Hurtful Not Helpful Part 3: Bethel
I love Jesus Culture worship music. They are definitely a band I love to vibe with and I'd be lying if I hadn't shouted "I believe in you" from the chorus of their song Miracles. Musically, they are interesting to listen to and their spontaneous worship moments a break from the boring CCM you hear on K-Love.
The issue is not with Bethel worship, it's with Bethel church and therefore Jesus Culture.
Bethel church is pastored by Bill Johnson in Redding, California and has seen incredible growth over the last decade, currently popping at the seams with 11,000 average attenders. Needless to say, they are reading a lot of people and a lot of people across the country know about them.
However, Bethel isn't known for their preaching. They aren't known for their small groups. They might be known for their music if you can connect Jesus Culture to Bethel.
What they are known for is their emphasis on spiritual gifts. Specifically, the miracle gifts.
Depending on your church views, you either believe that the gift of healing, speaking in tongues, and prophecy are still around or they are not. Both views can have biblical merit and are viable points of view. Bethel definitively falls into the first category.
In fact, they fall so far into that category they opened up their own school of Supernatural Ministry where they claim to help you walk in the gifting of the Spirit and "Learn how to live in the Kingdom of God and extend its borders through a supernatural lifestyle. Bring Heaven to earth everywhere you go!"
Now full disclosure, I too am a continuist, like Bethel. I think that the miracle gifts are still around and are still something God does in believers today. I think God can do the supernatural, but that is not the emphasis of my Christian walk nor is it a primary factor in my ministry as a pastor and leader of God's people.
This is where they go from helpful to hurtful. They made spiritual gifts and supernatural experiences something that God did not intend. They've elevated what was always meant to be a secondary or even tertiary issue.
By leading people into a place where they believe they can access their spiritual gifts on command, they are setting them up for failure. God often doesn't work the way Bethel and other like-minded churches talk about. Spiritual gifts are always a fascination among Christians because it's like God gave us superpowers. We can do things that are above and beyond our capabilities as average humans, but careful reading of the Bible and some insight into the ancient languages show that it isn't quite like that.
The gift of healing isn't something you can just access and pray into people. You cannot claim a person is healed because you say so. Healing is only something that the Holy Spirit does and in western American culture, it is incredibly rare.
They are also setting up people who are on the fringe of belief up for failure. If a Christian person who you believe to be holy claims you will be healed, but you aren't, what do you believe about that person? Either he wasn't holy or the God he worships doesn't care.
Essentially, Bethel left the primacy of the gospel for the fun of spiritual gifts, and thus, should be left themselves.