Bethel Church is New Apostolic Reformation? : In defense of Bill Johnson and Bethel Church
There is a reason that I support Bill Johnson and his ministry. It is not because I think that Bethel Church is beyond correctness. I have voiced my own concerns over how the school is run and some of the eschatology that is trumped from Redding.
I could agree with the detractors on many things but I can’t agree with them on two very important things. I could not agree with them on their desire to humiliate ministries. One example of this would be what Justin Peters tried in Tulsa to Todd Bentley. The other issue that I could never agree with Bethel’s detractors on is their attitude.
Unlike them, I have been in Redding, I have met with leaders, I have given ministry to people there and I have received ministry from people there. I have found them to be pure in their desire for the fame of Jesus to fill the earth. They might not always get everything right in doctrine but they do have the right heart before the Lord.
Let’s get one thing straight: while Bethel Redding does not share some of the same doctrines as classic Pentecostals do historically; Bethel Church is a Pentecostal church that believes in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, praying in tongues and healing the sick. Eschatology is an area that we can agree to disagree.
Bethel is New Apostolic Reformation?
I do not even know who started this mentality that anyone that is hungry for the fire of the Spirit is part of this “evil” movement they call the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). These people attack everyone from Toronto (John Arnott) to Brownsville (Steve Hill) to IHOPKC (Mike Bickle) to Bethel Redding saying they are part of this movement. Let me tell you that that is a lot of different ministries that are vastly different. The message of the Father’s Heart that is trumped out of Toronto is far from Steve Hill’s repentance messages as the day is from the night.
If believing in the apostolic and prophetic ministries is what makes a ministry part of this made up “reformation,” I guess the whole Pentecostal movement is part of it. Apostles were seen as early as the Topeka Outpouring. Charles Fox Parham was regarded as one by many. Many peer consisted Smith Wigglesworth as the Apostle of Faith. Needless to say, this is not a new thing.
While there are some ministries out there that are Kingdom Now, I do not believe that Bill Johnson and Bethel Church could honestly be called one of them. Outside of a few times that leaders have expressed their personal support for some political leaders (Donald Trump), they hardly are political. I am not aware of any message that they say, “When we get the right guy in office, all Heaven will come down.”
Is it about the belief in miracles? If that is what makes a ministry part of this Apostolic Reformation that these detractors talk about, every Pentecostal church in the last 120 years is guilty as charged. While Bethel has had some amazing experiences, they are mild compared to divine encounters that happened in Topeka and at Azusa Street. Whole congregations were having out of body encounters with Heaven back then!
Relational networks is another thing I hear thrown around about this “reformation.” I have to laugh when I hear this especially from Assemblies of God people. The reason this is so odd to me because the Assemblies is not a denomination but a corporate fellowship according to the Constitution. It seems some pastors need to re-read their history and polity. Pentecostal movements have always been relational networks. It was just called corporate fellowships back then!
Bethel Church is classic Pentecostal
I know many will debate this but the truth remains. Bethel has always been, is and will remain to be a Pentecostal church. Bethel Church changed their name a few years ago but for most of its history, it was known as Bethel Assembly of God.
While it is true that Bethel left the Assemblies of God about a decade ago (I am not sure if Bill Johnson is still credentialed with them or not), being part of one of the movements does not make one Pentecostal. It is about what you believe, not the name on your building.
They believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is often that the importance of this reality is trumped publicly for people to encounter the Acts 2 experience. There is also a high importance put on praying in tongues at the church.
I do not know of a church in America that wants to see divine healing as an integral part of the gospel. Many of us say it but few of us will preach it week in and week out like Bill Johnson has for decades.
Having Pentecostal eschatology is not about the rapture as much as it is about the end time harvest. Jesus was the one that told us to focus more on the harvest than the timing of the return of the Lord (Acts 1:7-8) Bethel Church is very firmly a church that believes in the great end-time revival.
Israel loved their dead prophets too
In reality, what is happening in Redding today is not that different than what was happening in the 1920’s under Aimee Semple McPherson or the late 1940’s in Saskatchewan. The problem is we have cleaned up history so much that we only get the highlights of the victories. The messy side of revival does not normally make the history books.
You might find it hard to believe that the Nazarene Church was praying for revival while they was condemning the Azusa Street Revival a complete heresy. They could not experience the move of the Spirit in front of them because it did not look like they thought it should look.
Just like the Pharisees that loved to quote the dead prophets of the Old Testament that religious leaders wanted to murder in their lifetime; the same is true about Pentecostals. People hated Smith Wigglesworth when he was alive but they practically worship him now that he is gone. Most of the healing evangelists were kicked out of the Assemblies but they are highly valued today in our churches.
My point is that most of the mess that we are seeing coming out of Redding has always been there and believe it or not, Azusa Street was far worse for controversy. No one has nailed the door of Bethel Church shut because a person’s pet doctrine got questioned.
The doctrinal concerns that are coming out of the movement now will be addressed in time. While it is something that many worry about (myself included), it does not mean much in light of history and eternity. The Holy Spirit has a way of working out these things.