Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call featuring T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. It’s great to have you with us. In today’s program, Tom concludes 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. We’re in part two of a discussion about the issues, the teachings, the practices of Bethel Church in Redding, CA, and in particular, their school, which is titled the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Joining me to talk about many of these things is Rod Page. Rod is the pastor of Lewiston Community Church in Lewiston, CA.
Rod, welcome back to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Rod: Thanks, Tom. It’s a pleasure to be with you today.
Tom: Rod, we just finished up last week talking about two foundational teachings, and these I heard, you know - not that I didn’t know them before, because I’ve put in a lot of time in considering and evaluating the teachings of Bethel, IHOP, the New Apostolic Reformation, and all these things. But as I listened at the service, the teacher was – I think he was Bill Johnson’s right-hand man Paul Manwaring, and he gave 15 points, and two points that I want to talk about we mentioned last week: they promote a coming worldwide revival, and the other thing is setting up the kingdom in order for Jesus to return.
Now, we’ll just go back to worldwide revival. As you mentioned last week, Rod, give me chapter and verse; where is that found? I think you quoted 2 Timothy:3:1-2 – Paul’s warning that the “Mark my words, in the last days there will be perilous times. Men will be lovers of themselves,” and that’s the heart and the key, you know? You either have a love for Jesus or a love for self, and you can’t put the two together.
Tom: But going back to worldwide revival, I’ll mention this, and you can add to it: When I was in Bethel, I had the opportunity to talk to some students, and the student said – you know, I told them that this was the first service where I’d actually been at Bethel to see what was going on, and he says, “So what’d you think?”
And I said, “Well, you know, there are two things,” and I mentioned these two things. But I said, “I know you believe in eschatology – that is, the way things according to the Scripture play out. And according to the Scripture, very simple, very straightforward in the teaching, is that the next kingdom to come is the kingdom of the Antichrist. So how does that fit with worldwide revival?”
Well, he didn’t argue with me. My hope was just to plant some seeds and to get him to think – think biblically. But am I off base there? Isn’t the – you know, once the Rapture takes place, there’s seven years of tribulation that follow?
Rod: Well, what we know from what Paul had, and Paul had a direct revelation from the
Lord Jesus, so much so…I mean, he called it “my gospel,” because it was personally given to him as a founding apostle. Now, right away that’s a problem for the Bethel movement, because they believe that they have the office of apostle. In fact, Bill Johnson is looked at as an apostle more than he is a pastor. So they are reinventing, thinking that they are getting direct revelation, and that’s a big problem.
But if you get back to what Jesus said, and what Jesus said would never conflict with what was given to Paul and his understanding of how the end times were going to play out, Jesus said squarely to the authority that He was put in…to Pilate…and said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight so that I would not be delivered to you.” And He talked about the “kingdom is among you.” In other words, He’s the King of us in us, and by the Holy Spirit being given to us is King of my life; He’s King of us as individuals; He’s King of the church. But He is not using worldly means to save this world, and that’s the difference.
Bethel is now involved in running something that used to be run by the government of the city of Redding. They run the Civic Auditorium, and they’re very proud of it. And that was kind of the subject of my article, because they were defending why they took that over. And they were given a chance to do that, and there was a lot of opposition, but the city was in a desperate position to run the Civic Theater, or auditorium…it was losing money, and Bethel said, “You know, this is part of our mandate.” And they are moving…I mean, they are really moving into reality of trying to take control of these things, and I believe they’re moving completely away from the only thing that really sets somebody free, and that is the gospel.
Tom: See, and the Scripture’s very clear: the kingdom will not come until the King returns. Now, that doesn’t mean that there’s another aspect of that, that the kingdom of God is within our hearts, that we are followers of the King.
Rod: Right, exactly.
Tom: But in terms of setting up the kingdom, only Christ can do that, and again, the Scriptures are very clear.
But, Rod, what about the responsibility of Christians, especially young adults? And you’re pointing to that with what is going on in Bethel, and it’s not - they’re hardly taking over the… Although, Redding seems to be enamored with much that is going on, but they’re not running the show. Bethel is not running the show. There are certain influences…
And to expect that worldwide is a grand delusion, even whether they call it the Seven Mountain Mandate to take over governments, media, education, the arts, and so forth. It’s not only a delusion, but again, our concern is this is contrary – and young people are being taught that – this is contrary to the Word of God, which is the main problem here.
Rod: One of the main things we found in our experience, and this is very close up, was that young people that were involved in this movement (not all of them), the ones that get their kingdom, that get their ticket, their golden ticket, and start their own ministry out of this, well, they go on and do what they do. But many of the young people are disenchanted after a few years, because the promises are not real; they’re hollow. The experiences end. They go out into the world and they are not equipped: they’re not grounded in the Word, and they flounder. And many of the young people fall headlong into the world, and go back… And, I mean, we saw it firsthand, and it’s tragic; it’s heartbreaking. And we know the enemy is targeting the youth today. The young people are leaving churches in huge numbers, and this, in my opinion, is something that in effect will inoculate young people to the real gospel.
Rod: And that’s what…that was a sad thing to see happen, and it is happening.
Tom: Rod, a while back, I think it was September or October, I got a copy of the Discernment Newsletter, which is, you know…I enjoy reading that. And I read your article, which was titled “The Bethel Church Upgrade,” and I’ll just set this up for you: so I read it. I thought, Yeah, that’s a really good perspective. I agreed with what you said.
But then it was a couple of months later that I went to Bethel to experience (I could use that word here) exactly what you wrote about. And when I came back, I reread the article when I came back to Bend (we’re about five hours away from Bethel). I read it and I thought, Man, I’ve got to get this out!
And the first thing I did was I had a speaking engagement in Oxnard, CA, in a Hispanic church, which is an Assembly of God church. I love the pastor – I mean, and I love this church. So they had me speak. But before I did, I had breakfast with the pastor, and I gave him a copy of your article. He - you know, I told him about it. He said, “Tom, I’ve got to have it. I’ve got to give it out to our entire staff, especially our youth pastor, who’s a really good guy.” But in the past they have sent their young people to Bethel.
Now, so your article’s being used, and the Lord willing, we’ll figure out a way that we can get it out.
But back to the point, my point: “The Bethel Church Upgrade?” Tell our listeners what the story is behind that.
Rod: Well, what I meant by that is I had taken a break from checking up on what was going on down there – busy doing, you know, what a pastor does. And then I thought, “You know, hey, I haven’t seen what’s going on,” and I’d noticed that Kris Vallotton had written, or actually rewritten, one of his books and was talking about it in one of his messages, so I downloaded the whole thing. I started listening to it, and it started just dawning on me that this movement is trying to make themselves appeal to a larger audience. They’re trying to be less weird, less outlandish…a few years ago they got a lot of flak about a YouTube [video] that showed a gold, glittering glory cloud – they’re not talking about those things as much. But the teaching is still the same. They got a lot of flak for some of their kids, and the pastor’s wife laying on top of the ground of old revival leaders trying to get an impartation. You know, that’s all weird stuff, and you’re not seeing that now. They have moderated their message, but it’s still the same message. And I think what they’re really trying to do is grow their school and become more appealing, and I call that an upgrade, which is then trying to upgrade their message and polish it so it is more appealing.
And I believe it’s a very sophisticated plan. They’re trying to change even some of their terminology. But if you listen to what they’re really saying – and I challenge you, if you want to check it out, their messages are online. You can check it out, but I would say do it with a prayerful attitude with your Bible open and compare, like the Bereans did, scripture with scripture, and you’ll find it’s the same message, it’s just a little trickier.
Rod: That’s disturbing to me, very disturbing!
Tom: Okay, so, Rod, so I read this, but I didn’t have any experience of that to support it. I mean, I’m reading what they’re saying, and I’m aware of things, which we’ll talk about in a minute – things like the “fire tunnel,” or that.
Now…but then I’m at Bethel. The first thing that impressed me was this is top drawer: the campus…everything about it is – you say “sophisticated,” you know; my father-in-law would have said, “This is top drawer.” This is what money can buy. So it’s incredibly impressive visually.
Then I hear the message. The only thing that I could come away with related to the things that you might have seen with the kundalini spirit, or some of Caryl Matrisciana’s videos, it’s not there. The only thing that I thought was - and I know people have complained about this – but in their worship, they were doing the “hop, skip, and jump” song. You know, I don’t know what that’s based on, but you know, kind of got people in the mood, loosened them up, and so on. So you can throw stones at that, but not a big problem. But nothing of what somebody may have experienced that was not unlike and a reflection of Toronto and Pensacola and Lakeland and all of these places where you have the more outrageous things, and so on. No, it is more sophisticated – at least more conservative, let’s say it that way.
Now, here was the problem: even though this is played down, it’s not a new thing. I could point to somebody like Joel Osteen, for example, who is the media guy for his dad John Olsteen, old school, more of the Oral Roberts old school kind of stuff, and so on. And what did Joel do? Because he knew the media, he knew the technology, and so on, and his approach was more conservative at least, but still the same old stuff!
Now, let me just add this one other point to underscore what you just said: I thought, Okay, this is seductive. This is impressive. This is…I could see how somebody coming here and just experiencing the Sunday services, they wouldn’t find a lot wrong, okay? But then at the school, I understand that these other things that we’ve talked about still go on. In other words, the students are being trained in the – what we would call the “weird stuff.” But, you know, the things that are contrary to the way the Holy Spirit would work.
Now – then I went to the bookstore. It’s a tiny book store, but jammed to the roof with books, and you see the latest books by Kim, by Bill Johnson, and others; but under there, you keep looking, and you have books by Charles Capps. If I asked some people today, “Do you know who Charles Capps is?”
Dave and I dealt with this 30 years ago in The Seduction of Christianity. This is old-school Kenneth Hagan, Copeland…you know, Copeland’s still about. But the point is that underneath the upgraded, so-called, teachings you’ve got the basic lies, the basic word-faith, prosperity, healing delusions and things that are contrary to the Word of God. If it’s in the bookstore, the students have to read this stuff. Obviously, it’s not there just for people visiting the church, but it’s a part of the curriculum.
Rod: Well, it is definitely part of their culture, which they promote as a move of God. Their culture to them is almost, in my opinion, an idol. They call it the “culture of honor,” and their culture of honor includes many people that I believe were apostate a hundred years ago, 75 years ago, 50 years ago, who were leading people astray into a false gospel, a gospel that included many, many New Age and a lot of psycho-heresy stuff. They’re very big into psychology; they’re very anti-creationism. They have a visiting professor who comes who is basically teaching evolution: God used evolution to create the world…there’s a lot of just bad doctrine. And one of the worst is the word-faith idea: that you basically create your own reality as though you’re some little god, and that is all there. And it’s even more dangerous because they’re going to reach out across this world and across the United States into churches that are unsuspecting, who hear there’s this group of people who are excited about Jesus, and “I want to be excited about Jesus!”
There’s nothing funner than serving the Lord. It’s very difficult, it’s very hard, but it is exciting if you’re following the Lord and being really, truly Spirit-led. But they’re reaching into places and little towns across America, and they’re pulling in people out of churches, and they are teaching them what is really another gospel.
Tom: Rod, as I mentioned at least last week, I want to deal with what the Lord has put on your heart of how to address these things. Before we get there, and you can do this briefly, explain to our listeners what the fire tunnel, what the impartation…what’s that all about? Because there’s power in it; you know that.
Rod: Yeah, well, Bill Johnson has always said that if you really want to follow God, then you need to go where God is. So he has this territorial understanding that God is in a certain place, and He’s doing something there, and you need to come there to get it. I mean, that’s one of the draws of getting people to Redding. And the fire tunnel is even narrowing that down to where you put leaders who “have it” – in other words, have this impartation, this “Elijah mantle” that they call it, and just by running through there, it’s imparted to you, it’s given to you in some kind of a mystical way. And it is a very experiential thing, it is not found in God’s Word, it is outside of God’s Word – it’s a shortcut, and it’s just one of the methods they use and have been using, and I understand they’re still using it from what I can tell from my witnesses. It’s still there.
Tom: Yeah, well, why would it go away?
Tom: Again, it’s because it’s foundational.
Tom: But as you pointed out, and I experienced, this whole approach – you call it the upgrade. I mean, this is certainly more sophisticated…superficially it seems conservative, but it’s – it’s got to be there, because that’s what they’re about.
Rod: Right, right.
Tom: Now, as we shared - you shared with us, and I mentioned, as well, our heart for young people, certainly my generation can take some grief in this for not discipling, for not being involved in teaching our young people the Word of God, you know? One of the hardest jobs I think, a calling, is to be a youth pastor, because the church expects you to keep them in, keep them entertained, don’t let them go away, and the heartbreak of many youth pastors is that once they leave, they’re gone, because the emphasis has been on entertainment. The emphasis has been on friendship evangelism: …keep a relationship going… Some of these things have some value, but boy, it pushes our young people out, and when they come up against something, the lies, the deceptions, they don’t know how to deal with it. So they’re ripe, they’re ripe for the taking, and so on.
So, Rod, tell me where your heart is, and what you’d like to see happen to rescue – and we know it’s a rescue operation. We can’t turn this thing around. But what’s the Lord put on your heart about rescuing our young people?
Rod: Well, we’re still praying and asking the Lord to lead us, but I believe that He has given us a vision of reaching out in a missionary-type way, and what I mean by that is, you know, we can do video, we can do internet, we’ll use any media that we can to reach young people. But I believe that we’ve got to send people out and warn the church. We’ve got to be the watchmen on the wall. And I love being a pastor in a local church. That is the heartbeat of the New Testament is the local church, and I’m so glad I’m part of that, and that God called me here. He’s given me a great opportunity after trying to kind of stuff that call for many, many years out of fear and other issues. But God did a work and has brought us here.
But I also have a desire to go out and to take a few people with me and warn churches, spend a few days in a seminar-type environment where we warn young people about what is going on, what we’re talking about here today, what’s going on in the culture around us, how the world is drawing people away, because this is just one facet of what I believe is a delusion, and I believe that we have got to go out and meet people face to face, and that means, you know, connecting them inside of a local church. I don’t mean renting halls, I mean going into the local church, meeting with the pastor and elders and the parents, and then spending two or three days with their young people and going through what the truth says and what the world is saying, and even what is coming into the church these days.
And, you know, it’s even – it starts even way before they get to this age. Last night we gave a missionary lesson to our Little Kids Club, and the title of our teaching was, “Are You Willing to Go Through the Fire?” And the fire we were talking about was the same fire that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego went through. It’s the same fire that Jesus mentioned when He said, “Are you willing to lay down your life? Because if you find your life, you’ll lose it. If you lose your life for my sake, you will find it.” And calling us as Christians in these last days to get after it, to get after holiness, to get after discipleship, and to get after evangelism, because the time is short…
Rod: …and calling young people, really, back to the calling that they’ve been called. If they’re born again, they’ve been called, and we want to help them walk in a manner worthy. So we’re praying about producing some literature, producing some videos, and then also making a few trips out to local churches as God would open the door. It’s got to be something that He would do, and it’s just in a vision place right now, it’s just in a thinking and praying place, but if the Lord wants to allow us to do it, then we’re praying that we would have opportunity, you know, and doors to do that.
Tom: You know, Rod, I’ve been to England a number of times, and one of the places where I taught was called Truth for Youth, and we had about 180 – I remember one time we had about 180 young adults, and I’m thinking, “Man, this is as good as it gets, man. Lord, 180 of these young people!” But I started out – there were some other speakers with me, and I started out by saying, “The reason we’re here is that we want to encourage you guys to think biblically, just to think biblically.” But then I paused, and I said, “You know what? We’ll be thrilled if you just think!” Now, the reason is I have such a love for this generation, and they’re equipped! They’re bright! They can do this if they’re willing, and obviously it’s got to be by the Word of God. So, again, young people are being drawn off to the experiential, the non-thinking, that letting their feelings rule, and so on. But as we have opportunities, which I tried to do with this young man that I had the opportunity to talk to at Bethel (well, actually at Redding), you know, I could see the wheels turning in his head as the Lord gave me some things to plant seeds, you know. I wasn’t there to debate him or arm-wrestle him out of the system. There wasn’t time for that, but I did want to plant some seeds.
And again, Rod, any way that we can help you do what the Lord has called you to do, we’re there and available. And I would pray that those listening to this recording, that they would invite you, those who see issues in which their young people are being drawn off, that they would encourage – not only encourage you and support you and what you’re doing, but you’ve – you know, you can make yourself available to teach their young people, to give them some insights. And it is not rocket theology, right, Rod?
Rod: No, no.
Tom: This is simple straightforward stuff, but they’ve not been hearing it, and they need to hear it in order to repent, in order to turn from the direction in which their feelings and their experiential aspects are drawing them toward.
Rod: Well, I appreciate that, Tom. And just be praying that God would provide the time and the opportunity. We know that if He opens a door, He’ll provide the means to get to that door to get through the door, and to sound the warning, you know, that… We believe we are in the end times. We do believe that the time is very short, and that we need to first of all, I think many of our young people have an idea that they’re born again and they really are not. And so our first call is that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, and Jesus…secondly, in that Jesus said, “I have come to give you life, life abundantly.” We’re talking about a dynamic Christian life, because Jesus lives in us, and that is not boring. It is a life that’s worth living, but it has to be within the confines and within the safety of – you know, Jude says, “The once-delivered faith,” and Hebrews 1 says that He has spoken, and we have the written Word. That’s the guide, that’s the plumb line. And if we measure everything up against that plumb line, then we’re going to be effective in the gospel, and that’s what we really need to be. We need to be effective in the gospel.
Tom: Right. My guest has been Rod Page, who’s the pastor of Lewiston Community Church in Lewiston, CA. Rod, it’s been terrific. You’ve given us some wonderful insights, so God bless you, brother, and thanks for being aboard for this program.
Rod: Thank you, Tom, and we pray for your ministry, as well.
Gary: You’ve been listening to 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.