You’ve probably heard of a single church being taken over by an individual or group from within. But have you ever heard of an entire network of churches within a denomination being taken over? As unprecedented as that may sound, that is exactly what appears to be happening now in the Assemblies of God (AG) denomination in Northern California and Nevada.
The flashpoint for this takeover is a discipleship school now also functioning as an AG Bible institute, housed at Lifehouse (an AG church), in Eureka, California. While the school has existed for 10 years,it recently began offering all the classes required for a person to become licensed and ordained as an AG minister. And this AG Bible institute is pumping out the next generation of AG leaders into Northern California, Nevada, and AG churches in other areas. But what’s wrong with that?
The problem is that the school appears to be a Trojan horse. It is heavily influenced by the teachings of Bill Johnson, Kris Vallotton, and other “apostles” and “prophets” from the controversial Bethel Churchin Redding, California. To those who are paying attention, the name of this AG institute, the Bethel School of Supernatural Discipleship (BSSD), may be the first thing to give it away.
Despite the AG label and licensing, BSSD is not actually an AG school – not at its heart. Rather, it seems more accurate to describe it as a school of Bethel Church, intentionally modeled after Bethel Church’s own Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM).
•“Sister Schools”: The current BSSD website — which is remarkably similar in structure and content to Bethel Church’s BSSM website – describes BSSM as a “sister school.” And an older BSSD blog,which can still be found online, described BSSD as a “sister campus” to BSSM. Likewise, BSSM staff members reportedly refer to the two schools as sister schools.
•Same Founders, Core Values, and Culture: The BSSD website also speaks to the key connections between BSSD and Bethel Church, noting the role that Bethel prophet Kris Vallotton played in the AG school’s conception. The BSSD site also declares that BSSD and Bethel Church share the “same core values and culture.” What are those core values? You would expect the BSSD page to list the core values and note, in addition, that these are the same core values as those of BSSM. But what do they do instead? They refer people to the BSSM page for the list of their own core values. The BSSD states: “In 2009 Kris Vallotton, Senior Associate Leader of Bethel Church, and Marty Pronovost, a Senior Leader of BSSD, envisioned a discipleship school on the North Coast. The school would be a sister school to Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry where students and young revivalists alike could to [sic] take part in kingdom culture, experience the love of God together for growth, receive healing and discover their identities as children of God…. We share the same core values and culture of Bethel Church in Redding, CA.”
• BSSM. This perception is confirmed by the BSSM website, which describes BSSD as “an affiliate discipleship school” of BSSM, a school for people “looking for a place to rehab or people who are coming out of lifestyle sins.” The BSSM site also provides a direct link to the BSSD site. But, regardless of the rationale, such application sharing seems to establish an ongoing direct link and influence administratively from Bethel’s BSSM to the AG’s BSSD.
•“Feeding School”: A Facebook post, written by BSSD co-founder Willy Bowles prior to the school’s launch, stated that BSSD would be “more or less a feeding school” for Bethel Church.
The significance of the above points can’t be overstated. This is not simply an AG school that appears to have a casual connection to Bethel Redding. This is a Bethel-born school, conceived directly by Kris Vallotton, with the support of Bill Johnson, and with Vallotton’s son-in-law Marty Provonost (an ordained AG minister), along with Willy Bowles (another ordained AG minister and a district presbyter forthe AG’s Northern California and Nevada District). Said differently, it is the brainchild of leaders at Bethel Church, working in partnership with some AG pastors and officials in the AG Northern California and Nevada District who have close personal ties to Bethel Church. And these individuals have, from the beginning, intentionally modeled BSSD after Bethel’s BSSM. This is a deep-seated connection,and Bethel plays an ongoing and important role in all aspects of the school.
And now BSSD is dispatching, into AG churches, pastors who have been molded theologically by Bethel Church — a church theologically at odds with the AG. This is a brilliant strategy for penetrating and taking over a denomination: seize the hearts of a whole generation of denominational pastors, give them networks of similarly envisioned people from the get-go, and you get more than just a few churches – you gain access to an entire network and denomination.