EYE WITNESS REPORT FROM BETHEL CHURCH
Bethel Church in Redding, California has a congregation of 8000 in a town of 92,000. I am impressed, whenever I see that many people spending two hours in church, plus there are other things going on throughout the week. Many of the multitude are not mere pew sitters but they are active in the ministry.
Brother Mikhail and I entered the sanctuary about 30 minutes before the service started and there was a line stretching across the altars of trained disciples praying for peoples’ needs from the previous service.
The Bethel House is built on prayer. Outside the church building there is a hill top chapel devoted to 24-hour prayer with large windows overlooking a beautiful vista. The garden surrounding the prayer chapel makes it an ideal place for prayer walks. There must have been 25 folks praying inside and outside the chapel 30 minutes after the service ended.
The worship team played contemporary music; I was not familiar with any of the songs; however, the lyrics were definitely directed towards the Lord. The music was not too loud. There were two dancers, waving banners throughout the worship time, which lasted for 40 minutes. People were very much entering in to the praise period.
One of the pastors encouraged the congregation with two words “fresh grace” and “breakthrough.” He then asked the congregation to pray in the context of the two words and lay hands on neighbors. Two women prophesied briefly over me. One quoted from Philippians 3, “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”
There was an offering taken and buckets passed; there was no pressure or promises of return connected with the offering. The church is in the process of building a new campus; hopefully, within the next three to five years. It appears they are making wise use of their finances.
One of the pastors spoke on the plans of the church to rent an old ornate movie theater downtown. They anticipated they would be filling it with 1000 worshipers each Sunday. They told downtown merchants, especially restaurants and coffee shops that they might want to stay open on Sundays, because they will be encouraging their people to eat or shop before and after services. Bethel has a vision to bringing prosperity to the city of Redding, as the church prospers.
A lady of the church, who had been connected with the ministry for over 20 years, asked all the single mothers with children at home to stand. She honored the moms for fulfilling a very difficult task. We were encouraged to give money directly to these dozen women. They were quite moved by the compassion the congregation demonstrated.
Senior Pastor Bill Johnson was not in the service. Pastor Eric introduced his wife Candance as the speaker. I suppose since it was Mother’s Day the ministry wanted a female perspective. Her theme was on building, “Strong People, Strong Families and a Strong City,” thus showing the Dominion or Kingdom Now perspective of Bethel.
Candance testified that she had been saved in an A/G church at fifteen and soon after went on a mission to Mexico. From then on, she had a burden for missions. She went through some of the YWAM program and later graduated from Bethany College of the Assemblies of God in Santa Cruz, where she met her husband. She initially had difficulty dealing with the isolation of Redding, since she had a vision for the nations of the world.
Candance warned that there may be seasons in our life, when our situation does not make sense; meanwhile we must praise and trust God. She spoke of longsuffering being a fruit of the Spirit. Eventually, with the rise of Bethel’s Revival Training School of thousands of students from all over the world, God brought the nations to Bethel, thus she could now reach into the world from Redding.
She reminded us of the faith of Abraham and Sarah, who had to wait for 25 years for their Isaac, which shows that we need to believe what God says. This is important in a church with so much emphasis on the prophetic word to individuals.
One of the pastors made an altar call for salvation, healing and deliverance after Candance’s message. Scores of people responded.
Steve Conn an old friend from Praise Chapel Redding, where I had ministered last time in 1991, joined us in the service. I had not seen him since speaking in his church; however, we have been in contact on Face Book. We walked to the Prayer building after Church where Brother Steve, Brother Mikhail, and I took communion just among the three of us.
This is an outstanding work; the emphasis is that revival is associated with the supernatural. In Acts 8, Philip the Evangelist had a revival in Samaria. “The people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spoke, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.”—Acts 8:6.
Bethel is getting world-wide attention because of the reports of the supernatural in their services and multitudes are coming to know the Lord.
I did not hear or see anything bizarre or weird in the three hours we spent on the church grounds. I would caution Christians not to judge the ministry based on its critics on the internet; most of whom have not first-hand observed the ministry. Much of the criticism comes from cessationists, who teach that spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophecy and healing ceased with the apostolic age.
There are always the critics. There are those who have put out videos and writings against my ministry on the Internet, that misrepresent what The CMUSA is all about, which is reaching out for the salvation of souls.
I am now in Yuba City, CA, hosted by an old pastor friend, Chris Madsen. He said this evening, “From my experience, the critics are the ones who have little success in the ministry.”