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Getting wasted with the Holy Spirit at Bethel Redding

drunkWhen I recently attended the Firestarters adult Sunday School class at Bethel Church in Redding, California, I was shocked by the teacher’s announcement at the start of the class. “There are only three rules in this class. Rule 1: Get drunk. Rule 2: Stay drunk. Rule 3: Get other people drunk.”

Those are not exactly words you expect to hear at a church. Yet the encouragement to “get drunk” was a theme that ran through the entire two-hour class.

“Let’s get drunk. Let’s enjoy ourselves,” the teacher said. He also told the students, who were standing at the time, to hold out their hands in the air in front of their bodies to form the outline of imaginary, huge bottles of “heavenly wine,” then pretend to chug from them. Many of the students responded gleefully to the teacher’s directions. They acted as if they were actually drunk — laughing uncontrollably, staggering, and some even falling down. One middle-aged woman, at a table near mine, lay back in her chair, as if passed out, for much of the class.

At a point later during the class — between the testimony sharing time and instruction on learning to prophesy — the teacher sensed it was time for another drink. He told the students, who were now seated, “Pick up a pitcher off the table and drink it down”– to which many laughed again, and dutifully responded by forming more “air pitchers” with their hands and pretending to drink from them.

Participants in the class would describe their actions as “drinking from the Holy Spirit”–as would other participants in the New Apostolic Reformation. To defend this description, they would point, no doubt, to the verse in Scripture: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

But the point of being “filled” with the Holy Spirit is not to act like a fool. It’s to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit. In the immediate context of this verse we learn that His influence results in praising God with song, expressing gratitude to Him, and living harmoniously with others (Ephesians 5:19-21). Elsewhere in Scripture, we see that the Holy Spirit’s influence is also evidenced by the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Take note, especially, that one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control — not usually a characteristic of a drunk person.

In observing the teachings about the Holy Spirit at the Bethel Firestarters class, one might wonder what happened to the Holy part?

This post is Part 3 in a series I’ve written about the Bethel Firestarters class. See Part 1 and Part 2.


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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12 Responses to “Getting wasted with the Holy Spirit at Bethel Redding”

  1. bryan ewbank Says:

    I’ve just been reading Eph 5, and it’s amazing to me that someone would use it the way you describe it being used.

    For me, I’m struggling with Eph 5:4 (no obscene, flippant, or vulgar talk). Flippant is a really broad category, and seems to indict the behavior you describe – making fun of someone, or a situation, etc, without any real benefit to anyone.

    Thank you for sharing your description of events, as well as the description of the NAR (non)translation of the bible, which is what brought me to your website in the first place.

  2. Al Persohn Says:

    It is really interesting to note that the spirit of slumber or stupor as found in Romans 11 was given by God to harden the hearts of non believers. This also is found in Isaiah 29.

    The reason that some were accused of drunkenness at Pentecost was that the Kingdom was being presented in the Temple in NON Hebrew. The audience would have thought – what are you guys drinking! you can preach that in the language of the Gentiles. This is supported by the fact that not all of those at the day of Pentecost accused or mocked about drunkenness some were perplexed and converted.

    Summary – no one in the Bible got drunk under the influence of the Holy Spirit. A form of blindness likened to spiritual drunkenness was a curse that God used to KEEP people from believing.


  3. Al Persohn Says:

    OOPS I meant to say:

    what are you guys drinking! you can’t preach that in the language of the Gentiles


  4. Graham Boulden Says:

    Colossians 3 v 16 tells us to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”. The danger with Firestarters appears to be that it is sacrificing the truth and necessity of knowing the “word of Christ” on the altar of experience (and misguided/misleading experience at that).

    When the disciples were accused of being drunk on the day of Pentecost, Peter preached a message of baptism and repentance. When the 72 returned with joy after being sent out having become aware that “even the demons are subject to us”, Jesus refocused their thinking on the fact that they should rejoice that their names were “written in heaven”.

    The focus of Firestarters  apppears to be very self and experience centred rather than Christ/kingdom centred.

    Graham Boulden

    p.s. It is good to see the blog up and running again.

  5. Darrel Says:

    Holly, can you tell me how this is not an insult to the Holy Spirit and therefore blaspheme of Him also?

  6. Harry Says:

    “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
    ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:15-20‬ ‭ESV

    “John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.””
    ‭‭Luke‬ ‭9:49-50‬ ‭ESV‬‬

    “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
    ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭1:27-29‬ ‭ESV‬‬

    “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”
    ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭2:14-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  7. David Says:

    In Isaiah chapter 29 God brought judgement up his people for apostasy in form of ” drunkenness without wine”. I have no doubt that this is what’s happening at Bethel church Redding CA.

  8. Jane Says:

    Today our culture seems to be bored unless all things are done in the ‘extreme’ and entertaining.  And too many preachers are all too accomodating.  Those that preach drunkeness in a positive light know their audience today will not tolerate plain preaching, so they preach not to save souls and teach Christian discipline but to entertain instead.  Too bad they don’t preach the wisdom of God instead…….  

    1 – God tells church leaders to be sober….
    “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;”  (1 Timothy 3:2)
    2 – God tells the children of light (day) to be sober, not like the children of darkness (night)….
    “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:6)
    3 – God tells believers WHY we must be sober….
    “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”  (1 Peter 5:8)
    4 – God reveals WHO it is that gives believers a sound mind (so we know it’s the devil who gives an unsound mind of drunkeness)……..
    “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”  (2 Timothy 1:7)

    It looks like these that preach drunkeness got devoured by the devil…point #3.

  9. Cecil Andrews Says:

    Thank you for these reports. It really is true that “there is no new thing under the sun” – back in the 1990’s I publicly “contended” against the claimed charismatic excesses of John Wimber and his Vineyard movement out of which sprang the so-called ‘Toronto Blessing’. This notion of ‘getting drunk’ based on misuse of Ephesians 5:18 was trumpeted then as now. If it would be of any help here are links to two public talks I gave then and perhaps they may be a genuine helpful blessing to some.

    ‘Toronto – The Facts’ (part 1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55eTq3woAkw
    ‘Toronto – The Facts’ (Part 2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCEr3hKOxkE

    ‘Toronto – Antics and Heretics’ (Part 1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RM2A3sVYGU 
    ‘Toronto – Antics and Heretics’ (Part 2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTEEURiKzqw

    With all good wishes in Christ
    Cecil Andrews
    ‘Take Heed’ Ministries
    Northern Ireland

  10. Jane Says:

    Mr. Andrews…  yes sir…God’s Word is a MORE SURE word of prophecy than experience or anything else… learned that in your ‘The Facts part 1.  Your teaching is very good!  I would bet that 80% or more of all church-goers have no spiritual discernment at all, because they don’t know their Bible.  If they did, they wouldn’t be getting drunk in the spirit, etc….   Thank you for providing those links!

  11. Watchman Says:

    It is such an awful twisting of Ephesians 5:18 that they use to justify this unbiblical behaviour!

    Eph 5:18 does NOT say “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be DRUNK with the Spirit”, it says “be FILLED with the Spirit”.

    The point is that it is CONTRASTING the DIFFERENCE between alcoholic drunkenness and being filled with the Holy Spirit. The two experiences are nothing like each other!

    However when you see them engage in this drunken stupor you would think they are the same thing. As Holly and others have mentioned, the call to sobriety, both with regard to alcohol and also of our minds, and the call to self control is mentioned in many places in Scripture.

    Their blatant disregard of what Scripture advocates leads to only the following possible conclustions, this drunken behaviour is either:
    1) a fleshly response willingly carried out by people who choose to behave as if they are drunk in order to fit in with the distorted unbiblical teaching and those around them, or
    2) an involuntary response brought about as a judgement from God, sent upon them because they do not love the truth, God certainly does NOT approve of it, nor is it from Him, or
    3) it is brought about by evil spirits impacting their minds and bodies.

    Stay away from churches and movements that teach and practice this completely unbiblical behaviour of spiritual drunkenness and warn others too! Test all things against Scripture.

  12. Watchman Says:

    To clarify point 2) above. What I have said might seem contradictory. When I say “nor is it from Him”, I mean that it is not from God as a blessing or as something He approves of. He does NOT approve of it, that is quite clear from Scripture. The only way it might be from God is as a judgement! When we choose to reject God’s truth, He sometimes brings about judgement in this life, of course there will be a final judgement too. See the following verses:

    “God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:11)

    “Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him” (1 Samuel 16:14)

    “I trampled the nations in my anger; in my wrath I made them drunk” (Isaiah 63:6)

    “God gave them a spirit of stupor” (Romans 11:8)

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