But as quickly as Bentley could say, "Bam!" the so-called Lakeland Revival imploded. The meetings, broadcast by GOD-TV, were shut down after news that Bentley had been carrying on an extramarital affair with a woman who had served as his family's nanny. He later divorced his wife, Shonnah; married the second woman, Jessa; and moved to North Carolina to be quickly restored to ministry by author Rick Joyner.
Immediately after the first fiasco, Joyner provided spiritual oversight for Bentley and eventually became convinced the fallen preacher was ready to go back on the road. Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California, released a 2011 statement saying that he felt Bentley was ready to be back in the pulpit.
Fast-forward to 2019, and another Bentley scandal has erupted. Stephen Powell, who leads Lion of Light Ministries released a public statement saying he has evidence that Bentley has been engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior with both men and women over the past few years. Powell, an estranged protégé of Bentley's, says he took his accusations to Rick Joyner and that Joyner didn't do anything to protect the people hurt by Bentley.
"I believe Todd has proven over more than two decades of ministry, moral failures and abuse of others that he cannot be trusted with the care of God's people," said Powell in an Aug. 22 post on Facebook. "I believe Todd is not fit for public ministry. On top of his sexual sins, he has proven to be a compulsive liar, he lacks financial integrity when handling God's money and he is a substance abuser that has drawn many others into these sins with him over the years."
Bentley posted a rambling response to his former associate on Aug. 23. While admitting that he does "have a past," he called Powell's charges gossip and hearsay. "The majority of these accusations are absolutely not true. Not all, but the majority," Bentley said. "However, there are some that are true, some that even are partial truths. Much are exaggerated and are based on personal speculation."
Joyner also posted a video response, saying he completed Bentley's restoration process in 2012 and no longer provides spiritual covering for him. Joyner also accused Powell of "witchcraft" for coming forward with the embarrassing charges.
This ugly scandal, which feels like deja vu all over again, has triggered numerous questions from ministry leaders and people in the pews about how to deal with preachers who fail morally. How long is a restoration process? How long should a fallen leader step out of ministry? Should there be a "three strikes and you're out" rule? Is a leader ever permanently disqualified?
Personally, I blame the system for this current mess. We charismatics are more enamored with "the anointing" than character. We run after healings and miracles, even if they are questionably manufactured. We chase gold dust, feathers, goosebumps and smackdowns instead of holiness, biblical revelation and true repentance. We are addicted to hype.
More than a decade ago some people put Todd Bentley on a pedestal because he claimed to have exotic supernatural powers—and many didn't care that he abandoned one wife for another. Now we are paying for that folly. It remains to be seen whether we will clean up our act this time.