..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Am I My Brother's Keeper? Final Thoughts on Todd Bentley

We can and should be distressed at the recent
events in Lakeland but they are indicative
of a larger problem that is pandemic throughout
the body of Christ. There are bigger issues to
contemplate than the fact of Todd Bentley's
individual fall and that is our
corporate shortcomings in the area of
accountability in our Christian communities.

The hard question we have to ask ourselves
is "What is so drastically wrong with the
way we generally practice Christianity
that Todd Bentley could have gotten so
far without those surrounding him in
authority seeing that the "crash and
burn" was imminent and as sadly predictable
as the losers at yesterday's horse race?

One of the ways we have strayed from the
simple truths of the gospel is how we
practice, or fail to practice, community.
Our faith was meant to be lived out, day
in and day out, in front of our brothers
and sisters. The clergy are not meant
to be sequestered from the congregation.
All of us are meant to live together
as simple Christians under God.
We not only need community, it is a
divine mandate. Leaders will then
rise organically out of the soil
of commitment, servanthood, accountability,
stability, and discipline.

Knowing what a person is like on Sunday
morning and what they actually are the
rest of the week should not be two
different things, but often, sadly are.

Our lives should be open books to each
other in the sanctity and protection
of God's house. We must live under
the Word of God together. We need to
be people of the Word of God or our community
will be just a human community with
opinions enforced by the strongest
members and not the Word of God.

Our strengths, our weaknesses, our
sins, our triumphs,our gifts and our
foibles need to be held by our
brothers and sisters. We need to
hold each other: both in accountability
and in nurture and admonishment through
biblical standards and the mercy and grace
of Christ.

When we are wrong we should expect
Godly correction from a caring
community. When we go off track,
many should be there calling us

God knows how to work with each of
our souls, correcting, mending,
refining, adjusting, nurturing.

We, as God's hands and heart on
the earth, can not possibly have
the wisdom that this work needs
unless we have it TOGETHER.
Therefore we must have unity.
Not unity around a doctrine or
belief, but around the person
of Jesus reigning in our individual
and corporate lives.

There is a certain truth in the
folk truth that says, "it takes
a village to raise a child."
It takes a "village" of believers
to adequately raise up the
proper standards of the Son of God
and it takes a "village" to produce a
healthy and biblically sound
environment for His children.
This time the village failed.
What can we learn from it?

God has a divine order for us. He has
checks and balances built into it,
but for it to work, we must live
together closely enough and
open our lives to each other
so that transparency and
accountability, with all
their attendant difficulty
and beauty, prevail.

The truth is we are our brother's
keeper and the sobering truth is
that we are being held
accountable for this even if
we are not living like it.

The world has become such a
place of deceit that its sin routinely
enters the house of God and
is rarely found out until great
damage is done.

We raise up leaders because they
are gifted or beautiful, but not
because they are proven servants,
holy in character, and seasoned in
community. Hollywood images
rather than biblical truths affect
what we demand from those we empower.

We routinely trust people who
present themselves as prophets,
apostles, men of God, seers,
and yet, what do we know about
their personal lives? What does
anyone know about their personal
lives? To whom are they accountable
and is that real accountability
or some glossed over version of it
provided by "yes men" too weak
to speak up in the face of difficulty?

My lot in life has sometimes taken
me backstage into close proximity
with widely known Christian

A few of them have personal lives
straighter than arrows, and others
could do with a large dose of
"iron sharpening iron": the rough and
tumble of community to knock the common
burrs of self-importance off and let
the excess air of overinflated ego out.
We all have large blind spots
that plague every last one of us.
Every last one of us needs the godly
boundaries of a healthy community
so badly that it makes one cry at the
thought of it.

More times than not, lack of healthy
community has failed our very human
leaders, who in turn, are then set up to
fail, or becomes pawns of dark
forces from within and without.

Then there are the people who
get into leadership and are
not just struggling with their
own personal issues, but have
evil agendas that thrive only in a
place where no light shines on the
dark underbelly of their motives.

We select our leaders by dubious
standards, and set them on pedestals
and when they fall off of them
we don't see that it is we
that have contributed to
their fall. We fail to demand
accountability from each other.
In the meantime, the kingdom
of God suffers loss.

The structure of our society allows
us to hide a great deal of
darkness while projecting a
sweet persona. How many times,
when they interview the community
that surrounds a child pornographer
or serial rapist, people say,
"He seemed such a nice man."?
Why do we now almost expect
to hear that the local minister
is an adulterer, an embezzler,
a charlatan?

Each voice of every member of the
community has a right to be heard and
then biblically discerned. I spent the
summer reading the major prophets
Jeremiah and Ezekiel. I was made
aware of the fact that
they functioned in community in
just the way that God wanted them
to--even though they were entirely
unwanted members of their community.

I would have understood if they chose
to run away from their communities,
but they were under mandate to
stay and proclaim the message
that God had given them. God even
told them that the people's blood
would be on their hands if they did
not speak out (Ezekiel 33:8).

The New Covenant community is
held to an even higher standard.
Each of us that belongs to God,
has the Holy Spirit dwelling
in us. Each of us has a gift or
gifts to bring. We are TOGETHER
members of Christ's body. We
are TOGETHER our brother's and
sister's keeper. The WHOLE body of Christ
is greater than even our leaders,
for leaders fail, but the Lord's
Body, His collective Body, is able
to discern, and balance and restore
in a way that just one or two cannot.

God will give wisdom to the collective
group as they honor, cherish, correct,
admonish and watch over EACH part.
Do not leave the job of discerning
to one or two people. Proverbs says,
"in the multitude of counselors is wisdom"
(Prov. 24:6).

We can feel distress,and should
feel distress, over the recent
events in Lakeland. But underneath
it all is the failure of the Body
to do the job God expects of it.

Just as in Belshazzar's day, the
writing was already on the wall just before
the judgment hit (Daniel 5). Why did so few heed

Pray for your local expression of the
Body. If it is not healthy, you are in
grave danger, and so is your neighbor--
even the entire village.

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