The Lakeland Revival of 2008 in Lakeland, Florida, sometimes called the Lakeland Outpouring or the Florida Healing Outpouring, was not a true biblical revival. The leader of the revival, Fresh Fire Ministries’ Todd Bentley, is himself a false teacher, and the thousands of people who went to Lakeland for healing or to hear a word from God were misled.
Todd Bentley (born 1976), is a Canadian-born ex-convict convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault prior to becoming a minister and itinerant evangelist. As the leader of Fresh Fire Ministries of Abbotsford, British Columbia, Bentley traveled throughout North America for the purpose of what his website called “power evangelism and healing ministry.” In April 2008 he was invited to lead a one-week revival at Ignited Church in Lakeland, Florida. He stayed for over four months.
Throughout his ministry, Bentley set himself up as something special, claiming to have met with the apostle Paul and Jesus Christ, to regularly speak to angels, to perform miracles, and even to raise the dead. In his popular Charismatic revivals, he led overflowing crowds in ecstatic displays of religious fervor.
Unsurprisingly, Bentley’s revival in Lakeland focused on spectacle. He claimed the ability to generate oil from his palms and produce gold dust from his pores. According to a story published in the St. Petersburg Times, Bentley claimed to heal people violently, “kicking a woman in the face, slamming a crippled woman’s legs against the stage and knocking out a man’s tooth. This was done, he claimed, on behalf of the Holy Spirit” (Lake, T., “Todd Bentley's revival in Lakeland draws 400,000 and counting,” 6/30/08). Of course, he asked for money, saying, “Generosity and the anointing go hand in hand” (ibid.).
The Lakeland Revival was promoted by several prominent leaders in the Charismatic movement, including Ché Ahn, John Arnott, Bill Johnson, and Rick Joyner. On June 23, 2008, a group of “apostles” and “prophets” met on stage in Lakeland to commission Bentley and endorse his ministry. Self-proclaimed “apostle” Peter Wagner said, “I take the apostolic authority that God has given me and I decree to Todd Bentley, your power will increase, your authority will increase, your favor will increase, your influence will increase, your revelation will increase” (Buseck, C., “Apostolic Leaders Commission Lakeland Revival Leader Todd Bentley,” https://www1.cbn.com, 6/25/08, accessed 1/10/22). How wrong Wagner was in his “apostolic decree”!
In August 2008, less than two months after his apostolic commissioning, Todd Bentley left the Lakeland Revival and resigned from Fresh Fire Ministries. Soon thereafter, he announced that he and his wife were separating, and the couple later divorced. Bentley went through a “restoration” process and in 2009 remarried. Eventually, Bentley went on tour again, preaching in South Africa and Pakistan. Allegations of continued sexual misconduct followed him wherever he went, however.
In 2019, a panel of Charismatic leaders investigated the claims leveled against Bentley. In January 2020, they released a statement that found “credible accusations of a steady pattern of ungodly and immoral behavior” dating back to 2004 and verified by an independent investigator (Brown, M., “Official Statement from the Leadership Panel on Todd Bentley,” https://askdrbrown.org, 1/2/20, accessed 1/10/22). The panel’s conclusion was that Bentley is “without a doubt” unfit for ministry (ibid.). Bentley disagreed: he “denounced the panel as unbiblical” and “rejected the panel’s methods and findings” (Smietana, B., “Todd Bentley Investigation Finds ‘Steady Pattern’ of Immoral Conduct,” Christianity Today, 1/3/20).
Jesus said concerning false teachers, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:20), and by his fruit of immorality we know Todd Bentley to be a false teacher. Do not be deceived by him. His Latter Rain doctrine, his promotion of Joel’s Army theology, his emphasis on angels, his bizarre, violent healing methods, his embrace of William Branham’s legacy, and his repeated adultery are all warning signs that should keep believers far away:
“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” (1 John 4:1, NASB).
“Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, NKJV).