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.
Response to Pirate Christian
There is a blog that is nothing but a heresy hunter group that has this “six hallmarks of the New Apostolic Reformation.” People are always sending me this article and I want to take this time to respond to put their list against what Bethel Redding actually teaches and Pentecostal Theology. It is led by Chris Rosebrough, an extremist in the Reformed movement based in North Dakota. He is in danger of quenching the Spirit at best and the case could be made for Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
New Apostolic Reformation is led by Apostles
While I would tend to agree with Chris that people get downright dumb with the Apostle this and Prophet that titles; I am not prepared to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I do believe there are modern that apostolic leaders according to biblical requirements. Personally, I would to see people take the Apostolic stuff down from a 11 to about a 2 on a scale of 10.
To my knowledge, Bill Johnson does not call himself anything besides Bill at Bethel Redding and he is simply known as Bill Johnson nationally. He does talk about having apostolic power but that is in the context on a national and global church; not him as a person. In general, titles tend to be downplayed at Bethel Redding from my experience.
New Apostolic Reformation preaching Kingdom
A lot of churches are starting teach a strong emphasis on the Kingdom of God that really came from the understanding of Dr. George Eldon Ladd from Fuller. If you look at many of the popular teachings today about the Kingdom, they all have one thing in common: they were influenced by John Wimber. Sadly, this over-emphasis has led to some serious concerns about eschatology.
Bethel Redding does have a strong emphasis on the Kingdom of God. There is no question if the thoughts of people like George Eldon Ladd and John Wimber impacted the understanding the life in Christ presented in Redding. However, those who disagree with them have to answer Matthew 24:14 somehow?
New Apostolic Reformation is about Glory
This glory context really started back in the late 1990’s and it came out of the Pentecostal movement and namely Ruth Ward Heflin. God used her powerfully but she was interesting at best. There is no question that some bad doctrine has developed in the wake of this teaching such as supernatural weight loss. Rare stories of Smith Wigglesworth and A.A. Allen are not a place to begin for building understanding for spiritual encounter.
Bethel Redding, and especially the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry has a strong call to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit and they do use the term glory for it often. It is also true that some students have gotten downright nutty about it. The whole grave sucking thing happened. It is what it is. It was wrong and Bill Johnson openly admitted that some students have went too far in their passion for more of God.
New Apostolic Reformation is Revival!
I am not about to make any successions here. Azusa Report is completely and whole heartily committed to the great end time harvest at the end of the church age leading up to the catching of the saints. Scripture, in context, clearly points to the a great harvest leading up the end of church history. I am not even sure how anyone could not see it in the New Testament?
Bill Johnson is very clear about his focus on revival and rightfully so. He wants to see the lame walk, the blind see, and the deaf hear. While the claims of the church actually being in revival has clearly muddied the waters in the minds of manys of what true revival is about; I firmly believe that the people in Redding to desire to see an awakening like George Whitfield and Charles Finney saw.
New Apostolic Reformation is about Unity
There is a crazy unity emphasis that is happening in America that I just don’t understand. People are tossing away some pretty important doctrines just for it. I am not about to lay down my value of the Holy Spirit Baptism just so some one is not offended. It simply is not happening. Spiritual Unity does not come from people compromising what they do believe; it comes from growth in faith.
Bethel Redding, namely Danny Silk, has a strong teaching on honor. While it has become very abused and I have concerns that it could lead to a path of some very serious spiritual abuse; the concept of respecting people who you disagree with and “eating the meat but throw away the bones” is proper. While I could see some people seeing them part of some major ecumenical effort; I do not see it. If anything, they are trying to unite the Pentecostal movement together for revival which is no small task.
New Apostolic Reformation & Sola Scriptura
As I said, the people who write this stuff are hyper Reformed people and they was want to jump to their favorite word: sola scriptura. It is true that some, Todd Bentley comes to mind, believes in a continuation of revelation (and the possibility of an open cannon). However, believing that we are not guiding by prophecy, tongues with interpretation and dreams is actually against the very concept of sola scriptura. The New Testament is pretty clear on this.
As far as Bethel Redding, they came out of the Assemblies of God and as such as Classic Pentecostal in doctrine for most of its’ history. It would be not be logical to expect a classic Pentecostal church to be reformed in doctrine. Bill Johnson has said that he is thankful for the Reformation (aren’t we all?) but it got some stuff really wrong!
My only response to it is I agree about the reformers and I am personally very thankfully for the works of Jacobus Arminius.
Is being NAR a bad thing?
If we give into the labels given but heresy hunters, is it really that bad to believe in the things like God’s power, presence, and authority? At the end of the day, isn’t that what we are desiring as the people of faith, anyways? There are some churches that are really getting carried away from the New Apostolic Reformation stuff without question but these “discernment ministries” are making a mountain out of ant farms.