A Holy Ghost Outbreak in
Charismatics are flocking to
the sleepy town
of Lakeland, Fla. to attend evangelist Todd Bentley’s unconventional
Todd Bentley is not exactly your grandmother’s evangelist,
that didn’t stop grandmothers from lining up to get prayer from the
32-year-old preacher last week when he opened his 14th straight night
revival meetings in Lakeland, Fla. People of all ages—including
plenty of retirees with bad backs and partial deafness—crammed into
the 700-seat Ignited Church to watch Bentley pray for the sick and to
testimonies from the healed.
“If you need a miracle in your body, stand up!” Bentley
shouted, waving his tattooed arms over the crowd. “There is healing
in the atmosphere! Sometimes people feel fire or heat. It’s
The audience was pumped. Many had been coming to the
April 2, when a four-day conference began and then zoomed into
Others had just arrived in Lakeland from out of state after hearing
of the revival on the Internet. The night I attended, host pastor Steve
Strader said more than 90,000 people had watched the meetings
“Tumors are going to be pulled out of people’s bodies
tonight,” Bentley announced with a grin. “It’s gonna pop
The scene inside this church, a former Scotty’s
warehouse, was beyond unconventional. Teenagers with spiked hair
God side by side with soccer moms and scruffy, pony-tailed bikers.
hour of singing they cheered Bentley as he took the stage looking like
roadie for a grunge band.
Heavy-set with a beard and shaved head, the Canada-born
rough around the edges. He wore jeans and a black T-shirt that said
“Legend Killers” on the back. The metal studs in his ears and
left eyebrow glistened in the stage lights. His tattoos covered both
and most of his neck.
By his own admission, Bentley is a walking miracle. He
died 15 years ago—but his life was spared when a burly stranger
carrying a large white Bible knocked on his door and delivered what
calls “the fieriest hell-and-damnation sermon I’ve ever
Immediately after his conversion at age 17, Bentley began
four to 12 hours a day in prayer and Bible reading. It wasn’t long
before he was preaching to huge crowds.
A high school dropout, Bentley has conducted healing
dozens of nations including Ecuador, India and Tanzania. His staff says
crippled people have left their wheelchairs behind numerous times.
But his methods are far from polished. When he prayed for
Lakeland, he usually began by laying his hand on their heads and then
Often the people fell backward to the floor. After one
fell, Bentley told the audience: “She doesn’t know why she fell
down.” The woman then laughed and said to him in the microphone:
“Because you pushed me!” He prayed for her three more times
that night, and she said she could hear better.
“I’m feeling the presence of God so strong in
here!” he shouted. More people ran to the stage, dodging teens who
had swooned on the floor. A teenage girl walked up to Bentley on the
platform and said a lump on her neck had just dissolved. During the
three weeks people have testified of being healed from heart
skin rashes and back problems, and many said scars disappeared.
Bentley says he refuses to give this outbreak of
a name, but some have already dubbed it the “Florida Healing
Outpouring.” Strader, the former pastor of Carpenter’s Home
Church in Lakeland, said a New Zealand preacher prophesied in March
Bentley would be used “like a boomerang” to trigger a national
revival that would start in Florida.
Many charismatics are wondering if the protracted meetings
become a phenomenon similar to what happened in Rodney
Howard-Browne’s meetings in Lakeland in 1993, at the Toronto Airport
Vineyard Church in Canada in 1994 and at Brownsville Assembly of God in
Pensacola in 1995.
It’s too early to tell if this outbreak is the next
Blessing—which lasted for several years and spread revivalist fervor
to dozens of nations. If the crowds in Lakeland keep growing, Strader
have to move the meetings to a larger venue since his building and
lot are already at full capacity.
Those who can’t visit Lakeland should be encouraged to
that God doesn’t require evangelists to wear three-piece suits or to
have impressive theological degrees. He uses nobodies. If anything is
obvious from the Lakeland revival, it is that God wants to anoint and
empower ordinary people—even those who dropped out of school or got
messed up in drugs—to take His radical love to a world that is
desperate to see the raw power of God.