Thursday, 4 June 2015

Who are Bethel Church?

To most people in Northern Ireland the name of Bethel Church, Redding would have meant very little up until a couple of weeks ago. However since then anyone who has kept abreast of religious news in the province may have heard of them in connection with the split which has developed at St Matthias' Parish Church at Knocknamuckey near Lurgan. Many issues have been raised in relation to this split, but one of the main reasons cited for it has been the hosting of a service involving representatives from Bethel Church, based in northern California. Such has been the difference of opinion that the congregation has now split in two, with the minister at the centre of the controversy, Rev Alan Kilpatrick, holding his services in the Goodyear Sports and Social Club, whilst the remainder of the congregation have continued to worship at Knocknamuckley.

Whatever other issues there might be within the parish of Knocknamuckley, and within the Church of Ireland at large, those who have expressed concern at the teachings of Bethel Church, and the association of their congregation with it are absolutely right in being concerned. The doctrines of Bethel church are both unscriptural and dangerous, and as this ministry has been recently highlighted in our media, it is perhaps beneficial that we expose some of their error, lest anyone be drawn to them. This would be particularly important for any young believers who follow the band 'Jesus Culture', as this band (who recently played in the province) was formed in Bethel Church in 1999 and continues to have a strong association with the church.

In truth the errors associated with Bethel Church are so numerous and far reaching that we cannot possibly deal with them all within the scope of this blog post, nor go into detail on any point. What we will simply seek to do is highlight some of the more serious, dangerous, and indeed bizarre teachings which has emanated from Bethel Church.

1. Soaking up the annointing of the dead
There can surely be no more bizarre practice associated with Bethel Church than what some people have nicknamed 'grave sucking'. Students from the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry can be found visiting the graves of dead Christians revivalists (some of a very dubious nature) and lying on the graves in order that they might 'soak up' that persons annointing. When Bethel pastor Bill Johnson took a group to the grave of John G Lake one woman stated that they 'rolled on the grave' in order to get his annointing. To comment on such a practice is hardly necessary, for it is evidently not Christian but occult! Deuteronomy 18 forbids any form of communication with the dead, stating that 'There shall not be found among you ... an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an adomination unto the Lord'. Were no other errors found within Bethel Church this one alone would be sufficient for it to be rejected as 'the synagogue of Satan' and as teaching 'doctrines of devils'. Sadly however there is much more wrong with Bethel Church.

2. The Fire Tunnel
Imagine combining a gauntlet style challenge with the charismatic practice of the laying on of hands. What would you get? In Bethel Church you get the 'Fire Tunnel' which is essentially a combination of these two things. At the end of a meeting the leaders and prayer teams form two lines facing each other, ready to pray for, lay hands on, and bless those who run between them. Videos of this practice show the participants shaking, convulsing, laughing uncontrollably and falling over as they pass through the 'tunnel'. In none of this is there any evidence of a true work of the Holy Spirit, but rather a spirit of confusion and error, and 'God is not the author of confusion'. There is more evidence of eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism in much of what is practiced at Bethel Church than there is of true biblical Christianity.

3. Waking up angels
Not to be outdone by her pastor husband, Bill Johnson's wife Beni adds her own bizareness to the teachings of Bethel Church, firstly by her claim that she wakes up angels. She stated that on one occasion when driving through the Mojave desert she began to feel the presence of angels. Supposedly lead by the Holy Spirit, she and a number of others got out of the vehicle and shouted loudly 'wakey, wakey!' Beni Johnson describes herself afterwards as 'spinning from the adventure and angelic activity'. Since that time she has encouraged others to 'wake up angels' in the same manner. Again this really requires very little comment, other than to say it is completely bizarre behaviour, and with absolutely no foundation in scripture. Nowhere in the Word of God is there any command or instruction that even remotely suggests that Christians should seek to wake up angels, or that they are in any need of being wakened. What is rather more necessary is that Christians be awakened to the foolishness of such behaviour.

4. Releasing the sounds of heaven
Beni Johnson's second contribution to the bizarre behaviour and theology of Bethel Church is in her claim to release the sounds of heaven, often in an attempt to dispel demons. By blowing a 'shofar', she claims that a change in the spiritual realm is caused, one which in turn changes our physical realm. If used the right way it 'can be a powerful weapon in prophetic intercession'. Bethel Church have also claimed that through the blowing of a shofar, a child was able to heal a neighbour of terminal cancer. Once again such teaching is conspicuous by its absence in scripture. The idea that by blowing a special instrument we can impact the spiritual realm is rather more at home in the philosophy of the New Age movement! Likewise Beni Johnson claims that healing can be provided through the use of tuning forks. Once again we ask, is comment even necessary?

5. The glory cloud and gold dust
Matthew 16:4 says that 'a wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign' and in Bethel Church signs and wonders are certainly given a prominent position. One way in which this is evident is in the 'glory cloud'.  You might ask what a 'glory cloud' is, for like many of the things claimed by Bethel Church they are unfamiliar to those who have been raised in the reformed evangelical faith. Bethel Church claims that God is so pleased with their worship that he literaly fills the auditorium with a physical manifestation of his glory with 'gold dust' falling on the people, along with small white feathers. Not only does the gold dust fall on the people present but aparantly also fills the cavities in their teeth! One stark difference between the manifestations of God in the Old Testament and those claimed by Bethel Church is the fear and trembling which was evident in scripture on such occasions, yet absent at Bethel.

6. Raising the dead
One of the most foolish ideas to come out the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry is that of raising the dead. Tyler Johnson, a graduate of BSSM founded a 'Dead Raising Team' that claims to go around the country praying for the resurrection of those who have 'died prematurely'. The efforts of Tyler Johnson have been approved of by Bethel's Senior pastor, saying 'if you have a loved one you would like to get back, we provide this service. We have a dead raising team'. Bethel pastor Kris Vallotton has also spoken of his own (failed) attempts at raising people from the dead on two occasions. Yet the dead raising team of Bethel Church fails miserably when evidence is required, for there simply isn't any. One of their claimed resurrections was that of a heart attack victim who was brought back to life with prayer ...  and a defibrillator!!

Much more could be written about Bethel Church and Bill Johnson; about their claims of new revelation, reading tattoos, healing rooms and eastern mysticism. Yet surely the very highlighting of the above issues, with little comment, should be enough for believers to rightly discern the spirit that is evident in Bethel Church. If issues such as raising the dead, soaking up the annointing at graves and waking angels do not set the alarm bells immediately ringing, then it is likely that a fuller exposition of their errors with be of little benefit.

'Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheeps clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves' (Matthew 7:15)


  1. Good post....Keep doing the good work.
    God bless you.

  2. good post and sorry to hear of the division. it has also been my experience and the experience of many- that where Bethel theology goes, divison is sure to follow. Bethel didn't invent this theology, this theology has been dividing churches since the Toronto Vineyard days- but they have certainly taken it to the next level. I am sorry to hear that this foolishness has made it to Ireland.

  3. Thank you for this valuable and well-written resource, and for the whole website. I have just subscribed to your blog. God bless and strengthen you and your church.