Thoughts on the Message of Bill Johnson and Bethel Church


Q: I am curious about the Bethel Church with Bill Johnson. My church is getting into their music, teaching, and conferences. What advice can you give me?

A: This is a very, very, toxic ministry. I wrote about this in principle in a book called Counterfeit Revival: Looking for God in All the Wrong Places. In that book, what I do is contrast genuine revival from the kinds of things that you are going to find at Bethel Church in Redding, California, with Bill Johnson as the senior pastor.

There are others like Todd White — now the newest rage in these Christian circles. He has tens of thousands of followers. Why? Because he is promising that as he walks through crowds, as he walks through malls, as he goes about his daily life, people are getting healed left and right from all kinds of maladies. And so, there is a great, great propaganda machine that backs him up: Charisma magazine. You have big churches that start talking about it. Pretty soon, very much like what happened with the Counterfeit Revival in Pensacola, Florida, people start flocking to the scene.

The hell of it, if you will, those people who are most desperate — and when you are sick, I can tell you from personal experience, if you are not enveloped in a cloak of peace, you can get very desperate — you want to be healed. This world has its good points (we know the next world’s a lot better), but all of us feel like we have a mission to complete in this world, and so you want to be healed. I still remember with great pain in my heart when I was writing the book Counterfeit Revival, hearing the story of a man whose baby had just died. He was so desperate for a resurrection, and he was listening to a Counterfeit Revivalist in Pensacola, Florida. He drove all the way across the country with a dead baby in an ice chest, a baby on ice, drives across the country, you can imagine the agonizing experience, only to find when he gets there, it is all a hoax. This is precisely what Bill Johnson is unfortunately perpetrating.

They have their healing rooms. They have their schools of supernatural ministry. They emphasize the need of believers to return to a ministry of signs and wonders. They consider miracles, signs, and wonders to be a norm. Now, do I believe in healing? I absolutely do. I absolutely do. But, through proper means. Not through a con artist’s sleight-of-hand / sleight-of-mind kind of shenanigans.

If you look at the theology of Bethel Church, what you in essence find is the theology of a very capricious God. Not only that, but you find loads and loads of examples of the supernatural that really are not examples at all. In other words, this is being hyped. Johnson tells of God having a storehouse of body parts. He says,

Years ago, one of our students had an encounter with the Lord. It was really quite bizarre. In heaven she actually saw this room with spare body parts. You say, “Well that doesn’t exist in heaven.” I don’t know. I haven’t seen it. But she did. And she was with Chris ministering down in Santa Rosa, I think it was. And a gal came up that was in a head-on collision, had really messed up her legs. Used to be a dancer and had very little function….and she says, “I don’t even have a kneecap.” Well, the gal who’d seen the spare parts room in heaven says, “Well, I’ll get one for you.” That’s like, that’s got to be like the ultimate response ever! “Well, I’ll get one for you.” She reaches her arm like this, she brings it down, lays hands on the knees and within fifteen minutes, she has a new knee cap.

Here we have a warehouse in heaven and the spare parts are coming down. This is a common occurrence. In his theology, you are not to pray, “Thy will be done.” This is a nonstarter in this community.

If you look at the Bible, Jesus prays, “Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:44 KJV). The apostle Paul teaches us to pray in this manner. Peter teaches us to pray in this manner. Who can forget the apostle James? The words ought to be familiar to all of us. Chapter 4 of his epistles says, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’” Then James says, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Here are the operative words: “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13–16 NIV). The reason that I bring that up specifically is because in an article that we did in the Christian Research Journal (I do believe it is up on the Web right now), there is an article entitled “Off the Map: Johnson and the Pursuit of Extrabiblical Authentication,” an article written by Bob Hunter. This article really goes into the excesses that you will find in this ministry. In fact, it has a section on what Bill Johnson and company believe when it comes to Christ praying, “If it be thy will.”

I can tell you, having now gone through a bone marrow biopsy, and waiting for the results, the greatest thing in my prayer is to be in the center of God’s will. That is what I really care about. I’ve had a cough that has plagued me for many, many months. It has been undiagnosed, and I have been praying about this, and praying about this, and praying about this, but, always in the context of “if it be your will Lord,” because I have found — I have been on this a long time — I have found that God teaches you so much in your suffering and sorrows. C. S. Lewis said it is His megaphone to a deaf world.

—Hank Hanegraaff

This blog is adapted from the May 2, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

9 Responses to Thoughts on the Message of Bill Johnson and Bethel Church

  1. paula downing says:

    It is so important to read Counterfeit Revival so that people KNOW what to look out for!

  2. Adele says:

    There’s such a perfect peace in praying ‘Thy will be done’. I have been through three heart surgeries and may need another, which may or may not fix my arrhythmia issues, but knowing He is accomplishing His will in my life is what makes these trials bearable. Even when I miss my music ministry and people lament to me that God HAS to heal me, I remind them that His will is far more important to me than healing. God bless you as you continue to point people to the One who will ultimately heal us all!

  3. Buddy Buddin says:

    Wonderful and exciting news, I do hope and pray that Hank recovers well through the chemo process, however if I’m ever in the same situation, needing chemo, I will decline indeed, I’ve seen too many suffer the barbaric aftermath, it just doesn’t sit well with me. This has nothing at all to do with Hank and his decision or especially his faithful works of study along with his show. I’m a proud listener and learner of the show. I love the new set up on f/b, I believe it will be greatly successful and very much needed.
    Thanks again for the many years of blessings…!!!

  4. Buddy Buddin says:

    As for Bill Johnson and his “show”… I agree with Hank, and it’s getting more dangerous as we get closer and closer to the end.
    It seems as though people, Christiin or not are flocking to the easy way, the watered down Word and are wiling to believe in man instead of God….
    Enough said, I like you are flawed by sin stained allusions that try so desperately to cover His Truth….

  5. Nancy Brinton says:

    Though I’m leaving this reply, I’m wondering if it will actually make it to this website, as it will absolutely contradict what has been written here. But in all good conscience, I must reply. First of all, I’m not hearing you address the innumerable healings, signs, wonders and miracles that ARE taking place through this ministry all over the world. Nor are you mentioning the many Scriptures that, in essence, declare that we walk in the same authority that Jesus did. Remember “we ARE seated with Him in the heavenlies” and “the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, lives in us”. Oh, and there’s that bit about how just a little faith can move mountains, and that we are ‘more than conquerors’. The least of which is Jesus declaring that those who follow Him WILL ‘heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leper and cast out demons’. I exhort you to elevate your spirit above your mind, and allow yourselves to believe that we are supernatural beings, because Holy Spirit lives in us, and He can do anything He wants through us. Whoever said this is the ‘easy way’ hasn’t tried it. Walking in true faith and trust in God and His Word takes continual courage and determination. Seems to me it’s easy to sit back and say ‘whatever is is His will’ instead of realizing our responsibility to walk in the the authority He’s given us, to be the salt and light by actually ‘imitating Jesus’ as Paul exhorted us. I’m all for being the Body of Christ, and to me, that means ‘doing what He did’ as we continue His work. He’s the model. And Bill Johnson and Bethel Church come closer to demonstrating that model than all the anemic churches that pick and choose what parts of Jesus’ life they will imitate. I’m guessing, anything but what may appear ‘supernatural’!!!!

    • Life Interupted says:

      Question, what is your take on the teachings of Benni Johnson summoning Angels in the desert, or the children’s Ministry @ Bethel taking young children on “Guided trips to heaven ” or Bethel’s heavy endorsement of Shawn Bowls, who claims to have a vision of Jesus and an Angel giving him the “spiritual keys ” to unlock and restore secrets unknown to us until now. Or Brain Simmons who has written a new “Translation” of the bible to more “accurately portray the heart and message of God” after being “taken up to heaven and finding books of the bible unknown to us like John 22.
      It seems to me that we have a few modern day Joseph Smith’s with “new revalation aND insight” just like the Mormon/LDS church.

      I had very similar mindset as you not long ago, but the more I dug into the real word of God on my own and with a fair amount of knowledge of the mormon beliefs and other churches that have added to the true gospel, the more I saw dangerous error in the teachings at Bethel. I have attended classes put on by Kris Vallotton, and been through part of Bethel’s SOZO healing. The teachings are very “NEW AGE, CHRISTIAN MYSTIC. Yes we are called to imitate Christ, to give our lives to live for him, just as he sacraficed his life for us. Jesus laid down his life for us, fully submitted to the will of God. We live to serve him, Yes! we are called to pray for the sick, Yes I believe in a powerful and mighty God who is able to do all things. But the message often taught from Bethel is a Gospel of miracles and healing. Not the gospel of Repentance and forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the Christian Churches accept the non biblical teachings of Bethel because of their “good works/fruit ” then how are we any different than any other false religion?

      In the Charasmatic circles, It seems that, to question the teachings of Bill Johnson is near equal to questioning God himself. It is scary that he and people likeep Hiedi Baker are becoming “infallible ” to the Christian community, just like the pope is to catholics. As you listen to the teachings of Bethel, I would urge you (or anyone to compare what they are teaching to the bible. Some of their teachings are very sound, but some are in stark contrast with the bible. You can view any of the above topics on YouTube with a quick search.

  6. Frank Sperling says:

    I completely agree with you Nancy, Bethel church and Bill Johnson are authentic, After all Jesus did say ” I am the way, the truth, and the life “. Are you walking in the “way” with Jesus ? if not you cannot come to the father, nor can you “know ” the truth, or experience ” the life”

  7. Glen grant says:

    I broke fellowship with a baptist congregation in priince George bc Canada over this issue they movers and shakers in our congregation we’re going down to Redding for johnsons supernatural schools of ministry I went to the pastor about it and he didn’t agree with them but was unwilling to to upset the apple art he is afraid it would split his church apart so I quietly left

    • Ed May says:

      I completely agree with Glen Grant, Life Interupted and Hank.
      A young family woman from our church here in England who had been fighting cancer for years went to Toronto for healing, at the last session she was thrown to the ground and had to leave crawling on her hands and knees, months later she died. She was a lovely woman and devout Christian, now thankfully at rest with the Lord.
      This blessing from Toronto? Came over to our town in England and I attended a few different sessions, one I cant speak about because the spiritual experience for me was to awful to comment on, a second was at my church where a prominent leader was endorsing this movement to 400 plus Christians. A man stood up to warn everyone to beware of this teaching; he was booed, and then thrown out. I left also. Unfortunately my wife was drawn into it and this caused a rift between us.
      Later in the year we attended New Wine, a protégé of Bill Johnson preached all week, then at the end Johnson showed up and preached a message condemning anyone who spoke out and against Todd Bentley. I left New Wine incredibly discouraged, strange really, as you’re meant to leave feeling uplifted and emboldened for Christ.
      The whole experience very nearly broke up our marriage, but we left that church and attended another where we found healing and our marriage has been restored. Thanks to the Lord our God, we now attend a small Church in our local community as leaders following Jesus Christ our Lord, not men like Johnson.

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