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Posted 6/16/12 at 4:50 PM | Becky Savio, BCCLC, MFC, Cert.MFT

Is it a Cult? Strange Manifestations in 'Christian' Circles and Sozo, from God or not? Feathers in Church? Bill Johnson of Bethel Church, Redding California

"...for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14)  

When I first heard of Bethel Church years ago (when someone was urging me to join), it was simply a small organization (claiming to be a Christian "church") in northern California. Now, its influence has grown worldwide. Its influence, along with "sozo" (a mystical, new age practice), has expanded to Russia, the UK, Australia and beyond. Jesus said to "beware the yeast of the Pharisees". The Pharisees were an ancient sect of Judaism who were very lax and liberal (as opposed to strict and conservative) when it came to written Scripture and Bible interpretation, nullifying God's words while adding on their own clever and deceptive twists, rules and "traditions of men" (see Mark 7:13). They went "off the map" of truth and put their twisted interpretations onto others. Jesus had a problem with that. Like yeast in bread, a little yeast (lies/error/false teaching) spreads and can do a whole lot of damage. Likewise, the teachings coming out of Bethel Church have spread and are now harmful on an international level. I get emails from around the world from people (the ones from the grandmothers and mothers are the most heart-wrenching) who have lost family members to this cultic sect (or, should I say cult?).

In chapter 12 of When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles, Bill Johnson, Senior Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California writes:

I have seen the small gems that suddenly appeared in the people's hands as they worshipped God. Since early in 1998, we have had feathers fall in our meetings. At first I thought birds were getting into our air conditioning ducts, but then they started falling in other rooms of the church not connected with the same ductwork. They now fall most anywhere we go - airports, homes, restaurants, offices and the like...He [God] wants to take us farther, and we can only get there by following signs. Our present understanding of scripture can only take us so far. (Page 204,205)

Johnson erroneously convinces people that these signs are from God and the Holy Spirit and our present understanding of scripture cannot take us far enough, and people eat up this nonsense. I (and multitudes of others) find this disturbing (and also a bit comical). On the same pages, he says that laughter, gold dust, oil and a cloud (appearing in the church building) are also signs of God's presence. He further explains in the same chapter that these signs and manifestations "are simple indicators of God's presence and purpose". He calls these signs God's "personal notes" to us. He clearly links these signs to our holy God and the Holy Spirit.

Is this correct? Most people who use their intellects would see through this garbage. Sadly, many drink up the Kool-Aid that Bethel Church is serving up. In scripture, believers are commanded to be scrutinizing (not blindly accepting) by putting what they see and hear to the test instead of accepting a teaching, sign or wonder right away, "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). FULL POST