Note - At GotQuestions.org, we typically do not write articles about specific individuals and/or ministries. Our goal is to provide quality, biblically-based answers so that people will be able to evaluate teachers / ministries for themselves. However, in recent months, we have been receiving a deluge of questions about Todd Bentley and the revival in Lakeland, Florida. We are in no sense doubting that God could use a man like Todd Bentley in powerful ways. We have no doubt that God is performing miracles in the world today. At the same time, there are enough warning signs about Todd Bentley that we are very concerned about the legitimacy of his ministry. As always, compare what is taught with Scripture, and reject anything that does not agree with God's Word. Our concern is not Todd Bentley's tattoos, piercings, or unusual methods. Rather, our concern is that many of his teachings, and actions, are not biblical.
Question: "Is the Lakeland, Florida revival led by Todd Bentley of Fresh Fire Ministries a true biblical revival?"
Answer: Todd Bentley (born 1976), the leader of the 2008 Lakeland, Florida, "Healing Revival," is a Canadian-born ex-convict (convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault prior to his "conversion") who is now an itinerant mass evangelist who leads "Fresh Fire Ministries" of Abbotsford, British Columbia. Bentley's website advertises, "Todd travels throughout North America, sparking revival fire and equipping the body in power evangelism and healing ministry."
Todd Bentley's 2008 Lakeland, Florida, "Healing Revival" was promoted by self-proclaimed prophet Bob Jones (no connection to Bob Jones University), William Branham (a proponent of a racist-hate doctrine called "serpent seed"), IHOP-KC (International House of Prayer), and other charismatic ministries. MSNBC reported in May 2008, "The meetings have outgrown four venues, including a local convention center that seats roughly 7,000. Now they meet under an air-conditioned tent that can accommodate 10,000 on the grounds of the local airport. Organizers estimate that more than 140,000 people from at least 40 nations have attended meetings here."
The focus of Bentley’s revivals is primarily on the manifestation of sign gifts, claiming an ability to generate oil from his palms and to produce gold dust from his pores. Though neither of these gifts correlates to any biblical sign gift or event, Bentley and his followers claim that it is biblical on the basis of John 14:12, in which Christ says, "He that believes on Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to the Father." This passage is taken out of context when thus applied, however. Jesus did not mean greater works in power, but in extent. They would become witnesses to all the world through the power of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) and would bring many to salvation because of the Comforter dwelling in them. The focus is on spiritual rather than physical miracles. To equate the life-changing impact the Spirit-empowered disciples had on the world to gold dust from one’s pores is ludicrous.
Among Bentley's teachings which set him apart from orthodox evangelical Christianity is astral travelling (the practice of leaving one's body and travelling about disembodied) - see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUK7aW4VILA. He also practices necromancy (channeling and communicating with the dead), despite the Bible's prohibitions of that practice (Isaiah 8:19-20; Deuteronomy 18:9-12; Leviticus 20:6). In one of his revival meetings, Bentley announced that God told him it was more important for him to "get them to believe in the angel" who visits him, whom he calls Emma, than to preach Jesus. Further, he claims to be guided by female "angels of finance." Bentley attributes even his conversion experience to his "angel." Critics of Bentley have published their observation that Emma-o is the name of a Japanese deity who rules the underworld in Japanese mythology, after which, Bentley removed all references to "the angel Emma" from his websites.
Todd Bentley's ministry website states that he places "no limit on further revelation." Note that the Bible is the revelation of God and the primary way He communicates with His people. For Bentley to put himself on the same level as the biblical prophets (Elijah, Isaiah, John, etc.) is to claim that the Bible is insufficient revelation, that more is needed. Where personal revelation outside the Bible does occur—for instance, in places where the written Word is unavailable—if it is truly from God, it will not contradict Scripture.
Clearly, Todd Bentley is in contact with spirits of some kind. But what kind of spirits are they? All true believers are in contact with God’s Holy Spirit who dwells within us from the time of our conversion to Christ. Jesus told us that He would send the Spirit to us to “lead us into all truth” (John 16:13). If all truth is available through God’s Holy Spirit and His Word, the Bible, why would God send other spirits to speak to us? He wouldn’t and He doesn’t. First John 4:1 warns, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (NASB). See also 1 Thessalonians 5:21, "Test everything; hold fast what is good" (NASB).
Bentley, who in order to add to the power of his testimony had demonic tattoos etched onto his arms in 2005, about eight years AFTER his "conversion," see - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zMRChoojZo, fails such tests. As Matthew 24:24 warns, "False Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect." False prophets are always in the employ of Satan, whether knowingly or unknowingly, who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking someone he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Jesus warned about the profusion of false prophets in the last days: “And many false prophets will rise and deceive many” (Matthew 24:11). Do not be deceived by Todd Bentley.