Bill Johnson is the pastor of Bethel Church, and Jesus Culture is their band. I hadn’t heard of them until recently, but they are popular and dangerous. Whether you hold the view that the “sign gifts” (miracles, signs and wonders) ceased at the end of the apostolic age or not, you should still steer clear of them. Here’s a good overview of them and many of their theological errors and dangers.
Bethel Church of Redding, California was founded in 1952 and was affiliated with the Assemblies of God until 2006, when current pastor Bill Johnson led the church to dissociate itself from the denomination. The current attendance at Bethel’s Redding location is just under 8,700 each Sunday. The now denominationally independent church operates on a $9 million annual budget.
We downloaded a Bill Johnson book (“God is Good”) and scanned it. He got an ejector seat from me in his introduction, claiming that God “mandated” that he write it. That’s rather passive-aggressive, as if to disagree with the book is to disagree with God. God told me to tell you to ignore the book. He gets original sin wrong and ignores obvious teachings like Job and 1 Peter 4:19 when trying to get God off the hook for the existence of evil.
But it gets much worse than that. Johnson claims this his church gets hit with gusts of wind, angel feathers and gold dust falling on them regularly, and that they had a glory cloud come and hover over them (start at the 2:20 mark for all that). Sounds to me like they have an issue with their HVAC system. I assume that the angel feathers were identified with DNA tests. Seriously, how would you even know what angel feathers would look like? Those claims alone should send you scurrying from this wolf. This video also tells you about the Jesus Culture band.
Even when they defend themselves they concede their weirdness. This came from an article that describes some wise people in an Irish church who opposed Bethel.
One of its leaders, Kris Vallotton, wrote an online article in 2012 addressing what he believed was miscommunication about the church by its detractors. In the article he said that while he had personally tried to raise people from the dead twice, he was not successful. He added that some of the church’s students had formed DRTs (Dead Raising Teams) and that he had personally witnessed the manifestation of gold dust on followers’ faces and hands “hundreds of times”.
You can make appointments for them to give you
prophecies psychic readings. I listened to part of one that someone had recorded. It was Psychic 101, with vague comments such as someone being from the East Coast (uh, the place where 1/3 of people currently live, where many more have lived or want to live, etc.) — as if the Holy Spirit speaks that way. And the people I know who believe in Johnson’s ministry said the same things about the “prophecies” as this witch does. Yes, a witch who self-describes as a polyamorous pagan. She went to Bethel and recounted her experience. And you can go here to read how their “prophecies” are just like the “East Coast” gibberish.
Annika: When the children waved their scarves in front of us, I thought about how I was just like them when I was their age, completely involved in whatever ministry was happening at our church, dancing, performing pantomime, praying, worshipping. Suddently the woman sat next to me, placed her hand on my knee, and said she “had a Word” for me. I was excited to hear it. Just a few months ago I had met a couple of women from Bethel and they gave me an amazing prophecy, astonishingly accurate and full of things they couldn’t have known about me.
“I feel the Lord saying to you that He is very pleased with you. You have been so faithful to Him. You have been faithful to His Word, even when though there are many people telling you that you are now going the wrong way. But God knows it isn’t true. He wants you to know that He is proud of you. God knows that you are walking with Him and He is so proud of your faithfulness.”
I smiled and nodded, and said “I know”. Then she looked into my eyes, repeated how important it was for me to know that God approved of how I lived, and implored me to keep doing what I was doing. When she stood up and the girls wrapped up their scarves, I sat there speechless. This was essentially the same prophecy I had received from the two women several few months back.
Got that? The witch wasn’t told to repent and believe, and, by the way, to stop being a witch! She was completely affirmed to do exactly what she is doing and to ignore those who would tell her otherwise. Did they know things about her? Sure, but so do Satan and his demons, and the “prophets” can pick up the rest with basic fortune-teller techniques.
That. Is. Satanic.
Here’s a Bethel youth pastor who says Jesus apologized to him and asked for forgiveness. That previous sentence is so ridiculous that I had a tough time typing it. Yet here we are. He is either making up the entire experience or he was visited by a demon and thinks it was Jesus. Either way, that’s really bad. And Bethel put this up on their own site, so they obviously support it.
Their youth ministry is demonic, coaching kids to interact with alleged angels. This may be the creepiest video of all. They also coach little kids – who may not be saved – to interact with Jesus in their imagination. He falsely says that the Greek for heart also means imagination, and then twists it for his purposes. Praying to Jesus would be fine, but not imagining his response. Saying otherwise is really bad for adults and even worse for kids.
They teach kids how to prophecy?! (2:25 mark) They claim you have to learn how to hear his voice. That is transparently false. Either God is talking or He’s not. If He is talking you cannot miss it. If He isn’t there is nothing to hear.
The church thought it was cute that the kids were practicing raising the dead. They claim to take kids on visits to Heaven on a regular basis. Their “proof” was that kids separately shared the same vision – as if Satan couldn’t plant that vision in the minds of unbelievers or that the “tour guide” didn’t plant a similar vision.
This leaves kids wide open to demonic influences. This is Satanic and child abuse. Our former pastor and his wife are totally bought into this (uh, which is why he became our former pastor when we found out about it).
She claims to teach the prophetic, but if it is an authentic gift then you don’t need to teach it.
Again, they take their youth to Heaven, and apparently the adults get to go as well. Just your average field trip, eh? “Angels are out of a job . . . angels are being assigned to you . . .” Who believes this?
Johnson’s daughter (she is in Jesus Culture) says the Holy Spirit is a sneaky blue genie?!
Johnson is so busy with his prosperity gospel / healing ministry that he distorts or ignores the real Gospel. Jesus’s death on the cross atoned for the sins of the believers, not the sickness, but Johnson teaches otherwise.
As John Piper explains, The prosperity gospel in action “minimizes sin, minimizes pain, and only talks about how well things will go for you if you follow Christ.” In listening to Bill Johnson’s sermons, I noticed all of these trends. Specifically, Johnson teaches a doctrine known as “healing in the atonement.” This view holds that in Christ’s death, all true believers are given physical healing and can expect deliverance from all disease and infirmity in this life.
On this topic Johnson declares “I refuse to create a theology that allows for sickness” arguing that “The price Jesus paid for my sins was more than sufficient for my diseases.” But Johnson goes a step farther. Referring to 2 Corinthians 12:7, where Paul refers to his “thorn in the flesh” Johnson states “[this] has been interpreted by many as disease allowed or brought on by God… That’s a different gospel.” Johnson believes a gospel that allows for Christians to suffer from disease is a form of the false gospel Paul warns about in Galatians 1:8.
Via John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference that addressed charismatic errors and excesses, here’s more on Jesus Culture at the 43 minute mark. And see the “fire tunnel” at the 51 minute mark. And the International House of Prayer (IHOP) at the 58 minute mark. The trademark charismatic spasms are straight from Hinduism.
Not surprisingly, Johnson associates with and supports a Who’s Who of false teachers like Benny Hinn, Todd Bentley, IHOP, and more. I put that in as an aside, not wanting to use a guilt-by-association comment as a primary argument. But it is a huge red flag.
I initially didn’t include anything about Bethel’s grave-sucking / grave-soaking and their belief in the power of soaking. It was so outlandish that I feared people would think I had made it up. But one of my favorite people mentioned it as their top Bethel creep-factor so I added it.
There’s more, but you get the idea. Run, don’t walk, from anything tied to Bill Johnson, Bethel Church or the Jesus Culture band. They are dangerous and bring mockery to the name of Christ. Just because they allegedly do some good does not mean you should get involved with anything by them. Using that standard would let you partner with any religion or cult. And recommending their not-as-bad-as-their-other-creepy-stuff resources is like offering a gateway drug. If someone likes an author of a book, don’t they often see what else he has to offer? The discernment starts to drop when trusted people position the author as “respected.”
The more I learn of Bethel, the more I think they use the strategy of those employing the iconic “Nigerian Prince funds transfer” email scam. We know those emails are ridiculous, but they write them that way on purpose. If they made them more plausible they’d attract too many responses from people who would eventually figure it out. So they make the emails so extreme that only the truly gullible would reply. Same thing with Bethel. They say and do such ridiculous things that only someone with a discernment vacuum or some deep emotional needs would give them a second glance. God’s word isn’t enough for them, so they seek experiences and “new revelations.”
Before anyone seeks the “greater” gift of prophecy — however one defines it — he should seek the “lesser” gift of discernment. I’ve never had a strong position on whether certain spiritual gifts have ceased or not. I see merits in both arguments. But while I left the possibility open that they could remain, I can’t avoid two truths: I’ve never seen them applied properly (i.e., those who focus on tongues as evidence of salvation brutally misuse the few and clear verses that address them) and I’ve seen countless examples of abuse (false teachers, fake healings, guilt over “not having enough faith” to be healed, etc.). But this post wasn’t about which side is right on that debate, it was a warning against a ministry that has serious issues either way.
P.S. Here is a recommended reading by John MacArthur on miracles, signs and wonders.