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Buzzfeed’s eye-opening look inside the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry

young saints artLast week Buzzfeed published an excellent, eye-opening article about the Bethel School of Supenatural Ministry — a school run by Bethel Church in Redding, California, probably the most influential church in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). The article is titled “Meet the ‘Young Saints’ of Bethel Who Go to College to Perform Miracles,” written by Molly Hensley-Clancy. What it shows is deeply concerning.

The article shows how influential Bethel has become in its own city–intertwining its NAR teachings with city politics and even the public school system. It also shows that it’s attained global influence through its worship music and offshoot supernatural schools of ministry that use the curriculum developed by Bethel.  And it shows how prophecies and healings that are passed off as genuine at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry don’t amount to more than the power of suggestion and parlor tricks. Most disturbing of all are the accounts of individuals who say they’ve suffered real harm as a result of Bethel’s teachings and practices, including a grandmother who blames Bethel students for her 15-year-old grandson’s death.

I’m pleased to see media taking a closer look at Bethel Redding and the teachings of its leaders, the apostle Bill Johnson and the prophet Kris Vallotton. Anyone who wants a glimpse inside what’s really happening at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry should read this article.

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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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22 Responses to “Buzzfeed’s eye-opening look inside the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry”

  1. Bruce Cooper Says:

    Thank you Holly. I took the liberty of reposting this and just earlier today I posted an article on Kairos 2017 which you may also find of interest. Blessings! 
     

  2. Sean Christie Says:

    Hey Holly, 

    I appreciate all that you do to expose the NAR lies.  I’ve watched hundreds of hours of stuff on all these false prophets and teachings and came across a new video today that really went back to the start and lies of the 7 mountain mandate with Lance Wallnau.  You might enjoy this if you haven’t see it yet.  

  3. kadri liisa Says:

    Thx for sharing this article….somehow this article helps to see the other view who see it from outside and what harm it might cause to those ppl in redding.

  4. arnold smith Says:

    this movement is about preparing the “kingdom” for Jesus Christ to return. (7 mountain mandate)

    what they are unwittingly preparing is a kingdom for the antichrist

  5. Lynne Says:

    Dear Holly, let me begin by thanking you for your research as regarding the NAR. I must be forthright to say I would be what would or could be described as an orthodox Pentecostal believer. I do not embrace the errors of this movement nor the WOF movement. i therefore glean much from your articles. I want to say that there is a remnant of conservative Trinitarian Pentecostals who exist that very much speak out regarding the aberrant teachings of the NAR. This article is troublesome as the adherents of the 7 Mountain mandate would consider Bethels high involvement in Redding City government to be a spiritual victory, how sad that it is nothing of the sort. i have many friends involved in this error, most, if not all of which, I no longer have a close relationship to due to it. President Trump has unfortunately been surrounded by “ministers” of this deception but I don’t criticize him because that’s the “gospel” he has been taught and if Christians who purport to know the Lord can’t see the deception how could Trump? Our nation is in need of bold truthspeakers and this article proves the mockery Bethel is making of the true gospel. Thank you for your faithfulness.

  6. Donald Bate Says:

    This excellent Buzzfeed article reminded me to recommend all readers download and watch the documentary 
    Derren Brown: Miracles for Sale (2011)

  7. David Cox Says:

    I quite agree. . . Buzzfeed did an excellent writeup that covered both sides of the story.  FYI, GetReligion has a post on Buzzfeed’s coverage of Bethel Redding here: https://www.getreligion.org/getreligion/2017/10/25/buzzfeed-takes-the-time-to-dig-into-bethel-church-and-gets-this-complex-story-right

  8. Aaron Says:

    Lynne,

    Most of us Pentecostals are Trinitarian.  The number of Oneness Pentecostals is very small compared to us.  I agree with you this stuff doesn’t line up with true Pentecostalism.  This stuff is making true biblical Pentecostalism look bad.

  9. BMO Says:

    We have to be very cautious here that we are not standing against a true revival and an authentic move of God.  If you study revival history, the largest opponents of revivals have historically been Christians themselves.
     
    - During the Great Awakening, many Christians of the day opposed the movement – in some cases calling it the “Great Clamor”.  Opposition came from the older mainline churches and those who objected to emotionalism.  This opposition, in part, led to the writing of Affections by Jonathan Edwards.
     
    - William Carey was opposed by contemporary believers who said, “when God is pleased to convert the heathen world, He will do it without your help or mine”.  From his efforts came the founding of the modern missions movement which has seen perhaps billions of souls saved.
     
    - Charles Finney led up to 500,000 people to Christ in a revival that spread to 1,500 towns.  Finney was birthed from the Second Great Awakening, and his critics were from “older established churches and more conservative theological positions, [who] rejected such revival spirit as nothing more than emotionalism, as lacking in the intellectual and spiritual groundwork needed to assure salvation and a long-term commitment to Christ.”
     
     
    Modern believers cherish these people and movements above.  However, they overlook the fact that there is a good chance that they themselves would have been opponents of the very movements they praise.  It is a difficult truth, but we Christians tend to figuratively kill the prophets and build monuments for them in later generations.
     
    The largest opponents of the Great Awakening were “those centered on theology and its relation to rationalism”.  During the Second Great Awakening, criticism primarily came from older churches who were so certain of their theology that they completely rejected some of the most prolific Gospel preachers of the day.  See a pattern?  It is those most sure of their theology and are standing against something new which touches the emotion that are in the most danger of being on the wrong side of history.
     
    We really need to be humble and cautious here because most of the criticism against this movement:
     
    1) Is from the mainline, older churches and denominations
    2) Based on a rationalist view of how Scripture should be interpreted and applied with no clear passages denouncing the actions and beliefs of the movement
    3) Are opposed to a movement that is rapidly growing and leading an increasing number of people to Christ
     
    If history is to be any guide, we could very well be standing against an authentic move of God which later generations will praise.  Considering the lack of clear and explicit Scripture which denounces the practices and beliefs of this movement, we should strongly consider the wisdom of Gamaliel:
     
    “So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice,” – Acts 5:38-39

  10. Bill (cycleguy) Says:

    First, Holly thanks for posting this. I read the whole Buzzfeed article and was heartbroken because I have dear friends who have bought into this false teaching hook, line, and sinker. Second, BMO; Real revivals are not the result of hucksterism, false teaching, and outlandish claims (grave sucking, feathers and gold dust falling, etc). Real revival can only take place when the truth of the gospel is preached with or without (supposed) signs. The problem we are running into today is there are so many who have forsaken biblical truth for pragmatism and “what works” and what will tickle ears. Just like Mr. Simmons, who claims God personally visited him telling him to do a new translation (see Holly’s post on Passion NT), there is no need for an extra-biblical translation which twists Scripture to make it means what he wants it to mean. And the real question is this movement leading an increasing number to Christ or to false teaching?

  11. BMO Says:

    Hey Bill!  Thanks for the comment.  Would you be able to substantiate a few things for me to help me understand where you’re coming from?

    “Real revivals are not the result of hucksterism, false teaching, and outlandish claims”
     
    Can you definitively prove to me that there is false teaching behind this?  By false teaching, I mean something that Scripture explicitly and directly opposes.  I’ve looked pretty hard into this and I have as of yet found a single solid accusation of “false teaching” resting here.  What most call false is really just a different interpretation of Scripture.

    Also, most of the “false teaching” accusations are coming from conservative denominations who historically opposed the founding of Pentecostalism, the Charismatic Renewal, and the Vineyard movement.  Even if you violently disagree with these groups, they are not “false teachers” – they hold different interpretations of Scripture and are brothers in Christ.

    “Real revival can only take place when the truth of the gospel is preached with or without (supposed) signs.”
     
    Have you by any chance studied the history of revivals in relation to signs, wonders, and miracles?  I think you’ll be surprised on this one.  A good read that does just that is “When the Spirit Comes with Power” by John White.
     
    The bottom line finding after studying basically every major revival in Christian history is that almost without fail, manifestations both of the Holy Spirit and the enemy are present.  You have to ultimately watch for the fruit and see if Christ is glorified to determine if the manifestation was of God.  After all, a revival is a focal point in the battle between the Kingdom and the forces of darkness – what else would you expect?
     
     
    “And the real question is this movement leading an increasing number to Christ or to false teaching?”
     
    Again, I encourage you to look into this.  Just using Scripture – not your favorite doctrines, not your favorite theologians or commentaries.  Just using Scripture objectively examine the central claims of this movement.  And document it, please!  For some reason, those shouting “false teaching” about a few of these big names like Bethel are unable to fully provide clear and concise documentation of their claim.

  12. Holly Says:

    BMO, have you had a chance to read either of my co-authored books about the New Apostolic Reformation? They provide just what you’ve asked for, an evaluation of central NAR teachings on the basis of Scripture along with clear documentation of where those claims can be found in the literature of NAR leaders. The larger book, A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement is quite extensive in its evaluation and documentation. And our books are not argued from a cessationist standpoint.

  13. BMO Says:

    Hey Holly!  I own it and I’ve read your central arguments, assumptions, and theological positions on this website.  I’m going through it now to make sure I haven’t missed anything.  You’ve done excellent research and you are the first person I have ever heard from outside of charismatic circles who is able to fully articulate the finer points between movements in Charismatic history.
    I have a few disagreements with your assumptions.  Here’s the main ones:
    -         1.  You assumptions are not purely based on Scripture.  They are based on Scripture and historic church practice.  The key issue I have is the thought that historic church practice should even be given a place of evaluating the standing of a doctrine or teaching.  Using this same logic would have possibly put you on the side of the Catholic Church when it excommunicated Luther because his teachings contradicted historic church practice.  “That’s just the way we’ve always done it” is not a good method for evaluating issues.  (Assumption 4 in your book).
    -         2.  You allow experience to dictate your belief system.  The issue here is that you aren’t taking clear passages at face value but instead willingly processing them through a lens that will by definition give you an “out” from examining your own beliefs and practices when pushed or uncomfortable.  Here’s my problem with this reasoning:  Jesus says that the mark of a disciple is love.  But I don’t see very many Christians truly loving others.  Using experience in my belief system would potentially allow me to say that Jesus really didn’t mean it since I don’t see it played out today.  Using experience as a basis or an input for my theology will always allow me to justify the status quo if I so desire.  (Assumption 12 in your book). 
     
    This isn’t to say that your method is incorrect or false.  But that’s just it – I’m not calling you a false teacher because we disagree.   I’m simply saying I disagree.  On the other hand, this website says “false teacher” 41 times and “false prophet” 365 times – primarily in relation to those on the other side of the issue.
     
    Here is a primary example and how this works itself out:

    Jesus commanded His disciples to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons (Matt. 10:8, Luke 10:8).
    Jesus issued this command to both the 12 apostles and the 72 disciples (Luke 9:1-6 and Luke 10:1-12).
    In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded His disciples to teach future generations of disciples to obey everything He commanded them (Matt 28:16-20).
    Healing the sick, raising the dead, and casting out demons are included in the “everything” Jesus commanded the disciples to do and to teach (Matt. 10:8, Matt 28:16-20).
    This means that a disciple of Jesus today should be taught how to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons.
    The primary reason this is not widely taught in the Church is that disciples at some point were disobedient to Jesus’ command to teach the following generations of believers everything they were taught.

     
     
    Strictly using Scripture, it’s very hard to work your way around this.  Jesus’ disciples heal the sick and raise the dead as they proclaim the Gospel.  I am a disciple of Jesus.  Why should I accept any belief system that permits me to model my life on anything other than the biblical model of discipleship?

    Under your system, you can circumvent this if you so desire.  Under a “Bible only” system, you take Jesus seriously.  This is where we disagree.  You have to give me a really good reason to ignore the plain, written words of Jesus and model my discipleship on something found outside of Scripture.

    And this is just a single example of how this plays out.  I have a hard time buying into your findings and reasoning if the very premise of your reasoning allows me to ignore the clear commands and patterns set forth by Jesus.

  14. BMO Says:

    Just to follow up here…I want to tie this back into the thread at large so as to not be too off-topic.  This post is about Bethel and what it’s seeking to do.  Listen to the words of Bill Johnson himself regarding exactly what I discussed in the previous post:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYR8ZTvihiU#t=35m45s

    He is literally reading from the Bible and challenging disciples of Jesus to model their lives on the pattern seen in Scripture.  I don’t agree with everything he says or everything the school does.  But it’s hard to fault them for attempting to obey Jesus’ literal words and for making a school to teach following generations of disciples to proclaim the Gospel through the ways Jesus commanded.  Once you understand this, a lot of what they do makes a lot of sense.

  15. ScottyMac Says:

    To Holly:
    I just want to take a moment to thank you for your particular ministry, and what you have to share with the public (or the Church…), in general. It’s always nice to know you are on the right path, and that our Father is pleased with your offerings! Thanks again,
                                                                              Scott MacPherson (“ScottyMac”)     
                                                                              Vancouver, WA (USA);  98661.

  16. Holly Says:

    Thanks for your encouraging words, ScottyMac.

  17. Bruce Cooper Says:

    Hi Holly, just thought I would respond to some of the inputs from BMO. BMO’s statement “What most call false is really just a different interpretation of scripture” was interesting. The Apostle Paul would have a hoot with that one. And the preceding statement wherein BMO was unable to find a single solid accusation of false teaching leaves me wondering how hard indeed he/she has looked into this. May I suggest he/she read the information presented at the following link and then watch the 7 videos near the bottom of the link: https://bcooper.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/the-seven-mountains-apostasy/

    Should BMO require any additional documentation on “doctrinal interpretations” I would also recommend they follow the instructions at the bottom of the aforementioned link which reads as follows:

    Much information about the NAR movement has already been written by many reputable sources, you can access many many links that are provided in some of the NAR related posts as mentioned below. And then there are the testimonies, over fifty of them, people who bought into the NAR movement and then decided to leave. You can view these testimonies here.
    To access the other NAR related articles I have posted, simply select New Apostolic Reformation under the Post Categories option on the right side of the Home page.

    Hope this helps the discussion. Blessings.
     

  18. arnold smith Says:

    “a different interpretation of scripture”….oh that’s no big deal! All cults do the same. The Mormon’s have their own translation of the bible too!

    Thanks to Brian Simmons we can now classify the NAR movement as a cult, alongside the Mormons.

    1 Corinthians 11:19 “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”  (notice the heretics will be among us believers, thus inside the church)

    2 Peter 2:1 “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction”  (again notice false teachers shall be AMONG US….inside the church)

    We don’t study history to test the spirits….we use the scriptures to test the spirits. There were doctrines of demons even in the first church. There certainly are so now.

    And my final point from 2 Peter 1:19-20 “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.      (Here in the context of 1 Peter 1:16-21 Peter is talking about his experience at the Mount of Transfiguration and he is saying that the SCRIPTURES ARE A MORE SURE WORD than the experience on the Mount that they had.

    to BMO: by your own words: “What most call false is just a different interpretation of scripture”. How about we allow scripture to interpret scripture and not spiritual experience interpret scripture.

    To keep this short it is also important to see 2 Corintihians 11:3-4 and Galatians 1:6-9. There will be people in the church teaching about Jesus but it is a different Jesus, thus a different gospel and you will receive a different spirit.

    Checkout lighthousetrails.com for great discernment resources

  19. Jaeson1992 Says:

    I feel like BMO is just re-hashing Bill Johnson’s teachings.  To me this is very sad.  I think the problem that people involved in this movement have are:
    1) They fail to read scripture contextually — this opens up a massive can of worms — if you fail to read it contextually you can twist it to make it say whatever you want.
    2) They believe their leaders and “apostles” more than Christ.
    3) They don’t understand hat most of Christ’s warnings are about false teachers, deception, and hell.

    BMO- Bill Johnson is a false teacher.  He promotes gnosis, & a different Jesus- that Christ was “born again” amongst other idiocies, that we are to “model” him.  etc.   We will never be Jesus.  We cannot be Jesus.  Can we be like Jesus in morals?  Yes through the power of the Spirit which we receive as soon as we convert.  I was entrenched in this movement for about 10 years.  Many of my family members are part of it.  Coming first hand I can tell you it is a deception.  It is a very tempting one though- because it promises that if you just do the right methods, get the right anointing, get the right impartation, then you too- will be like God.   Or that worse yet- you already are like God.  Sorry but we are not like God at all and never will be.   Can we pray for others?  Sure.  Can God heal another person? Yes.  But it is not because we have special anointings, powers, or anything else.  And certainly not because we run around “decreeing and declaring” anything.   A false prophecy is a false prophecy.  To speak for God and not actually be hearing from Him is blasphemy.  It ruins lives.  It ruined the lives of several people I know.  Now they are homeless vagabonds.  Christ was always God, He didn’t set-aside His nature.  He is fully God and fully man at the same time.  He was not a mere man anointed by God.   The Holy Spirit isn’t a force you can wield when you want more power.  The followers of these teachings (from my decade of experience) are distracted and don’t know the true work of the Holy Spirit.  It isn’t about signs and wonders, as much as it is about living a holy life.  I met more people in this movement caught up in sexual sins, deviancy, lying, and thievery than anywhere else.  We had things stolen from us in church, I knew more than one person who was a porn addict, and some who would outright lie to get money from others.  Their lifestyles spoke volumes.  You could say- well maybe it was just a one off, but its been dozens of people.  Where is the Holy Spirit?  Where is the self-control, the pointing of Christ that leads to repentance, etc?

    Please do some research concerning Bethel particularly the following:
    1) How witches were told by supposed prophets that they were on the right path when they visited the church
    2) How the glory feathers were nothing but bird feathers stuck up in the rafters
    3) The glory dust was glitter
    4) Grave sucking/soaking
    5) Using tuning forks to wake up angels (this is new age- Beni Johnson does this and encourages people to)
    6) Angel orbs/blue flame teachings (also new age)
    7) Practicing prophecies (cold/reading technique– not found in the Bible)
    8) The history of Bob Jones and Chuck Pierce.  They immediately fail the qualifications to be ANYTHING in the scripture.  
    9) Lifestyles of the rich and new-apostolic.  BJ and CV and their fancy houses and cars (meanwhile most of the congregation is broke), Che Ahn’s $1,000,000+ mansions and stock he talks about 24/7, Joyner’s fancy $1,000,000+ home in the woods founded by his disciples…etc.  
    10) Why are they doing shakti-pat to transfer powers?  Just ask yourself that.

    None of the new “apostles” meet the qualifications of an apostle, so they should not be calling themselves this at all.  None of the prophets are true prophets.  Their prophecies have been false.  Many of them are conjecture, yet still they have followers, who are so desperate to think they have new special knowledge they follow them around.  

  20. BMO Says:

    I’ll try and briefly give a response to some of the several issues raised.  I certainly do understand that these issues are very close to all of us.  I think it is safe to say that we all love Jesus, we all want to see Jesus glorified, and we all value Scripture very, very much.  May the Lord guide us all to be more like Him!
     
     
    To Arnold Smith – I appreciate your zeal for truth!  Thank you for your thoughtful responses to what I wrote.  Please see my comments below.
     
     
    “a different interpretation of scripture”….oh that’s no big deal! All cults do the same. The Mormon’s have their own translation of the bible too!
     
    In my opinion, the key difference here is that cults deny the essential doctrines of Jesus or remove Scripture as the final authority.  I understand that many think that Bethel does this, but I believe Johnson is just repeating Wimber’s teaching on the topic which is a based on Phil 2:7.  Johnson and Wimber have both stated the standard line that most Evangelicals say regarding Jesus: “100% God, 100% man”.
     
    Just survey Christianity.  Some groups believe that women aren’t allow to teach, while some believe that this teaching only was for a certain culture and time.  Some believe that baptism can be experienced at birth while some do not.  Some believe the Baptism of the Spirit is a definitive experience after salvation while others believe it happens at salvation.  On and on you could go.  We Christians disagree on basically everything!  These disagreements do not amount to heresy – they amount to different interpretations of Scripture matched with a strong zeal for truth.
     
    Just think things through here – do you hold the exact same beliefs on everything now that you did 10 years ago?  Probably not.  Does that mean you were a heretic 10 years ago?  Probably not – it means we are continuing to grow in knowledge of the Lord.  Will you hold the same beliefs about everything 10 years from now?  Probably not.  Does that mean you’re a heretic now?  Probably not – we are all works in progress and Jesus loves us so much that He keeps prodding all of us towards growth.
     
     
     
    To Jaeson1992 – thank you for articulating the reasons you believe these movements are false prophets and false apostles.  I greatly appreciate your desire to see Scripture upheld and Jesus glorified!  You did bring up over 15 points, so I don’t feel that I can fully address what you said.  If you have one point you would like me to speak to, please let me know.  However, please see my general response below:
     
     
    “I feel like BMO is just re-hashing Bill Johnson’s teachings.  To me this is very sad. “
     
    Actually, I haven’t re-hashed any of Johnson’s teachings – I arrived at these conclusions separate from Johnson.  I simply showed through Scripture that healing the sick and raising the dead is what disciples of Jesus do then tied it into the article since that is what Bethel is trying to do.  If you take issue with this, then please use Scripture to challenge my statement.  I am actually highly interested in this and would love to see your take using clear verses of Scripture.
     
    I see your other points, but I think many hinge on this.  If you can use Scripture and prove to me that what Jesus said regarding His disciples doesn’t apply today, then I think we’ve got a good starting point for a discussion.
     
    I think you’ll find that many of the assumptions we have regarding the other side, we ourselves carry.  For example, when we accuse them of ignoring context, what we mean is, they are ignoring the context that we believe applies to the passage.  And who is to say that our version of context is the correct version?  Or that God even meant for us to filter His Word through our understanding of context?
     
    Or when we say they are trying to model Jesus too literally, we ignore verses that command us to be imitators of God (Jesus is God) or we ignore the fact that many of us at one point wore “What Would Jesus Do” bracelets signaling our own desire to be like Christ.  And what would Jesus do in this area of outreach?  He would heal the sick, raise the dead, and proclaim that the Kingdom is at hand.
     
    Again, thank you all for your valuable input.  I definitely appreciate your zeal for the truth!  Would that the Body at large carried the same passion for the Word.
     

  21. Bruce Cooper Says:

    BMO – here is a link that I would strongly recommend you seriously consider:

    https://wesleygospel.com/2016/08/27/bethel-church-the-popular-charismatic-cult-john-boruff/

    Regards

    Bruce

  22. arnold smith Says:

    I don’t want to keep going back and forth about Bill Johnson. I was a follower of his ministry for several years…..not missing any of his posted podcasts……and going to a conference he was at…..and reading several of his books.

    There are many issues concerning him and his church. But one essential doctrine is that he teaches Jesus needed to be born again which is an implication he was not sinless. I know he snakes his way around with his terminology when explaining it but anyone can be left at the end of it all that Jesus was not sinless.

    This isn’t the only issue but it is one big one.

    Honestly I don’t sense you really want to see but i hope I am wrong about that. Examine your beliefs just as I have and you should come out of this mess.

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