“Christian Hogwarts?” (#606)

Can you teach someone to use supernatural power with the same methods we teach people how to do surgery or install the plumbing? Someone sent Brad a link about the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, CA, which is evidently calling itself the Christina Hogwarts. And what, with "grave soaking", "flame tunnels" and "treasure hunts" as part of the curriculum, it's no wonder. What's going on here? Is this more hogwash than Hogwarts? Wayne and Brad celebrate the desire to see God move in supernatural ways, but also question the wisdom of trying to teach people how to move in spiritual gifts with a five-step process or a Bible school curriculum. And what impact are you having on your community when you use people as lab rats when the ratio of misses to miracles is so high?

Podcast Notes:
Meet The "Young Saints" Of Bethel Who Go To College To Perform Miracles
Helping with Agriculture in Pokot
Add your voice to our question/comment line via Skype at "TheGodJourney"

25 Comments

  1. Oh boy – I watch some Bethel videos, have worked with Bethel leaders, sing songs from that culture, and although I’m sure there is flawed humanity in the mix, I see much more good than bad. I know young people and old people who have been absolutely transformed by the message from there. Wayne, please stay open and don’t be too cynical. Sometimes the supernatural just looks weird. I’d rather that than be spiritually ‘dead’. Listen to you two every week!!

  2. I believe Wayne captured it at 26:15 and onward. That would make a great “mission statement”, but I’m not sure that happens when you go to a school that “teaches it”.

    Perhaps the school could let us know when the local hospital is empty, and in the meantime, leave the people at the mall be.

  3. Question for Wayne or Brad; like Brad said, if you didn’t grow up believing in the gifts of the spirit, where would you start? It is almost, like Brad said, like we have to learn, learn from someone how to do these things. Where would you start?

    • This is Wayne… Hi Chris. I’m not sure we’d have more to say than what we said in the podcast. I think the Scriptures give us great encouragement to let Jesus. be real in us and know that can be genuinely supernatural without being contrived. Real miracles are not like shaking, and laughing, and screaming uncontrollably. That’s crowd-dynamics at work for the most part.

      So read the Gospels and ask Jesus about all this. Don’t become miracle focused. That never worked well for those who wanted signs. But hang out with Jesus and see what he stirs in. you. It may help to hang out with someone who inspires your growing trust in Jesus and his love for you. I’d learn how to listen to him and follow him, and I would celebrate the things he does to touch people supernaturally without getting more focused on them than you do on HIM! Miracles are not meant to happen every day. They are not in our control. But he can do whatever he desires and the more we are in touch with that, the more we’ll see. But by then we’ll want downplay them because they distract people from Jesus. Or at least that’s how it has worked in me.

  4. I am a Pentecostal follower of Jesus Christ. I was raised in the Assemblies of God denomination. I never cared much for the Charismatic renewal, as I saw many wrong teachings, and practices going on.
    I see even worse things in the
    Bethel school, Bill Johnson’s sermons, his books like Quantum Spiritiality is chock full of new age garbage. And the young people he is targeting are all eating it up. And why? Because he is stroking their egos. They are part of a group that special knowledge and abilities.
    God gives out the gifts of the spirit, and empowers us to use them when HE wants to use us. Just like Bill Hamon’s
    School of the Prophetic. You cannot teach someone how to be a prophet. Only God appoints prophets. And you sure dont “provide them with an atmosphere where it’s ‘okay to make mistakes and be wrong”. After all, they are still in training . God has no room for this. HIS prophets all knew that if they said ‘thus Smith the Lord’, they had better be right on the money, or God would strike tjem.dead in a heartbeat. The stuff going on today makes me sick to my stomach. I see so much stuff that is being pushed in the name of God, when it is really done in the name of
    Bill Johnson.
    Sad.

  5. Chris asked in the comments section above, “…we have to learn, learn from someone how to do these things. Where would you start?” One phrase that you said Wayne, which popped out at me, does give us a starting point. You said that we need to learn to walk as Jesus walked. That is exactly the instruction Jesus himself gave us. “Walk as I walk.” Learning to live in dependance on Father is the example Jesus gave to us. He lived not by his power but by every word which proceeded from his Father. His Spirit empowered walk was doing the things he did and saying the things he said, as his Father was directing him. He of all people had the right and power as God to do and act as God, but he laid it all aside; he submitted himself to his Father, as an example for us. It seems to me that if we are to walk as he walked, this is our toughest challenge, to be emptied of our own “godness”, of our own “self directedness”, that fallen condition which we inherited from our 1st parents when they ate from the wrong tree in a garden long ago. So… good question: Where do we start?
    We start with Jesus, at the cross.
    And then we sit at the feet of Jesus learning more and more of Him as we let the Teacher teach us, at first, just how to begin to crawl, but then, eventually we can learn to stand and walk in maturity, to walk as Jesus walked.
    His work in us and through us does take time…
    (It helps when others of like mind are willing to gather with you on that journey.)

  6. When I heard you use the term “Bethelbots” it reminded me of the “ESTholes” of the ’70s. Teaching people to perform so that God performs sounds like Unity Church. In short, it’s self-realization instead of having a focus on Jesus. And an answer to Chris’s “Where do you start?” question is that you find someone who can teach you how to pay attention to what God is doing in and around you – maybe Blackaby’s “Experiencing God”, for example, and then if and when God invites you to join Him in some healing or the telling of some truth in a given circumstance, you respond to Spirit’s “nudge” and do or say that appropriate thing. It’s about what God is up to, not about our specialness or significance.
    And Wayne, I hate to see you give up your yellow dress, but someone out there needs it…

    Alan

  7. I remember when my wife had gone into remission and boldly proclaimed that she was cancer free and told Bethel about it, they put her testimonial on their web site. After she died one year later I posted on that post that she had died, that I was her husband and would you please take this down. It took them about 5 years but it looks like they finally did. But the key to that article is that only the testimonials that work are shared. All the countless others who get their hopes up and are dashed are never shared. That borders on cruelty. At such a vulnerable time their emotions are laid waste. Perhaps if their was loving follow up and tear induced apologies would it be made right. But for the most part, from what I hear, this crowd does not preach that, and that it is important to move on so you don’t wallow in faithless talk (negativity…er, reality). The other part of the article I could relate to is how I kind of faked it in order to make them feel better and to leave me alone…I fell down only because I was tired of their prayers….but after I fell they left me alone. Shame on me…LOL

  8. Man, Brad and Wayne. This podcast was causing old irritations in me. Brad, I had strong reactions to the way I felt you were defending or saying that intentions were well meaning from some of the Bethel BSSM people. I sure it is, but so is the road to hell paved with such as some say (Some tongue-in-cheek). Grave soaking reminds of what Benny Hinn used to do at the grave of Kathryn Kuhlman so many years ago. I have passed through many of these experiences In several churches growing up. I guess the times were really weird for me. I did not feel at peace in many areas of my life. The AG church in Kansas were I went had many popular people from TBN and other places that seemed to attract the weird and strange as spiritually superior and fitting in with the “full” gospel. I already felt rejection and confusion from parts of my family as well as my mom constantly seeking the next spiritual high or fix. As a child and teen I have gone through several of my mom’s divorces. Most of the 80s and 90s charismatic groups I was in caused more anxiety then help to me or my mom. On top of it, if I did not receive the power of the spirit as they thought it was, it was because my faith was not strong enough. So many stories I could share that made doubt grow in me if God really did care, or was he just so easy to manipulate for others to get what they need while I was left behind by situations like I couldn’t get a stable family, my dad to care, or other Christians to even stop their “charades” of spirituality to just be with me and my mom in real helpful ways. I know I am tainted by this bad taste in my mouth from my realities, broken churches, and perceptions of God’s wisdom or ability to even help.
    I appreciate you two and your discussions. Sometimes things still get triggered in me. I am not sure yet of the types of spiritual things I have seen or you all talk about as being natural in any healthy sense yet. He things that help me are Jesus calming the man who acted crazy in the tombstones, allowing him to sit and be clothed and in his right mind. The woman who was caught in adultery and not even condemned by Jesus. The woman at the well who was released from her seeking for love in all the wrong places. I never saw Jesus act in ways that were not redemptive and peace bringing. But I sure felt confused and abused by many of the things that were being talked about as misused on this weeks podcast.
    Sorry for the lengthy post. Having listened to all your podcasts over the last 2 years, I feel I know you guys are really wanting people to know Jesus and have his life change us. I pray that he can heal me from many of the risidule pains and hurts that have come through things like the misuse or manufacturing of “spiritual “ encounters. One of the song that used to be sung in one of my churches had a line “better get in, get out, don’t get run over “ when the “spirit” or crowd dynamics is moving in a service. Unfortunately, it made me want to get out instead of reaching out for relationship because I felt like I was being run over by these meetings and weird activities.
    Somehow you guys have peaked wounds and interest in god for me.
    Peace to you
    Joe in Idaho

  9. I want to pick up on the “grave sucking” and compare it legalism – that may seem strange, but follow me. I don’t know the people who started “grave sucking” so I am working on a general idea for purposes of illustration more than to claim I have the inside story on Bethel. Often among believers in fellowship, they are seeking the Lord and hear the Spirit lead them into forms of expression, parables, or ways to pray. To them it is alive and fruitful. So yes, I could believe a believer or group had the story of Elijah and the grave come alive to them and do what to them (and an outsider) seemed a strange act. Yet to them it was a simple obedience. That is between them and the Lord. The difficulty comes in making such things into an institution where instead of an Old Testament story speaking a live word to some people, there is pressure to create an institutional rule. This is similar to what seems to have happened often with movements – the people in the beginning heard from God matters of practice or lifestyle or whatever – for them it was a living word which “worked” for those people in that day. Generations down the track, all that is left is a rule about a practice or lifestyle – often a rule without much life left in it.

  10. Wayne and Brad, thank you for your conversations. This one in particular has said what I have been wondering and thinking about for a while now. When I listened to the podcast and then read the article I was remembering a book by Frank Peretti called The Visitation, it’s a novel where a young self-proclaimed Jesus comes to town, performs crazy miracles and healings but no one’s heart gets changed. In the book they’re not called to deeper and deeper relationship, they just get healed and keep sinning in the same way. By the end of the book we see that this guy’s power to perform miracles didn’t come from God at all and eventually he is exposed.

    My aunt recently died of cancer and I had initially been praying for healing, until I realised that her heart was so hard that if she has gotten healed she would have continued to live the same way. I started to pray that her relationship with God and Yeshua would change. I don’t know if it ever did, but I am hopeful that in those last moments (when she was unable to communicate with us) God was able to reach her heart.
    In the article about Bethel the story of how the women in the parking lot said they would pray for healing instead of leading a dying person to Christ was really really alarming and so much missing the mark.

    The Word tells us that we will know them by their fruit, so if the town that this church is operating in is rejecting them then there’s a reason for that. Everything that happens in darkness will be brought to light. What may have started off as well-meaning has unfortunately been corrupted and we can only hope and pray that they will come back to have God as their main focus.

  11. Some excellent comments and observations here! I do agree that Brad sounded a little defensive of the school and particularly this movement (Vineyard/Wimber/Modern Apostle/Bill Johnson stuff). When you are part of something that does help someone grow towards Jesus then you see value in that. However, I think my concern is the whole idea that we can control or direct when and where God would supernaturally heal or otherwise impact someone’s life. I’m not sure that practicing a set of canned prayers or motions or mantras really affects whether someone is healed. Isn’t it about us walking with Father every day and letting him nudge us at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way? I’m just afraid we’ll screw this up like everything else we do on our own. If Peter walked into the BSSM for a day would he laugh his head off or cry his eyes out?

  12. Alas what I said in the above comment is not true…..Heartbreakingly, Bethel has kept my wife’s post up on their web site…I just didn’t find it. It is the ultimate insult, without honor or dignity for the departed. I feel ashamed for them. I will try and contact them again to delete it.

  13. I find it interesting all those folks who followed Jesus while he did his miracles were more than content to allow him to be crucified. Not a lot of heart change in the big show. Been there, done that, pulled the plug and surrendered. Been a lot more interesting since I quit wanting to be the center of attention. Or win his approval.

  14. I just get emotionally and mentally tired when I hear about yet another effort to manufacture revival, or replicate the moving of the Holy Spirit. I have lived through my own set of “schools” of the Holy Spirit. They seem to come out of a genuine desire to participate in the gifts of the Spirit, but almost in every case a form of manipulation happens that usurps the individual’s free will and crosses personal boundaries. I found myself begin shamed or feeling disobedient if I did not do as I was told, or did not experience what I was told I should be experiencing. I find comfort in the fact that the gifts of the Spirit are given by the Spirit as He wills, not as I want.

    Sure, desire and awareness of the moving of the Spirit plays an important part, but I think a relationship with Jesus and his leading and guidance is more desirable than a classroom that “teaches you” to “act in the Spirit”. It seems so fake, forced, manipulated, and disingenuous. I looked at Bethel’s website and it just felt like any other college website with pretty people and plastic smiles, only this one is marketing the Holy Spirit.

    I find myself sometimes so discouraged by the way the church portrays itself. In an attempt to make itself attractive it destroys the very beauty that is the bride of Christ … forgiven people.

  15. I seem to be coming into contact with more and more of these folks that believe in this kind of stuff, and many are in house church groups or post IC situations… It seems to me that many are unwilling to take an honest assessment of their situation and turn away from any bad beliefs and practices. I believe in the power of the Spirit and that all the gifts are for today, but many of the odd beliefs and practices of this genre’ make me very uncomfortable. I think as Wayne alluded to, miraculous stuff does happen these days, but it isn’t guaranteed that it will happen every second of every day. I would challenge folks to look into researching some of this stuff to get alternative perspectives so you can get a well rounded view of the situation. I could think of a few good books out there that give good balanced perspectives on this, but I will refrain from listing those book titles here unless I get permission from the website administrator. I would simply suggest that people ask Jesus for His help, and I’m sure He will help.

    I love you all… and thanks for talking about this subject… It was great to listen to this recording.

  16. The verse about mans persuaive words versus the power of God is key…the power of God comes from abiding in Christ not from more knowledge from a book or seminary whether it be a seminary that is cessationalist or charismatic. The key is that our Head is Christ and we are free. I see often that in seminaries or structured systems that try to teach God that people are ultimately supposed to answer to leadership and authorities instead of Christ Himself. Even if the school or system leaders say they are different it still seems to be manipulated and unless you’re on the outside you can’t really even see the manipulation.
    I listen to Bethel worship often and am blessed by many of the worship singers to seem so in love with Jesus and so free in Him.
    Great points here thank you for this as it helps those who are hungry for greater works than these to not feel pressured by performance but to rest in hungering and thirsting for Him and abiding in the Love and Freedom He gives us…believing and walking in the gifts of the Spirit out of that love relationship. He is our greatest Teacher and Counselor praise God for Him as our Leader our Shepherd! Hallelujah! Thank You Daddy that in Your Presence and embrace I can listen to You and learn. I love You Father!

  17. My husband and I are participating in a small home gathering. There is a women who attends that frequently talks about ordering angels to do spiritual warfare for us. She states she has seen angels out of the corner of her eyes that are bored and filing their nails and such things, because they are waiting to be ordered by believers to do something. I do not see this as being scriptural at all. This is an example of some of the weirdness that can take place among Charismatic groups. I would appreciate both of you addressing this. My husbands hates the organized church, so we do not have much fellowship. But there are crazy things that can happen in home church settings as well.

    • People do all kinds of things to draw attention to themselves and find their identity in their “ministry.” So sad for her and you’re right. People like that are a burden for other people and easily take over a group by acting super spiritual. You’re right it is weird. I wouldn’t hang out where I was a victim to someone’s ministry like that. And yes, house group settings can have just as much weird stuff as larger institutions. It’s people not program. If the people are gracious and loving almost anything can be good. When they’re self-focused, and manipulative, it is painful whether they are pastoring the “church” or trying to lead a home group.

  18. Hi Sherri, adding a small note that I also notice I am in a season with less “fellowship” than I would like. I am slowly recognizing that He is growing in me a greater capacity to see what He is doing and rest in that and moving away from what I would manipulate or control. Painful lessons along the way, seeing that there are ways that my “ego” is dying (and then comes resurrection into His life)…perhaps I am still “painfully disillusioned”…have hope that I am on my way to greater “grateful disillusionment”. Appreciate thoughts being shared here in “e-conversations”. Sue

  19. I heard a sermon last sunday, and the preacher was saying that is no salvation without church attendance. But i don’t know what us worse: going to a church program and coming home with bitterness in your heart or staying home. I wait for the day when my wife will be fre from anxiety. Pastors prayed for her but nothing happend yet. I was in a congregation where they diden’t let me preach sunday because of my wife’s problems. The pastor told me that my wife will be attacked by the devil if i will be involved in preaching. There are many things which don’t make sens in my mind. Why we jave so many miracles in the bible and verry few or alnost none nowadays. Why apostle Paul emphasize the church in a treamandous way but i experience dissapointment when i interact whith an institutional church. Where i can find that fellowship where Jesus is real amoung them.
    I hope in one day i will have answers because i don’t want to continue judging congregations and people because i coulden’t find what i hope to find among institutional churches.
    Maybe Jesus don’t work miracles with those pastors because they have so much money? Or they are not really interested of people? I don’t know.
    I want to see Jesus in a profound way.
    I don’t have an answer to the question: “why Jesus performed so many miracles and at the end of His ministry suffered a terible death”. Maybe He wanted to tell us that not the miracles was the purpose of His coming in our world. And many preachers is doing contrary of this teaching.

  20. Hi Daniel…feel compassion for your confusion and pain. I know that what I’m going to say has been said many times before. Jesus wants our focus on Him….through confusion and questions I have at this time it’s been very interesting to see that He embraces me in that pain (rather than pushing me away until I am “better”). May He give you and your wife that peace that only He can give (whether you are at a service on Sunday mornings or not). His death gives us a glimpse of His trust of Father even when it cost Him his life. His love for us becomes more and more prominent and then healing comes out of that. May He answer all of your needs and your painful questions. Sue

  21. When the Holy Ghost is truly moving, it is NOT, I repeat, NOT accompanied by weird and strange occurrences. The Holy Ghost is a spirit of order, not strangeness. When He comes into a meeting, there is always an overwhelming sense of Godly sorrow, followed by the need to cry out to God in repentance, and then He will start to move miraculously. He cannot move where there is sin in the camp. The overwhelming sense at that time is not “gimmee, gimmee, gimmee”, but one of awe, wonder coupled with an overwhelming feeling (there is no other way to describe it) of love. The love of the Father.
    And miracles happen. This doesn’t describe the stuff going on at Bethel, does it? The stuff going on at Bethel seems to me to have to be worked up.
    The last two great
    The Welsh and the Azusa Street revivals began with much prayer and crying out to God for Him to move, first in Wales, and then in Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, the wife of the leader, Mrs. Seymour, never played the piano in her life -that is, until the Holy Ghost taught her how to play instantaneously, and she played for the rest of her life. The Welsh revival started out in a small church prayer service. The Azusa Street revival started at a small church in central Los Angeles. I have been to that house, seen the piano. Walked through the rooms of that house. The presence of the Holy Ghost is still there! You can feel Him the minute you walk through the front door.
    It is a tangible presence that you take note of, a feeling of awe comes over you. The feeling of awe is not that you are in a historic place, but that your spirit is telling you that you are in the presence of God. People are there who are there to pray, and not be tour guides. I have seen this place, and felt all of these things. I left that place with a fresh sense of what the presence of God is REALLY like: holy, powerful, and loving. Not loud, creating lots of weird noises and the like. There are no weird occurrences with God.
    But when you are truly in His presence, His tangible presence, you leave it a changed person. A person full of reverence and awe of God.

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