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The problem with Bethel Redding’s Firestarters ‘prophetic activation’ class, Part 1

Firestarters cover art largerI recently returned from a trip to Redding, California, where I visited Bethel Church, led by popular NAR apostle Bill Johnson. Many things were taught during my visit there that troubled me. Especially troubling was the adult Sunday School class called Firestarters.

Firestarters is a 12-week course described as “the fast-track to revival culture.” It was created by Kevin Dedmon, who teaches at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM), and is a crash course for people who don’t have the time or money to attend BSSM’s full-time program. According to the Bethel website, students learn how to “burn with passion for God,” “experience His passion” for them, “walk in their God-given identity and purpose,” and “experience the power to heal the sick, prophesy, and live a victorious life.”

The morning I attended students were taught to prophesy. Four people who had never prophesied publicly before were called to the platform to be “activated” into the prophetic gift. They were each told to select an individual in the room and prophesy to that individual: “If you don’t know what to say, just start talking and you’ll get there.” The teacher told them not to worry that their words might just be coming from their imaginations. Why shouldn’t they worry? Because “who do you think gave you your imagination?” As long as their words were “positive” and “life-giving” they were to deliver them. Apparently assured by his words, the students proceeded to prophesy.

The teaching that people should prophesy from their imaginations is appalling. Encouraging people to say whatever thoughts pop into their head is unbiblical to begin with. Scripture teaches that words are powerful and should measured carefully (Proverbs 13:3, Proverbs 18:21, Matthew 12:36-37). Even more appalling is teaching people to put those same unmeasured words in the mouth of God. This practice borders on blasphemy.  God told the biblical prophet Ezekiel to announce a stern judgment to people in ancient Israel who were prophesying from their imaginations.

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are now prophesying. Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: ‘Hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! Your prophets, Israel, are like jackals among ruins. You have not gone up to the breaches in the wall to repair it for the people of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the Lord. Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. Even though the Lord has not sent them, they say, “The Lord declares,” and expect him to fulfill their words. Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, “The Lord declares,” though I have not spoken?

“‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign Lord. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 13:1-9)

At the closing of the class, the students–many who were visiting from other cities and nations–were encouraged to take the Firestarters curriculum back to their own churches. What a disturbing thought. Churches throughout the world teaching people to prophesy carelessly is indeed playing with fire. Sadly, many will be burned.

See Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.

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Holly Pivec is the co-author of A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement and God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement. She has a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University.

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19 Responses to “The problem with Bethel Redding’s Firestarters ‘prophetic activation’ class, Part 1”

  1. Susan Stone Says:

    I witnessed the same thing years ago by the couple who were under Bill Hammons leadership. I found it to be very disturbing to say the least. Can you imagine how much confusion that could create with anyone prophesying to everyone out of their own imagination? It was in the early 90’s but the exact same format. There are videos on the subject of NAR, Bethel, Apostles, etc with Lampstand ministries . They are very informative about this whole movement . I learned the hard way by first hand experience but this explains their doctrine and shows a lot of videos that would help people to understand. Thanks for keeping us up to date Holly. God bless you, Susan

  2. Diane Gorton Says:

    This reminds me of the era of the Salem witch trials.  Totally out of control.  If you are not full of the Holy Spirit and directed by the LORD in any act of using a Spiritual Gift, then you are moved by self or by satan himself.
    So sad to see others deceived into these self glorification situations.
    Thank you Holly for these informational e-mails.  Much appreciated.

  3. Darla Says:

    The concept of these “fire schools” as sources of “revival culture” has spread to denominations that are not Pentecostal/charismatic. People flock to them, not knowing the connection outside of their church to the NAR. “Fire” can mean teaching prayer, prophecy, impartations, manifestations. I can give sources, but they are links and do not want to violate comment policy.

  4. Arnold Smith Says:

    When I saw the word “firestarter” I had to read this blog. I was part of this NAR movement in the past and saw first hand this kind of prophelying…that is how I meant to spell it. It was very deceptive in the begining as they wrapped a little falsehood with a lot of truth. But as a few years went on it got worse. It’s been 12 years ago now and I can’t believe I was ever involved with this movement. Anyway, about the word “firestarter”. This word was something they loved to prophesy over people. I had it prophesied over me twice and I seen it with others as well. It massages your ego as it causes you to think you will do great things for the Lord. Of course I wanted to do great things for the Lord but I must admit the prophesies over me made me prideful.

    Anyway I thank God for you, Holly, for doing the work you are doing to expose this fraudulent movement. I still fight it here in my local area of southcentral pennsylvania. This influence is all over the world.

    blessings

  5. Kathy Says:

    This is appalling and I think it is blasphemy.
    I was recently at a 5 fold Ministry service where they brought in a guest speaker prophet and spouse team.  He preached, then after ending his message, he brought up his wife and together they scrolled their cell phones where apparently they had made notes that the ‘spirit’ had given them words of knowledge to speak over people before the service. He stated before proceeding his wife was better at it then himself.  No prayer except for a token being an after thought waiting for his wife to finish scrolling her cell phone. Every person attending received their special word.  Every word given was generic and could’ve been given to anyone.  It was like a display of fortune telling psychics.  I !get better words of encouragement from FaceBook memes.  And actually I could do what they do since I see it comes from the imagination.  How ridiculous and blasphemous that people are seeking after this SELF exaltation to tout themselves as prophets in such a manner.  Self exaltation is exactly what satan got thrown out of heaven for!

  6. Jeff Says:

    Hi Holly. I experienced this very phenomenon a few weeks ago since I attend a church that does this. My pastor (who happens to be the most Christ-like man I have ever met) walked around the room putting a microphone in people’s face and telling them to “say whatever comes to mind” with the expectation that it would be some profound prophetic utterance. Many people said encouraging spiritual things. I thought it was semi-ridiculous so when he came to me I did not say anything. He persisted and happily encouraged me to “say whatever comes to mind” so I spoke into the mic the first word that literally came to my mind: “rhubard.” People laughed and looked around, thinking it odd that I had literally announced a random word. I found it quite ironic as I later reflected on the fact that “rhubard” is Australian slang for “nonsense” (I am not australian but I do love Rikki Watts). 

    That being said, while I disagree with this practice and think it is an abuse of the gift of prophecy (which is different than the OT use of prophecy, see Wayne Grudem for this) I think it is worth mentioning what the motives are of my pastor and those at Bethel (in this case the motives are not impossible to discern): they are tired of seeing Christians warm the pews and sit there week after week without participating in the service in any way, and they are trying to get the people to actively participate in some way as was standard in Paul’s churches. They are basically saying to the people “get involved, say something, say ANYTHING rather than sitting there for ten or fifty years.” I agree that redefining prophesy is not the way to coax people into activity, but God is always concerned with people’s motives when he judges them. Usually we don’t know people’s motives but in this case the motive is to engage God’s people in the work of the Spirit. Rather than calling it blasphemy maybe you and those commenting could model a better way? That being said, I think the article could be helpful to those leaders who need to hear the fact that prophesy is not spitting out whatever is in your imagination. They have a wrong definition based on bad theology, but they need people to help correct them with gentleness, not shout “appalling blasphemy!”

  7. Robert Says:

    Well written and much needed article. I personally am aware of a number of people who have attended the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry including youth and I am from Ontario, Canada. One lady we used to be in church fellowship with recently informed my wife that she had attended BSSM and has since seen people healed. My wife replied that since God has healed them to Him be the glory to which she replied, “God didn’t heal them I did!”. Enough said. As a pastor I understand all about dormant Christianity but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. False teaching in order to stimulate dormant people is still wrong no matter what is intended!

  8. L.L. (Don) Veinot Jr Says:

    Would you consider being a guest (live) on our “Unknown Webcast” to talk about this? https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK4TLxG_1ZabHloT-FRLE7g

  9. Holly Says:

    Yes, that sounds great! I’ll send you an e-mail message with my contact info.

  10. Darrel Says:

    Holly, you said “This practice borders on blaspheme.” It is blaspheme. Period. Claiming to speak for God when He has not spoken is PURE blaspheme. No need to sugar coat this nonsense, call it what it is. As for the ‘prophesying from your imagination’ it is the first cousin to speaking in charismatic gibberish (they call it ‘speaking in tongues’). Just open your mouth and the words will come. From that day forward your belong to them until the day God delivers you from their pack of lies.

  11. Pat Ammeter Says:

    Thank you for this article. I just started to get your posts so I haven’t read that much yet. When I read the article it took me back to when I was a kid about 65 years ago when the district superintendent of Alberta Pentecostal organization came to our church and did exactly what you described. I just had a flash back when I read it!!!!

    He went to every church in the province for the sole reason to have every one prophecy… but they were words that God did not give them.  Even kids had to babble out something even if it was only a few words, he was satisfied.  Thank the Lord he didn’t target me.

    Please continue to expose these evil men who promote such heresy. Redding is FULL of false teaching of every evil sort. Because our local church wasn’t so steeped in heresy as it was the only church in our little town where they preached biblical salvation other believer who were not Pentecostal came.  I remained in that church for 57 years, but over the years it got worse and worse. We were brainwashed but the Lord kept me from experiencing all the manifestations that have been going on over the years. 

    Now I spend my time researching and writing about the roots of the Pentecost churches, and I am warning people about most the Pentecostal churches, but not without persecution.

    What these prosperity, Latter Rain Dominionist/Kingdom Now, false prophets have done to Africa is absolutely criminal and total heresy.

  12. Ed Says:

    Thanks for the article exposing some of the excesses and blasphemies of this movement. My wife got caught up in this stuff. After about a year of it she declared that I needed to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues, or she was leaving. Well, I didn’t, and she left, divorcing me very quickly. I hardly think that was a Godly course of action.

  13. Kevin Lewis Says:

    Hi Holly,

    As usual, well done!
    Keep up the good work.

    -Kevin Lewis

  14. Holly Says:

    Thanks, Kevin (one of my favorite profs!)

  15. Sharon Weatherly Says:

    Thank you so much, Holly, for bringing light on these  aberrant movements and practices! I am a “traditional” Pentecostal believer (age 69) and am appalled that the Latter Rain error has perpetrated the church again… sadly, it has morphed into even greater error and deception. So many have been deceived! Please keep “blowing the trumpet!.”  i pray for you.  Blessings, Sharon Weatherly

  16. Holly Says:

    Thanks for your encouraging words and prayers, Sharon!

  17. Dara Says:

    We attended a church when staying with relative in Bend, Oregon, and the church is closely affiliated with Bethel’s teachings. It was horrifying. To start off, when their pastor walked in, the congregation responded to him like a celebrity. He came up to the front and starting pointing at people to share prophecies about them. I was sinking as low as I could to make sure I wasn’t randomly pointed at. It was like “You get a prophecy, and YOU get a prophecy!” So insane!

    Then they had a member of the congregation come up to share his testimony. The basic idea of his story was that God helped him time travel one day because he was late for work. As I was sitting there wondering what Twilight Zone episode I was in, the congregation responded to the testimony with a bunch of “Amen”s and “Praise Jesus”s.

    Then worship time was so repetitive to intentionally create an almost trance-like state.

    Bizarre can’t quite capture the experience. Terrifying is closer to an accurate description. So sad for our relatives who are a part of this.

    Than you for sharing your experiences, Holly!

  18. LYNDA BRYMESSER Says:

    I remember quite well being prayed over as a “firestarter”. It did make you feel like you were destined by God to do great things for him just like Arnold Smith shared earlier. We are also from South Central PA and were in many meetings with that phrase prayed over us which made us feel prideful that we were going to do great exploits for God!  Thank you Lord for speaking TRUTH to our hearts & leading us out of this deceptive NAR movement!

  19. Rose Abels Says:

    I am a classical Pentecostal. My mentors were wise elders who checked everything from the Word and common sense and common courtesy. The gifts of the Spirit are still with us, but not in the way some of these newbies are claiming.
    Most  of them are from independent charismatic churches that have no covering.The respectable Pentecostal churches remove them from membership when nonsense comes to light.  Our mentors were farmers and practical people. I am appalled at the manipulation of some of these leaders. We were trained to give encouragement privately. I’ve heard people insulted publicly, accused of having a “Jezebel spirit”, and believe that gold dust fell on a speaker.The Bible warns about allowing novices to lead.

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