in trouble. Not the contradictory sermons, or even his criminal past. Not the face piercings, the neck-to-knee tattoos, the biker-dude lifestyle. His followers could live with all that; it was part of the act.
And what a performance it was: For the past few months, Mr. Bentley, a 32-year-old former drug addict from Canada’s west coast, was the hottest thing going on the global televangelist circuit. A hog-riding faith healer with a devil-may-care attitude.
Then he failed his flock, the old fashioned way: By consorting with another woman.
Mr. Bentley is now taking a long time out from his ministry, for some healing and reflection. The news was delivered on the weekend. “We have discovered new information revealing that Todd Bentley has entered into an unhealthy relationship on an emotional level with a female member of his staff,” reads an Aug. 15 letter from his church, Fresh Fire Ministries, based in Abbotsford, B. C., an evangelical hotbed.
Mr. Bentley claims that God uses him as an instrument to heal the sick. He demonstrated this capacity at one Outpouring meeting by taking a run at a professed cancer patient and planting a knee hard into the man’s gut. The man fell to the floor, grimacing.
At another meeting, Mr. Bentley laughed about kicking a woman in the face in order to help deliver God’s healing touch. He spoke of his encounters with angels and prophets. He waved letters in front of his audiences, claiming they were written by relatives of people declared dead. Their dead kin had risen, he explained, after being exposed to his sermons, via GodTV broadcasts.
“I have in my hands the 13th testimony as a result of this Outpouring, of somebody raised from the dead,” he said a few weeks ago. “I’m saying to the media, the dead are being raised€¦Are you ready to hear the 13th story? Now, many of them, we’ve been following up. We still haven’t had a chance to verify this. I can read it to you as I received it.”
At last count, Mr. Bentley had been used by God to resurrect 20 people — verifications still to come.
His claims have attracted plenty of skeptics, some of whom have carefully parsed his sermons, looking for what might be considered heresy, or simply false statements. Internet bloggers certainly found inconsistencies in his stories; for example, Mr. Bentley seems to confuse dates and events when describing his various visits with angels and his discussions with God.
No one from Fresh Fire Ministries or its affiliate church organizations in Abbotsford responded to interview requests yesterday. Mr. Bentley is reportedly in California, staying with friends.
He will not offer any public ministry for at least a year, according to the latest Fresh Fire letter. He will not return to Florida for the rest of the Outpouring; it winds up on Saturday, after a 143-day run. A stadium tour across the United States has been cancelled. Gatherings in the U. K. have been “postponed.”
There is no talk of resurrection, or revival. Just the hope of forgiveness.
NOTE: We have received many emails from Christians telling us that Bentley’s private actions do not invalidate what they consider to be “a move of God,” “the revival,” or “the outpouring.”
Our response is that Christians ought to, in the first place, judge teachings and practices that are presented in the name of God — and to judge them according to God’s Word. This requires a knowledge of sound doctrine, along with the ability to practice discernment.
However, the Bible teaches that Christians are all part of one body. As such, we are supposed to work well together. Among other things that means confessing our sins to one another, building each other up, spurring each other on to good works. Timothy was told to “correct, rebuke and encourage” using God’s Word, which — the apostle Paul said — is “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
As such, private actions can and should be addressed — preferably by those with whom the person is in immediate relationships of accountability with. Christians everywhere should be willing and able to forgive. At the same time, ongoing private sinful behavior should be taken into account when evaluating a person’s ministry. Ongoing sinful behavior in a Christian’s private life reveals much about that person’s spiritual maturity — or lack thereof — and may well explain why his or her publicly taught doctrines and practices do not line up with Scripture.
Can God minister through such people? Dutch evangelist Corrie ten Boom often said that God can hit a home run even with a crooked bat. That’s encouraging, since there are no perfect Christians anywhere.
We do, however, encourage those who believe in “the Outpouring” and everthing surrounding it — such as Bentley’s stories about angels, his alleged visits to heaven, his behavior during ministry, the unverifiable reports of healing, and so on — to examine whether his teachings and practices line up with God’s Word.