I recently read an article from Premier Christianity about Bethel Redding. It was quite positive and I did like it, even with many of the wrong information that was in it. As I have said before, I love the church that Bill Johnson leads even if I disagree with them on a regular basis about missiology and the prophetic. I can love and disagree at the same time. That’s a spiritual gift that many in the Pentecostal movement need.
Let me start out by saying this, Bethel Redding is not the largest or most prominent Charismatic church in California. It would not not even be consider Charismatic. It is a Pentecostal church in the theological tradition of the Assemblies of God. In fact, the church was called Bethel Assembly under a few years ago. Bill Johnson’s theological training was at the Bethany Bible College in Scott Valley, CA.
It would be hard to say that Bethel is the largest Spirit-filled church, either. Jack Hayford’s Church on the Way, Matthew Barnett’s Angeles Temple, and Fred Price’s Crenshaw Christian Center are all much more known and larger in scope. Bethel is a niche church and I like it that way.
Bethel Redding can’t make you a revivalist
In the article, Andy Peck, says that 2,100 students are there learning to become revivalists. This is simply not true. Being a revivalist has to do with impartation, not information. As with everything in the anointing; it can only caught but it can not be taught. What they are doing is giving people who have the anointing a platform to grow safely and that includes screwing up as they grow.
Many of the students becoming revivalists by taking risk and stepping out of the water so to speak. Being in Redding is like a cheap version of doing Master’s Commission in my opinion. It is theology practiced in the community; not the classroom. I really wish that Oral Roberts University had the practical application of ministry than Bethel does. It is where the rubber meets the road.
If anything, they are helping train people who have caught the revivalist anointing in another wave of healing revival. It might or might not look like the 1950’s revival with Jack Coe, A.A. Allen and Gordon Lindsey. Who knows, there could become alot of tent revivals again; especially in small towns. Interestingly, it was in Redding that Jack Coe had some of his most powerful services.
With that said, I would recommend that something going to Bethel Redding to grow in revival have a strong foundation of what they believe and do not believe. Bill Johnson loves to push the employ alot and doing so can lead to some really crazy doctrines. If you do not believe me, ask Jason Westerfield.
I would liken the school to more of an internship after getting a traditional bible education at a school like Oral Roberts University or Evangel University. If you bring those together, you have a very powerful foundation to launch a worldwide healing revival ministry.
What about the unusual signs and wonders?
They are just that: unusual. They are should never become the focus. I have a friend that lives in Redding that learned to let the focus be on miracles, not bizarre stuff the hard way. In the end, he publically talked about his fixation to gemstones and how it was misplaced. He loved the presence of the Holy Spirit and realized that being in the presence is most important, with or without gemstones.
Personally, I will always take someone that is extreme in their views on signs and wonder over a church that the signs and wonders you have is wondering how old the sign out front is. It is always easier to tame a wild believer than set a dead on fire. I am just being real here.
I tend to agree with the old boys at the Pentecostal church that we should focus on Jesus, not the signs and wonders. However, as much as they might hate to admit it the unusual stuff is very encouraging. I have never had an angelic encounter and did not feel encouraged and closer to Christ.
I have been in some meetings that was just out of control. I remember speaking at a conference and another speaker, David Herzog (cool guy) was talking an hour about supernatural weight loss. I am not even joking. It would be alot better than Weight Watchers. That much I know.
The problem was everyone was “in faith” for God to take off their extra weight when most of them just need a membership to Gold’s Gym and change their eating habits.
Open your mind but keep your brain
I remember hearing Paul Cain warn people over and over again in the heyday of the “Kansas City Prophets” to be open minded. He would tell people to “open your mind but don’t let your brain fall out.” This only became more and more of an issue when the renewal broke out that become known as the Toronto Blessing with John and Carol Arnott.
I believe this applies with Bethel Redding too. Be open minded and receive what God is doing but don’t start making new doctrine and patterns to canonize an experience. I have seen many knock the hell out of people like Smith Wigglesworth did but I have very few people actually heal the sick doing it like Smith did! Remember the message is what is sacred; not the message.
In my mind, it is about being open to what God is doing in your environment and doing what John Wimber said we must always do: keep the main thing the main thing. Focus on the core values of Jesus (intimacy and evangelism) and you will have encounters with the Holy Spirit that are mind blowing. You can trust me on that.
In the end, I love Bethel Redding, what they are about, who they are as a people and their mandate to the world. I am not a groupie nor do I live in Redding. I celebrate them even when I disagree with some of the things that come out of the pulpit there. Really, it is possible.