This is an interesting article posted at Redding News:
Bethel Church has seen extensive growth over the past decade as the focus of the church has shifted to training people in prophecy, healing and other “supernatural gifts of God” taught under the leadership of Pastor Bill Johnson.
Though about half the estimated 2,200 people attending Bethel left when he took over in 1996, Johnson said now nearly every church service is full each week, including the Twin View campus and an overflow room, which could easily add up to more than 3,000 congregants.
Ask Johnson about the affiliations, goals and purpose of Bethel Church, and he’ll say the church has lots of “friends” who share in the pursuit of affecting the Earth with heaven, especially Pentecostals and those in the Association of Vineyard Churches.
Johnson said Bethel members believe Jesus is the son of God and died for the sins of humankind, which is the basis of Christianity. Bethel also believes in the second coming of Jesus when those who are saved will go to heaven and those who do not believe in him will go to hell, as it says in the church’s “We Believe” statement.
Bethel was part of the General Council of the Assemblies of God until January 2006 when the church membership voted to withdraw their affiliation, and today Johnson hesitates to link Bethel to a specific movement or group.
Those who examine the practices of Bethel identify it as being part of a larger movement known as the Word of Faith movement. Connected to prominent revivalists and prophets including Todd Bentley, Patricia King, Bob Jones, and the leadership of the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, the Word of Faith doctrine teaches that faith is a force through which anything can be done, said John Wolf, founder of the Church Education Resource Ministries.
Wolf is one of Johnson’s many critics and is no stranger to Bethel Church.
Wolf grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and graduated from Simpson University in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Church Education Ministries, he said, speaking by phone from his South Carolina office. It was during his time at Simpson that he first came across Bethel Church and the teachings of Bill Johnson.
On his Web site, http://www.cerm.info, Wolf said the Word of Faith movement, which is closely intertwined with the Third Wave movement, blends mysticism and teachings from metaphysical cults. Mysticism is the pursuit of a divine connection with God through direct experiences and usually revolves around a practice to encourage and facilitate the experiences.
“The Bible does not teach that you alone have the power to do things,” he said. “The Bible teaches that God is the one who does things.”
The Third Wave movement is based on the belief that there have been three distinct historical periods in which the Holy Spirit has been extensively active. The first was the Pentecostal revival around 1906, the second was the Charismatic movement of the 1960s and the third began in the 1980s with a new commitment to signs, wonders and supernatural experiences with God.
“Bethel thinks they can train people in the supernatural ministry and they can go out and heal people and raise the dead,” Wolf said. “It’s false teaching. Every healing I’ve heard a Third Wave person (talk about) can’t be verified.”
After a strange experience with an erratic Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry student who baby-sat his children, Bart McCurdy of Cottonwood decided to find out for himself what was going on at Bethel. (See video “The End of the Fire Tunnel – Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry”)
McCurdy said he attended a Friday night service at the church, during which he saw people painting on stage, dancing and flailing around on the ground. He found their worship music unconventional when one line of the same song was played for at least 11 minutes, he said.
McCurdy said the repetitive music, dancing, painting and excessive stimuli serve to get people worked up into an emotional frenzy where they’re expecting to see miraculous things.
“They come looking for that feel-good feeling, that high, for supposed miracles, signs and wonders, speaking in tongues, gold dust, diamonds, feathers. … It seems like they’re just ready for it,” he said.
Once, as she ran through her house frantically searching for her journals, the baby sitter told McCurdy the anti-Christ was in her house and Jesus was in hell saving people, he said. Shortly after that, she went into a trance like state and said she felt 20 feet tall before losing consciousness, he said. The behavior made him believe she was demon-possessed, he said.
McCurdy said he regularly downloads podcasts of Bethel messages and hasn’t heard the Christian gospel message taught at Bethel. His Web site, www.heraldingtruth.com, is to educate people on what he believes are false teachings and challenge those involved in the movement, he said.
When “angel feathers” first started to fall at Bethel Church, Bill Johnson thought birds had nested in the air conditioning ducts, he said.
“Then it happened in a restaurant and all different places – on an airplane,” he said. “I don’t know, I don’t teach it, it just happens.”
Johnson said he bases his belief that the feathers are a sign from God on a Bible verse that says, “there is healing in his wings,” and he doesn’t try to explain it.
“I don’t want to be able to explain everything,” he said. “Then I’ll have a God that looks like me. That’s not very impressive.”
Bud Press, director of the Christian Research Service based in North Carolina, devotes his time to researching claims made by Christians for the purpose of debunking or confirming the claims. Bethel is part of the Signs and Wonders movement, within the Word of Faith movement, he said. Aside from claims of angel feathers, people in the movement say diamonds and gold dust show up at church and in their homes, he said.
Press said he believes the signs and wonders movement is spiritually dangerous and cited Bible passages that warn against it.
On his Web site, Press links to the story of a Washington man who was caught and later admitted to planting gemstones in an Arizona Vineyard church, claiming they were put there by God.
“Jesus himself warned that a corrupt generation, a deceptive generation, seeks after signs and wonders,” he said. “Because individuals have been caught red-handed spreading around not only angel feathers but diamonds, precious gems, gold dust from heaven and all of that, it’s very clearly deception.” more
Prominent friends of Bethel as listed at http://www.ibethel.org;
Benny Hinn Ministries: Benny Hinn is an evangelist who holds Holy Spirit Miracle Crusades each year. His ministry is engaged in crisis relief and children’s programs, according to his Web site. In 2002, Dateline NBC investigated Hinn’s revivals and reported there was no medical evidence to support his claims of supernatural healings. Dateline also reported Hinn lived extravagantly in a gated Dana Point community. A May 2005 investigation into Hinn’s finances by an independent evangelical organization led to a donor alert that stated the Hinn family spent an “exorbitant” amount of money and that the ministry had far more money than it needed to carry out its mission.
Extreme Prophetic: Extreme Prophetic lists the Nicene Creed as their statement of faith. Patricia King, a self-proclaimed prophet, is the president of the ministry, which serves to equip people with prophetic ministry, intercession, and evangelism. King recently posted videos of her predictions for 2010 as given to her by God. Bill Johnson is on the apostolic advisory team.
Fresh Fire Ministries: Todd Bentley, founder of the ministry, is a Canadian evangelist who is well known for his sometimes violent methods of healing. Bentley has hosted several revivals and has publicly spoken of how he has kicked, hit and knocked over participants. Bentley said the Holy Spirit told him to do those things and that miracles were happening simultaneously. Bentley was convicted of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old Canadian boy in 1991 but said he changed his life when he became a Christian at age 18. In August 2008, Bentley announced his separation from his wife and in March married a female member of his staff. Bill Johnson said a restoration team was formed to help Bentley. Johnson serves as a member of Bentley’s accountability team, according to the ministry Web site.
Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship: Led by John and Carol Arnott, the TACF was one of the Association of Vineyard Churches until the 1994 Toronto Blessing revival. At the revival, people were anointed by God as evidenced by the worshippers being overcome with “outbreaks of laughter, weeping, groaning, shaking, falling, drunkenness, and even behaviors that have been described as a ‘cross between a jungle and a farmyard,’ ” the TACF Web site said. The church has seven campuses and estimates that 4 million people have visited to receive the power of the Holy Spirit like those who attended the Toronto Blessing, church leadership say on the Web site. Johnson will speak at the Pastors and Leaders Conference at the church from today until Friday.
Global Awakening: Founded by Randy Clark just after the Toronto Blessing revival, Global Awakening is a Pennsylvania-based international teaching, healing and impartation ministry. Clark was the guest speaker at the Toronto Blessing. From Jan. 12 through Friday, Clark headlined a School of Healing and Impartation conference hosted by Bethel Church at the Redding Convention Center. Healing services were open to the public nightly.