Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call with T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could be here. In today’s program, Tom begins a two-part series with guest Rod Page as they address the question: Has Bethel Church Been Upgraded? And now, here’s Tom.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Today and next week I’ll be discussing the teachings that have had a worldwide influence among Christians, especially among young adults. The teachings which are clearly contrary to Scripture are promoted by a church and school located in Redding, California. The church is Bethel, and its school is the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Joining me to talk about many of the problematic doctrines of Bethel is Rod Page. Rod is the pastor of Lewiston Community Church in Lewiston, California.
Rod, welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Rod: Thanks, Tom. Appreciate the opportunity to be with you today.
Tom: Okay. Rod, as you know, I read an article that you wrote for the newsletter produced by Discernment Ministries in which you addressed what’s taking place at Bethel. That certainly confirmed what I knew about Bethel, and Bill Johnson, and the New Apostolic Reformation, Jesus Culture, and the like.
To start with, give our listeners your background and how it relates to Bethel Church.
Rod: Well, Tom, my background really comes out of an experience that my family went through with me several years ago - about 15 years ago, actually. We had been members of a church down in Sacramento Valley. We’d been at that church for about six or seven years; we’d been very plugged in, very much in the serving mode, and very attached to many of the people, including the pastor and other pastors on staff, and the elders. We were very involved in community outreach and in prison ministry and all that, and worked a regular job, raising children.
And in those days when we were there, the gospel had been proclaimed. People were getting saved, people were being changed, coming out of drinking and drugs, and out of prison, and all kinds of situations, and hearing the gospel and being saved.
But then over a period of time, things really began to change, and they actually kind of changed quickly. We began to hear things and teachings from the pulpit that increasingly didn’t sit well with us.
You know, and the problem was it was hard, because we were so attached. The pastors were our friends, and yet we started hearing these things, hearing prophecies that were - they just didn’t sit right… Declarations made about people who had cancer who were going to get healed, and these were declarations that were given publicly, and then some of them died. And this wasn’t a small church. For us, at least, it was a bigger church that we’d been in - around 1,200 people. But the teaching began to change, and all of a sudden they began talking about the young people, and telling them [that] if they were this chosen seed, that they would come to a place where they would do miracles that were greater than the apostles and greater even than the Lord Jesus. They began to open up a school to teach them how to do miracles, how to prophesy. And we heard some even bigger things: that the church was going to be involved in reigning now in government, and education, and the arts, and business, and all facets of the world now. The church was to take its proper place as the head and not the tail, and that when that happened and Jesus would be able to return, to come again, and we began to really get into the Bible and start to question what we were hearing.
And then it wasn’t too long after that that we followed the Lord’s leading and a new job opportunity and we moved up north where we were living about 120 miles north. And we thought, you know, “Hey, this is good. We’re going to be out of that place. We can kind of get our heads back into the Word and find out where all this teaching came from, get our wits about us,” so to speak. We found a small church that seemed to be on fire, seemed to be following the Word. And then after several months we realized, “You know what, they were attached to something very similar to what we’d gone and left behind, you know, 120 miles back.”
But then we realized and found out that we were really living in a city that was under the influence or the shadow of a real center for all of this teaching, and we’d kind of moved out of the frying pan into the fire, so to speak. We had moved to Redding, and it really was not a very safe place because of the influence of Bethel Church there.
And so that really, really motivated us to say, “You know, we really need to get into the Word and study and find out where these things are coming from.” And we began to really come to terms with the fact that we believed we were in something that was very dangerous. We began to write back to our family and friends that were in the old church that we’d been at many years, began sending emails…
I remember one email I sent to a family member that was 54 pages long pouring out my heart, and then I found out that they had “accidentally” deleted it.
But, you know, through the combination of prayer and just being faithful and staying in the Word, and putting in a word in season, our family and many of our friends ended up leaving that church down the road.
But it really caused me to be drawn to the Word and to be reminded of some things that I had maybe ignored or just not seen as so important, and that is being really confined to the boundaries and the safety of what God has given us in His Word, and testing all things like 1 Thessalonians says: “…testing all things and holding to that which is good.”
And it also gave me a passion to share God’s Word in a new way. And about six years ago, after the Lord doing some deep work in my own life, He called me to be a pastor in a small church, and we now live up in the mountains about an hour up from Redding.
So that’s kind of my background, my interest in it - we experienced it firsthand and had to really come to terms with it ourselves.
Tom: Rod, we’re going to get into some of the doctrinal issues, the teachings, false teachings, actually, of Bethel, which is – again, as I mentioned before, it’s connected with the New Apostolic Reformation with…we see these things, also. Then we’re going to talk about – it can be applied to IHOP, the International House of Prayer in Kansas.
But as we’ve talked, and when I invited you to be on the program, as you alluded to, we both share a burden for the upcoming generation, especially those believers who have been drawn into the false teachings, which we’re going to address. But young people, this upcoming generation – Rod, in your view, what’s the attraction for these young adults?
Rod: Well, Tom, I believe the attraction really is twofold: the movement that we experience that’s still going strong, the movement itself targets young people, as does any ideology. They seek to attract young people who are seeking something bigger than themselves, and they employ methods to attract them. The music side of it – I mean really, you’d call it cool music and technology, and beyond that just an excitement that they are getting a purpose bigger than themselves.
And then secondly, I think there’s a spiritual element to it, and that is the most important thing. That’s the thing we have to come to terms with is this is a spiritual battle. I don’t mean the Holy Spirit-driven thing that we want to be a part of, or we want to be Spirit-led, but I mean spiritual in that I believe there is a concerted effort really to divert the youth away from the simple truth of the Bible and hype them up with “new things”: promises of worldwide influence and power. The music is more than just cool, it’s actually kind of intoxicating. There’s a lot of mystical teachings to it. I believe that’s a spiritual element. And all of that goes, in my opinion, 180 degrees away from the preaching of the cross, the simple gospel of salvation and sanctification and holiness and, you know, our blessed hope in the return – the soon return of Christ.
So it’s a spiritual delusion using very sophisticated methods…
Rod: …and that’s kind of where I see it coming.
Tom: And again with young people - you know, I have five children in their mid-thirties, their late twenties, and I know that the generation, as an old dude can from the perspective of my interaction…communication with them, and I thank Jesus every day that they’re all walking with the Lord and being used of Him. But their peers – they tell me stories, and so on. And, Rod, as you’ve said, they want to be excited about something. They want to be used. And even my generation, not being a believer, we had the Peace Corps. We have these things in front of us.
But the problem is many, if not most, are not grounded in the Word. They don’t have a basis of reference to reject these false ideas, these false teachings.
And I just want to mention, too, and we’re going to get into some more of them, one of them is that Jesus cannot return, because this generation (whether they call it Joel’s Army or whatever term they use for it), they have to take over the world. And, you know, we mentioned music: you look at the lyrics of Jesus Culture, let alone the power of the music itself, but the lyrics themselves talk about dominion, taking over the world through Seven Mountains formula, and so on. Now, that’s one thing.
The other thing is their whole process is based on a coming revival. Now, you could say, “Why is that?” Well, you can’t take over the world unless you have a revival! So that’s what they’re pushing and promoting.
But, Rod, I don’t find that anywhere in Scripture. Either of these issues…I don’t find Jesus cannot return until we take over the world, and revival – I ask people who question me about this: “Give me chapter and verse! I’ll go along with it if you can support it by Scripture.” But it’s not there.
Rod: Well, I think that’s very true – I think what they are getting is a relearning of the Bible, because what they do is they take passages and pull them out of context, they take passages that are for one period and put them into the wrong period. They learn everything in the Bible from a perspective of the supernatural, and you’ll hear that in the senior leader’s preaching or talking on Sunday morning. And to me, it reminds me of the people in Jesus’ day that demanded signs and wonders, and Jesus said, “Because of your unbelief in me, I’m going to give you one sign: the sign of Jonah,” and that was to repent. It seems that they were willing to believe in miracles, they just weren’t really willing to believe in Him, and that’s what we have to get back to is the God of the Bible, the one that really exists. I mean, even Jesus, when He raised a man from the dead, that miracle near the end of His ministry only incited His enemies to hurry up and crucify Him!
And, you know, the other thing they learn at the school that they have - and I really believe they’re being indoctrinated, brainwashed - they have classes on hearing from God, and it’s totally subjective; it’s prone to error, and it’s outside the boundaries of God’s Word.
I wrote down a quote from some of their material advertising their school’s curriculum, because you can purchase the school curriculum, and it is being rubberstamped across the world. For about $7,000, you can purchase their curriculum for the first year.
This is a quote: it says, “The first year, BSSM School Video Curriculum is a nine-month program designed to create an environment where students can safely take risks as they learn and develop a lifestyle of character and supernatural ministry.” So the real emphasis there, even though they sort of throw in character, is supernatural ministries, and doing miracles.
Hearing things about people, something that we experienced: people came up to us and said, “Hey, you know, we know how to read mail,” and what that really meant was, “We know how to read who you are.” And it’s very, very subjective, and I think there’s also a very dangerous spiritual element to that that is akin to what the world does, and to me it’s a lot of shenanigans!
Tom: Yeah, and worse!
Rod: And worse!
Tom: So the school claims to have 2,000 students from 57 countries, 45 states, in its three-year program, and you’ve pointed out some of the things that they’re learning. And this is, although it’s new to the young people, it’s really old stuff. They claim that what they’re doing transcends the written Word of God, as you pointed out. It’s into hearing from God, subjective, experiential, and the problem is – or the main problem with it is there’s no way you can say, “Well, it’s not in the Scripture.” Well, they’ve already thrown off the Scripture, because this has transcended, you know, the Word.
Rod: We heard this before we left many, many years ago that movement, and we would say, “Well, this is a new thing. This is not in Scripture.” And at that time, the Toronto – they called it the “Toronto Blessing”; it was really the Toronto Chaos, where people would get into these ecstatic states in worship and howl and bark and shake. And we said, “You know, that’s not in the Bible. These things aren’t in the Bible.”
And they said, “Well, your cell phone’s not in the Bible.”
And, you know, those types of statements leading people to believe that it was okay… And really what I think they were trying to do and what ended up happening is that experience triumphs over truth. And without truth, our experience is worthless. It’s of the flesh, and that’s the clear teaching of Scripture that you have: that you must have truth.
Tom: But, again, going back to the old days – and I want to talk about my experience there in having gone through their bookstore at Bethel – but basically, it’s the old lie that, “Wait a minute, there’s the rhema and there’s the logos.” And obviously the logos, according to their teaching, that’s the written word. But the rhema has transcended that and even gone beyond, because “God’s doing a new thing.”
Rod: A new thing.
Tom: This is a lie out of the pit of hell, and it backs up, you know, Satan’s main strategy, his game plan: “Yea, hath God said…?”
Tom: So now it’s extra-biblical and worse.
Now, you see, this is a school. Not only the amount of students, but if you take it online, as you said, the money involved is incredible. And you talked about the church, Rod, that was kind of a satellite. These satellites are all over the world! How could they get students from 57 countries and 45 states if this hadn’t been widespread? And that’s our great concern. That’s why we’re talking about it.
The idea of hermeneutics…I mean, if you have a school, you would think they would be taught how to read and how to understand, how to interpret the Bible: hermeneutics, a very simple but very important doctrine. They can’t have it there, can they?
Rod: I can illustrate that very simply: I had a text from my son who attends a Christian university, and he’s in his second year, and one of his classes this year is a class on hermeneutics – that’s the title of the course, which is just really learning how to interpret the Word of God properly. And he said, “Dad, I don’t know what’s going on. My teacher can’t believe it: there’s only seven students in the class and normally there’s 30 students in the class throughout many, many years. There’s only seven this year.”
And, you know, the hard work of “study to show yourself approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth,” our culture is moving away from that, and this movement has moved away from it, because there’s not safety in it. The hard work of studying God’s Word, of comparing scripture to scripture, of using the context and understanding what the author’s intent is, all that is washed away, because experience triumphs everything. It’s “What is God saying now?”, not “What did He say 2,000…what is He saying now?” And so that’s why I think it’s…
And it’s exciting to the flesh. We all battle the flesh; there isn’t one of us who doesn’t. But it caters to the flesh. It builds up the ego. This is a very elitist situation. When these kids come here and they can say to the movement, “I’ve been at Redding in Bethel,” I mean, they are looked at as though they were godlike, and they go anywhere and they are immediately put into positions of leadership, and they’re twenty-something year olds. They have no experience and they’re not grounded in the Word, and then the error just compounds on itself throughout the world, and that’s really where we’re headed.
Tom: You know, Rod, the thing that really grieves me, although this is what the Word of God says: it says, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.”
Now, I’ve got some background in academia, okay? My dad once thought that I was making a career of that, but I learned a lot. And one of the things that I know is that if a class only has seven students when it usually has 30, guess what? That class goes by the boards. As you said, hermeneutics: it’s a very simple way, it’s close to being scientific of how you understand what the Word of God is saying. In other words, you’re hearing from God and you want to know what God says. You know, we have two terms: eisegesis and exegesis. Exegesis is wanting to know, “Well, what is God telling us here?”
Eisegesis is, “Here’s what I think God says,” or I’m imputing ideas and teachings within the Word of God, whether I have an agenda or a bias or whatever it might be, and that is where it’s all going, and Bethel reflects that in a huge way.
Rod: There is a forefront of that, I believe, and they’re a leader.
Tom: Now, we’re talking about this, but something always comes up when you refer to those who supposedly are really working through the Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit, you know, as you said, somehow is doing things like we see or saw at Toronto, the Vineyard, and other places. But the question usually comes up, and I’ve heard this from a leader – I won’t mention his name; I usually do – but this is something that I thought was such a misunderstanding and misperception, and that is, “Well, your problem, Tom, is that you don’t believe in the gifts of the Spirit for today. You’re a cessationist.” Rod, are you a cessationist? And I can tell you what we are.
Rod: No, I’m not. I have friends that are. I’ve been in churches that are, I’ve been in churches that are not, and I personally am not a cessationist. I believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are consistently given from the beginning to now. I’m not a cessationist. And I, you know, I can agree to disagree over those, because it’s a nonessential. But it’s something that they can’t say about me, because I believe in the work of the Holy Spirit in that way for today.
Tom: Right, and why were these things given? To build up, to edify, to encourage. You have to have the work of the Holy Spirit, or what’s the other option? The other option is, whether people are aware of it or not, it’s the flesh, and the flesh profits nothing. So, you know, “Not by might nor by power, but by God’s Spirit.” That’s how we go about things.
Rod: And yet when you study God’s Word, when you see even in the beginning when Jesus announced the gift of the Holy Spirit, it was to lead you into all truth. And secondly, the Holy Spirit always points to Christ. His ministry is to point to Christ, not to self, not to a movement, not to changing the world, not to bringing heaven down to earth, but to point people to Christ, as Moses pointed the Hebrews to the snake on the pole, lifted it up… Jesus said, “When I am lifted up, I’ll draw all men unto myself.” And that’s what we want. We want young people to be excited about Christ, and if the Holy Spirit is working in their life, He’s going to draw them to Christ and then make them more like Christ in their lifestyle.
Tom: When I attended a Bethel service a couple months ago, the speaker was Paul Manwaring who – my understanding, because Bill Johnson introduced him, that he’d been with the program for 15 years or something like that, and then he was going off to England to bring this to Europe. And he gave 15 points that he said were foundational to the teachings at Bethel, and I just want to address two of those. I mentioned them earlier, but, Rod, we only have about a few minutes left in this session, so we can pick up with it next week, the Lord willing. But two of these were, as I mentioned, a coming worldwide revival, and then setting up the kingdom of God in order to…for Jesus to return. Let’s just take the first one. Do you see a worldwide revival in process?
Rod: Well, I don’t see it. That is a non-truth, it’s a non-fact, and it is not backed up by Scripture. In fact, Scripture goes the other way and says, “But know this: in the last days perilous times will come, and men will be lovers of themselves.” That’s the headwater is “lovers of themselves,” and I always hear when I check in, because I try to check in once in a while and see, “Okay, where are they headed now? Where is this movement that touched my life, where is it headed now?” And they keep moving towards empowering people, making people more powerful, and “We’re going to empower them through government. We’re going to empower them through the arts.”
And they’re very high on the charts on iTunes. If you listen – if you look at all, I mean, they’re very high. And it goes completely against what God’s Word… God’s Word says, you know, in the end times these things will happen and the birth pangs will begin, and I think we’re there. We’re at the door of these things, and it’s the exact opposite of what you hear down there. And they’re very stringent about their attitude that there is not going to be a lessening or a hardening or more difficult times ahead. They get very much in your face if you talk about what the Bible says about that. They go completely the other way, and talk about paradise coming to earth.
Tom: Rod, we’re out of time for this session, but coming up, I want to deal with the other issue of taking over the world, and government, and media, which you referred to earlier. So that’s important.
My guest has been Rod Page. Rod’s a pastor of Lewiston Community Church in Lewiston, CA, which isn’t too far from Bethel. And, Rod, this has been insightful. Hopefully our listeners are edified and concerned to the point of prayer. We’ve got to not only pray for this situation, this condition – I mean, we’re in a rescue operation. So…but also we’ll get to some ideas that Rod has about what we can do to help our young people.
So, Rod, thanks for being with us, and look forward to next week.
Rod: Okay, thanks, Tom.
Gary: You’ve been listening to a special edition of Search the Scriptures 24/7 hosted by 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 tuning in and we hope you can join us again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.