After starting the morning at Dunkin Donuts, we attended the morning session where Ed Lewis, Executive Director of CE National, spoke on the subject of grace. Ed told the conference point blank, "If we are not going to be all about grace then let's take the word grace out of the title Grace Brethren." It reminded me of what I heard my mentor, Steve Peters, say often when I served with him in Ohio..."If we are going to err, let's be sure to err on the side of grace." By the way, I got to spend a few minutes with Steve prior to Doug and I attending the CE National luncheon today. It was great to see him! I miss that guy a lot!
Tonight we took the trip over to Lakeland to see the Todd Bentley (pictured) revival for ourselves. TK, who is one of our church missionaries with CE National, went with us. This revival (dubbed the Florida Outpouring) has been going on every night for about 120 evenings now. I have seen clips of some parts of Bentley's services where he convulses when he gets in the spirit and where he heals many, one in particular by kicking him in the stomach. I also have heard him talk about being taken to the third heaven and the many times he has seen and spoken to an angel. I struggle theologically with most all of this but wanted to see it for myself before making a public judgment. Unfortunately, Todd was not there tonight so I will not be able to give any first hand opinions of his ministry. The guy who led the meetings was from Texas. I can say that within the first 10 minutes of his message, my list of "doctrinal problems" was growing.
Before the speaker, however, there was literally 75 minutes of non-stop worship. For the most part the worship was centered on Jesus and the people seemed very sincere and genuine in lifting up His name. There were many different expression around the tent outside of simply lifting up of hands. I saw some dancing. I saw some waving flags. I saw some laying on the floor in the aisles as if asleep. In my mind I was trying to differentiate between if I was seeing worship expressions that were unbiblical or that were just uncomfortable for me personally because of my background, upbringing and personality. The worship leader seemed to stay focused on the Lord and didn't seem to be trying to manufacture emotion from the crowd. I did very much struggle when the worship leader claimed to be smelling the aroma of bread baking which was a sign to her that God was going to give His people spiritual bread that evening.
There were some testimonies that were quite interesting including two women who claimed that during the evangelism training that they were in earlier that day, they experienced immediate supernatural weight loss to the tune of one and a half pants sizes. I'm not exactly sure how supernatural weight loss fit into evangelism training.
The trip to Lakeland provided for some good conversation on the way home. TK likened what we saw to the attitude of the sick who gathered around the pool of Bethesda in Scripture where supposedly once a day an angel stirred the waters and whoever was the first to get in the pool when the water was stirred was healed. Theologians differ on if there was really healings at this pool or if it was a myth. And if it was real healings, theologians differ on if they were from God or not. One thing can be said for sure about those around the pool of Bethesda in Scripture and those who were in Lakeland tonight...people are desperate for a touch from God and if they think it might happen in a certain place, they come.
Tonight I still need to pack before going to bed because tomorrow after the Delegate Brunch, Doug, Matt, Tim and I will head straight to the airport. Doug, Matt and I will fly to Charlotte and then on to Harrisburg arriving tomorrow night just after 9:30pm. Tim flies back to Buffalo where his wife and kids will pick him up and they will drive back to Lititz. Pastor Whitie and his wife will leave tomorrow and drive home making a stop in Atlanta along the way to see family. Please be praying for safe travels for all of us.
It has been a great week. There are two things I look for in a productive conference. First, I want to see my socks challenged off of me spiritually. Second, I want to come home with ideas that we can use here at Lititz to more effectively meet people where they are and move them to where God wants them to be. I give this conference an "A" on point one...man, were we ever challenged when it comes to evangelism. And I would give it a "B-" on point two. We came away with some ideas but not as many as I would have liked.
One thing I learned for sure, after hanging out with these three young guys (Matt, Doug and Tim) all week, I am flat tired. I am of the age now where bed sounds real good to me by 9pm...10pm at the very latest. These guys don't get their second wind until well after 11pm! Truth is, they wore me out but I enjoyed every minute of it. If you see Doug Kegarise, ask him what Gold Bond powder has to do with 10,000 angels. And if you see Matt McElravy, ask him what he learned about A/C in cars. If he won't tell you, ask Pastor Tim...He'd be glad to fill you in!