Bethel Church (Redding, CA)

A pioneering hub of modern Christian renewal and global spiritual influence.

Bethel Church, located near Redding, California, is a non-denominational, neo-charismatic megachurch known for its deep focus on miracles, revival, and the supernatural. Established in 1952, the church has grown significantly under the leadership of Bill Johnson, becoming a center for Christian worshipers seeking a deep and direct experience of God’s presence. Bethel Church is not just a local church; it has a global impact through its music, teachings, and the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM).

Bethel’s beliefs and practices are rooted in the conviction that miracles, such as faith healing, prophecy, and speaking in tongues, did not cease with the apostles but are available for believers today. The church emphasizes the importance of the Holy Spirit’s manifestations, which can include physical healings, raising the dead, and direct encounters with the supernatural. Services at Bethel are characterized by a dynamic and spontaneous expression of worship, with congregants experiencing laughter, crying, and physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s presence.

The phenomenon of “glory clouds,” which the church describes as visible signs of God’s glory, resembling gold dust or gold glitter falling from the ceiling, is among the most discussed aspects of Bethel’s worship experiences. Despite skepticism from outside observers, these occurrences are seen by church members as tangible evidence of divine intervention.

Bethel Music, an integral part of the church’s ministry, has produced numerous popular contemporary worship songs and has a significant influence on Christian worship globally. Its music is known for its deep, passionate worship that seeks to bring listeners into a closer encounter with God’s presence.

The BSSM, founded in 1998, is a pivotal extension of Bethel’s mission, training students from around the world in the practice and theology of supernatural ministry. The school, often referred to as “Christian Hogwarts” due to its focus on the miraculous, aims to develop a generation of Christians empowered to bring about global revival. The school’s curriculum includes faith healing, prophecy, and other supernatural ministries, with a strong emphasis on practical application. Students are encouraged to engage in “treasure hunts,” where they seek out individuals in need of healing or a prophetic word, reflecting the school’s mission to apply faith in real-world contexts.

Bethel Church’s vision extends beyond individual spiritual renewal to cultural transformation. It seeks to infuse various sectors of society, including arts, media, and politics, with its values and beliefs, aiming for a broader impact on global culture. This ambition reflects a characteristic of neo-charismatic movements, which often emphasize dominion and societal transformation as key components of their mission.

Bethel Church’s innovative and unconventional practices have sparked significant controversy and debate within and outside the Christian community. One of the most discussed practices is “grave soaking” or “grave sucking,” where individuals lie on graves of deceased Christians to absorb their spiritual anointing. Despite Bill Johnson, the senior pastor, stating that Bethel does not officially endorse this practice, it has attracted widespread attention and criticism. Critics argue that such practices veer into the realm of the unorthodox and distract from the core messages of Christianity.

The church’s teachings on faith healing and the supernatural have also been contentious. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the church’s stance on faith healing, alongside its leaders’ public skepticism towards masks and vaccines, drew criticism. Bethel’s response to the pandemic, including the claim of healing people through Zoom calls and the controversial remarks by Beni Johnson on mask efficacy, highlighted the tension between faith-based healing and public health advice.

Bethel’s influence extends into the political and social realms, aligning with the New Apostolic Reformation movement’s goal of influencing the “seven mountains of culture.” This ambition for societal transformation has led to unease among some community members and observers who worry about the blurring lines between church and state, particularly as Bethel’s members have taken roles in local government and community services in Redding.

Furthermore, Bethel’s teachings and practices, such as the emphasis on direct revelations from God, prophecy, and speaking in tongues, have been criticized for straying from traditional evangelical doctrine. The church’s engagement with modern phenomena like gold dust appearances and angel feathers during services has also been met with skepticism, highlighting the ongoing debate over the interpretation of spiritual experiences in contemporary Christianity​​​​​​.

Bethel’s approach to Christianity—marked by a strong emphasis on the supernatural, a commitment to cultural engagement, and a global vision for revival—makes it a distinctive and influential entity within the wider Christian landscape. Its practices, while sometimes controversial, reflect a deep desire among its members and leadership to experience and demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit in contemporary times​​​​​​.

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