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A skeptic visits the Lakeland revival

After selling her home, leaving her job as a sales rep at a software firm and leading a team of 25 radicals around the world for a year, Allison Johnston is a different person.  She sees the world differently, and she responds to it differently.  She knows that God is moving on the e…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
After selling her home, leaving her job as a sales rep at a software firm and leading a team of 25 radicals around the world for a
year, Allison Johnston is a different person.  She sees the world
differently, and she responds to it differently.  She knows that God is
moving on the earth and she wants to see an army of young people mobilized to
join him.
She heard about this revival going on in Lakeland and
decided, “If the radicals and God are hanging out down there, maybe I
should too.” So she’s headed there today to check it out.
Yet while Allison is a radical, she knows that God has given her a good mind and wants her to use it.  She’s heard the stories of  healing and has got her skeptic’s
hat on as she goes.  She and a few other World Racers are going to be reporting
back from Lakeland in the days to come.  Here’s what she says

Being the good little skeptic that I
am, I didn’t really pay a whole lot of attention at first. When I hear words
like “revival” and “Pentecostal” I get a little squirmy and
automatically assume that it is not for me. I continued to hear reports of
healings, amazing displays of God’s power and multiple people raised from the
dead and my curiosity was peaked. Because a few of us don’t have any pressing
plans we decided to make the drive and see what it is all about.

I have never attended a revival and I can honestly say
that I have questioned on multiple occasions if I should really go. For the
sake of my own processing here they are:

1. I cannot continue to chase the emotional highs of
Christian life. I have just returned from an amazing experience and at some
point am going to have to come to terms that life does slow down and requires
us to do seemingly mundane things like pay bills, work, grocery shop, etc…

2. How do I know it is real?? I do not feel anywhere
near educated enough to go down and discern what is happening there. The Bible
says to “test the spirit” (1 John 4:1) and I will follow that
teaching, but sometimes that is harder than you would think. How do we know if
all those hundreds of people who claim to be healed were really sick to begin

3. I am just not sure I agree with everything
happening. I watched the Revival on GodTV a few
times last week and I really couldn’t make it past a few minutes. Todd appears
to have an aggressive style and honestly it ticks me off. So, why in the world
do I think I should go down and listen in person??

4. I am not sure where I stand on all the Holy Spirit
stuff. Sometimes it feels to me like one, big circus with everyone shouting,
falling down, rolling around and shaking. To this point, God has not touched me
in this way so it is hard for me to grasp and comprehend what is happening. I
do NOT want to judge, or put my God in a box—so I accept the circus, but am
unsure how to respond. A part of me wants to have that experience too. It makes
me wonder what I am doing wrong if I don’t fall over or roll around, but at the
same time I remain skeptical. Most of the time I think my head gets in the way.
I am too busy analyzing and thinking it all through to truly get at the heart
of God.

I am not listing all of my hesitations so that you can
refute them (although you are welcome to try!), but simply so that you
understand where I am coming from when I write this week. It is my hope to keep
an online journal of our experiences and share with all of you who can’t travel
to Lakeland what we are seeing. I would love to get the answers to my questions
and to yours as we are there. 

Also, check out:

Comments (23)

  • u are using wisdom to be cautious.. the agressiveness you mentioned should be troubling; everything u mentioned is valid.

  • I have the same struggle, Allison. Thanks for going and checking it out. I’m a bit curious to see what you find, given your unique perspective.

  • I saw someone “fall out” for the 1st time last night at a tent meeting in NC. I had volunteered to be an alter worker so I actually caught the guy when he fell (that was one of my jobs). I still doubt, yet I saw and even felt this happen. For me, even seeing isn’t believing.

    Seth, where is falling out in the Scriptures? Or is this a new movement of the Holy Spirit? Why? It doesn’t make sense. I understand healing, but falling out?

  • Good question, Justin. I’ll leave it for others to address. God gave me a dream once where i was a paper bag and he blew into me. I couldn’t contain his breath. I felt impossibly expanded. I suppose that’s how it is when the divine connects with the temporal. How would you ever explain that in words? There are so many things about our interactions with God that are ineffable.

  • I would like to advise this young woman to “be open” to whatever God has for her. A great detriment to the Holy Spirit is being skeptical. Remember He is the third part of the Godhead and so important you can blasphemy God and Jesus, but it is unforgivable to blasphemy the Holy Spirit. And that is recorded in the gospels (Mt.12 and Mk.3) when Jesus, just like Bentley in Lakeland, was in town healing and raising the dead, there were skeptics and the leadership even claimed it was from the devil. My litmus test of the spirits is this, #1 is it being done “in Jesus name”, #2 who does the person involved say Jesus is, #3 does that person believe Jesus was raised from the dead. If the first one is yes, the second is God and the third is yes, then you must understand no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel it is from God, or will be from God. I don’t think God is interested in what you perceive as comfort. That is evident by the Heb.11 men and women of faith. Do you think it was comfortable for Noah to build an ark when there had been no rain. How comfortable was Abraham when he took his son to the mountain. Moses certainly wasn’t comfortable with what God had for him. Some gave Him arguments about their discomfort, but in the end they did what God told them to. Abraham, ask no questions, he did what God told him. By doing so he showed that he put his trust in God and was blessed for it. I think we should be approaching any reported move of God in faith. If you are truly walking in His Spririt and are willing to put on your spiritial eyes and not your carnal eyes, He will guide you into all truth. Also see Luke 9:49-50 to read what Jesus said about those who where using Jesus name to force out demons. Above all, do not be guilty of blasphemy. God’s ways are not our ways, open up your heart and He will show you the truth.
    In regard to the “falling out”, I have not found, in the Bible, where anyone fell backward. The usually feel forward. But, I will not say anything against it. I have known many who have experienced this. My son, at the age of 15 experienced it. His comment, “mom, I felt closer to God than I ever have, it was beautiful”…..can anyone be skeptical of that?
    Skeptical, cautious, should not be in our vocabulary when we are approaching the things of God. Faith and trust should be your words. Trust in the Lord, do not lean on your understanding, acknowledge Him in everything you do and He will lead you into truth!

  • Few years into my walk on this narrow way, I desperately wanted to lead my younger sister to the Lord. We sat in my room opening the scriptures for well over 3hrs. At the end, she was tired of my long counsels. She mentioned she was having a headache but I ignored her… thinking she’s just looking for a way to eject herself from my presence.

    I finished my rap and let her go. As she’s walking out the door, I remembered her headache and called her back. She turned and as I stretched out my hand towards her head to pray for her, she fell like a log of wood right in front of me. I didn’t even make contact with her. I was so shocked and afraid I almost fainted myself. But I had seen that before on TV in healing meetings, deliverance sessions etc, but never thought much of it until that day.

    When I read Revelation 1:17 “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as one dead…” I said well, may be one could fall “under the anointing” (as they call it) if the Lord’s manifest presence was there. Though I have witnessed a lot of tricks and deception since then.

    BTW: My sister is born again now. Praise God!!

  • that’s a good one, Uche. I had a funny experience like that. About 12 years ago we were leading a large group of Baptists on a project in Mexico. A Mexican lady showed up and asked for prayer for her illness.

    She stood in the middle and the students prayed. Suddenly, she fell to the floor and was out like a light! All the students were shocked and didn’t know what to do.

    They called for a nurse and everyone ran around trying to get help for this poor woman who now lay in the dirt unconscious.

    Of course she was fine – these Baptist kids had just never seen or heard of anything like it!

  • Good for you Allison for checking it out. I live in Sarasota, which is about 1 1/2 hours from Lakeland. My christian experience has been in the evangelical arenas. That being said I have felt uncomfortable in church’s and on the mission-field with things that are not “normal” or in my realm of experience. BUT, here is what I have learned. I should not be uncomfortable with differences when it comes to personalities. God does use all of us and I am sure I have been offensive just because of how I am wired. I have seen the power of God, I have seen miracles before my eyes, there is no denying the power and presence of God in Lakeland. Day after day testimony after testimony of what God is doing it is powerful. There is no denying how powerful it is to worship with 8000-10000 of your brothers and sisters in christ from all over the world. ( there were 24 countries represented in Lakeland one night I was there) I think it is right to question, does it line up with scripture, and God is a Big God and can handle our questions and skepticism. I do believe we need to be open for what God is doing and has for us personally. It might stepping outside our comfort zone and going to Lakeland, or maybe it is just having lunch with a homeless person in your neighborhood. I appreciate Allison going and checking it out. We are on a journey with God. I would like to encourage everyone to not miss what Gd might have for you because you might be uncomfortable. But as God, Himself leads just go. Lord bless your journey!

  • Justin,
    I am in the thick of preparing a team to minister in Mozambique, so please forgive me for not taking the time to answer your question with extensive references.
    I will tell you though that ‘falling out’ is nothing new. Many times in Scripture when people came into the presence of God, they fell to the ground. They were overcome. Throughout history, if you read of revivals in the 1800’s and 1900’s, there were many reports of people ‘falling out.’ Jonathan Edwards addressed it once as it was ‘outside his theological experience’, but he came in contact with it and deemed it real and gave some strong Biblical reasons for it. After I return from Moz in late August, I can send you references if you’d like.

    The first time it happened to me, no one even touched me. I wasn’t inclined to such things, but I was ‘open.’ Being open is more than a mental assent though, it means actually putting yourself in places to explore that openness. (I am glad Allison is having the courage to put herself in unfamiliar territory.) I went to a meeting where I knew no one, and the preacher called my name out. I had not signed my name on anything either (my skeptical mind first went there…as I thought maybe he lifted my name off a sign-up sheet, but I didn’t register for the meeting…), so I went to the front, and will admit to having some fear and trepidation. The preacher kept calling other people out, and as different ones came up to the altar, I decided to deal with my ‘nervousness’ by closing my eyes and singing worship songs to my Lord. I thought, “I can’t go wrong if I am seeking Him first, so I am going to just concentrate on Him.’ Well, as I was doing this, I suddenly felt like I was being lightening-bolted. It was as if I had stuck my tongue in an electrical outlet. And at the exact time I was experiencing this, the preacher, who could not see me at all, interrupted what he was doing to say, ‘Melinda! Melinda! Where is Melinda?! God is doing something in you right now. Just let Him have His way.” Well, I ended up on the ground and God clearly ministered to me while I lay there. I can give you specifics in August if you want. (Seth can give you my email.)

    Of course, just as someone can close their eyes and mimic ‘being in prayer’, there are people who can ‘mimic’ falling out. Don’t judge them too harshly though. Many are just hungry, and inclined to do whatever they think might help move them closer to God. That’s not a sign of a bad heart though. I hunger after the genuine, but I know there are strongholds in our minds that can keep us from giving the heart chances that the mind doesn’t understand. Jack Deere used to say that God sometimes offends the mind to reveal the heart. Having been a valedictorian and honors student in higher education, I’ve discovered that my mind sometimes needs to be shaken from its place of pre-eminence. Please don’t hear me saying not to use your mind. Just be careful that you don’t let it be the ‘be all and end all.’ That is a position for God and God alone. And let me tell you, having traveled to more than 50 nations, I’ve had my mind and beliefs stretched way beyond their original borders. Thank God! Though my upbringing with a Western rational worldview has its benefits, it is not without its shortcomings as well. Will Willimon says it best:

    “Just when I get my church all sorted out
    Sheep from the goats, saved from the damned, hopeless from the hopeful,
    Somebody makes a move, gets out of focus, cuts loose and I see why Jesus never wrote systematic theology.
    So, you and I can give thanks that the locus of Christian thinking is shifting from North American and northern Europe where people write rules and obey them,
    to places like Africa and Latin America where people still know how to dance.”

    I remember hearing a wise preacher at a large conference comment on some of the ‘unusual’ events going on 20 years ago in Toronto and elsewhere. He said “Only 60% of what is going on there is of God.” Almost everyone at the conference made a kind of ‘Whoa’ response, as they were surprised he would publicly make such a statement, even if he privately believed it. But what he said next, caught people by surprise, but they had to agree:

    “60% is sure better than the 30% that we’ve had.”

    It made me think, ‘How many people sit in churches thinking about what they are going to eat after the service, if they’ll beat the crowds to a restaurant, if the preacher will finish before the game starts on tv…yet because they are sitting quietly and staring ahead with a docile smile on their face, we think God was honored in that church.

    Bottom line, God is most concerned with your heart, and if you’ve ever been in love, you know that sometimes love can be ‘messy’ and go outside the lines you’re used to.

  • Melinda,
    You put this out so nicely. In fact, as I read, I was wishing this was a song so I could replay it over and over and over again. Press on sis..

  • BRILLIANT Melinda! That is in a nutshell! Seth, I think you should take her full response and post it as a second blog! People need to read that! Not everyone reads the responses…

  • DITTO melinda! thank you so much for your thoughtful comments & response. i have so many thoughts racing through my head, i can’t seem to find two words to put together…

    from my own experience…i was in a place of desperation with God, wondering if He was even reali went to a similar type of event on a much smaller scale, saying, “God, whatever you look like, if you are REAL, then I want you.” for the first time in my life i began to feel the supernatural power of God. I felt His love literally come down on me like a heavy blanket, i began to see into the unseen realm for a moment, i began to feel Him put His hand around my heart & speak truth about my life from strangers that didn’t know my name. Since that time, I have had several ‘supernatural’ or unexplainable things happen to me. (not that this mattersbut it is just an example of when the box is blown to bits, that the circumstance changes.)

    when i began to trust that God knew more than methen that is when God got real with me. (by no means am I implying that God wasn’t real beforebut that my perception changed when i put down my preconceived notions of what God looks like, how He moves or what the Holy Spirit looks/acts/feels/seems to be like.

    I would strongly recommend reading anything by Bill JOhnson (if you haven’t already) and subscribe to the Bethel Church in Redding CA podcasts. Bill does an excellent job of addressing some of your concerns & questions. Actually, he says somthing to the effect that “ours isn’t to question, ours is to TRUST”.

    many times our own minds hold us back from the great things of God, simply because we lack that trust factor….trusting that God has it covered (Romans 8:28) because we are HIS.

    also, another good reference is the documentary from a skeptic called, The Finger of God…you can get it at amazon.com. It is a really great documentary that follows some of the signs, wonders & miracles that are happening present day from a skeptics point of view. Very interesting!

  • also, just a question…why are so many christians in the undecided category when it comes to the Holy Spirit?

    i grew up in a church that was all about the Trinity: Father, Son & Holy who??

    just something to ponder…now discuss.

  • You said:

    “Most of the time I think my head gets in the way. I am too busy analyzing and thinking it all through to truly get at the heart of God.”

    That is the beginning of knowing the wonderful Person of the Holy Spirit. Get your stinkin’ thinkin’ out of the way. Your mind will NEVER wrap itself around the things of the spirit, so don’t even try. The carnal mind is not subject to the laws of God.

    It took well over five years for me to finally realize that My intellect would always see the things of God as foolish.

    For example, a good friend of mine went to see a ‘revival’ meeting years ago, during which believers were falling on the floor and laughing hysterically……all of which offended my friends ‘thinker’.

    He is one who hears from God and on the way home from the meeting, he honestly asked the LORD ‘what was that all about?’.

    He heard the LORD very clearly rebuke him with the following:

    “I am playing with MY children, if that is alright with YOU!”.

    If you have not asked the LORD to baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and you rely on your thinker, you will have difficulty receiving the freedom the LORD would have for you.

    As to the manifestations: what do you think should happen, when the LORD God of heaven and earth, actually makes His Presence known in a tangible way? What happened when He showed up on Mount Sinai? When he hid Moses in the cleft of the rock? Remember He also REALLY did stop the sun one day! And just for good measure made it go backwards!! Don’t even try to wrap your mind around that one!!

  • WHAT are you afraid of? It’s amazing to me that many Christians are so afraid of God moving in ways that aren’t typical to their tiny experience! Come on! God is a miracle working God. How quick some of you are to judge what God is doing. It’s shocking to me. He’s a creative, joyful, exciting, and always doing a new thing. I LOVE the fact that He is using someone like Todd. It’s great He is shaking up the religious crowd, just like Jesus did! Enjoy it because I’m sure God is. Yay God!!!

  • am i the only one who sees this revival and thinks “you know, i really don’t care to be knocked out for an hour. I don’t need to see angels or have a gold tooth to believe in jesus.” Isn’t real faith believing without seeing?? Didn’t Jesus rebuke Thomas for requiring a sign?? I’m not afraid of anything going on in lakeland…I just don’t need it. I worship Jesus, not miracles. I know of a lot of people that have been slain in the spirit and “experienced” God, and today they are living sinful lives. An adulterous generation requires a sign. I want stronger faith than that.

  • Andy – the faith is a faith IN Jesus. That is – Jesus Christ of Nazareth who healed all oppressed by the enemy (Acts 10: 38) – you want to follow HIM? Then you follow who HE is in Himself, not what men make Him to be. So, if you believe in Him, you believe His word, His sacrifice and His works. You cannot separate the hand from the head. Some try to either way, but actually you cannot and should not. Jesus rebuked some for looking for signs, and yet called others to believe in Him because of the signs.

    To say I don’t NEED this, is going too far. We all need Christ, who came not just to be believed in but KNOWN. A good theological read on this is ‘Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God’ by Gordon Fee.

    I acknowledge the difficulties with Lakeland and other Western hyped meetings, HOWEVER I also believe in the greatness and majesty of King Jesus and believe He can come in His way to reveal what the Scriptures are describing by the Spirit. Not additional to Scripture, but unveiling it’s reality. (Very different thing.) So don’t rubbish all that is outside our mindset, but test all things and and to that which is good no matter if it is slightly different to our ideas, that is good Jesus-centered wisdom.

  • Andy, I really was bothered after reading your comment. You’ve obviously been hurt by seeing people, once covered by the blood of Jesus, turn their backs to him. I would like to say this to you, look not at man. Look towards your heavenly father. Man is always going to let you down. But remember Jesus will stick closer than a brother. He’ll never let you down. I would like to caution you as well (and the others who are coming against what is happening in Lakeland)the Bible clearly says, “Touch not my annointed.” When we come against folks working for the Lord we endanger ourselves. We really should be uplifting each other and praying for God’s will to be done.

  • One common factor that I have seen over my 25 years of being a Christian is that most of the time when God moves in a powerful supernatural way, people get upset and devisive.

    For example, in the 70’s the Holy Spirit moved in my town (in North Carolin, many people were babtized in the Holy Spitit with the evidence of speaking in tongues which was at that time viewed as crazy. Most of these people were from denominational churches and had to leave these churches due to the negative and angry reponses of the congregations. It was a true work of God, these same people who are mostly in their 70’s are faithfully serving the LORD in churches here in the same town where they were once rejected. I have always thought that many times when the most powerful work of GOD is moving, the devil is doing everything to stop it by having people reject the move of God, because they have not experienced it. Sure there are abuses, false prophets, decieving spitits, and Jesus told us that miracles could be done by those who do not know Jesus, BUT please lets be open to the Holy Spirit and how HE wants to work in a powerful way that can be greated that even when Jesus walked on earth.

  • I am very much a firm believer in the Holy Spirit and what He can do. I have lost count of the amount of times God has healed me, anything from burnt hands to physicaly clicking one of my vertabre back into place, from the common cold to breathing problems. God has healed and set me free many many times. The supernatural is a way of life.

    So when I heard about the Lakeland revival I was so excited!. I heard about a Fresh Fire church in Dudley (UK England) about an hours drive from me.So one Friday night I headed over there.

    The biggest thing I noticed was I couldnt hear God talking.I was actually praying “Lord where are you?”. Not to be put off by this I returned 2 days later for the Sunday night meeting when Trevor Baker (church leader) had just returned from Florida.The worship was good and then you could feel a wieghty presence desend on the room.This is where I got confused. This presence “burnt flesh” you could feel like a burning on your skin. The Holy Fire of God I know is just that, HOLY. It burns SIN not skin. It burns on the inside, it purifies and refines so that you repent and get closer to God because sin is the only thing that seperates us from God.

    God later confirm to me what I diserned. Needless to say I have never returned to Dudley and have no intention of seeing Todd Bentley when he comes to UK in Sept.

    If any of you are still watching Todd on GodTV see for yourself the lack of repentance. We live in a sinful world and Jesus said we should come get our feet washed daily, I dont see much feet washing going on.I didnt see it at Dudley either. I know my Jesus and that wasnt Him in that meeting.

    Jesus mission was to set us free from sin,from the powers of darkness. He hasnt changed His mission.

  • Clearly the revival needs much order, reverence and sound biblical teaching lest demonic forces swoon in and wreak havoc with delusion, fanaticism and error. Perhaps it has already begun, but that does not mean that God was not a part of Lakeland. God starts a thing, it up to man to manage it. This move was accented with too much laughter and bafoonary and not enough intercession. As far as Bentley is concerned, I believe that he is genuinely gifted but immature and untrained-and is now realizing that it takes more than gifts to spearhead and maintain a move of God. We needn’t be too hard on the guy, Samson played around with his minstry until it cost him his life. We all have much to learn to much growing to do. I’d personally steer clear of extra-scriptural revelations. The Body of Christ needs to know what is between Genesis to Revelation. For a great read, check out “A Step Into Deliverance”. It is a riveting autobiography about one pastor’s journey into the deliverance ministry. A real page-turner!!

  • That’s a good, honest report. It feels so much better than the crowd that immediately refutes the revival because it is a bit ‘strange’.

    My belief is that God is tangible. He can be experienced, should be experienced. Spiritual things must be discerned spiritually.

    Regarding testing the spirits, it’s not hard. Many folks use that verse to give them license to resist something they just don’t like. You hear them say things like, “I walked in the room and was immediately uncomfortable. I discerned that it wasn’t of God.”

    That’s not biblical discernment. Here’s what the verses say:

    1 John 4:1-3 (NIV)
    1 Dear friends, 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. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

    So, it’s simple: Verse two makes it clear. If the person acknowledges that Jesus came in the flesh, that he is God, then you’re safe. If not, then it’s not ok.

  • The fact that any Christian could see this guy for five minutes and not immediately see through him is astonishing to me. How can anybody take a preacher seriously who goes around saying “bam-bam ba-boom-ba-bam?”

    What’s going on in Lakeland is nothing more than a magic show. Bentley is not a good magician but he has a lot of gullible Christians fooled just like Hinn, Copeland, Meyer, Howard-Browne and all those before him.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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