In 1995, the Brownsville Revival broke out in Pensacola, FL, and lasted over five years. More than four million people attended, with at least 200,000 new converts to Christianity, receiving the power to work indescribably great miracles. More than a thousand enrolled in the supernatural ministry training school, hoping to harness their new supernatural apostolic anointing to work miracles and spread the wonderful message of Brownsville.
In April 2008, the Lakeland Revival broke out in Lakeland, FL. Lasting over six months and led by Apostle Todd Bentley, this revival had over 10,000 nightly attendees and hundreds of thousands more watching over the internet. Over the course of this apostolic outpouring, tens of thousands of people were brought to Christ, and myriads were anointed with apostolic, miracle-working power.
So, Florida should be chock full of Spirit-empowered, apostolically anointed, miracle-working believers who can do greater works than Jesus (per John 14:12). And Jesus calmed a raging storm. So as this massive Hurricane Irma is barreling down on the state...
You know where I'm going here, and you already know that it isn't going to happen. Oh, sure, there may be a total loon starved for attention who will try it and accomplish nothing (update: when you need an attention-starved total loon to accomplish nothing, Kat Kerr and Lance Wallnau have you covered). But the vast majority of these self-proclaimed workers of miracles won't even bother trying. Much like how Benny Hinn never seems to bother healing all the patients in a children's hospital, these folks yammer endlessly about their great power to do the miraculous, yet go mysteriously silent when they could actually be of use. I'd like to offer some reflections on this for your consideration.
1) Their lesser interpretation of John 14:12 is wrong and they know it.
The interpretation widely accepted within Charismaticism limits the "greater works" to miracles, and they claim that anyone who has received the Spirit can and will do miracles surpassing what Jesus was able to do. Then they consistently fail to do so, and rarely make even a token attempt. Though they say they believe this interpretation, few of them even try to act like they do, and none of them - not individually, not all of them combined - have a track record that would confirm it.
Now why do I call it the "lesser" interpretation? Because their strict focus on miracle working eliminates the actual greater works - bringing new life to spiritually dead sinners through proclamation of the gospel, building the church. This is shown in Acts, which was in circulation before John's gospel was written, and serves as a record of the ministry of the Apostles. This verse must be understood such that the greater works Jesus mentions are those emphasized in Acts. There we find that the miracle working was continually downplayed, while gospel preaching is central.
Take all the miracles recorded in Acts together, and you get less than Jesus did in just Matthew 8 and 9. But what greater works do we see? "There were added that day about three thousand souls." "As many as were appointed to eternal life believed." "The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul." And on and on. Those are the greater works Acts emphasizes and Jesus meant - the proclamation of the gospel bringing sinners to repentant faith in Jesus Christ.
That was the emphasis of the ministry of Peter, Paul, John, Philip, and the like. Their obsession with miracle working shows them to be not like Simon Bar-Jonah but Simon Magus.
2) The actual number of people who came to faith in Christ at these revivals is probably zero.
I was going to say the reported number of converts is greatly exaggerated, but let's cut right to it - based on everything I've ever seen from these revivals, there is zero chance anyone could be saved through them. Faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. To be saved, the gospel must be preached - and so far no one has produced any evidence of that at these so-called revivals.
Lakeland was primarily Todd Bentley. Zero chance of gospel proclamation there. Brownsville lasted five years, so maybe in those hundreds of messages, something Biblically sound snuck through. I've personally heard several dozen of them, from luminaries such as Steven Hill, Michael Brown, Yonggi Cho, Jentzen Franklin, and Rodney Howard Browne, and if they are at all representative...
Chris Rosebrough has been digging up Brownsville sermons for the last year or so. Listen to a few, such as these recent examples from Michael Brown and Jentzen Frankin. Can someone be saved by that? There are numerous other examples, and they follow a similar pattern. The main focus of the sermon is the greatness of the preacher. The secondary point is "Yay, revival!" There will be a heavy dose of "you have to do this better!" Any scripture brought up will be twisted beyond recognition and discarded. Jesus will scarcely be mentioned if at all. You might get the occasional blatant heresy. And the gospel will be completely absent.
When I evaluate sermons, I ask what the result would be if someone fully believed and completely obeyed everything that was said. In the case of every single Brownsville sermon I've ever heard, the answer is the same - the listener would remain dead in his sins and destined for hell.
I'd love for someone to prove me wrong here. Just one example of the gospel being clearly and faithfully presented at one of these revivals. But the more I've heard from Brownsville, Toronto, Lakeland, the Fire and Glory one in San Diego now, the less likely it seems anyone can produce it. It just isn't there. And without the gospel, nobody is being saved.
3) Whatever spirit was leading these revivals sure wasn't the Holy Spirit.
I don't know how someone could listen to Todd Bentley for more than about three minutes and not figure out he's demonic. But Brownsville also produced a cavalcade of people who were obsessed with signs and wonders, cared nothing for sound doctrine, buried the gospel, preached messages that left their hearers damned, and preached themselves instead of Christ. If that isn't demonic, what is?
After all that, we can answer the original question - after two huge miraculous revivals, why isn't Florida overwhelmingly full of Spirit-empowered apostolically-gifted Christians who can command Hurricane Irma to stop? Because Scripture does not promise us that kind of power, so these people wouldn't have that power even if they were Christians, which they're not.
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