A Charismatic megachurch caused national headlines after they announced a campaign to pray and raise money for a resurrection after the unexpected death of a 2-year old toddler in their congregation. The pastor, Bill Johnson has attempted to use the Biblical example of Jesus performing resurrections as his basis to plead with God for a miraculous intervention. While this may all seem noble and godly on the exterior, upon closer examination, this prayer plan came from a church that is filled heretical, unbiblical and even occult practices. And it is sad commentary on the lack of discernment of many well-meaning Christians today who are looking for churches based on sound Biblical doctrine.
#WakeupOlive – Bethel Church’s Prayer Campaign For A Resurrection
According to reports:
“Music echoed throughout the cavernous space as hundreds of congregants of a church in Redding, Calif., jumped up and down with their hands in the air. At the front of the room, a worship leader danced around a stage lined with lit Christmas trees as giant screens played the song’s lyrics.
“Come alive/ Come alive/ Come alive, dry bones/ Awake, arise/ Inhale the light”
The group was praying for 2-year-old Olive Heiligenthal, who Bethel Church says unexpectedly stopped breathing on Saturday. But the worshipers were not praying for her soul to find rest or for her family to be healed. They were asking God to raise her from the dead.
Kalley Heiligenthal, a worship leader at the church, and her husband, Andrew Heiligenthal, called 911 when they realized their daughter was not breathing, Bethel’s leadership said in a statement. First responders tried to revive Olive at her home and at the hospital, but the church said she was pronounced dead the same day. Her body was transferred to the Shasta County Coroner’s Office.
The church said its congregants believe in the miracle of resurrection, “which is modeled by Jesus in the New Testament of the Bible.” This is Bethel’s first public gathering of prayer for someone to return to life, according to a statement from the church’s leadership.” (source).
Bethel Church is a non-denominational charismatic church in Redding, CA. They have built a massive, global following through their mega-popular Christian contemporary music that is sung in thousands of churches all over the country every Sunday. They preach that the Holy Spirit has empowered them to prophesy and perform supernatural miracles, “signs and wonders” on a regular basis. However, there is a great deal of wildly unbiblical practices in this church.
Bill Johnson’s Many Heresies
Here is a video that breaks down some of the incorrect, unbiblical teachings of Bethel Church pastor Bill Johnson:
In stunning fashion, Johnson states that the Apostle Paul was preaching “another Gospel” because he stated that God permitted him to be ill with a “thorn in the flesh.” Let’s examine this passage in context:
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Note that Paul gave the specific reason for why he suffered the “thorn” – to keep him humble. Jesus personally appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, leading to his conversion to the Christian faith. Paul communed with God in Sinai. 13 of the books of the New Testament were written by him. He was given the power via the Holy Spirit to perform miracles. All these things could have led Paul to be full of himself – puffed up with pride that he was the special Apostle of Christ. But the thorn was a reminder to remain humble.
Also note that Paul said he prayed 3 times to be healed and God did not heal him. Why? God told him “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness .” God forgiving Paul for all of the sins in his life was enough consolation and furthermore, The Lord wanted Paul to lean on God in the moments he felt physically, emotionally or spiritually weak. This is when God demonstrates His strength: when we humbly cry out in affliction and paid for help from Him.
The fact that Christians will suffer in this life is taught all throughout Scripture. Jesus Christ said: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
Yet Bill Johnson stated in the above video that the notion that God would allow any Christian to suffer bad health was “another Gospel” – essentially labeling that passage from 2 Corinthians as heresy! This should give any Christian pause – a pastor is directly telling his Church that certain parts of Paul’s teachings are false. And that any teaching that agrees with it is false. In a ‘Signs and Wonders’ ministry believers are to command and demand their miracles and believe they are entitled to every healing, blessing and prosperous situation ever mentioned in the Bible. This is not sound teaching.
When Job, whom God called the most faitfhul man on Earth in his day, lost his home, wealth and children in a day. Let us examine his reaction:
“While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” – Job 1:13-22
This passage alone absolutely shatters the notion that we Christians should have an expectation of health, wealth, good looks and prosperity. Maybe we will have all those things, maybe not. As we live in this Earth, which is still under the curse of sin and death, nothing is promised to the Christian. Notice Job, whom God called the most faitful man on Earth, did not immediately demand a resurrection. He did not break into song to “manifest the Spirit” for supernatural power. He simply dropped to his knees and worshiped.
Job did not know why God allowed these things to happen but he trusted God had a great and mighty purpose in it. That is faith. It is trusting God when you do not know what is going to happen.
Can We Pray For Miracles?
There is no sin or shame in praying for God to perform a miraculous, supernatural act in your life. Even in praying for the dead to come to life, we see Biblical examples of Jesus doing this. However, there is great danger in following teachings from a pastor or church who do not follow or teach the Bible accurately. What Bethel Church has done is precisely what Johnson discusses in the video above: preaching “another Gospel.” His false teaching incorrectly states that if the healing does no happen – the fault is on the person praying, because they should have the power of signs and wonders. This not only can lead to massive disappointment and confusion for the congregation, it leads to great spiritual error.
Channeling Demonic Spirits – Bethel’s “Drunken” Church Services
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1
One of the principal teachings of Bethel Church is that they can make the Holy Spirit manifest at their church services and take control of the congregation. This is demonstrated through acting “drunk”- a term the church uses for when you start laughing uncontrollably and enter into wild, chaotic behavior and spasms. There is absolutely no Biblical example of this whatsoever in Scripture. You will never find any instance of a believer in God acting irrationally or intoxicated as a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
But that has not stopped the false teachers at Bethel Church from encouraging their thousands of followers from engaging in just this very thing. In the extremely disturbing video below, Heidi Baker and her husband Rolland, leaders in Bethel, summon what appear to be demonic forces all throughout the congregation:
The young man in the video (who Baker “laid hands on”) is writhing on the ground and screaming in sheer agony a mere 2-3 feet from Baker and she does not even pay him any mind. Clearly, this is what she wanted to happen. Beloved, this behavior is not of the Holy Spirit. At no point in the Bible does any person who is indwelled with the Holy Spirit of God, ever roll on the floor, enter into gyrations, scream wildly or exhibit any form of erratic behavior. This is critical to understand because there are many churches today who false teach that “drunken” behavior or falling out onto the ground, are signs of being “filled with the Holy Ghost.”
What we see in the video is much more in line with demonic possession:
“And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.” – Mark 5:1-5
Notice in the passage above, the man, possessed with numerous demons, was uncontrollable. He had to be chained and restrained because he was so violent and irrational in his actions and no man could “tame him.” All the while he was cutting himself and screaming. This is the result of demon possession in Scripture.
Once Jesus healed this man, the evidence of this miracle was from his very calm, normal behavior:
“Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed.” – Luke 8:35-36
This man had experienced the healing power of God Almighty. He had a direct encounter with the Divine and what was the reaction? Was he acting irrational and insane? No, he was now calm and “in his right mind.” The fact that his demeanor was so normal frightened onlookers who were used to his animalistic behavior when he was possessed by demonic spirits. Keeping this in mind, what spirit was indwelling the young man in the video above? The Holy Spirit? God forbid. Do not be deceived.
Here is a clip of Bethel teaching congregants to enter a “Tunnel Of Fire” in which their fans are allegedly catching “Holy Spirit Fire”:
Again, notice there is no preaching taking place. There is no place for the Bible to be taught. It is merely emotion, wild spirituality and experience. This is not how a church service should be run. There is no example of this in Scripture whatsoever. The Bible says:
“Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” – 1 Corinthians 14:29-33
The Lord is not “the author of confusion.” This is a difficult challenge – when a church appears to have the best intentions and motivations but are not following the Bible, they are no different than any secular, New Age or pagan belief system. Jesus Christ said: “… the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63). If a Church is not basing their beliefs or practices on what is sound, Biblical doctrine, then they do not have the Spirit – no matter what “manifestations” or spectacular behavior takes place.
Children Taught To “Release Spirits”
Again, we see Bethel Church engaging in unbiblical practices. Here there are teenagers teaching other children on how they can “release spirits”:
Promoting The Love Of Money
Kris Valotton, a leader in the church, has promoted the heretical “Prosperity Gospel” – the false teaching that if a person gives a great deal of money the pastors of a church God will give greater blessings. There is no Biblical basis for this teaching whatsoever and it is manipulative in that it pressures the congregation to give more money to the pastor as “evidence of their faith.” Here is a perfect example of how deceptive this teaching can be:
There are numerous errors in this very short clip. First off, the Valotton is describing the events of John 12:
“Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.” – John 12:1-8
Valotton says that Mary poured a “years’ worth of wages on Jesus” and as a result of this she received the revelation that “Jesus is the Christ and was raised from the dead.” As seen in the passage above, the Bible never states that because of her generous “giving” Mary received a “special revelation” or “extra revelation” from God. It’s just in the text at all. The reason Jesus points to for Mary’s act of worship was that it was a foreshadow of His death on the cross that would take place just days later. The oil Mary used was normally reserved for the dead as a part of the funeral and burial process.
Additionally, the Mary in this passage was the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus resurrected from the dead. This was not Mary Magdalene – the disciple of Jesus who was the first to see The Lord after His resurrection:
“The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him…
Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.” – John 20:1-2; 10-18
Notice it was Mary Magdalene, not Mary of Bethany who was the first to receive the revelation that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. Valloton is not even teaching the Bible accurately. But he can get away with this subtle deception because he is not actually reading the text – he is merely paraphrasing Biblical events in his own words.
Similarly, he says that Judas did not receive revelation because he was a thief and stingy. There is also nowhere in the Bible that states this. Yet Valotton creates this “principle” and concludes by stating “God gives back to you spiritual things when you sow natural things.” This may sound Biblical but it’s not in the Bible.
Micah 3 states:
“Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us. Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.” – Micah 3:9-12
This type of worldly, material-focused preaching is heresy. It is an example of “teaching for hire” the very thing that Micah rebuked the priests in ancient Israel for doing. Bethel’s School of “Supernatural Ministry” which Vallotton states: “We’re equipping a company of revivalists to transform the world” charges $5000 for admission. The church made $60M in income in 2018, of which over $20M was “tithes and offerings.”
Occult Practices At Bethel Church
Bethel drew controversy in early 2019 for using “destiny cards”, a set of cards with imagery and symbols used to “divine” someone’s future and give them a “reading.” Christalignment, the company that makes the cards, states this about their spiritual services:
“All Christalignment team members operate only out of the third heaven realm. That means we are all hearing from Christ spirit. This ensures safety for you and a way higher level of accuracy. … We have developed 7 sets in total of destiny cards which are so accurate, that even if your life circumstances change dramatically, on your return to do them again years later, you will find the results identical, such is their accuracy. They are able to give profound insight into relationships, careers and your spiritual life.”
Here is a clip of the Christalignment team giving readings at the Rainbow Serpent festival in Australia:
Notice the young girl admits to taking “2 hits of acid” before her reading. All the while the videographer from Christalignment tries to coax her into stating that she had Christian conversion. Does any of this seem like a young woman who heard the Gospel – that she is a sinner, guilty before God and sentenced to damnation and can only find forgiveness of her sins through faith in the shed blood of Christ Jesus on the cross? Does this seem like a person “in their right mind?”
The Bible strictly forbids any type of occult or New Age practices:
“There shall not be found among you anyone that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee.” – Deuteronomy 18:10-12
This is the danger of mixing Christianity with witchcraft. In a published statement, Bethel Church was adamant that they do not endorse using tarot cards. However, using cards to determine one’s future, whether you call them tarot or “Christalignment” is practicing divination – which is a sin. Furthermore, the way the Christalignment creators discuss Jesus themselves, is in a New Age fashion – not a Biblical one. By referring to the “Christ Spirit” they are “aligning” with the notion of a “Christ Consciousness” – the New Age notion that Jesus is a spiritual force that you can tap into, rather than the Son of God who died on the cross for your sins. Do not be deceived.
Following Jesus In The Age of The Celebrity Christian
In this era of social media, more and more Christian pastors, churches, bloggers and “influencers” are drawing massive followings who cling more to personality than sound doctrine. Thus, when confronted with an article like this that exposes the clear and often brazen heresy and sin within a particular ministry and react with anger because their “favorites” are being “attacked.” Beloved, if this is you, take time and pray to God for patience and understanding.
The Lord gave us His Holy Bible for a reason – it is the standard for all believers. And if a Church or pastor or Christian is leading people away from it, that is sinful rebellion. In the book of Romans, we read:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” – Romans 16:17-18
Bethel Church has caused numerous offense contrary to the Bible and must be avoided. Pray for those who are under their sway to receive loving, Biblical correction and leave. And for those involved in the leadership of that church, pray they repent. Many souls are at stake and the only thing that can save them is the Biblical Gospel – trust and faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ who died so He could take the punishment we all deserve for our sins. Lord willing, more of those deceived by Bethel will come to know this and truly follow the Savior of Scripture and not another Jesus.
[B&E: Here are videos from a longtime Bethel member exposing the sinful and occult practices of Bethel Church and their School of Supernatural Ministry.]