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What’s being missed with the ‘waking’ of Olive at Bethel Church, Redding

The story out of Bethel Church in Redding, California, this past week — following the sudden death of two-year-old Olive Heiligenthal — is tragic. The hearts of people across the nation have gone out to her parents in compassion — not just because they lost a child, but also because of the false hope they’ve clung to that their little girl would come back to life.

Many news sources have already reported on this story. But I want to point out what has been missed. In their coverage of the fiasco, reporters have noted that the parents’ church, Bethel Church, has rallied around the parents’ prayers for a resurrection — calling for people across the globe to join them in those prayers. But what Bethel Church has been engaged in, since Olive Heiligenthal died on Saturday, is not prayer. They’ve actually been making “declarations.” There’s a big difference.

Prayer vs. Declarations

In the New Apostolic Reformation — the global movement that Bethel Church is part of — equivocation is common. By equivocation, I mean that leaders in the movement often call two different things by the same name. The result is ambiguity that allows them to promote non-biblical teachings while cloaking those teachings in biblical terminology.

Case in point: Consider Bethel Church’s use of the word “prayer.” Historically, prayer has been understood by Christians as making petitions or requests of God to do such-and-such a thing. That’s how prayer is taught in the Bible. And that’s the understanding most people will have of the word prayer when they read articles stating that Bethel Church is “praying for a resurrection.”

But when Bethel Church uses the word “prayer,” they often mean something very different. They’re generally not requesting or asking God to do such-and-such a thing, such as asking Him to resurrect Olive Heiligenthal. Rather, they’re often referring to the making of “prayer declarations,” or just “declarations,” for short. So, what is a declaration?

A declaration is making verbal affirmations that allegedly release God’s power to create a desired reality. In much the way God spoke and brought the world into existence, believers today – who are created in the image of God –  also have the power to bring things into existence through their spoken words, according to Bethel teachings. Declarations are seen to be more effective than traditional prayer because they don’t ask God to do something He has already authorized believers to do themselves. These teachings about declarations can be found in Bethel “apostle” Bill Johnson’s books, including When Heaven Invades Earth. Yet they’re not supported by Scripture. Rather, they’re in line with the teachings of Word of Faith movement leaders such as Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland.

Yet the uninitiated missed the fact that what Bethel has been calling for is not actually prayer as it is normally understood. Instead they’ve been calling for declarations. Here’s the call the church issued on their Facebook page, December 15.

Our God is the God of miracles, and nothing is impossible for Him! We are asking you, our global church family, to join with us in prayer and in declaring life and resurrection over @kalleyheili and @apheiligenthal’s daughter, Olive Alayne!  (emphasis mine)

The phrase “declaring life and resurrection over … Olive” was lost on the media as well as many mainstream Christians. Yet Bethel’s call for declarations wasn’t lost on the insiders, i.e., those who hold to Bethel teachings. This can be seen in the nearly 3,000 comments posted on the church’s Facebook page, in response to the call. Notice the many Bethel followers who used the words “declare” or “declaring,” such as this comment posted by a Rick Davis: “Praying, and declaring resurrection Life for Olive … Little Olive, arise, in Jesus’s name!” And here is a similar comment from Susie Mehlig: “Father in Jesus name we decree and declare Spirit of life come back into Olive!” (emphasis mine).

And this video shows Olive Heiligenthal’s parents, Kalley and Andrew, on stage at Bethel Church leading congregants in the singing of a declaration: “Olive, come out of that grave. Come out of that grave, in Jesus’ name.”

Even the hashtag that has gone viral, #wakeupolive, reflects the language of declaration, not petitionary prayer.

Equivocation of ‘Prayer’ to Downplay Bethel’s Failure

Bill Johnson has employed this equivocation in an apparent attempt to downplay the church’s failure to resurrect Olive Heiligenthal. Notice, in his official statement to the media, he suggests that the only things Bethel Church has been doing at their meetings this past week is taking part in “singing and prayer.” Here’s what Johnson said:

“Since that night, and at the continued request of the Heiligenthal family, Bethel Church has hosted prayer and worship gatherings which consist of singing and prayer (this is the first-ever public gathering of prayer for resurrection that Bethel has hosted).”

Prayer and worship gatherings. He makes it sound as if the church has been engaged in merely an old-fashioned prayer meeting. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Yet why would Johnson downplay the main activity — making declarations — taking place at the Bethel Church meetings this week? Could it be because, despite the thousands of declarations that have been made on Olive Heiligenthal’s behalf for five days, her lifeless body still lies at the morgue? This is certainly tragic — but even more so because so many of Johnson’s followers have doubled down and refused to admit what’s obvious to everyone else — they have a broken theology.

And here’s the kicker. The failure of the church’s declarations suggests something bigger than failure to raise one little girl. It suggests that Bethel Church’s entire paradigm — of bringing heaven (or God’s physical Kingdom) to earth through spoken declarations — is also based on false hope.

About the Author

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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46 Responses to “What’s being missed with the ‘waking’ of Olive at Bethel Church, Redding”

  1. RebeccaLynn Says:

    I declare this is all completely infuriating! What I hope and pray is that like God DOES say, He will use this for the good of those who truly love Him and are seeking His purpose, and that Bethel’s heresies will be exposed like never before. I also hope and pray these poor parents will be saved from this false hope and find peace through a true and right relationship with Christ. #wakeupchurch

  2. Jessica Says:

    Excellent article!! This is spot on! I saw some of the video footage of this tragic state of affairs and I was horrified to see what appeared to be people commanding God to do what they want. So unbiblical and blasphemous! Their declarations were very repetitive too, something Jesus taught us specifically to avoid in our prayers (Matthew 6:7). Sadly, their emotional frenzy appeared more similar to the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:25–39 than to any NT account of Jesus or one of his disciples raising someone from the dead. It seems to all be rooted in this unbiblical theology that God has placed Christians in charge and we are to take authority instead of God. It doesn’t seem to be working so well. In his loving sovereignty, God will continue to expose this heresy and rescue his people from it.

  3. Bridget Machida Says:

    I was once praying in this way. It was so discouraging. I think the acceptance of death is a growth in the Christian life. Why did they want her to live? To glorify God, or for selfish reasons? I don’t know the whole story. Yes, there are miracles, I have seen them. But we can’t declare to God and make him move.

  4. Lana Arndt Says:

    Such a heartbreaking story, but so important to address the theology behind these gatherings. Thank you for speaking about this in a compassionate, buy truthful way.

  5. Lisa Says:

    Great article and appreciate the connection to “Physics of Heaven”. So many Christians are unaware of. This false theory and embrace their music think we are all in the same page. I also appreciate what you said about the equivocation with Bill Johnson, twisting scriptures, camouflaging bad theology and deceiving many.
    I pray the church would wake up and separate themselves from Bethel and even Hillsong. I pray these parents will find the true Christ through this.

  6. Sharl Says:

    Your article is well balanced. I was caught up in a church that was strongly advocating NAR teachings (in South Africa). I remember an incident in which a request for ‘prayer’ came to the congregants through the leadership. I don’t recall the specifics, but it was something along the lines of a young father dying in a car accident having recently married a widow having 2 small children. The tragedy is similar to what happened to the family in your article. How was this mother and young children who have grown to love this man going to cope? The idea of a 2nd widowhood and small children bereaved of a father for the 2nd time was beyond grief.
    The congregants started to intercede, led by leadership declaring life over the microphone. The example of declaration was modeled as the only model of true ‘Faith’. We declared and declared and carried on for 2 week declaring, but nothing happened.
    The confusion that this brings to the hearts of the church is immeasurable. Jesus said the enemy came to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come to bring life. This is often used as scripture foundation for declaring what Christ had said.
    I have seen ‘Declaration’ used concerning the victory and healing Christ has paid for (example – a cancer patient standing on the covenant promise of healing through the blood of Christ, declaring healing to the cancer ridden body). This is declaring in a situation of hope, however small it might be and then there is the declaration of resurrection which is outside the scope of hope.
    Now the danger exists that the ‘cessationists’ are indeed correct and that the gifts of the Spirit, which includes healing and miracles are no longer functioning and that if you should witness a healing or miracle that it could be false because of the great apostasy of our age. I believe the gifts still function but nowhere in the lime-light, rather in the persecuted and poor churches away from western influence.

  7. Austin Says:

    This is a tragic situation no doubt, and it reminds me of a situation on the Gold Coast south of Brisbane years ago, when a hyperfaith church prayed for a young child who had a serious illness. The parents took the child off their medication as a “step of faith” and the child ended up dying, but the church took no responsibility for that tragic outcome.

    I believe in miracles too, but there’s a difference between faith and presumption. I just hope that the parents will put their faith in God and not man, or the doctrines of men and find peace and closure.

    Too many people have had their fingers burnt by hyperfaith and now the NAR, let’s hope that many will walk away from the false prophets who claim to be God’s agents in these matters and find good churches who base their faith on sound doctrine and not the sinking sands of false and experiential teaching.

    Signs and wonders follow the genuine word of God as it is preached, but with these false end times movements we have a lot of people following the “signs” around, but with virtually no competent word or true gospel message being preached. What would people expect to come from that?

    Austin Hellier Downunder…

  8. Joseph Says:

    In fact, yes there is a difference between prayer and declarations.But didn’t Jesus and the disciples you’s both prayer and declarations?

    When Jesus raised Lazarus and the little girl Tabitha didn’t he declared or did he pray?

    Let us be careful in exposing the truths, although I get the point and believe that declarations are void if it’s not intended by God just as like our prayers must be aprouved by God.

    Many prayers are not answered because there not approved by God.

  9. Paula Southworth Says:

    Heart braking story. Thank you for posting this. Their theology is destroying families.

  10. Circuit Rider Says:

    This story is utterly heartbreaking and not just because of the immediate circumstance. Either Bethel’s leadership is (ab)using this tragedy as a publicity stunt or they are being (mis)led by lying spirits.

    I do not believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased with the apostles; they are distributed today according to God’s will for His church. I have witnessed miracles over the years and God has chosen to use me as an instrument to bring Him glory. If the Holy Spirit would lead me to call someone from their deathbed, I believe I would do it – because I believe our God is able. The problem is that I do not believe the Bethelites are hearing from God.

    If you examine the scriptures, Jesus did not do anything in the supernatural realm unless first revealed to Him by the Father (John 5:19). This helps explain the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda. What do I mean by that? Have you ever considered how many of the “multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame and withered” Jesus must have passed by, maybe even stepped over, to reach that one man? Why would He have done that? Read the Bible and you will understand.

    Sometimes submission to God’s will takes us to uncomfortable places. I recently joined others in praying for a young lady who suffered unimaginable tragedy and was in a coma for several weeks. Three days before she passed, I felt a peace and stopped praying for her recovery.
    Some would say I lack faith and just needed to believe. I disagree.
    Her body may have remained, but I later learned the doctors discovered her non-autonomic brain activity had ceased that day. I believe God called her home.

    It’s difficult when things like this happen, but during these times I pray that God strengthen my resolve to trust in Him alone.

  11. pam campisi Says:

    knowing the agony of losing a child I so understand the cry to bring this precious little girl back to life here this side of glory..When my son died I asked God to restore him to life as well HOWEVER i did not declare it or believe it was within my power or will but rested in the sovereign hand of my Lord . grieved at such a display of nonsense in light of this grievous tragedy.

  12. Mike Lightsey Says:

    I read an article where Bill Johnson said not to do what in says in James 5 about calling the elders and anointing with oil to heal the sick, instead speak to the sickness. This is not surprising when you see how they reinterpret scripture to fit their own theological beliefs. It’s like God is at odds with his own word.

  13. Darla Says:

    Thanks Holly for your insight into the “equivocation” fallacy. I have also heard Bethel/NAR use of terms expressed as “duplicitous” which qualifies this as being deceptive. Bill J is a master of the use of duplicitous terms.
    I would add that this is a tragic situation resulting from Bethel’s duplicitous teaching of “gospel.” Their gospel is the “Gospel of Power.” (Actually, the have two, also, the Gospel of the Kingdom.) And, the false Gospel of Power requires a false Jesus, Bill’s hyper-kenosis Jesus. Teachings based on faulty interpretation of John 14:12, Phil 2:5-7, teaching that resurrections are normative for “anointed” “activated” Christians. What Bill teaches is simply not working. His words are particularly grievous now.
    “Jesus became the model for all who would embrace the invitation to invade the impossible in His name. He performed miracles, wonders, and signs, as a man in right relationship to God … not as God. If He performed miracles because He was God, then they would be unattainable for us. But if He did them as a man, I am responsible to pursue His lifestyle. Recapturing this simple truth changes everything… and makes possible a full restoration of the ministry of Jesus in His Church.” When Heaven Invades Earth 28

    “It does not impress God to ignore what He promised under the guise of honoring the work of Jesus on the earth. Jesus’ statement is not that hard to understand. Greater means “greater.” And the works He referred to are signs and wonders. It will not be a disservice to Him to have a generation obey Him, and go beyond His own high-watermark. He showed us what one person could do who has the Spirit without measure. What could millions do?” When Heaven Invades Earth 176-177

  14. Paul K Says:

    Bill Johnson and the leaders at Bethel teach people to use the language of authority (ie, declarations and commands) without ever asking if people have actually been given this authority by God. For example, when Peter went to Dorcas’ house, the people there honored his apostolic authority – they knew he had been given special apostolic authority by Christ. That’s why he’s allowed alone into Dorcas’ room. He prays, understands God’s will in the situation, understands and is certain of the authority given to him by Christ, and commands Dorcas to get up – which she does. This is a display of the authority given to him by Christ – the power and right to command a dead women to live. It’s a delegated authority – Peter didn’t earn it; it was given to him. He didn’t have unlimited authority but was under the constraints placed on him by Christ; this is why he prays. No one at Bethel, or anywhere, has been granted the authority to raise people from the dead. These sad people in such a tragic time are like the sons of Sceva, copying the language of authority but without any actual authority. They can ask and petition God for a resurrection but God has already made his will clear – the girl will go to be with him. Such a sad and tragic confusion Bill Johnson and others like him have cast over so many.

  15. Mark Says:

    Dead-Raising Parties Never End Well—Another True Story

    Over a decade ago, our church of 200+ in central Oregon splintered when several prominent women and couples began flocking to Bethel to “get the stuff” and bring it to our town. The women, in particular, first began “coaching” our pastor in Bethel theology, praying that he would “get the stuff.”

    One of the most controversial episodes at our once-thriving church was when a couple lost their son in a tragic drowning accident. He was a promising college student. The family planned an elaborate “resurrection party” at the church, and the mother invited only those women who would stand and believe with her for the resurrection of her son, whose body was in the coffin in the sanctuary. The teenage sister of the deceased had painted a big banner with the words, “Welcome Back!” with her brother’s name on it. It was going to be a grand celebration.

    There was at least a full day of prayer & worship over the young man’s dead body, which had already been embalmed. The family’s hope was based in Bethel theology, the product of Latter-Rain Pentacostalism and “River Revival” prophetic movement gone wild. But the “dead-raising” event did not end as planned. The entire community mourned. The memorial service filled the entire high school gymnasium, while the mother still looked expectantly at the coffin for its lid to raise. The son was subsequently buried in a family-only ceremony.

    In subsequent years, the devastated parents divorced. Their other children grew into depressed, defeated young adults. A once tight-knit, Christ-worshipping family was splintered, and lost their faith. As far as I know, none have recovered from chronic depression to serve Jesus again.

    This is the fruit of Bethel.

    My wife and I had been members of this church for several years, the last two as Bible study leaders. We began sharing discernment research concerning false teachings impacting the Charismatic Movement. We were especially concerned to find out the women’s ministry leader was using Bethel’s SOZO prayer in her counseling ministry. (SOZO is actually a branded form of “Theophostic Prayer” which is dangerous, unbiblical hypnotic regression) The women’s leader refused to look at our research. We were shocked when our pastor said, “I trust her implicitly.”

    We were subsequently asked to stop sharing discernment material in the congregation. We did the only biblical thing we could do. We respectfully resigned our membership. On the heels of this, we were actually “shunned” and asked not to invite any church members to our home for any reason.

    This is the fruit of Bethel.

    A few years later, during the so-called “Lakeland Revival” days, the same group of women (and their dutiful husbands) united against our former pastor when he began exhorting caution over aspects of the apostolic-prophetic movement. He ended up losing his church, his home, and ended up checking groceries in another state to raise a family of five.

    This is the fruit of Bethel.

    Finally, note that this latest dead-raising attempt at Bethel is defended by Bill Johnson, who also defended Todd Bentley, false prophet extraordinaire, from beginning to end—all while knowing he had sexual and substance abuse issues. That makes Johnson a false apostle and a false prophet. As other cults of Christianity demonstrate, the world can be full of loving, compassionate, caring people—who can still be tragically wrong when it comes to matters of faith and practice.

    By their fruits, ye shall know them.

  16. Mike H. Says:

    Holly, thank you for having the courage to speak out on, sadly, what Bethel Church has decided to do in response to the tragic passing of Olive Heiligenthal. To me, there is NOTHING as humanly painful as the loss of a child. I answered the phone call when the doctor had to tell my mom that her daughter, my sister, had died after being in a coma for several days. I heard the cry of my mom, “God please take care of my baby.” I was there.

    For over 17 years, I was heavily involved in a “ministry” similar to Bethel. When I trusted in Christ for salvation many years ago I didn’t know the Bible and came into a church that had much doctrinal error along with abusive leadership, and no, I’m not a victim. Thank God they still preached the Gospel though and I also thank God He delivered me from the bad stuff. Some of the roots of what I was involved in are part of Bethel and other places that operate like them. I know a lot of the ins and outs of what they are doing.

    I watched the video and it made me cry. Heartbroken for the Heiligenthal family, heartbroken for the tragic things that I see being done in so many churches. For whoever reads this, please remember to pray for the Heiligenthal family, Bill Johnson, Bethel Church. Thank you.

  17. beth hargreaves Says:

    I would never entertain such stuff.. but I am well aware that GOD does raise the dead .. that is part of what GOD has shown me in my life. But this that “Bethel” does is not GOD’s WAY/
    Bethuel

  18. KJB Says:

    I lost my wife to this stuff. Holly’s post above is very accurate. The difference between praying and declaring is very subtle at first. So subtle, the mainstream media doesn’t pick it up. But when it gets walked out, that’s when the difference really start to amplify.

    And that’s the issue with Bethel. So many of their teachings are just like this and the problem is they start to compound error upon error. Healings, miracles, voice, visions, dreams, all this stuff….I will add this. What Bethel seduces people with is power and control….ie the power to control your own reality. All while telling you that you are amazing and superior.

  19. Tamra Says:

    Thank you for this important clarification, Holly.

    I also noticed that there was an equivocation (or misunderstanding for some) regarding the word resurrection. Contrary to most people’s (mis)understanding, there is only one account of resurrection in the Bible. There are accounts of people being raised from the dead, resuscitation, reanimation, but these are not resurrections. Lazarus was raised in his same, mortal body. He was healed, alive, but he died again. He was not resurrected. Resurrection is putting on a new, glorified body that will never die. Only Jesus has been resurrected. We will be resurrected (John 5:28-29), but not until the last day. Praying for a little girl to be resurrected is praying that she will be raised into a new glorified body, never to die again. Is God going to resurrect Olive? Yes. But not now. It’s concerning that so many people are prepared to pray for something they don’t even seem to understand.

    I also can’t help but notice how many “prayers” have been directed to Olive herself, not God. Even the chorus they took up, “Olive, come out of that grave, come out of that grave in Jesus’ Name,” is neither prayer nor praise to God. Some of the posts I’ve read have seemed more like prayers to Olive, asking her to rise, asking her to move.

    And even now that they are moving forward with funeral arrangements there is still no repentance, no admission of error. Those who declared that she would be raised are now declaring God’s plan was for revival and the “resurrection” of the church. This cognitive dissonance is praised as faith. Consider, “As the Bible testifies, God is the God of the reasonable & possible, as well as the God of the unreasonable & impossible,” (from Bethel music’s 12/20 update). We do not worship Chaos, but Logos. Miracles are not unreasonable, God is not unreasonable. Speaking for God out of turn and expecting no repercussions is unreasonable.

    I know what it feels like to pray for someone to live and not see it happen. I can only imagine the heartache of losing a child. I pray the family can find peace in the truth of who God is.

  20. Peter Says:

    This is Bethel leadership failure at its worst. We all know they wanted to believe they have the power to have made the resurrection a success but could not openly state that is what they think or believe, because they aren’t really sure of their own teachings. Rather, they presented it as something done at the parents’ instigation. What I see is the pastors’/prophets’ failure to correctly advise the couple to take heart in this, their tragic loss and have the hope that their daughter will be resurrected on judgment day when the resurrection Jesus promised will occur and to, for now, proceed with funeral arrangements. Are Bethel trying to tell us they will just jump on the wagon of whatever a congregant suggests despite them being supposed to be the gatekeepers for the same congregants against heresies and devourers?

    What of their insult on God? There will be many freely vocalizing this as a failure by God Himself not just these impostors only. Is this not an opportunity handed to non-Christians to say the Christian God is not as powerful as Christians claim? Even for some ‘christians’ to view this as a battle which God has lost to the devil? (Even though we know satan is not in any a place to fight God who created him?) Does that not cause fear in the hearts of some Christians who have not come to the full knowledge of God?

  21. Stacey Says:

    I am saddened that YOU people have taken a families experience and turned it into an article to debate and judge what you feel is truth. I have no doubt that God will defend the sincerity of a mom and dad’s heart cry and respond to them in his on way. I’m reminded at how Christ was mocked, spit on and his truth (except he IS TRUTH) was rejected all because people carnally minded didn’t see what was happening. May we all surrender to Christ our Heavenly Father, get outside the walls of judgement and doctrine of various kinds and let God be God in our lives. He knows no limits, no bounds. He’s God. He can be trusted. Truths will be revealed and may it be received. Shame on you all. Not the time for things like this to be initiated. May his mercy continue upon us all.

  22. Circuit Rider Says:

    @Stacey, I think some people view all discernment ministries as a bunch of bitter busybodies who have nothing better to do than cast stones at others. To the contrary, I have not read a single comment attacking the parents for believing God can physically raise their child from the dead. It is the false method, taught by Bethel Redding leadership, of which people like Holly are trying to warn the church. As for the timing, you would have to ask Bethel Redding – they are the ones who turned this tragedy into a media circus.

    We talk about right doctrine because it separates Christianity of the Bible from what is happening at Bethel Redding. Whether or not we completely trust God and submit to His perfect will, as Jesus modeled during His ministry, is at the core of our faith.

    Pray that God would guard your heart and see for yourself how this unfolded last Sunday: https://youtu.be/ER6vNMf-nwU?t=3024

    David Funk says: “We’re not praying if it be Thy will, God, we’re saying this is the will of God.” Since this proclamation did not come to pass, must he now call God a liar? It is more likely he was speaking for God without hearing from God, a clear mark of a false prophet.

    May God forgive and have mercy on him if that is the case.

  23. Matthew Paterson Says:

    Thank you for this.
    More people need to understand the dangers of Bethel and their theology.

    Bethel have been deleting critical or negative comments on the whole situation, across all their media platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram). The result is that it looks like all Christians agree with them.

    That’s precisely why we need articles like this.

    Thank you.

  24. KJB Says:

    @Stacey,

    No one here is attacking the family. A lot of us are questioning what they are doing, because they are probably deceiving themselves and worse, they are deceiving others. We can’t raise people from the dead. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Just because you may want that to be true doesn’t make it true. Author Wade Mullen, who writes about abuse within evangelical institutions, cautioned that attempted resurrections are often associated with cults.

    But that’s exactly what Bethel teaches its followers. People that disagrees with Bethel teachings are ATTACKING you, attacking Bethel, and attacking God. They teach people to distort other views as attacks and then go right to the victim/martyr card. They teach people that its ok to be overly-emotional and to use black and white emotionally-charged language where there is no middle ground, there is no grey area, there is no room for debate, discussion, or disagreement. And why is all of this justified? Because from the very beginning, they have taught you that you are a more extraordinary Christian, more special, more gifted, for believing BETHEL’S TEACHINGS.

    They are experts at teaching people how to stay in DENIAL…which is usually not a good place for ANYONE to be in. Furthermore, I would really like to know where the GoFund me $$$ is going. Like any other questionable organization, follow the money…

  25. Janie Fowler Says:

    Excellent article. God always has the power to veto our declarations. I personally only declare His goodness and sovereignty. I humbly ask for the rest. I pray God uses this to shed light on this practice of word faith.

  26. Liz Says:

    I so hope that this family does some searching of the Scriptures and discovers how false the teaching at Bethel is.

  27. Amanda Says:

    Question
    Without commenting on Bethel’s theology, does anyone here believe that God is actually able to do the impossible? It’s one thing to point the finger at others but if we think we understand God’s ways then we only fool ourselves in learning on our own understanding. I believe God can raise Olive for the grave if that is His will.

  28. Circuit Rider Says:

    @Amanda, yes, I do believe God can raise from the dead and said something about that here: http://www.spiritoferror.org/2019/12/whats-being-missed-with-the-waking-of-olive-at-bethel-church-redding/8840#comment-159306

    We need to talk about “death” for a second. Man’s understanding of the human body has led to several requirements for declaring clinical, brain, and legal death. In the United States, the specific definitions of death even vary from state to state. For sake of this discussion, let’s settle on cessation of cardiopulmonary function as our definition.

    I personally know someone who suffered sudden cardiac arrest and was dead for several minutes, past the point of no return. His child laid hands on his body, cried out to God, and the man’s heart began beating again. He spent time in the hospital and therapy, but is now fully recovered and shares his testimony.

    Without straining my brain, I can think of half a dozen people who fully recovered from what doctors considered their deathbed – asked the family to rush to say goodbye, because their loved one would not survive much longer. Aortic dissections, cerebral hemorrhage, uncontrolled internal bleeding, and more. They are either alive today or God gave them another 10-15 years of life to bring glory to Him.

    I agree with part of what @KJB says: we cannot, in ourselves, choose to raise the dead. If we could, we should rush to every children’s hospital and emergency room to begin sharing this gift (to paraphrase some Reformed/cessationist brothers). That would be the logical and right thing to do if God’s miracles worked that way.

    God’s will is not always our will, but it is our responsibility as faithful children to align our will to His.

  29. Tyrone Flanagan Says:

    Making prayer declarations and decrees assumes that what you are asking
    for is the will of God. Unfortunately, decreeing that someone will rise
    from the dead is very rare in church history almost always is not God’s will in the situation. The church in Redding has been making prayer decrees and declarations of prosperity and kingdom come over the Redding area for years and last year a disasterous fire devastated the local area and reportedly a number of their church staff members were burned out of their homes. Thankfully, nobody was injured or killed. When will the folks at Bethel get the message that making prayer decrees and declarations is tantamount to putting us on the throne instead of God? The psalms say that, “God is in heaven and He does as He pleases”,and we cannot make God do something that He does not want to do. I believe that little baby Olive will grow up in heaven for a life and ministry that we can only imagine now. I don’t criticize Olive’s parents for asking for a
    resurrection, but may the Lord greatly bless them in their grieving and give them a great insight into God’s ways and purpose in all of this.

  30. Gail Says:

    Where is repentance and fear of the Lord? We had a 34 yr old drop dead never sick fours hours away in 2o15.

    We went to prayer after a call from his mother in law. We did not know him. A word of knowledge that he did not honor his parents..we repented and renounced for this sin asked forgiveness…that the spirit of death leave him in Jesus’s name.
    It takes a very long time in Canada for an ambulance…his wife did not know cpr…he was revived after 20 minutes in the hospital…they said he would be a vegetable…he is normal and alive! God raised him…the legal right of the enemy was removed…what we didnt know was his father was heavy in occult…very heavy…

    Honor your parents…you can honor that they gave you birth..did not abort you…if there is nothing else to honor.

  31. KJB Says:

    @Amanda…Of course if anyone can do the impossible, it is God. But is seems in the case raising the dead, He chooses NOT to do it over and over again. Why do you think that is? I think its less about what is possible, and more about what is promised. Can God physically heal? Sure. Is physical healing promised. No. Every spiritual compass needs a “butt” end, and I guess I can go in the opposite direction of Bill Johnson with a quiet conscious.

    I understand that faith sometimes requires that we disallow or suspend reality for a time. But I also believe there is a line so far out of reality that to cross it in “faith” is actually harmful. There is a big difference between having a stroke, drowning for 30 seconds, or having one’s heart stop for a minute or so….and having no brain activity, being declared dead and laying in the morgue for 3 days. The first set of instances can be overcome, but not the second. Cut off blood or oxygen to the brain for more than 6 minutes and it’s basically game over. That’s less about faith and more about reality. We don’t overcome brain death…maybe someday but not today.

    Lastly, if you use miracles to try and convert people to faith, I don’t feel it’s genuine. All it does is make them want MORE miracles.

  32. Circuit Rider Says:

    @KJB, I understand (and mostly agree with) your concerns but I want to ask about this statement: “That’s less about faith and more about reality.”

    Do you believe God speaks to His people today, or that He ceased revealing Himself after the death of the Apostle Paul?

    When you examine verses like Heb 11:1 in context, you begin to understand that faith (πίστις) is what motivates us to do and believe in obedience to God’s will. The early church to and for whom Hebrews was written was undergoing severe persecution: imprisonment, property loss, and even death. The author was encouraging them, not in a superficial way, but through the Holy Spirit, to continue seeking God’s will and to have the strength to persevere – even when it meant their physical death.

    Bethel erred in at least one major area: they *declared* to God what His will was, instead of *seeking* His will and having *faith* that He would accomplish it. See the difference? One is focused on man’s desires, the other on God’s desires. One is Biblical and the other is not.

  33. Ken W Fredrick Says:

    MercyMe has a song I like because the lyrics teach us to be faithful even when it seems God is doing something different. To Olive’s parents: it is OK to grieve. You will see her again on resurrection morning. Here is the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6fA35Ved-Y

  34. Headless Unicorn Guy Says:

    “A declaration is making verbal affirmations that allegedly release God’s power to create a desired reality. In much the way God spoke and brought the world into existence, believers today – who are created in the image of God – also have the power to bring things into existence through their spoken words, according to Bethel teachings.”

    In other words,
    “ABRACADABRA!” = slurred Aramaic for “I Speak And IT IS SO!”

    Or (from the movie Excalibur):
    “The Charm of Making” (bringing things into existence)

    Or (from the Weird Tales fiction of Seabury Quinn and Manly Wade Wellman):
    “Let the Sorcerer speak the incantations to bind the spirits to the will of and carry out the desires of the Sorcerer…”

  35. Andrew Says:

    If only they’d got their terminology right, that little girl would be alive again. How could they be so sloppy?

    It just goes to show that none of this stuff – none of it – makes any sense at all.

  36. KJB Says:

    @Circuit Rider, it doesn’t really matter if/how/when/where God speaks to us today. The point is, we don’t come back from brain death. One may believe or have faith otherwise, but it doesn’t change the reality that we don’t come back from that. But this is just one (of several) DENIALS Bethel encourages people to participate in. I have watched it first hand with my own partner and it is very harmful.

  37. Circuit Rider Says:

    @KJB, thank you for the explanation. We disagree on the topic of God’s sovereignty in our lives (or deaths) and I respect your reasons for taking that position. Only God can change your opinion and I leave that up to Him.

    I can only encourage you to not lump every Christian into the Bethel lunacy based on personal experience. My mother in-law tragically passed years ago in her early 50’s from terminal cancer. Friends of hers were “declaring” and “prophesying” her total healing and we found it just as disturbing as you might – especially since God had given us peace about what would be the final outcome. Even more disturbing were these same people conveying messages and paintings from her after she passed. They so traumatized my wife and her sister that we had to cut them off. We forgive them for their error, hope for reconciliation, but not as long as they persist in a clearly demonic practice.

    My point is that one can genuinely believe in the continuing gifts of the Holy Spirit and stand just as firmly opposed to what goes on at Bethel. Even though I do not completely agree on all doctrine, John Piper has several videos on the Biblical approach to the gifts.

  38. KJB Says:

    @Circuit Rider

    I agree on not lumping every Christian into Bethel…And I have also had a similar experience with inappropriate “declaring” and “prophesying” over people with terminal illnesses. The people who do that do not understand how creepy it can be to others.

    I don’t believe in the continuation of sign gifts, but allow for others to believe that. But for me, it crosses a line when gifts cease to be gifts and become commodities that can be purchased for $6000/year at some school.

    I guess I look at the situation less from a demonic perspective, and more from a psychological perspective. I cannot emphasize enough the level of denial that exists at places like Bethel that teach people that believe in diving healing. It takes a lot of denial to believe it is ALWAYS God’s will to be healed physically. And it takes even more denial to continue to believe that to be true time and time again when our loved ones pass away.

  39. Circuit Rider Says:

    @KJB,

    Completely agree regarding the gifts as a commodity. Sadly, I witnessed it myself at AG kids/youth camps prior to Toronto and Brownsville – the “teaching” of speaking in tongues to children half my age. It sickened my spirit (and, no doubt, the Holy Spirit).

    I often use this alliteration with regards to BSSM: the gifts cannot be taught; they cannot be bought; but they can always be sought (1 Cor 12:31). Feel free to borrow if you wish 🙂

  40. Tyrone Flanagan Says:

    Dear everydody, Bethel church and the WOF movement use the text of Job22:28
    to build their doctrine of making faith decrees or declarations to
    activate healings. The text says, “You shall decree a thing, and it will
    be established for you”. Unfortunately for the WOF,the man who gave this
    advice to Job, Ephilaz the Temanite,was rebuked by the Lord in Job42:7 for
    not speaking rightly for the Lord. Job had to pray for him and his two
    friends and make a sacrifice for their folly! I always cringe when I hear someone make a faith declaration because I know that in many
    cases it is spiritually presumptuous.

  41. Marion Says:

    Hi Holly,
    Very sad story indeed.
    Thank you for educating people on what false doctrine looks like.

  42. Susana Bellido Says:

    Holly. Good in some aspects but Jesus did tell his disciples eg. at the end of Mark to heal the sick raise, the dead etc. Do you do anything else apart from pointing out the wrong all these people are doing?Who/what churches in your analysis are doing what Jesus commanded including living lives of integrity that Jesus lived?

  43. Holly Says:

    Susana, the verses you referenced, in Mark 16, were most likely not part of the original manuscripts. Take a close look at your Bible and you will likely see a note indicating that Mark 16:9-19 cannot be found in some of the oldest and most reliable Greek manuscripts. Many scholars think those verses were added later and therefore are not part of inspired Scripture. So, it is not best to point to those verses in support of any doctrine.

  44. mark scott Says:

    Did anyone ask the Father or try to find out God’s mind in all this? If the child went to heaven why be selfish and try to conjure them back to this world. The reason why all the prayer meetings and begging God to resurrect the child perhaps didn’t work is because they were not acting in simple faith or authority. After all someone who takes 90 minutes to explain something that is written in scripture puts their logic above scripture. So, I see label after label on facebook that is being quoting a soundbite from Bethel but no scripture. Perhaps they should go back to the red letter of Jesus and post that. I am not here to argue whether healing is in the atonement but to make a point that the words of BIll, Chris are held in more esteem by many Charismatics than what Jesus said and that is a problem

  45. Circuit Rider Says:

    Mark, the question of God’s will is at the heart of this tragedy. Instead of seeking God’s will (1 John 5:14-15), the Bethel leadership and many others declared Olive’s raising, seeking to force God’s hand through works.

    I agree with much of what you say, but would offer that “many” if not “most” Charismatics (Pentecostals that do not belong to a Pentecostal denomination) do not hold Bill Johnson or Chris Vallotten’s words above those of Jesus Christ. I study and follow a number of gifted pastors outside my local church, but I still recognize they are men who are fallible. Follow the advice of Paul – Be a Berean!

  46. Circuit Rider Says:

    Holly is far too modest to post something like this, but check out her recent interview with Doreen Virtue and Melissa Dougherty on the topic of NAR, primarily Bethel Redding: https://youtu.be/CIbAa3mcAto

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