I frequently hear from Christians who are concerned that their child has gotten involved with Bethel Church in Redding, California. If you don’t know, Bethel Redding is one of the most influential organizations in the controversial New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement and is led by the NAR apostle Bill Johnson. It’s also one of the most popular churches in the United States, and young people are being drawn to it in droves.
These parents have good reason to be concerned. Among the troubling teachings coming from Johnson is an exaltation of supernatural experience over theology–producing followers who are ripe for spiritual deception. The bad fruit of these teachings can be seen in a disturbing YouTube video I watched the other day.
The video shows young people from Bethel Church in Redding, California, interacting with a Christian street preacher named James. From what I gather, the interaction took place in front of a Benny Hinn “Miracle Service” in San Jose, California. James was warning passersby that Hinn is a false prophet. The young people apparently took issue with his warnings and a dialogue ensued.
Throughout the exchange, one of the young people, who identifies herself as Allison, appears to be under the influence of a chemical, though she claims it’s the Holy Spirit. Allison jumps around in circles, makes jerking movements, and falls to the ground–all the while a large smile plastered to her face. She never stops laughing. Actually, it’s more like a grating giggle. Such extended outbursts of laughter are common in the NAR–a phenomenon known as “laughing in the Spirit.”
What concerns me even more than Allison’s bizarre actions are her words. In an effort to dissuade James from criticizing Hinn she tells him, “We don’t have to worry about theology. Let’s just be in His presence. Let’s just be in His presence — of God.” (The importance of experiencing the “presence of God” is one of Johnson’s key teachings.)
Allison’s glib dismissal of theology obviously concerns James. He presses her to clarify her views. “So doctrine doesn’t matter?” he says and then asks, “Every person goes to heaven?” Allison replies, “I don’t know. I can’t claim to know what happens after we die.” (To which I say, really? The Bible is clear that many people will not to heaven. So how can she says she doesn’t know whether every person will go to heaven?)
James asks Allison another question: if theology doesn’t matter then “if somebody loves a guy named Sam instead of Jesus, that’s OK? … I mean as God. Instead of Jesus, he loves Sam? Are you OK with that? “Allison seems to think it’s all the same to God. She replies, “God loves love. I think God would be excited about him loving.”
At this point in the dialogue, one of Allison’s friends–a young man who is not identified by name in the video–expresses agreement with Allison. He says–referring to the person who loves Sam instead of God–”God loves him. God loves him anyway. He’s accepted. He’s so accepted!”
James asks the young people to clarify their views about Jesus–whether or not he’s the only way to the Father. He also asks how they know they personally have been saved. These are important questions. Interestingly, they won’t answer them.
I’m curious if Bill Johnson would have anything to say about this video.
Here’s one takeaway: if you don’t want this to be your kid, be sure to educate your children about the NAR and equip them to respond to its dangerous distortions of Christianity.
You can watch the video here. The encounter starts after about 38 seconds.