11 thoughts on “Not Bethel at its best. 

  1. Thanks for two great posts. I like the gracious way you have separated out the mystery worshipper post about the church from this post about the visiting speaker.
    I found the NT Wright clip on Gnosticism really helpful.
    I think your conclusion about this type of prophetic conference-style ministry potentially disempowering every member ministry is really important.
    Leading a school I have been reflecting on the culture change needed in many organisations to enable everyone’s voice to be heard (within an organised structure). In many charismatic-style churches to question theology/practice/teaching can be seen as identifying yourself as someone who is ‘challenging authority’ and ‘not submitting to leadership’. Instead I think we need to learn from organisations where the pursuit of their over-riding vision means everyone is empowered to speak out. One of our school governors is a BA pilot and has helped us think this through by their example where the over-riding principle of safety-first means the cleaner is as empowered (and duty-bound) to share any concerns on this issue as the pilot or health and safety officer.
    I do think schools and churches often share a common defensiveness to critiques which receives comments/questions/concerns as personal criticism and so risks diminishing the whole.
    As a church with a ‘kingdom-first’ mentality are we allowing those voices of ‘dissent’ to be heard? As we serve a God who favours the still small voice, the outsider, the last, least and the lost … we don’t want to miss that in our pursuit of the big speaker/church brand ‘name’.


  2. I have to say I found this rather worrying, especially the Oliveramos bit. Releasing an otherwise unknown angelic force onto a congregation has no biblical warrant whatsoever, and sounds more occult than anything! I would have refused to stand – as a matter of fact, I might have left at that point.

    I admire your attempt at being as positive as possible; I’m afraid I found it hard to see anything commendable in what you described! And in case you’re wondering, I’m not anti-charismatic – I’d love for our churches to be more open to the Spirit. I just don’t think the Spirit was very involved in what was going on in this service…


  3. Hi Rich,

    I’ve read both recent posts and enjoyed aspects of them both. However…. one reason that I found aspects of this post slightly irritating are for due to the predictable comment that come above from David. David wasn’t at the service in question (neither was I) and I think it’s brave/unwise to comment about the tone or vibe or ‘I would have left the meeting!’ A somewhat childish approach I would argue. Also with ‘groupspeak’ in mind and at the risk of sounding like Jeff!! I would also point out that some aspects within a generally very well written post do slightly wreak of ‘I’m better than you because I’m theologically trained etc’ whether you mean this or not this is how it reads…… said in love….


    1. Interesting that you found my comment “predictable” – as if you’d anticipated Bible-believing Christians objecting… 🙂

      Because it wasn’t the “tone” or “vibe” I was objecting to, it was the very questionable theology behind a procedure described in some detail in the report. Why is it “childish” to leave a meeting where I would not feel spiritually at ease? (Unless I was there specifically to observe and analyse, of course!)

      It’s not a question of being “better than you”; it’s a question of safeguarding against false teaching and harmful practices. All is not gold that glistens, all is not good just because it’s supernatural, and all is not helpful just because it takes place in a church setting.

      I wish I didn’t feel the need to be concerned about Bethel; I enjoy much of their worship music and long to see more branches of the church open up to the works of the Spirit. But reading things like this makes me sad – sad that unbiblical practices keep sneaking into our churches, and sad that this means we can’t stand united in preaching the gospel. This disagreement doesn’t bring glory to God; but neither does unbiblical teaching. So if a short-lived argument can remedy an ongoing error, then I still think it’s worth it.


  4. On a culture of honour – or Leadership Culture, it is one of the reasons I became a Anglican. I was tired of Leadership making people a different class. Anglicanism was more hierarchical, but less authoritarian​ than the New Churches I was part of. There was also no clear defined path into ministry. Which is very different in RC and Anglican polity. In ministry you do encounter people who think they can do a better job than you – they may be right, in the CofE they can talk to a vocations adviser and explore that.

    However, on reflection I can understand why that culture of honour exists and is encouraged. In Anglican churches of all traditions I have also seen ministry regarded poorly. In particular those who are not in overall oversight. I am a big bad vicar and can look after myself, but Readers, Lay Ministers, Music Ministers, Children, Youth and Family workers – paid or otherwise … They deserve a little bit more respect.


  5. Well phooey! From the comments it looks like this was a really interesting post. I assume it’s removal was intentional? I’ve called Bethel’s prayer line a couple of times, and I’ve read a book by their lead pastor, but I am aware of some theological issues. I would have loved to read the post. Any chance it will reappear?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks for the comment. I deleted the post after it was read and responded to, as it was a very junior pastor saying things I am sure the leadership never would, and didn’t feel right to keep the critique on public record after that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah. Well, thank you for explaining. And thank you for your blog posts. I’ve found the ones I have read very insightful (by which I mean I gained insight). If I was in your neck of the woods I’d probably come and visit your church to hear you in person, but as I’m over in America that’s unlikely to happen.


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