The Emperor Has No Clothes by Steve Strang

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Emperor Has No Clothes

When I was in Canada last week on vacation, I picked up a Canadian newspaper with a full-page article about revivalist Todd Bentley titled "Bentley Bends." It appeared in the National Post on August 19, and though it put the typical secular journalist spin on anything having to do with Pentecostals or miracles, it was surprisingly gentle in telling about Bentley's fall. If you're interested in reading it you can click here.

Meanwhile ministry to Bentley continues. I'm thankful that the Christian leaders who were set over him in the June 23 "alignment and commissioning" ceremony at the Lakeland Outpouring are ministering to him behind the scenes. In an earlier Strang Report I had called on them to step up and intervene in this situation, a day or two after news of Bentley's separation was made known.

Two of the three leaders were out of the country and later challenged me via e-mail by saying that I had made it sound as if they would not do their jobs unless outsiders put pressure on them. Of course I assumed that they would do their jobs because I know they are men of integrity.

But in the rush of dealing with the situation quickly I did not contact them other than to send them an advance copy of my Strang Report. So, for what it's worth, I apologize for leaving the wrong impression. My reaction was based partly on past observations of situations in which spiritual discipline needed to be applied and those who were supposedly over the person ran for cover.

Meanwhile, many people are talking about the situation and wondering why there wasn't more discernment. In fact, I had lunch recently with a Christian leader who watched the Lakeland Outpouring on the Internet for 60 days and said the longer he watched it, the more inclined he was to overlook some concerns he had. He said initially he felt that Bentley's actions, along with his tattoos and piercings, indicated that he was "in rebellion." This leader confessed to me that next time he is going to be more careful to listen to his inner witness when he has a concern about a ministry.

Others are e-mailing me what various people have written about the situation. If you have not read Dutch Sheets' very in-depth and thoughtful letter about Bentley and the Lakeland Outpouring, I urge you to do so by clicking here. I agree with essentially all that Dutch writes.

Someone else e-mailed me an item from the United Kingdom. We tried to get permission to use it but couldn't contact the author, so I am assuming it is all right to make this point. I was taken by the fact that the person who wrote it rightly comments that many Pentecostals believe "if it's odd, it must be God." I had never heard that expression, but I know his statement is true.

The writer also makes a comparison to the emperor in the old fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, The Emperor's New Clothes. Because he relates the story better than I can I quote him here:

There is an old fable that should serve as a pertinent parable for today's church. The story is told of two unscrupulous tradesmen who offered to sell an emperor a quantity of material that was so exquisite that 'only those with the greatest taste and style' could see it. The emperor, not wanting to give the impression that he lacked such finesse, paid an enormous sum for the non-existent material that was then 'made' into a suit of clothes.

It was later announced to his subjects that he would be leaving the palace wearing clothes of such wonder that 'only those with the greatest taste and style' could appreciate it. The crowd, falling into the same trap as the emperor, cheered and shouted at the non-existent apparel.

The ecstasy and applause continued until a small child, who had come to the gathering late and had not heard the intimidating preamble, joined her mother and, pointing to the emperor shouted out loudly, 'Look, Mummy, the emperor is not wearing any clothes!' Only then did the bubble burst.

The e-mail I was sent is so good that I want to share some of the points the author made since I couldn't say it better myself. I wish I had been able to discover his name to give proper credit. He says, in relation to the fable:

We need the simplicity of that childlike voice in today's church.

It is the voice of people [who] refuse to accept that spirituality is "less than" if it is not accompanied by uncontrollable shaking. It is the voice of leaders who, when they see manifestations of the flesh, refuse to be intimidated by the voice of a crowd that declares that "If it's odd, it must be God" and have the courage to say, "Please stop doing that; it's silly."

Those who operate in this gift are almost universally considered to be the party-poopers of Pentecost. Their voice is universally seen as negative, and the body language of those who do not want to hear their message is always, "Why are you trying to stop us when we are having so much fun?"

Yet the Bible tells us to "test the spirits" and "weigh prophecy."

Why, with so many mature leaders present at Bentley's endorsement, was the gift not used or, given what we now know, why was there not a word of knowledge? Why was it that, as millions listened and a prophecy was given that Jesus would appear in person on the platform on a specific date, not one person expressed a word of caution? Could it be the intimidation of crowds, the awe induced by Christian celebrity or the absence of the childlike voice that needed to burst the bubble? What the church should be hungering for today is not "extreme prophetic" but "accurate prophetic."

Why is it then that some people who have gone to Lakeland are seeing things occur in their church that they had not encountered before? The answer is simple. God recognizes and responds to hunger. Leaders heard there was a fire and wanted to be warmed, heard of a well and wanted to be refreshed, and heard there was food and wanted to be fed. That God met them on their journey is yet another expression of His amazing grace.

Please share your thoughts with me about the situation. Meanwhile, pray for Todd and his wife, Shonna. Let's especially pray for Shonna, who received none of the adulation but is experiencing most of the pain.

(If you want to read the comments posted in response to Steve Strang's article click on http://www.strangreport.com/2008/08/emperor-has-no-clothes.html)

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