I know this post is probably going to rub a lot of people the wrong way. A few years ago, I would have been angered by a post like this. I would have probably thought that someone was being cynical or “religious” for speaking out against Bethel.
Honestly, for quite a while I have been deeply bothered by how popular Bethel is and how people continue to overlook all the ministry’s red flags, and I believe we need to talk about all that is wrong with the church.
I used to be a big fan of Bethel. I absolutely loved their music. As a young Christian, I thought that beautiful music equaled profound spirituality. I didn’t have the wisdom or discernment to look into things more deeply and not take everything at face value. You could say I was pretty naive.
I’m not even saying that none of Bethel’s music has ever been Spirit-filled, because I believe that God can work through individuals at Bethel despite the church’s shortcomings. But we absolutely have to talk about what is wrong with Bethel, and why people like me have decided to take a step back and disassociate ourselves with everything Bethel-related.
There are some really good musicians at Bethel. Let’s just acknowledge that. They have made some beautiful music, and it has impacted the lives of a lot of Christians in some way. When I first became a Christian, I believed God spoke to me through their music. Even now, I don’t necessarily believe that He didn’t. But I am currently at a place where I can no longer endorse anything that comes from Bethel.
I used to feel so guilty for coming against ministries like Bethel. But years later, I can finally say with absolute confidence that I really don’t care what people say about God if it doesn’t align with Scripture. I do not feel even slightly guilty for sharing that I have stopped listening to music that churches like Bethel create.
Why? you’re probably asking. Well, I have a few reasons.
First, there’s the fact that Bethel music lacks spiritual depth. When one really examines the lyrics, it’s very self-focused in that it is more focused on one’s own experience with God than who God has revealed Himself to be in His word. That’s a problem. I believe the lyrics also lack complete honesty and integrity. I believe authentic Christian music acknowledges all of life’s experiences and has a broad emotional range, just like the Psalms. Bethel most certainly doesn’t fit that description.
But honestly, that’s one of the minor reasons. The main reason I stopped listening to Bethel music is because of the messed up, unbiblical doctrines the church teaches. There are so many things wrong with Bethel, I’m not even sure where to begin.
When I started watching videos of Bethel, I quickly noticed that the church treats its leaders like idols. This is even evident with worship leaders. Something I noticed, and something that really bothered me, was how Bethel almost endowed its worship leaders with celebrity status. During worship, the cameras would zoom in and focus on the worship leaders, as if everyone should be watching and imitating them instead of focusing on God. People seemed to idolize Steffany Gretzinger and Amanda Cook to a weird extent, and to be honest I just found it kind of creepy and wrong.
If Bethel idolizes worship leaders, it worships the preachers. Bill Johnson is essentially a cult leader, as people hang on his every word and wait for his special “revelations” from God that of course cannot actually be found in the Bible. He’s always adding weird and creative new twists to simple Bible verses. People at Bethel actually believe that he is an apostle. Kris Vallotton is also put on a pedestal, and everyone calls him a prophet. It’s a shame he doesn’t seem to have a clue what real, biblical prophecy is.
Bethel also places a bizarre emphasis on the “anointing.” This is a concept which is rarely found in scripture and which has been taken completely out of context by Bethel’s leaders. It endows individuals with some special power and boosts humans’ egos, when we’re all the same in God’s eyes and any power we happen to have at any moment is Christ’s and not our own.
There’s a video of some nutty guy who claims to have raised a bunch of dead people speaking at Bethel, and you can see piles of jackets onstage during his sermon. Members of Bethel literally put their clothing onstage to soak up this guy’s “anointing.” How bizarrely occultic.
Bethel has also been known to engage in an activity called “grave sucking” or “grave soaking” in which members of Bethel go to the graves of deceased Christian leaders and lay on their gravestones in order to pick up this special anointing. Of course Bill Johnson has denied this, but there’s plenty of photographic evidence to contradict his lies, including a picture of his wife laying on a grave.
The thing that first really bothered me about Bethel (before I knew about all the other craziness) was the bizarre spiritual activity they engage in. I’m talking about the weird manifestations and being “drunk” in the Spirit and “slain” in the Spirit. This out of control behavior is nothing short of New Age spirituality. If you look up videos of the effects of the Kundalini spirit in eastern spirituality, it looks exactly the same. People at Bethel literally writhe on the floor and manifest demons, and instead of trying to deliver the poor people, the Christians at Bethel call this the work of the Holy Spirit.
There’s a video of Heidi Baker (a really nutty Christian leader who claims to be an apostle) speaking at Bethel, and as she’s talking, she imparts something questionable to a man in the audience, and he literally starts screaming and writhing on the floor as if he is on fire. She genuinely believes it is the Holy Spirit working in him and leaves him be. It’s deeply disturbing. Christians at Bethel pretty much believe that all spiritual activity comes from God and that to question bizarre behavior or demonic activity is cynical and even blasphemous.
The bizarre behavior from Christians like those at Bethel genuinely almost put me off of God during my early walk with Christ. I was so unsettled and freaked out by all the charismania that I started to wonder if I could even trust God and if He was who He says He is in the Bible. The way these people depicted the Holy Spirit made me sick to my stomach, yet I wondered if they could be right. I thought to myself, If they are right, then I don’t think I even want the Holy Spirit.
Even though the Holy Spirit I read about in the Bible and who I came to know personally was entirely different than the Holy Spirit many Charismatics talked about, I still wondered if maybe they could be right, if maybe I was in fact just cynical or “resistant.” I even started to worry that I had somehow committed the unforgivable sin, that I was blasphemous for not wanting a part of wacky behavior and unbiblical beliefs. But I no longer have any doubts about what I believe about this. God is exactly who He has said He is in His word. And He is enough.
Bethel’s teachings are nothing short of motivational, New Age mumbo jumbo. These teachings only feed people’s egos and teach them that God is some kind of genie who will give them some profound New Agey power or some spiritual high. They take Bible verses and twist them to fit their bizarre occultic ideology. Worst of all, they also present a Jesus who looks quite different from the Jesus in the Bible.
Bethel even has a school of supernatural ministry (sound like Harry Potter much?) where students have to pay thousands of dollars to be taught this trash. More and more stories are coming out about what really happens at Bethel, and any level-headed person simply has to conclude that the church is a cult.
Now I know that some of you value “unity” over everything else and believe that the doctrines I’m talking about aren’t fundamental and I should therefore support Bethel anyway. But the thing is, I would argue that these issues are fundamental. If you teach a New Agey gospel based on emotions and desires and subjective spiritual experiences that involve demonic activity, that is absolutely a fundamental deviance from the true gospel. Leading people astray with false teachings and wacky spiritual experiences isn’t just a minor difference in doctrine.
Another huge red flag is the fact that Bethel is associated with extremely questionable leaders. Bethel openly supports leaders such as Benny Hinn. I know I am not alone in thinking that Benny Hinn is one of the worst false teachers of the last century and that it is extremely problematic to condone his teachings and behavior. This alone is enough to cause a person to question what Bethel is really about and to conclude that they don’t believe in the true gospel.
It is extremely important who Christians decide to associate themselves with, as this says a lot about what a ministry believes and values. I’d say “guilty by association” applies in this circumstance.
Honestly, I am so tired of the insane amounts of damage Charismatic churches like Bethel cause. I have no issue calling them out and saying that I in no way condone what they do or what they stand for. The Charismatic movement almost made me completely lose faith in God. I am so glad that it didn’t, but that my faith was strengthened by it instead.
I am also happy to say that I am 100% still a continuationist. I am disgusted by the teachings of John MacArthur and other cessationists as I personally find these teachings to be just as blasphemous as Bethel’s teachings. I believe spiritual gifts are powerful and important. I just don’t believe they should ever be abused, and I don’t think we should add to the Bible and engage in weird new spiritual practices that Jesus would never engage in. You can heal people and prophesy and do all these other biblical things without acting like a total weirdo and making a mockery of God. Let’s not let ministries like Bethel make us skeptical of the actual work and power of the Spirit. If we allow that to happen, then we’ve given them far too much power.
I just want to say that I believe that there are loads of people at Bethel who really do love Jesus and want to serve God but who are simply misguided. That would have been me a few years ago. Things are very rarely black and white. Hey, there’s still some good found at Bethel. Of course. If there wasn’t, Bethel wouldn’t be so alluring. The reason so many people have been drawn in is that the lies are mixed in with a lot of truth. That’s how the enemy works, and that’s how cults work.
Just because something is popular doesn’t mean you have to go along with it. Just because a church produces popular music that sounds good, it doesn’t mean you have to listen to it. There’s lots of amazing Christian music out there that is produced by godly and authentic Christians who aren’t into any weird spiritual practices and believe in the real, biblical gospel.
Believe it or not, I haven’t even mentioned all of the reasons I am done with Bethel and why I believe the church to be a cult. There is so much more I could talk about in this post, but I didn’t want it to get too long. If you want some more evidence for these extreme claims I’ve made about Bethel, please watch some videos on the subject. There’s a young woman called Lindsay Davis who was kicked out of BSSM for questioning Bethel’s beliefs, and she has an interesting testimony about her experience at Bethel.
There’s a lot of evidence out there for why Bethel is into weird New Age spirituality. Of course Bill Johnson always denies these claims, but there’s irrefutable proof in the form of photos, articles, and videos. I’ll include some links to videos at the end of this post (note: I don’t necessarily agree with all of the views of Christians who speak out against Bethel). Of course there are a ton of other videos out there, and I’m only going to include a couple.
Please, question everything. Don’t go along with things just because they’re popular. Sure, everyone else might like something. That doesn’t mean you have to. It’s often absolutely necessary to go against the grain and to speak out against things even if it makes you unpopular. Jesus did this all the time. And Paul sure didn’t hesitate to call out false teachers.
We should never be hateful towards any Christian leaders or any Christian group. However, it is perfectly acceptable to choose to disassociate from groups who clearly don’t have biblical beliefs and believe in a different Christ.
I hope that this post didn’t merely anger people, but rather caused people to think and question and look at this subject through a biblical lens. I also hope it gave some of you the desire to research so that you can objectively come to a conclusion about Bethel based on facts and logic and Scripture. Don’t merely take my word for it.
Some videos about Bethel:
A video about false spirits:
If you want to find Christian music outside of worship music like Bethel, here’s a playlist I created. And here’s a playlist of worship music that I don’t believe is created by anyone in cult churches.