The NEW Toronto
Bill Johnson's Bethel church
Prevaricating leader of the youth
Bethel church was part of the General Council of the Assemblies of God until January 2006 when the church membership voted to withdraw their affiliation.
Bill Johnson is the pastor of Bethel in Redding, his education is reported to be one semester at Shasta College (which does appear to be a sound bible collegehttp://www.shasta.edu/uploads/1/6/7/0/16705804/student_handbook_2015_-_2016.pdf), which Johnson is now at odds with in his teaching. He also had one year at the Genesis Bible Training Center in Santa Rosa. After attending the Genesis Bible Training Center he spent five years on the Bethel staff, and became pastor of Mountain Chapel in Weaverville from 1978 to 1996, he then he took the pastorship of Bethel.
An estimated 2,000 people attending Bethel left when Johnson took over in 1996. Today, it has grown back and nearly every church service is full each week, mainly by youth. Thesanctuary sits on 70 acres. This includes the Twin View campus and an overflow room, which could easily add to more than 3,000 congregants. More than 30,000 people go to the web for their online media. Bethel has become one of Shasta County's largest private employers with 360 employees. And they are expanding (certain references used, source: Record searchlight - redding.com: Bethel burgeons under pastor's visions of prosperity)
The focus of Bethel church under Bill Johnson shifted into training people in prophecy, healing and other "supernatural gifts," some of which cannot be found in the Bible.
Like Toronto, word began to spread and many people throughout the world traveled to Redding to attend the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Bethel has become the new Toronto movement in America.
Johnson's son, Brian is the worship director at Bethel.Jeremy Riddle who came from the Anaheim Vineyard as their Worship Leader is Bethel Church’s worship leader. (Anaheim was under John Wimber until 1994, Wimber was one of main purveyors of the Kansas city prophets latter rain teachings to the body of Christ in the late 80’s and early 90’s).
At Bethel"Dance in the River" is performed by worship musicians at young adult services (a cliché taken from Rodney Howard Browne’s laughter revival that began in 1993-94 "jump in the river.")
Gospel forum, a site that promotes Johnson, posts: “His greatest breakthrough in ministry came after attending two conferences in 1987 put on by John Wimber. He realized he needed to “put a demand” on what he believed – his risk factor had to line up with the boldness of his beliefs. As he did this there was an immediate change in his ministry, and healing and miracles increased.” http://gospelforum.org/speakers/bill-johnson/
Why is Johnson so popular?
Johnson’s dress is casual: he is seen wearing rectangular black framed glasses, plain buttoned up shirts left untucked over blue jeans. His voice is soft and he makes it conversational, real down home. He is non confrontational and the youth readily accept his teaching which is focused on power, healing and miracles. He charms the people by his calm and likeable delivery and this is why Johnson could be one of the most dangerous of all the Latter Rain teachers present today (and there are many). One can find nearly every wind of doctrine that is taking place today in his teaching and practice.
The underlying foundation is word faith teaching with numerous wrong, distorted interpretations of the word that find their way into his teaching. Johnson has successfully conglomerated word faith, supernaturalism, mysticism, gnosticism taken from nearly every trend or wave of the spirit in the last 25 years. He has repackaged Branhamism, and the Toronto revivalism to the unsuspecting naïve and unlearned; those who have very little knowledge of the scripture or modern church history. This becomes a potpourri of danger to the youth that it is being disseminated to.
C. Peter Wagner “founder” of the New Apostolic Reformation movement calls Bethel’s senior pastor, Bill Johnson, an “apostle.
Let’s begin by understanding his influence to others, and others influences with him.Johnson's affiliations, goals and purpose of Bethel Church connect him to many "friends" who share in the same pursuit of affecting the earth with heaven (he teaches heaven invades earth). One could say they are drowning themselves in today’s neo charismania that came from Wimber’s Vineyard. also Kingdom now authoritarianism that came from Wagner’s new apostles, who was also associated with Wimber.
Bill Johnson was one of the main supporters of the Lakeland revival, or what is better known as the fiery fiasco of Todd Bentley, the tattooed revelator affectionally known as bam bam, who tried to bring Toronto 3.0 to Florida. Bentley learned much from his friend Bill Johnson, and vice versa.
Seventeen apostles participated in “The Alignment Ceremony” of Todd Bentley at Lakeland. Bentley had been conducting "healing meetings" in Lakeland at the sanctuary of host pastor Stephen Strader’s Ignited Church. Steven Strader is the son of Karl Strader, former pastor of Carpenter's Home Church that helped launch Rodney Howard Browne’s ministry of passing the fire and the contagious laughter experience as the anointing.
Bill Johnson the head pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, Calif. laid hands on Bentley approving him into their fold of prophets and apostles. It was called a true sign of unity by many. This unity was quickly fragmented when Bentley picked up and left the revival with his new girlfriend (who was part of his ministry) and preceded to divorce his wife. Not a single prophet saw this coming! Johnson later came to Bentleys rescue to restore him after this charade.
Participators at the ceremony included Rick Joyner, founder of MorningStar Ministries Ken Greter who announced C. Peter Wagner, Che Ahn, Bill Johnson, John Arnott, Stephen Strader, Karl Strader, Jeff Beecham, Rick Joyner, Doris Wagner, Joseph Garlington, Sharon Stone, Paco Garcia, Clarice Fluitt, Richard Maiden, Mike Maiden, Joshua Fowler, Barry Bouchet, Wes Campbell.” (Todd Bentley '"Commissioning," June 23, 2008,http://www.freshfire.ca/?Id=1052&pid=993
Guest speakers that speak at Bethel church are Bob Jones (deceased), Randy Clark, John and Carol Arnott, Heidi Baker, Georgian and Winnie Banov, Todd Bentley, Patricia King, Che Arn, Paul Jackson, Jill Austin, Larry Randolph. The list embraces many, not a few of the revival participants in Toronto.
We could say with accuracy that they are continuing the Toronto experience. Johnson may hesitate to link Bethel to any one specific movement or group but clearly they are involved with the new charismatic revivalism that began with Rodney Howard Browne that was then discriminated to the Vineyard through Randy Clark. The NAR, the prophetic movement, the healing movement and what we would clearly identify as Latter Rain is also incorporated. In this smorgasbord of beliefs Johnson has found his niche, adopting the teachings from all has worked, as it has a broad appeal to those seeking experiences.
The teachings of Bethel finds a direct connection to the movement known as the Word of Faith. The Word of Faith doctrine teaches that faith is a force through which anything can be done. Liken to the new age concept of universal spirit energy, one can use it to transform their reality. It also teaches of a Jesus whose deity was left in heaven as he became man and a born again Jesus because he became sin.
If one were to look for a modern poster boy for the Signs and Wonders movement, Johnson would certainly be of the first tier. His book, When Heaven Invades Earth, reveals his underlying theology. Johnson believes that there will be a great end-time revival that will be initiated by an “Elijah generation” (this is Latter Rain speech i.e.Manifest Sons of God). They will transcend all other generations of Christians in regard to their ability to do greater works of power. Others have previously called it the Joshua generation, the Joel generation (Vineyard), numerous other names have been used.
He believes in the Latter Rain teaching of an “outpouring of the Spirit in the last generation” (p.184 When Heaven Invades Earth). But Scripture does NOT teach it will be upon the church (his “Elijah generation”) but will be on Israel as they repent to call upon Christ to return, and the timing is crucial, for it takes place at the end of the Great Tribulation. (http://www.letusreason.org/Biblexp100.htm)
Johnson claims the following about himself and associates: “We will carry the Elijah anointing in preparing for the return of the Lord in the same way that John the Baptist carried the Elijah anointing and prepared the people for the coming of the Lord” (p.184, When Heaven Invades Earth).
Johnson goes even further, “I live for the revival that is unfolding and believe it will surpass all previous moves combined, bringing more than one billion souls into the Kingdom” (p.23).
First; John the baptizer prepared the people for the Lord to be revealed among them; Israel. There is a huge difference in what Johnson is attempting to present to the church. John the baptizer was preaching repentance and baptism. Let's not overlook that it was Branham who claimed the Elijah anointing and being Elijah (and said there would be others). We see how that went (at least some of us do).The Bible says all believers are given the same anointing of the Holy Spirit, and it not named after any person or prophet!
What kind of revival is Johnson speaking of? Bethel's Signs and Wonders have angel feathers, gold dust, diamonds, everything a biblical revival does not ( but Toronto did). John the Baptizer did no miracles, yet he was said of Jesus to be in the spirit of Elijah. Which makes Johnson’s teaching on this company of Elijah’s invalid.
An “Elijah generation, anointing” that will prepare the world for the kingdom is not spoken of in God’s Word. Hearing about a revival, the greater move of God that will surpass all others has been said over 30 years and continues to fall to the ground like the words of false prophets. You will have to wait for the Great Tribulation period, where 144,000 Jewish believers will conduct this (Rev.7, 14). For now what surpasses all others is the growing apostasy, of which statements and teachings like Johnson’ are a part of.
Apparently Bill Johnson has adopted John Wimber’s model that was developed under the integration of Kansas city prophets into his Vineyard church.
Johnson states: [A] generation is now forming . . . that will walk in an anointing that has never been known by mankind before, including the disciples. (Bill Johnson, The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind: Access to a Life of Miracles (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers Inc., 2005, Kindle edition), Kindle location: 1959).
With the power to do signs and wonders, produce miracles and healings, these newly empowered Christians that he calls the Elijah generation will bring the revival of revivals. Have we heard this before? Of course we have, numerous times. By Rick Joyner and so many others who have combined the spiritualism of the age, mysticism and gnosticism with their Christianity. In fact, when they are done, it will no longer be called Christianity or have any semblance to Biblical teaching.
Bill Johnson has prophetic allegories. He believes because owls can see at night, they represent the prophetic. Johnson said about owls to one of his Facebook followers on January 23, 2012:
Donna Granger: Owls are coming into Washington and Oregon now. I had a vision of a white owl flying over a forest of dark leafy green trees at Theresa and Pat’s house in Klamath Falls 2 weeks ago. The next day the Sunday paper had a picture of a snowy owl and an article about scientist not understanding why they are coming down here from Alaska and Canada.”
Bill Johnson: Owls represent the prophetic. They see in the night.”
One may ask if the owl is the only bird that represents the prophetic? (what of Eagles?) Bats see at night by radar senses, (you can make your own application.) Does this mean that all birds (except the owl), are false prophets? Native American traditions and certain occult groups hold that the owl in high esteem, as it represents vision and insight.
Maybe he’s not aware that the owl is one of the unclean animals mentioned Lev. 11:13 'And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination V.16,17, 18. To use it as representing the prophetic has its own irony. An owl is a bird of prey. Well that’s the bible, and it’s only referred to when it’s necessary to prove their point.
Bible Doctrine is the first to go
Wherever there are Latter Rain (new age) influences, Doctrine is the first casualty.
In his book When Heaven Invades Earth from 2003, Johnson further defines his theology:
“Jesus lived His earthly life with human limitations. He laid his divinity aside as He sought to fulfill the assignment given to Him by the Father: to live life as a man without sin, and then die in the place of mankind for sin. This would be essential in His plan to redeem mankind. The sacrifice that could atone for sin had to be a lamb, (powerless), and had to be spotless, (without sin).” (Johnson, Bill “The Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit.” When Heaven Invades Earth. 2003; p 79)
“Jesus Christ said of Himself, ‘The Son can do nothing.’…He had NO supernatural capabilities whatsoever! …He performed miracles, wonders, and signs, as a man in right relationship to God…not as God.” (Ibid.)
“…Everything He did in His life and ministry He did as man who, though He was fully God, had set aside the privileges of His divinity in order to show us a model of the kind of life He would make available to each of us through His death, resurrection, and ascension… (Johnson Heaven Invades, p 145).
Johnson the qualifies his statement to what I would ascertain as a contradiction of what he said of Jesus: "He laid his divinity aside" (When Heaven Invades Earth; chapter 7; p. 110). He says this because he knows what Christianity teaches but he also holds to word faith Latter rain teaching, so he says both. Setting aside his privileges and laying aside His nature of deity are two completely different matters.
"While Jesus is eternally God, He emptied Himself of His divinity and became a man...” (Charisma Magazine Feb. 23, 2012)
So he teaches Jesus was powerless, performed his miracles as a man because He was not deity? This is more than a lack of bible education speaking. Then what would be the sense of distinguishing Jesus as the Son of God and the Son of man? Then who was sent from heaven? A man? Who incarnated to become man?
This is not the Jesus of the Bible, for it tells us in Scripture: Col. 1:19 “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell.” Meaning, the totality of the Divine powers and attributes are filled up in Jesus- omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence. God cannot stop being God.
Col. 2:9 “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; ”to dwell is a present tense verb, which means a continuing action of deity taking a permanent home in Christ in bodily fashion. As we also read “God was in Christ” (2 Cor.5:19).
So he never ceased being who he is, God. And God’s attributes and abilities accompany who he is. Phil.2:5: “Who being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.” V.7: “But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:”
The Greek word for “form” is morphe, meaning that quality, the essential character that makes something what it is. Whatever the Father is in nature and essence so is the Son. Being made of “no reputation” is referring to His humanity, coming as a servant.
The word “being” (in the form of God) in Greek it is huparcho. A participle, which means never stopped being, which implies a prior existence. What it is telling us is the Son (Jesus Christ) never ceased to be deity. The emptying of Christ (Greek eke-nosen) kenou, to empty Himself is that when becoming a man, there was a change of position, he became a servant; not a change in nature. "There was a voluntary emptying to give up His independent use of His divine attributes while living on earth in a subordinate role to the Father. This did not change His nature as being the Son of God. That Christ gave up the “Independent exercise of the divine attributes” (Strong's Systematic Theology p.382).
This was not an emptying of His deity as Bill Johnson describes (and the Word faith teachers believe), there was no change of His nature, but a putting aside His position, his authority. It means while possessing all the nature and attributes of deity He used them for His Fathers will and pleasure. Thus living in perfect submission. The mistake Johnson makes, like all the other word faith teachers is confusing submission, subjection with inferiority thus making him lack of his divine nature.
This is the basis for word faith theology and this is serious error by Johnson. For it affects the deity of our savior. It also becomes the basis for other teachings Johnson connects to Jesus. Bill Johnson states that “Jesus is the most normal Christian in the Bible.” Is Jesus is a Christian? Which means to be a Christ follower, I don’t think so. This statement, (among others) again shows a lack of education.Johnson says “Jesus was so empty of Divine capacity, eternally God but He chose to live with the restrictions as a man. Why? To set a model. To set something to follow, an example of His lifestyle. If He did all His miracles as God I’m still impressed but I’m not compelled to follow. … But when I find out He set aside His Divinity to display” (link Alabaster House)
“He did all His miracles as a man, not as God. If He did them as God, I would still be impressed. But because He did them as a man yielded to God, I am now unsatisfied with my life, being compelled to follow the example He has given us. Jesus is the only model for us to follow". (Charisma Magazine Feb. 23, 2012)
“we must remember that Jesus’ life was a model of what mankind could become if it were in right relationship with the Father.”
This same message can be found in untold new age books, but not the Bible. Only if Christ is not God can mankind become like him. However, Jesus IS the eternal God and we who are created can never become what was uncreated. Creatures cannot become God.
Johnson says, Christ is not Jesus’ last name. The word Christ means ‘Anointed One’ or ‘Messiah.’ It is a title that points to an experience… …He had to receive the anointing in an experience to accomplish what the Father desired.” [emphasis mine]
It was the Gnostics (who challenged the apostles teaching) who said that Jesus was born only a man until his baptism, where he was anointed." It was called adoptionism.
Luke 2:11 tells us Jesus was the Christ from birth, not after having an experience by the Holy Spirit (this is often used to prove we too can have the same experience).
“The anointing is what linked Jesus, the man, to the divine enabling Him…” (Johnson, Bill “The Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit.” When Heaven Invades Earth. 2003; p 79)
If the “anointing” linked Jesus the man to the divine enabling, what of all Christians that are anointed? This is where he sets up his theology for you to believe we can do what Jesus did, all of it. From this error he stretches it out into other doctrines that have to do with Christ
“Through the shedding of His blood, it would be possible for everyone who believed on His name to do as He did and become as He was. (Johnson, Bill “Our Debt to the World: An Encounter with God.” When Heaven Invades Earth. 2003; p 138
Scripture teaches that Jesus was divine at His Incarnation, he is “Immanuel” – He is God with us, not man with us. (Luke 2:11; I John 1:1-3; Matthew 1:18-23;) contrary to Johnson's error, all of Christian history defies his view which has more in common with the cults and the Occult. To incarnate as man means he is God. Only God qualifies to be the Savior of all men. If He did not come as God to be man than how can He die for all mankind's sins in his time, or the past and future?
Johnson’s teaching of the kenosis is inaccurate and is found with the word faith movement teaching, that the Incarnate Christ laid aside His divine attributes and walked the earth as a completely limited, human man. Thus Johnson’s “Kenosis” doctrine reduces the biblical Christ and elevates man (word faith / Latter rain theology). Jesus’ uniqueness is removed, band he becomes a special enlightened one with power who could lead the way to many other enlightened ones given power in the future (the Elijah generation). Thus we have a New Age Christ not a Biblical Jesus.
You can find this same teaching among all the word faith teachers: Hinn, Copeland, Hagin, Dollar, Browne….
According to Johnson, Christ “performed miracles, wonders and signs, as a man in right relationship to God…not as God. If He performed miracles because He was God, then they would be unattainable for us. But if He did them as a man, I am responsible to pursue His lifestyle. Recapturing this simple truth changes everything…and makes possible a full restoration of the ministry of Jesus in His Church.’ (When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles, 29)
Johnson subtly twists the ministry of miracles of the Messiah to be available to all believers. Here is the Latter Rains teaching that is prevalent in the sign and wonders movement among New Wave Charismatics, we can all do that Jesus did. Jesus did not do miracles so that we can imitate him. The miracles identified Him as the Messiah, the one and only Christ.
“God gave every believer the power to heal as Jesus did” (Johnson, “You’ve Got the Power,” Charisma Online, March 2012).
If this were so then Paul would not list healing as a gift, asking rhetorically do all have gifts of healing? (1 Cor.12:30) If this were so then there would be no difference between the apostles and all believers. If the church was able to do what the apostles did, they didn’t know it. Because they were not taught this by any apostle. A good example is When Dorcas died believers did not raise her, but instead sent for the apostle Peter to raise her from the dead (Acts 9:36-41). “Turning to the body he said, ‘Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.” The Bible is consistent in teaching the majority of “signs and wonders were done through the apostles” (Acts 2:43). This does not prevent us to pray for God to heal and do a miracle, but it does prove that Johnson’s theology is not the apostle’s theology.
Paul speaks of himself as having “the signs of an apostle” (2 Cor. 12:12). In other words, the miracles he (and the other apostles did) distinguished them from other believers. They couldn’t be the same signs every Christian was capable of doing or he would not be able to say this. When Bethel church teaches all Christians have the same abilities as the apostles today, they are claiming all the people to have an apostolic ministry.
If one wants to copy the apostles they would be missionaries, they would preach the gospel FIRST, to see people saved. Any sign and wonder follows the preaching of the gospel, if God wills. But they do not focus on the gospel, but on the signs and wonders, the power.
Johnson stating “God gave every believer the power to heal as Jesus did” is straight from Wimber who also said, 'My perception is that every born-again Christian can manifest any gift that he wants to, because with the coming of the Holy Spirit you have the Source of all gifts.' (bestofjwspiritual-gifts4of5 Posted on wikipedia under Wimber)
Johnson has learned well how to take word faith teachings and what Wimber and many others have taught and repackage it to put Bethel on the map. However, I have found that when someone is involved in aberrant teaching they will always add more and become more excessive. This will become clear as we further examine the teachings of Bethel church.