Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7 with T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us. In today’s program, Tom wraps up a two-part series with his guest Rod Page as they address the question: “Is the Bethel School of Ministry Supernatural?” And now, here’s Tom.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Today we’re into part two of my interview with Rod Page. Rod is the pastor of Lewiston Community Church in Lewiston, CA, and he’ll be one of our speakers at the Bible conference here in Bend, Oregon, which is scheduled for the last weekend in August. So I’m excited for Rod to be with us.
Rod, welcome back to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Rod: Thanks, Tom. It’s a pleasure.
Tom: Now, Rod, when we talked last week, I mentioned an article you wrote for The Discernment Newsletter titled, “The Bethel Church Upgrade.” Now, briefly tell us: what was the point of your article?
Rod: Well, Tom, I’ve been around this movement for quite some time, and years ago it was easier to point to practices and things that would happen especially in the meetings of this movement that would alarm people: strange practices, strange things that would come out in the teaching, even from the pulpit. You know, I’ve heard many, many weird-type things and experienced a few of those. But it seems like in the last few years there’s been a – very much…maybe a marketing effort, but a concerted effort nonetheless to kind of bring a new level of sophistication to what is being said and how the church is presenting itself (especially Bethel Church that I’m familiar with here in Redding). And so you don’t see, at least in their bigger public meetings, as many of the kind of strange occurrences that would kind of alarm people naturally to some of the teaching that was behind those practices going on. And you just see more polished speakers and more polished presentations, but if you dig down below that veneer of appearance, you don’t see any real change or difference in the doctrine. You have still, I believe, a lot of dangerous stuff that’s underneath this new veneer or this new effort to kind of present a better look, a better appearance. So that’s kind of what I meant by the “Bethel Church Upgrade.” It’s really not an upgrade, it’s an appearance upgrade in my opinion.
Tom: Right. Rod, as I visited Bethel – oh, I think it was the end of last year, and I’d read your article, and I thought about it, but there was another reason that I wanted to get down to Bethel and experience a service there, and I was honestly shocked. Just as you had described in your article and just as you’ve articulated, this was not what I expected. It was sophisticated. I didn’t hear anything that – I understood where they were coming from, but the way it was presented seemed acceptable. Certainly in the worship service the only thing that seemed a little bit – oh, a little bit different, a little bit – not weird exactly…Well, for some it might not have been weird. One of their hymns was (call it a hymn) some hop, skip, and jump, or the “Bethel Hop,” or whatever it is. But, you know, people could excuse that and say, “Hey, come on, let’s loosen up a little bit. This is not all somber stuff,” and so on. So that surprised me. It was sophisticated.
Now, I’ve also seen that among later generations of those who have been involved in the word-faith, positive confession movement and so on, an example that I think of based on what you’ve written about would be Joel Osteen. Now, Joel was the media guy for his father, who was heavy into the word-faith, positive confession stuff, and that’s John Osteen. But I think Joel learned how to use the media, and what we see – he now has the largest church in America. It’s a basketball arena down in Houston. But his level of sophistication certainly stands out. But even so, I was shocked to see that same thing at Bethel.
Now, folks, to give you a better understanding of what Rod had mentioned last week: I went to the bookstore, and now you have these new books out. For example, you know, you look at the books and we have later books by some of these guys involved in the New Apostolic Reformation, so new players and so on…Kris Vallotton, for example, you would find his books there, and so on. But if you look a little bit more, you’re going to find books by Oral Roberts, by many of those who are very prominent in the heavy duty word-faith, positive confession movement and so on. So that’s underlying everything. This new sophistication – it’s all there, and it’s influencing…
Rod: Yeah, they haven’t changed a lick.
Rod: The last time I checked, they had William Branham in their library…
Tom: He would be one of their icons, one of their heroes.
Rod: …full on heretical people. Yeah, yeah. Major problems…
Rod: …with a lot of those guys. Yeah.
Tom: So the point of all this is as they make it more sophisticated, yet just massaging around some of their heresies – and, folks, they are major heresies – they just make it more acceptable. So it’s more of a deception, more of a seduction that we see that’s going on. This is part of the apostasy. This is certainly a major input into the apostasy that we see growing exponentially.
Rod: Right. Well, they won’t talk about now – specifically, they won’t talk about “kingdom now” theology, because they know they cannot really defend that. So instead they take a word that’s in the Bible – “transform” – and then they apply it to the same theology that they’ve always believed. So they now talk about “transforming” Redding. I heard a whole message given just a couple of weeks ago that Kris Vallotton gave from the pulpit of Bethel all about backing up the reason why they want to transform Redding, and they’re transforming it with money. They are in the newspapers right now for getting together half a million dollars to give to the city of Redding to help fund the Redding police department’s community policing department because it was running out of money. I mean, they are inserting themselves into the life of this city, which they have for quite some time. They run the Redding Civic Auditorium and they took it over from the City of Redding to run it. They have a woman that sought election on the city council and won a seat on the city council. She is an “elder” at Bethel with her husband. So they are actually more involved in their kingdom now stuff, but they don’t call it that, they call it something else.
So truthfully, Tom, the need is for discernment. The need is to really understand what they are saying and how it is opposed to the Word of God and then to get that word out to people, because it’s more subtle, but it is actually even more dangerous, in my opinion.
Tom: And to put this in a prophetic context here, the Scripture – prophecy. We’re talking New Testament – it says, “The time will come…” in 2 Timothy:4:1-3, right in there. It says, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.”
Now, [Rod], I want to bring us back to a major teaching among those, whether it be the New Apostolic Reformation, word-faith, positive confession people and so on, they make a distinction between the logos, which is the written word of God, and hearing from God, which is [what] they call rhema, and there are schools of rhema…I mean, this goes way back. So the point being is that now they believe and they teach that hearing from God supersedes the written Word of God. So…
Rod: Well, they call it a “now word,” and that sounds more exciting, especially to a young person. This isn’t 2,000-year old stuff, this is right now: “You got it from God and you can learn how to do the same thing. Come to our school of prophetic ministry and we’ll teach you how to do it.”
Rod: So it’s being offered and it’s being sold and packaged that way.
Tom: Yeah, and it’s false on so many levels. For example, rhema and logos, they’re interchangeable, okay? They have nothing to do with something new. But yet, as you point out, if I’m hearing from God…
You know, I remember I was in a church early on which I called a “bapticostal church.” And, you know, they had some good Baptist doctrine – I mean, good biblical doctrine, and so on – but they had this affinity for the signs and wonders and all of that. And one of the things that I liked about what the church did is at the end of the service, the elders would come forward for prayer. And, Rod, the guy that got the biggest line was the guy who was more into the signs and wonders kind of stuff. He was hearing from God! So, you know, I would get maybe one or two people, okay, because I was just into sound doctrine. But it’s an attraction.
Rod: And, you know, we know that with almost – I’m going to say it: all false teaching – forget almost, but all false teaching – the hook is baited with biblical words and even biblical concepts that will be used as bait to draw you in. And I think we really have to educate ourselves, but especially our young people, to realize, “You know what, God has given us a warning about these things, to be on the lookout for these things.” It doesn’t mean to be suspect about everybody. I love to give people the benefit of the doubt, but at the same time, we have to test the spirits. We have to be willing to let the light expose and make manifest the works of darkness, because, as Peter pointed out in the third chapter of his second letter, that there are things that people are going to twist the Scriptures. When he was talking about some of the deeper things that Paul taught, he said, speaking to them of these things in which some things are hard to understand, which “untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction as they do also the rest of the scriptures.” So just because you hear a scripture alongside a new teaching, many times there’s an absolute disconnect because there’s no context involved, and they’re twisting something to mean something that it was never intended to mean, and this really gets to the heart of discernment, which is something we’re incredibly lacking in in many circles.
Tom: Yeah, that’s why I just love – I had the privilege of working with Dave Hunt for forty-some years.
Rod: Well, he was a pioneer. In fact, when we were struggling over 15 years ago to make sense of what was going on, I found one of his books – I think it was Seduction of Christianity or one of those types of books – but he was one of the lone voices at that time. People were not talking about it and he took hits for it. I know he did! And yet these kinds of people have to have a voice. We need to have warnings that God’s Word gives us, otherwise we waste a lot of time in these movements and can really suffer spiritual damage.
Tom: One of the complaints that people had against Dave, and my name was on that book, as well, but I spent most of my four decades hiding behind Dave, so…so he caught most of the flack. But the complaint that we’ve had (and it’s still thrown at us here at The Berean Call) is that we are cessationists, and it’s because we address the errors that are going on not only – honestly, not only within the charismatic Pentecostal movement…and not all, but certainly many of them that made sound like that we are against the gifts. No, I can tell you, folks, any of you who have known Dave through the years, he probably suffered more for his belief in the gifts than anybody that they can come up with, because Dave was really persecuted out of the denomination which he was a major part of, a major writer for them, and that would be the Plymouth Brethren.
But no, we at The Berean Call, Dave – I speak for him; he’s home with the Lord now, if you folks don’t know – and he believed in the gifts for today, and so do we. We are just trying to deal with the abuses of the gifts, and so on.
So, Rod, what about yourself?
Rod: Amazingly, at least for me, is I came from the same background as Dave Hunt (very much a cessasionist background), and then changed later on in life to accept and embrace the gifts. But it’s like anything that’s a precious gift that God has given mankind: we find ways, or Satan himself finds ways, to corrupt those precious things. And I think it’s a precious thing when the Holy Spirit is moving in one’s life and enabling a person in one’s life to not only be a strong witness for the Lord, because I believe that the gifts and the work of the Holy Spirit is really given to us to spread the gospel, but also to defeat sin, indwelling sin, in our life: to have victory over sin…
Rod: …and that’s a precious thing! And when that happens in a person, it’s a beautiful thing. When it’s out of control and it becomes a show, it’s an ugly, gaudy monstrosity of a thing that, in the end, turns people off in the world because they see through it. Anything that God gives us is a precious thing, but if it becomes corrupted, then it becomes phony. It is not real, and my point is that even the world will see through the phoniness. When things become a show or a marketing ploy, I mean, people are leery in the world, and they write it off. When they see a changed life, they see Jesus ruling in a life, in a changed life, and evidence of that life within, they see the fruit of the Spirit, then they can’t argue with that. And then they’re going to come and ask you a reason for the hope that’s within you, and that’s what the reason for the gifts are.
Tom: Exactly. For the building up, for the edification of the body, that’s…I don’t know how – according to Scripture, we’re not going to be able to handle the apostasy, the deception, without the gifts of the Holy Spirit manifesting in our lives. And we see this among those missionaries who are out dealing with this stuff in major ways, you know – the gifts are certainly being manifested through them for today.
Tom: Rod, the other thing I want to ask you is, you know, we’ve focused on Bethel and the influence on young adults, and certainly there are other organizations and so on, and there’s a connection between all this. But as I mentioned, Bethel has over 2,000 students from all over the world, plus their satellite organizations and so on. Two thousand students…what happens to them generally after they leave the school?
Rod: Well, I can tell you from personal experience: in the end, in my opinion, what I have seen from my personal experience is I have seen young people when they get out of the hot house – and we all know what a hot house is for, right? It’s for fast growth. It’s for quick growth, which according to Jesus’ own teachings, quick growth is suspect. But when they get out of that hot house and they get out into the real world and away from this bubble that they get in at these schools, they don’t see what they’re told they’re going to see. They don’t see “kingdom now” things happening in the workplace, in their neighborhoods, and they struggle for a while. And then what I have seen happen is some of them turn against God. Some of them blame God: “Well, our leaders must have been right, because they told us these things were happening all over the world, but, God, You must be at fault.” Or they go the other way and they say, “You know what, it’s my lack of faith. There’s something wrong with my faith.” And these expectations sometimes are too much for them, and I have watched many young people fall headlong into the world and into worldliness after being at one time supposedly world changers and becoming – basically losing their testimony and falling away. And that, to me, is heartbreaking, because they have, in a sense, in a way, been inoculated from the real gospel by having this false gospel injected into them.
Tom: Yeah. And to build on a foundation…it’s worse than sand, it’s experientialism and so on. Their expectations going through the school, they’re around people that…
We didn’t talk about some of the manifestations that still go on there, whether it be the fire tunnel, or some…what – did you mention earlier that I’m not aware of?
Rod: Well, I mean, yeah. They get into all kinds of weird things, you know: glory balls, fashioning these balls of glory, spiritual power balls, and throw them across the room and catch them, and then they’re laid out on the carpet for hours, you know, incoherent… Basically, Tom, what the Bible calls “sensuality.” It is not from God; it is a sensual mix of experiential type things.
Tom: Yeah. And like a drug, it’s a high, but with no…
Rod: It is a high.
Tom: …obviously no substance.
You know, and speaking about substance, the sad thing is they go in – they’re not grounded when they go in. They’re not Bereans. I didn’t talk to 2,000 young people there, but I did talk to a number of young people, and that became very obvious that they didn’t know the Scriptures, and therefore they had no basis of checking these things out, or taking them as the Bereans did in Acts:17:11.
Rod: Well, Tom, many of us who have been with the Lord a while and been walking with Him for a while, we know it’s hard work. It is work to apply ourselves and be workmen that don’t need to be ashamed. It’s called “discipleship” for a reason; there’s discipline involved, and it takes a while to have our senses trained, as Hebrews says, by using the senses that God has given us trained by His Word. When we take those sense and we put those at the top of the heap, then it’s just all about me, really. It’s all about me. “How do I feel good?” Not, “How can I serve the Lord better?” And so it’s a completely different mindset, and at the end, it leaves them hollow. It leaves them without a purpose, and they basically come to the realization, “Well, this Christianity thing doesn’t work. I’ll try something else.” And that’s a tragedy.
Tom: Yeah. Rod, you shared with us last time, but I’d like you to briefly – we’ve got about two or three minutes left – what’s the Lord put on your heart to address the very things that we’ve been talking about?
Rod: Well, my prayer is that God will move in pastors – you know, I’m a pastor; I’ve been a pastor for six years now – that God will do a move among pastors and among congregations that will get back to the Word of God, and that we’ll share with one another that Christian – real Christian churches…I know you’re not supposed to use the word “Christian” anymore. It’s out of date, right? But I’m going to use it. It’s a biblical word – that Christians come together and encourage one another to be Bereans, and also to live out Spirit-filled lives, to be led by the Spirit of God, and we pray for opportunities. We’ve had an experience to some degree and a journey of some type, and, you know, we’re open to sharing that as God would open doors with other places, and especially with young people. I have a real heart – I would love to be able to speak to more young people who haven’t necessarily been taken away yet; to their parents, to help them understand why they need to discern, what to look for; and to be able to get the word out, you know. And I really see that happening in churches, in individual churches coming alongside pastors and leaders and then helping young people get a level of discernment at this point in their life that they can take with them. So that’s kind of what we’re praying and thinking about is opportunities. The Lord would have to open doors and allow us to do that, and allow the time to do that, and the ability to do that, as well, and the resources. But that’s in His hands. That’s something that we would love to see happen.
Tom: Well, that’s our prayer, as well, Rod. This – my heart is for this upcoming generation. If the Lord tarries – I’ve been involved in this for 40 years, and just from observation I know where it’s going. I know it from the Word of God, but I see it happening around us. And if they’re not equipped, if they’re not strengthened, they’re going to have to…well, they will have to deal no matter what with things that I can’t even imagine except from my understanding of Scripture. So whatever we can do, that’s why we support you, Rod, and want to see your hope, your prayer – not only for you, but for others out there who deal with young people.
And, folks, my guest has been Rod Page, and I’m excited for Rod to be one of the speakers at our conference in August. It’s the last weekend in August, and I invite everybody to come out who can, or at least hear Rod through the technology of livestreaming and so on.
So, Rod, God bless you, bro, and thank you so much for your input. Now I really look forward for you to be with us in August!
Rod: Thanks, Tom. I really do look forward to it. I would just close with this one verse out of Jude that says, “And on some have compassion, making a distinction. But others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire.” And that’s who we are to be in these end times. When there are difficult days ahead, we are to be full of compassion for those who are in this position.
Rod: Well, thanks for the opportunity.
Tom: Amen and amen, and thank you, brother. God bless you.
Rod: All right, thanks, Tom.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 featuring T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019 Bend, Oregon, 97708. Call us at 800-937-6638, or visit our website at thebereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for being here, and we’ll look for you again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.