I want to share our experience from last year when we searched for a Holy Spirit-filled church. In our hunt we discovered some pretty disturbing things. If you know anyone who follows Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, California or reads The Passion Translation (TPT), please repost. I’m afraid many people are being misled.
We were elated at the end of January 2019 when we thought we found a church home. The name isn’t important. They are great people. We fell in love with the warm and friendly senior pastor. He felt like a father figure. And he preached a lot about the Holy Spirit and people worshiped with such freedom of expression. The pastor also taught routinely about the miracle healings of Jesus and even that God still heals today. We knew firsthand that God still heals, but you hear very little about it from the pulpit today. We were so excited!
Then little alarms started firing in my spirit, slowly at first. I attributed my uneasiness to the newness of the experience and my traditional Baptist upbringing. Then like a pebble in my shoe, the discomfort only grew. The few occasions where people laid out on the floor, were “slain in the spirit”, and the demonstrations of worship that seemed out of control contradicted what Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14. He said that God isn’t a God of confusion, but one of peace …and that all things in church should be done in a proper and orderly manner. Mostly, the Holy Spirit that I know who lives in me wasn’t at peace. I should have paid attention sooner as the church lists its core values beginning with worship, then the Word and so on. Yes, worship is listed first, before the Word. Experience over the Word of God. This will make more sense in a minute.
The breaking point was when the senior and associate pastors started quoting Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton from Bethel Church and citing Scriptures from The Passion Translation (TPT) of the Bible. With an already growing disquiet, these pulpit references initiated for Sandra and I a deep-dive study into these 2 men, their church and TPT.
As lay people I think we are geared to trust the guys with seminary degrees standing on stage behind the pulpit. Unfortunately, we can’t check our God-given brains at the door. Those who do find themselves in a cult. John said in 1 John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Jesus said in Matthew 24:11, “and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” Later in verses 24-25 Jesus said, “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.” John and Jesus warned us. We need to be on guard, pay attention and do our due diligence. We did and our findings are disturbing. I’ll start with Bill Johnson. He’s the founder and senior pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, California.
Johnson is becoming a big deal in the church world today who speaks regularly across the country and the world at worship conferences. Your pastor may have spoken alongside Johnson at these events.
Bill Johnson is a false teacher.
That’s a strong statement and will upset some people, but is it true? Evaluate for yourself. Here are some of his quotes:
Bill Johnson Diminishes the Value of the Bible
- “It’s difficult to expect the same fruit of the early church when we value a book they didn’t have more than the Holy Spirit they did have. It’s not Father, Son and Holy Bible.”
Hear it for yourself in the first 52 seconds of this YouTube video. Well, the early church did have the Book. We call it the Old Testament and it was the book Jesus read and quoted from often. Kris Vallotton, another Bethel pastor, likes to say that God is bigger than His book.
- Johnson argues that God “wants to take us farther and we can only get there by following signs. Our present understanding of Scripture can only take us so far”. From Johnson’s book, When Heaven Invades Earth.
I can only imagine Jesus’ reaction when Johnson makes this claim. Probably something like, “Why does this generation demand a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation!” (Mark 8:12). Instead of signs, as Christians we do have the Holy Spirit inside of us to teach us.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” John 14:26
“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, HE WILL GUIDE YOU INTO ALL TRUTH …” JOHN 16:13
Johnson’s statements seems heretical in light of Scripture. And he tries to dupe you by manufacturing the signs. Watch these 2 videos. The first is about the “glory cloud” that “happened” at Johnson’s church. The second video is a response to it. Don’t stop at 1:35. You might think the video has ended, but it hasn’t. Let me see if I can get this straight – our understanding of Scripture can only take us so far and what we should do is follow the leader who fabricates the signs?
Bill Johnson Negates the Divinity of Jesus
- “…Did you know that Jesus was born again? I asked… the first service and they said, “No.” But I will show it. It’s in the Bible. He had to be. He became sin.” It’s in this video at about 3:40. Was Jesus a sinner? Why would He need to be reborn?
- “Jesus set aside His divinity, choosing instead to live as a man completely dependent on God”, from Johnson’s book, Face to Face with God.
- Jesus “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”. When Heaven Invades Earth.
- “Jesus was so emptied 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. His lifestyle, if He did all of His miracles as God, I’m still impressed but I’m not compelled to follow. (Really?) I just stand back and go, ‘Wow, that’s amazing. God, do some more. That’s awesome, do some more, God!’ “But when I find out that He set aside divinity and chose to display what life would be like for anyone who had no sin, and was completely empowered by the Spirit of God, He models something that is made available because the blood of Jesus was shed to deal with the sin issue. There is no lack in the power or the effectiveness of the blood of Jesus. There is nothing He left outside of its reach. There’s nothing if He had it to do over again He would include that He didn’t already include. It’s all covered. “When He said, ‘It is finished,’ He meant it. He meant it is a complete job, and it is more than sufficient for absolute transformation. So what does He do? He models for us the normal Christian life.” Check it out here at about 11:40.
Is Johnson saying that he is without sin? And is he saying (and I think he is) that because he has no sin, then he can perform miracles like Jesus did? First, the sin issue. 1 John 1:8–10. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
Next, the miracle issue. Jesus never said that we had to be without sin to perform miracles. He had one stipulation – we have to believe in Him. Jesus said in John 14:12, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” In Mark 16:17-18, Jesus said, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” The Apostle Paul also addresses miracles and healing in 1 Corinthians 12:9-10, “…to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles…” These are gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to believers, not because we are without sin…we could never be sinless, we could never earn them and gifts are not earned. By the grace of God we are each given specific gifts and we can only do them because “it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”
Bill Johnson Misrepresents God
- “It is impossible to give an adequate witness of God without demonstrating his supernatural power”, from Johnson’s book, When Heaven Invades Earth.
This is asinine. God doesn’t need us to demonstrate His power. Wake up early and watch the sunrise. Hold your wife’s hand as she’s giving birth to your child. Hold your breath, now release. God just demonstrated His power with your next breath.
- Johnson contends that “Jesus destroyed the power of sin, sickness and poverty through His redemptive work on the cross. In Adam and Eve’s commission to subdue the earth, they were without sickness, poverty and sin. Now that we are restored to his original purpose, should we expect anything less? After all, this is called the better covenant.” When Heaven Invades Earth.Are we restored to God’s original purpose? Doesn’t seem like it. Crime, abortion, divorce, pornography, sex trafficking, etc – I don’t think these present realities are part of His master plan. Isn’t that what happens when Jesus returns to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth? As for poverty, Jesus said that the poor would always be with us. Mark 14:7.
- “When miracles are absent, so is the glory of God”. When Heaven Invades Earth.
- Another wow. I guess he’s saying that God isn’t glorified when we praise Him, when we love our neighbors, when we feed the poor, when we give homes to orphans, when we lay hands on the sick and heal them, all in Jesus’ name. Or what about when a lost person becomes saved?
- As he was preaching from Galatians 1, Johnson says “Some people interpret Paul’s thorn in the flesh is a disease allowed or brought on by God. That’s a different gospel. Jesus didn’t model it. He didn’t teach it.“
According to Johnson, anyone who teaches that God sends sickness teaches a different gospel. Here’s the video. He also said, “You can only give away what you have. Can God give away sickness? No, he’s not sick. You can’t give cancer if you don’t have it.” (at 50 seconds into this video). Where is this in the Bible? Is God limited by what He can and can not do? He says at 20:50 (in the first video link in this paragraph) that “he refuses to create a theology that allows for sickness.” Catch that? Bill is creating his own theology. Now that makes perfect sense.
But Johnson is slick and clever. His theology is that God doesn’t send sickness. That’s his claim. When he refers to Galatians 1 in which Paul talks about the thorn in his flesh, many people over the years have theorized what Paul meant. Was it an illness? A sin that Paul struggled with? A person? Johnson claims that it couldn’t have been an illness, because in his gospel, God doesn’t send sickness and because Paul himself said in Galatians 1:6-8, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” Johnson is saying that Paul also preached a gospel that didn’t allow for sickness, so of course the thorn in his flesh wasn’t an illness or else he’s preaching a different gospel and should be cursed. Johnson makes a claim not supported in the Bible and tries to defend that claim by twisting Paul’s words. This may be a form of straw man argument, I’m not sure. I never took a debate class.
But what about the Egyptians that Moses fled from? Let’s not forget David’s words in Psalm 119:75, “I know, Lord, that your judgments are just and that you have afflicted me fairly.” A few verses earlier David said, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I could learn your statutes.” Psalms 119:71. He said Jesus didn’t model the idea of God sending sickness, but who afflicted Paul with blindness?
On Johnson’s blog site he answers the question, “Is it Always God’s will to heal someone?” He responds, “How can God choose not to heal someone when He already purchased their healing? Was His blood enough for all sin, or just certain sins? Were the stripes He bore only for certain illnesses, or certain seasons of time?” He goes on to say, “There are no deficiencies on His end – neither the covenant is deficient, nor His compassion or promises. All lack is on our end of the equation.” I agree that God is fully capable of healing anyone at any time, but I also believe that sometimes He chooses NOT to heal for reasons well beyond our ability to comprehend. It’s such a rotten game to play to tell a grieving mother that the death of her child was on her side of the equation. I’d rather trust in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
In the beautifully written blog post, “There’s No Shame When a Miracle Doesn’t Come”, K.J. Ramsey responds to the death of Olive Heiligenthal, the 2-year old daughter of Bethel Worship leader Kalley Heiligenthal. K.J. says, “I dwell in the mystery that here—in this broken body, in the center of my deficiency—I’ve most come to know the presence of Christ (Rom. 8:17). My body hasn’t been a barrier to knowing the miracle of God’s love; it’s been the brutal, beautiful place where I’ve found I’m already united to the God who came and is coming again.” K.J. has suffered through weekly chemotherapy for 11 years for an incurable disease, yet she goes on to say, “When Christians predominantly focus our faith on signs and wonders, we are discipled to view our physicality and places of pain, including disease and death, as problems God can fix rather than places he is already present.” Please read the full post. It truly is beautiful.
Clearly, Bill Johnson is off the map with his teachings. He’s the poster child for Matthew 7:15, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Of course, he has a rebuttal for anyone who questions his ideas. Johnson encourages Christians to stop focusing on “our need to protect ourselves from deception” and instead “our hunger for Him must be seen in our lustful pursuit of spiritual gifts”. When Heaven Invades Earth.
Isn’t that a perfect response? Just believe me. Stop worrying that I’m trying to deceive you. Put your guard down. Just trust me. Hmmm, sounds a little cult-ish.
But Jesus said, “False christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.” (Mark 13:22–23). Johnson says put your guard down. Jesus says to be on guard. I’ll go with Jesus.
Bill Johnson and More Strange Things
- This unsettling fact is about his wife, Beni. She practices “grave sucking” or “grave soaking”. She lays on the graves of people she admired and tries to soak up the anointing in the deceased people’s bones.
Deuteronomy 18:10-13 states that consulting with the dead is detestable to the Lord. Do these people have no fear of God?
- Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church is home to Bethel Church of Supernatural Ministry. There’s many stories on the internet about former students exposing the school for the sham it is. Here is an excellent interview with Lindsay Davis who almost got sucked into this cult. It’s all interesting, but at about 38 mins she talks about the “honey barrel” and people breaking out into uncontrollable “holy laughter”. This “holy laughter” is a manifestation of a fake Holy Spirit called the Kundalini spirit. It’s demonic and disturbing and it’s happening at Johnson’s school.
The Passion Translation
Now let’s talk about The Passion Translation (TPT) written by Brian Simmons that’s being cited as Holy Scriptures in many churches including the one we thought was home. According to Old Testament scholar and NIV Translation Committee member Dr. Andrew Shead, “…abandoning all interest in textual accuracy, playing fast and loose with the original languages, and inserting so much new material into the text that it is at least 50% longer than the original. The result is a strongly sectarian translation that no longer counts as Scripture; by masquerading as a Bible it threatens to bind entire churches in thrall to a false god.”
On TPT’s endorsement page of its website, guess who is the very first person offering his praise? Yep, ol’ Bill.
Quoting Alisa Childers, “Simmons claims that Jesus visited him personally, took him to the library (watch the video) of heaven, and asked him to write the translation. He claims to have received “downloads,” and “secrets of the Hebrew language” from Jesus Himself. Simmons even admitted that he has minimal background in biblical languages and needed the Lord’s help to translate. If all of that isn’t troubling enough, in the television interview cited above, he claims that Jesus promised to bring him back to heaven and give him a brand new chapter of the gospel of John that has never yet been discovered—John chapter 22.“
Does anything else need to be said? Well, let’s remind ourselves what Jesus said in Revelation 22:18, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.” Johnson likes to say and even has a book entitled, “Jesus Is Perfect Theology”, so how does he reconcile Simmons’ claim about “John 22” and Jesus claim in Revelation 22:18?
Bill Johnson is manipulating the Word and Brian Simmons is adding to it. Unfortunately , both men are attracting a large following and leading it to a false god. Maybe you’ve heard your pastor cite Johnson or use a Scripture verse from TPT and thought nothing of it. Well, now you know.
I’ll be honest. As I watched the Johnson videos, I found him very compelling and persuasive. He seems to really love Jesus and as much as I love Jesus, I wanted to believe him. There’s enough truth mixed with false teaching that it could be easy to fall for it. I think he believes his message, but that doesn’t make it truth. He can be sincere, yet sincerely wrong and send a lot of people down the wrong path with him.
I hope you’ll Google around and do more research. I urge you to do so if your pastor is influenced by Johnson or TPT. You can also find a ton of YouTube videos on both subject matters. Here’s a video of a very fair assessment of Bill Johnson and Bethel Church.