An Article from Pastor Paul Boutan
“Test all things: hold fast to what is good.” (1Thess 5:21)
Today we have figures of speech like “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” or “Chew the meat and spit out the bones.” In essence that’s message of 1Thess 5:21; “Test all things: hold fast to what is good.” Well, that’s my heart when it comes to answering the question, “What about Bethel Church and Bethel Music?” To say that this is a complicated subject is an understatement at best. Ultimately, this is a matter of discernment and maturity.
For many Christians our only experience with Bethel is their music. Songs from the Bethel Music label are some of the most played contemporary worship music in North American churches today, with songs like Reckless Love and Raise a Hallelujah. But Bethel Music is birthed out of Bethel Church in Redding California. The theology and teachings of Bethel are what cause the most concern for people.
It’s common on a Sunday after a service is over for someone to ask me “theological” question. Among the FAQ (Frequently, Asked, Questions) that I receive are about Bethel. Questions ranging from “Should we sing songs from Bethel?” to “Is Bethel a cult?” First off, I would say that based on their statement of faith on their website, that Bethel Church falls in the category of what’s accepted as “Historic Christianity.” However, their teachings are problematic, and worthy of concern.
My intent is not to give a detailed exposé on the many controversial teachings of Bethel (the internet is replete with op-eds and commentaries about their practices) but I do want to give a brief overview.
First of all, Bethel is also affiliated with the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) which teaches that believers today can do the works of the Apostles and in fact they can do even greater works than they did.
Bethel Church claims to frequently encounter unexplained phenomena both during their services and also their everyday lives, such as falling gold dust and “angel” feathers. However, three samples of the “gold dust” were taken to a gemologist and examined under jeweler’s double microscope, two were found to be mylar (synthetic man-made plastic) and the third was found to be mica (fools gold). They also practice “laughing in the Spirit” and being “drunk in the Spirit.” Perhaps among the more controversial practices of Bethel is “Grave Sucking”or “Soaking.” Bill and his wife Beni Johnson are Co-Senior Pastors of Bethel. Beni Johnson has taken students from their Supernatural School of Ministry to graveyards where they laydown on the grave of a well known Christian and “soak up” the deceased’s anointing. Bill Johnson in his book The Physics of Heaven says; “There are anointings, mantels, revelations and mysteries that have lain UNCLAIMED, literally where they were left, because the generation that walked in them never passed them on. I believe it’s possible for us to recover realms of anointing, realms of insight, realms of God that have been untended for decades simply by choosing to reclaim them and perpetuate them for future generations.”
After seeing what they practice it’s easy to see why some are concerned about the music that comes out of Bethel. This is where discernment is required. When you look at the lyrics of their songs you do not find an Ode to Grave Sucking or Homage to Angel’s Feathers. If that were the case, it would be fairly easy to discern that theses songs are heretical. On the contrary many of the songs coming out of Bethel are fairly sound theologically speaking, although some over emphasize having an “encounter” with God, rather than actually worshipping Him.
When analyzing the quality of a worship song the questions we should ask are: “Do the lyrics exalt and magnify God”? “Do the words draw my attention to God, or to myself and my desires?” “Is this song biblically sound?” “Does the song stir my emotions, or does it inspire me to praise Him?” Whether we’re singing a modern song from Bethel Music or a classic Hymn from Charles Wesley these are the types of questions we should ask to discern the biblical veracity of the song.
In conclusion, yes we should be very concerned and weary of the teachings coming out of Bethel. Likewise, their controversial practices should cause us to take each song they produce and examine it with a fine tune comb. If a particular song draws our attention to ourselves and our desires and having an emotional encounter rather than inspiring us to focus solely on God and glorify Him, then that’s a song that doesn’t pass the test of discernment. However, let’s be careful not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Although, Bethel in Redding is riddled with errant teaching we must keep in mind that they are believers in Jesus and brother’s in Christ. Therefore, it’s necessary to do what 1Thess 5:17 instructs us saying, “Test all things; hold fast to what is good.” If it glorifies God hold onto it. If doesn’t glorify God and is biblically errant toss it out. Just make sure to keep the baby, while you toss out the bathwater.