Tom: Today and next week my guest is Rod Page, and Rod is the pastor of Lewiston Community Church in Lewiston, California.
Rod, welcome back to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Rod: Thanks, Tom. It’s a real pleasure to talk with you today.
Tom: For our listeners, I interviewed Rod earlier in the year, and our topic was the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, which is located in Redding, California. That’s not too far from where Rod pastors.
Rod, for those who haven’t heard our earlier interview, give our listeners some of your background as it relates to the teachings of Bethel and its pastor, Bill Johnson.
Rod: Well, Tom, it starts quite a few years ago. My wife and I were raising a family, I was working a regular secular job in the business world, and we started attending a church that was very vibrant at the time. They were preaching the Bible, preaching the gospel, had a quite ambitious outreach program into the community; and for several years seemed to be pretty much in line with where we were, and were biblical.
But over a period of time – and it was subtle at first – it did begin to build after a while, and we began to hear new things that we had not heard before. Things that kind of just made you wonder a little bit, you know: Where did that come from? But by that time, we had formed very close bonds, friendship bonds, with the leadership of the church. It was a pretty large church, at least for our area, over a thousand people. And we were involved in ministry as well. We were involved in a prison ministry helping moms with their children born outside the prison, taking moms’ babies in for a while, connecting with the moms, reaching them with the gospel, and helping them get into a discipleship ministry.
And then we started hearing these new things, and it kind of culminated for me – I was in a men’s prayer meeting that started at 5:30 in the morning one Friday morning, and one of the pastors got up and said that he had had a word from God that 100,000 people in our area would be swept into the Kingdom of God – that there was a new move of God to do this.
And I started doing that math, and I realized that, well, that would be everybody in the two counties that our city straddled in Northern California. That would be everybody!
But they didn’t really say, “come to Christ”; they said, “swept into the kingdom.” And over a period of time, we began to hear more of an emphasis on healing – physical healing – and then a big emphasis on transforming cities and nations. And you heard less and less about Bible doctrine and Bible teaching and more about this great worldwide effort to transform cities and nations.
And we began to just kind of go, Wait a minute! Where is this coming from? Started trying to find out that there wasn’t a lot of information in those days to help us, and then not too long after that, we had a job change and moved to Redding, and I thought, Well, this is good. I’ll get away from all that. I can get back to the Bible. Maybe get into a small church.
And then I realized I kind of went from the pot into the fire, so to speak, because Redding was very much inundated with the same type of thing, and then more and more opportunities came for me to get back into the Word and also to get some help from other people who’d been in this type of environment. And then we realized, Wait a minute! One of the meccas for this teaching is centered right here in Redding!
And so we really began to study and remove ourselves from this world and get back into a more sound environment, as far as church and ministry goes. So that’s kind of how I got connected to finding out about it. It was because of another church that was teaching the same types of things that are taught at Bethel that I really had to dig in and actually go to Bethel a few times to see for myself; read what their leaders were writing, and then connect it to what had happened to me.
And that’s kind of how it happened. I had to do it to get deprogrammed in some ways, and then also get back into the Word and get back on solid ground.
Tom: Rod, one of the things regarding Bethel that I want to emphasize – we’re going to cover a lot different aspects of that, but for the most part, the impact that it’s had on Christian youth of today – now, how would you describe that, and is it substantial?
Rod: Well, it’s very substantial. In a day when, at least in the evangelical world, the numbers are that we are losing many young people. But not in this particular movement. They are gaining young people. And, you know, what we’ve come to believe is that it’s very spiritually appealing. More importantly, I think, it’s sensual in nature – appealing to the senses. It’s something that kind of…once it grips people, it’s almost like they’re in a haze. You can’t always talk about concrete things with young people that are in it, because it’s almost like they are programmed. They have different things that really are appealing. They call part of their…part of their teaching is called a “culture of honor,” where you…basically, what a culture of honor is isn’t like what a biblical idea would be, of honoring those who are over you in the Lord, but it’s more of honoring everybody, and honoring everybody’s opinion, and so you really never come to a point where you’re making a righteous judgment, as Jesus told us to make – righteous judgment.
And all that sounds very “cool.” It kind of goes with the worldly understanding of the bumper sticker that we all see, “coexist,” which really kind of feeds into the ecumenical thinking that is very popular in the world these days. So it’s very appealing on many levels to our young people, and we find that it’s a huge influence on Christian young people, so that parents are sending their young people to these schools and to this place, to Redding. And their school is busting at the seams at this time.
Tom: Yeah. Rod, my experience – and we’ll get into this a little later. It was some particular examples of youth that are drawn there. But it’s not just a national thing—it’s international. These young people come from all over the world. When I was there I interviewed a young man from Australia, and what you just said, there’s an appeal; there’s an attraction.
Now, you know, you live in Lewiston, which you described earlier as maybe being 10-15 degrees cooler than Redding, but what would draw you to Redding in the summertime when it’s a stifling 100-and-some degrees? It’s not the weather! We know that. But there is something. We may talk a little bit later about IHOP, the International House of Prayer, which has the same kind of thing going on. And parents unknowingly think, Oh, I want my son, my daughter, to grow in the faith.” And they find out about IHOP or Redding or it could be Hawaii – the big island. But they think they’re helping their children grow in the faith, and that doesn’t happen.
Tom: One of the reasons is they’re just not into the Word of God. They’re into all kinds of other things – experiential things, and so on.
Rod: Right. Well, Bill Johnson said several years ago that wherever God is doing this “new thing,” you need to get yourself there and get under it. And I wrote down the other day some lyrics from a Bethel song, and this is a song that they had their children record. So, I’m telling you, they’re passing it on, one way or another, to their young people. And it starts out okay. The lyrics go like this:
I’ve got a river of living water
[Well that sounds like an old chorus that we used to sing.]
A fountain that never will run dry.
[And that’s okay. But listen to this line:]
It is an open heaven You’re releasing
And we will never be denied.
A subtle twist – a change. And they believe that Bethel is an open heaven, that God is doing things here that He’s not doing in your geographical location, so you need to come here, and if you’re under this “portal,” or this open heaven, you’re in a place where you will never be denied.
And so, they teach, of course, the health/wealth/prosperity gospel that’s been around for a long time. But that’s just one facet of it. See, young people – it’s an exciting place to be because it’s new; you never know what’s going to happen next, and there’s a lot of things, and especially the music, that really appeals to people.
Tom: Yeah, Rod, I’m glad you brought that up, because, folks, the things that Rod is saying, and he knows from his experience; the things that I’ve written about related to this – you know, we want you to be Bereans. You can check these things out. For example, when Rod is talking about the lyrics, one of the main attractions for young people regarding Bethel, was they started the music group Jesus Culture, which to some degree was related to Hillsong United. And music does draw our young people. There’s no doubt about it. So, when we point to music, you know, sometimes they say, “Oh, now, come on, Tom, you’re an old dude. You’re an old fogey. You don’t go for this,” and so on. [Laughing] I may have my own peculiar taste in music. However, what I’m getting at, and what Rod has mentioned, is the lyrics. You listen to the lyrics of some of Jesus Culture’s songs, and there is no doubt that they’re into Kingdom Dominionism, let alone what Rod just articulated.
Rod: Right. Right.
Tom: So there is something…Hey! What is Kingdom Dominionism? We’re going to talk about that. It’s [the belief that] Christians are going to take over the world, just as Rod mentioned. Open heaven. You’re going to have everything that you need to create the Kingdom of Jesus, the Kingdom of God, before He returns, and turn the world into a Paradise.
Now, you say, “Aw, you’re making that up!”
Folks, seriously, I challenge you: listen (if you like), listen to the lyrics. That’s what the lyrics are about.
Tom: So the interesting thing about that is if you go back to the Middle Ages, and so on, when heresies were coming along, those who promoted – because many of the people were illiterate – but heresies were promoted on the basis of these minstrels that would go out and put their heresies to a tune, and the people could remember it and buy into it. And here we are in the 21st century – same deal.
Rod: Well, it’s a powerful tool. It’s always been a powerful tool. My generation witnessed it in the 1960s and 1970s. It literally changed the culture, and they’re using that venue because, you know, here’s what happens in reality: Jesus Culture goes to Los Angeles and they lease a major venue, and parents may not have the guts to send their kids away for a year to Redding, but they’ll give them $50 for a Jesus Culture concert ticket. They go the concert; they don’t have discernment – they’re too young – and they get swept up in the hype and they begin listening to the teaching, and they get entrenched in it, and pretty soon they’re going to find a way – even if their parents object – to get to Redding and come to a school. It’s a recruiting technique, but it gets it in their heads. And more than that, it gets in their hearts.
Tom: Yeah. Well, folks, you know, we’ve been talking about some of the things, and there’s much more in all of this that attracts not just young people…and, Rod, it’s Bethel, certainly. They have 2,000 students there, a three-year program. But they also have satellites out and about and roundabout. So, again, it’s not just localized or even nationalized to Bethel, but it’s international. So that has to do with the attraction.
But give our listeners what you consider to be some major doctrinal errors that Johnson and the School of Bethel teach. And as you name them, obviously we can point out these problems, but, as it comes to mind, let’s just say, “Hey, here’s why this isn’t biblical.” You know, we’re not going to cover it in detail, but let’s let people know we’re not advocating this stuff! There are problems with it biblically, seriously.
Rod: Yeah. Well, I think at the top of the list – because there’s many things you could bring up, and we have limited time, but I think at the top of the list, Tom, and the thing that probably would bother most of us who hold to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, that what we look for (especially in the New Testament, but the whole Old Testament points to it) is the work of Jesus Christ, which is the gospel, the Good News. And I think what bothers me the most, and why I take a stand – and it’s a difficult stand in this area. You pay a price for speaking out. We have paid a price for attendance in our area, because there are so many people that would make a choice as far as which church to go to if you embraced this movement.
But I think at the bottom line, they have changed the gospel. In fact, Bill Johnson has come out in the last few years and said, “If you are not seeing signs and wonders as a part of your message, then you’re preaching a different gospel.” So he’s basically taking Paul’s words in Galatians and turning them around, and I believe the problem is that he is the one who has changed the gospel. His gospel is based, tremendously so, on healing the physical body instead of talking about being saved through faith in Christ’s atonement. So it’s a core assumption. And he may not articulate it in the way that I’m articulating it right now, but if you look at the time that they spend in their messages, in their presentation, in their music, everything else, you do not hear about sin. It is not talked about. It is almost verboten. It is almost off the chart in their culture of honor. What they want to talk about is the love of God and the chief way they see is expressed is if God heals somebody, and you have a manifestation of some type of some healing. And so, they’ll talk about that ad nauseam, and they won’t talk about things that are plainly in the Scriptures—i.e., Romans 10: “How shall they hear without a preacher? How shall they preach unless they are sent?” And what does it mean to be born again?
Jesus talking to Nicodemus in John 3 – before He got to the love of God expressed in John:3:16, he said these words: “You must be born again.” That talk is absent in this movement. You can’t find it because it is just not there.
And so I think, for me, when the gospel is assailed, then we have a problem. Then we need to talk about it. Then we need to make a stand. And sadly, Tom, many in the evangelical world would rather just not talk about it. They would let it go.
Rod: And yet this is the core of what we believe and what holds us together as the church.
Tom: What we’re seeing here is an avoidance of the things that are absolutely critical and absolutely necessary. We’re going to talk about “they will not endure sound doctrine,” which certainly applies to all of this.
But, Rod, let’s take it to a movement. Now, certainly you mentioned earlier that you look at the materials…I’ve been in the bookstore at Bethel, and so on, and they have all the Word-Faith, all the Positive Confession stuff, so we know that undergirds it.
But the latest thing is the New Apostolic Reformation, all right? Which…well, explain that. Give a perspective on that for our listeners.
Rod: Well, several years ago, there was a book put out by a former teacher from Fuller, C. Peter Wagner, that basically said that we need to change the Christian world from denominationalism to apostleships; from following doctrine to being united around church…current church fathers. And these church fathers are apostles. They’re above being a pastor. And they really are talking about modern day apostleship, and then taking these apostles and setting up networks – networks of ministry, networks of churches – and that’s exactly what they have done.
Bill Johnson is kind of careful and couches his words about his own involvement, and yet he is running an apostleship network called Global Legacy, and he is connected to a huge network of networks called Revival Alliance. And if you Google Revival Alliance, you’ll find out that he is connected to Randy Clark – Randy Clark brought the Toronto Outpouring to Toronto years ago. A ton of false teaching in that movement. Bill Johnson is connected to Che Ahn in Pasadena, California. Che Ahn’s network boasts 25,000 members. These are churches – not people. Members, as in churches and ministries within their network. And several others: John and Carol Arnott, the people that began the Toronto Airport Vineyard many, many years ago, and were part of that Toronto mess, really.
I mean, these people, they kind of move away from things that are controversial to some degree. After a while they kind of back pedal on them, but they’re still all together and doing what they said they were going to do. And current messages prove this out. I listened to one a month ago from Kris Vallotton at Bethel – completely reiterating this idea of moving away from doctrine as what unites us and moving toward these “Fathers” or “Apostles,” and setting up these networks. And the goal of that, as you mentioned earlier, is to transform nations and to bring the Kingdom of God now to earth, or as Bethel would say, bringing heaven to earth. That’s what they’re after.
Tom: Rod, we’ve got just about three or four minutes left, but one of the things I want to talk to you about, when I visited Bethel last year, I had the opportunity to talk to some of the students, and I had a few questions for them, mostly to find out how knowledgeable they were about the Scriptures, and that was really disappointing, but not surprising. It was especially evident related to biblical prophecy and eschatology, and the sad thing was, you see, it became very obvious that their biblical ignorance made them ripe for every wind of doctrine. Eschatology – what does that mean? It’s just talking about the last days, what the Bible says how things are going to not only develop, but how they’re going to conclude. That’s what we go by.
And the importance of eschatology is if you have no idea where the Bible is taking us or recognizing the next kingdom to come will not be the kingdom that these young people are hoping to set up—it’s going to be the kingdom of the Antichrist. So, that’s what breaks my heart, because you’ve got young people in their ignorance not understanding eschatology, not knowing where the Bible clearly says these things are headed, and they’ve unwittingly – they’ve bought into it. They unwittingly, unknowingly, are serving the adversary and the development of his kingdom. Isn’t that a heartbreak, Rod?
Rod: It is heartbreaking. I was reading to our congregation from Ephesians 4, where Paul says to the church, “Awake, O sleeper.” And, you know, there’s a reason why he wanted the church to awake: because of danger! This is reading…I’m reading right now from Kris Valloton’s eight core ideas about eschatology. Listen to what he teaches these young people: “I refuse to embrace any mindset that celebrates bad news as a sign of the times and a necessary requirement for the return of Jesus.” You know what? When you read prophetic teaching of the Lord Jesus, He said, “If you see these things, then you need to know and be prepared that I’m coming soon – that My coming is at the door.” And yet, we have a man teaching thousands of young people (and then, as you mentioned, this teaching goes out to the whole world). But he won’t embrace any mindset that celebrates bad news as a sign of the times and a necessary requirement for the return of Jesus.
Rod: And on and on it goes. His eschatology is “Don’t tell me any bad news. I’m redoing the earth, and I have to do that in order for Jesus to come back, and it’s just going to get better and better.”
Tom: Yeah, so let’s just cut out the book of Revelation. Let’s just…
Tom: It doesn’t happen. Well, you know, we’re seeing that in other places: Brian MacLaren, for example, and the Emerging Church Movement, he writes, “No, no, we can’t take any part of Revelation literally!” And he massages it around so it’s doing exactly what you just mentioned. He’s turning it into, “Oh, it’s just all good news to the end.” Well, it is! But there is a time that the Scripture lays out that these things will happen. God is going to pour out His judgment upon the earth! And then we’re going to have the really good news: we’re going to have the Millennial Kingdom of Christ, when He returns to deal with this – on His terms, in His timing, and so on.
Tom: Yeah. See, I know some people out there who are listening to us, they can’t believe what we’re saying. They can’t believe that somebody would actually say the quote that you gave. But that’s what happens when you’ve removed yourself from the Word of God, from God’s instructions, from God’s prophecy. And, of course, we know more and more today, whether it be Rick Warren or whoever it might be: “Yeah, let’s not go with prophecy. Let’s just get out and evangelize.” Well, wait a minute. You’ve just cut off God’s guidelines, God’s telling us what will take place, so that we can deal with it in the Spirit, not in our flesh, and so on.
My guest has been Rod Page. So, Rod, God bless you, brother! And thank you for your input, and I look forward to next week!
Rod: You’re welcome, Tom!