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Worship as a Revolutionary Act of Resistance
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The charismatic revival has not just been about signs and wonders, but about worship and music as well. Similar to previous revivals like Methodism and Salvationism, early Pentecostalism had a lot of zeal and passion in their hymns, with a renewed focus on the Holy Spirit and miracles. The African American influences and inspiration from the mission field also impacted the tone of the music so that it became more inspirational.
Things changed even more during the Western charismatic renewal of the 1960’s and 1970’s, as the Jesus movement incorporated popular, hippie tunes into their worship. This in turn impacted the Vineyard which combined the contemporary style with a focus on singing to God rather than just about him. Today, charismatic churches like Hillsong in Australia and Bethel in California are without doubt the main influences when it comes to contemporary worship music and are really popular especially among the youth.
This style of worship is not without criticism. Songs are commercialized, the concert-like performances are expensive and the worship leaders may receive too much focus. Popular worship lyrics that emphasize God’s majesty and power are criticized for portraying him as too distant and dominant, while songs about human struggles and doubts are rare. (more…)
Bill Johnson’s Support for Trump Doesn’t Make Any Sense
Bethel Church’s Bill Johnson has written about why he thinks a Bible-believing Christian should support President-elect Donald Trump. He fails miserably. In this video I go through his list of things that he has “found” in the Bible that would defend the goodness of a Trump presidency, and points out why Johnson has an obvious bias for Trump that makes him twist the Scriptures like crazy. I deeply respect him and his charismatic ministry, but his political views are astonishingly off.
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Awakening Europe Managed to Do Something I’ve Never seen Before
Last weekend Heidi Baker, Todd White, Chris Overstreet and other revivalists were preaching and ministering in Stockholm at the huge charismatic Gospel event called Awakening Europe. Sarah and I were there along with at least 12,000 other Christians hungry for God and the expansion of His Kingdom in Scandinavia. Even though I’m critical to big arenas, church shows, expensive equipment and male dominance the overall impression from the event was very positive since the message was centred on something we are desperately lacking in Northern churches:
This was without doubt the most Jesus-centred conference I’ve ever been to. The pure Gospel was being preached every night with emphasis on repentance, faith, salvation and being born again. The program booklet proclaimed that Europe shall be saved and that we should believe for 100 million souls over the next ten years. The pause screen in between sessions asked us if we had spoken to someone about Jesus today – something my friend Rebecka Rodriguez calls the One Person a Day Challenge. Swedish church leaders prayed that we once again would become a nation of missionaries.
Most impressively, they managed to get most of the ten thousand attendees out on the streets to preach the Gospel, heal the sick, love the poor and invite people to the event. I have never seen that happening previously. Every time when a Christian conference has had evangelism, it has only been a tiny minority participating while most people do other stuff in the conference or camp area. It has often been viewed as a bonus activity for those especially called rather than as discipleship training for all the saints. (more…)
Why the Prosperity Preaching at Bethel Church is a Huge Problem
Kris Vallotton at Bethel Church recently held a sermon called “Poverty, Riches and Wealth” which is nothing less than pure, economic prosperity preaching. His conclusions are basically that all Christians with some few exceptions should be rich and that wealth isn’t a problem as long as it multiplies and grows exponentially. In this video I respond to his arguments and show why they don’t work:
As you may know, I’ve argued that Christians should not be rich in my God vs Wealth series and I recently did a Holy Hangout on prosperity theology with some friends where I criticized the “health and wealth gospel” for being unbiblical and hurtful.
Now, some people have told me that Vallotton’s position actually is “balanced” and even close to my own, that he’s not that off after all. I strongly disagree. I was surprised to hear how radical his prosperity thinking was and how deliberately he ignored or distorted relevant Bible passages.
Vallotton starts off in 1 Tim 6, arguing that love of money isn’t the root to all evil but a root to some evil (the text actually says a root to all evil). He does not mention verses 5-9 at all, probably because they crush all forms of economic prosperity theology. Verse 5 talk about “people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” (more…)
Finger of God Movie Review
Darren Wilson’s documentary Finger of God is one of the best and most influential films I have ever seen. It introduced me to Heidi Baker and Iris Global as well as to Bill Johnson and Bethel Church, it showed me amazing miracles at a time where I doubted that those really happen, and it stirred me to create Christian film clips of my own. This week, Wilson’s new film Holy Ghost Reborn has been released, and I thought it was a good opportunity for me to review all his previous films, starting up with Finger of God. Here’s the review:
Where is Jason Westerfield?
It’s almost been one month since pastor Bill Johnson called evangelist Jason Westerfield out as a false prophet, but Jason has still not said anything about this publicly. Here, I talk about this and comments some of the comments I’ve received from my previous video and blog post about Bill and Jason. I hope and pray that Jason soon will announce that he does not believe in new age and that he confesses Jesus Christ as divine Son of God.
Does Bill Johnson rebuking Jason Westerfield prove that Bethel is New Age?
Two weeks ago something quite unusal happened: Bill Johnson, pastor in Bethel Church, Redding, which is one of the most influential charismatic churches in the US, opened his Sunday sermon with publicly warning against prophetic evangelist Jason Westerfield. Westerfield has been a student at Bethel, and both he and Johnson were filmed in the amazing charismatic documentaries Finger of God and Furious Love, that covers miraculous stuff that God is doing around the globe.
Now, Johnson said, “There has actually been a spiritual deception welcomed in his life to such a degree that it’s absolutely frightening. In over 40 years of ministry, I’ve never seen one individual being able to spiritually contaminate so many in one night…. The deception is crazy, there’s a real insanity involved.”
Darren Wilson, who has made the documentaries mentioned above, comments this on his Charisma blog (which I really recommend). He says that since Furious Love he hadn’t met Jason until a brief meeting two years ago, which perplexed him:
…the longer we talked, the more my heart sank. This wasn’t the same guy I had known. In fact, he was hardly recognizable to me anymore.
I won’t get into the particulars of our meeting or what we talked about, but suffice to say that Jason steered it into very odd and bizarre territory (aliens, interplanetary travel, etc.) and the whole time I just kept thinking, “What does any of this have to do with the gospel?“
John Wimber vs Bill Johnson
There are many who have compared John Wimber and Bill Johnson. And they surely are similar: both are white, middle-aged male pastors from California with confusingly similar names. The main parallel people usually draw is that John Wimber in his time (the 80’s and 90’s) was arguably the most influential person in the Western charismatic movement, and the same can be rightly said about Bill Johnson today.
John Wimber, who went home to God in 1997, opened the door to the charismatic Renewal in America’s evangelical community through its healthy and relaxed attitude to the Holy Spirit, in contrast to the hysteria and manipulation that charismatics usually are associated with. His Vineyard movement boomed through church planting, and today it includes over a thousand churches in the world.
Bill Johnson is also a laid-back charismatic preacher, his Bethel Church in Redding is a place of pilgrimage for thousands of charismatics, and he gets invited to speak at a variety of conferences around the world. Although Bethel is not a denomination that starts churches, many churches have been impacted and inspired by Johnson.
Johnson has said repeatedly that he is very inspired by Wimber. Both base their charismatic theology on God’s Kingdom. Both have seen many miracles. Both are true prophets.
However. While Wimber is one of my greatest spiritual role models that undoubtedly has shaped my own view of the Spiritual gifts the most, I am not a very big fan of Johnson. Again, I do not deny that Johnson is a man of God who has many good things to say, but I would like to point out a few things where he is very different from Wimber that I think one should be aware of. (more…)
Compelled by Love – Movie Review
This is my review of Compelled by Love, a new film about Heidi and Rolland Baker and their organization Iris Global. You can watch the movie for free until tomorrow at Bethel TV.
Wow, wow, wow. Compelled by Love is seriously one of the best films I’ve ever seen. It’s radical, passionate, moving, inspiring and awesome, it combines joyful happiness with serious pain and sorrow, and in the end I just sat in awe agreeing completely with Heidi Baker when she said that it’s all about Him – what this film portraits is nothing else than the life of Jesus today in one of the poorest nations in the world. It’s a film about an amazing missionary couple and their organization, yes, and for that very reason it is a film about Christ, because Christ is all they stand for in an amazing way.
The film is 100% Iris. It’s emotional. It’s beautiful. It’s messy. Some professional film makers would perhaps react to the patchwork-style; the film is chronological for only 30 minutes or so, and then holy anarachy is released with a multitude of different messages, themes and stories presented, some of which have already been published in YouTube clips. I love it! Shara Pradhan and her team simply takes the best Iris have directly from the field.
The Bethel and Iris culture (those ministries are basically “married” by now) talk a lot about honor, and this film truly wants to honor the life of Heidi and Rolland Baker. Bill Johnson is interviewed when he states that he simply knows no one who has constantly said “yes” to God the way Heidi has, and while she and Rolland are so extraordinary in that they always, continously, give everything to Him, their passion is multiplied to so many others that see that they are not superheroes but carrier of the divine presence of the Holy Spirit that are available for all of us. The film carefully emphasizes both sides of this paradox – the Bakers are amazing saints and should be recognized as such, but their gifts are not excluded to them but constantly multiplied to those who follow their example as they follow Christ. After all, it is the Mozambiqan bush pastors that have raised over 100 dead people within Iris, not the Bakers.
Compelled by Love: New Film about Iris Global Released Tonight
Today is the world premiere of Compelled by Love, a brand new documentary about Iris Global or Iris Ministries, the missionary organization founded by Heidi and Rolland Baker that is spreading revival across Mozambique, Africa and the world. The film is narrated by Reinhard Bonnke and will cover how the blind see and the deaf hear, how poverty is beaten and burdens released, and how love, power and sacrifice is transforming thousands of people as they encounter God on the missions field.
The premiere will be in Bethel Church tonight at 6 PM, US Pacific Time, and thanks to Bethel TV you will be able to watch it online from then on and three days ahead! I can really recommend you to see this, I can’s wait myself. 🙂 If you want to pre-order the film and/or host a screening, go to Compelled by Love’s website.
The Kundalini Myth
Andrew Strom is a Christian who believes that large parts of the global charismatic movement is demonic. In his video Kundalini Warning, as well as in the book with the same name, he claims that false spirits have invaded ministries like Catch the Fire (the “Toronto Blessing” church), IHOP, Bethel Church, Morningstar, and more. These false spirits originate in the Hindu kundalini cult in India, Strom argues.
Now, you expect some strong evidence to support these radical claims, don’t you? Perhaps Strom have discovered some documents proving that before the Toronto Blessing began, pastors John and Carol Arnott went to India to receive kundalini teaching from a guru. Or perhaps Strom have made an interview with Bethel Church’s pastor Bill Johnson and found out that his greatest inspiration is Lama Rama Ding Ding from Uttar Pradesh?
Nope. On the contrary, none of these ministries have ever preached kundalini teaching, nor have they had any association with Hindu groups whatsoever.
So how does Andrew Strom then know that the spirit through which these ministries experience miracles isn’t the Holy Spirit but a kundalini spirit? The answer is of course: YOUTUBE VIDEOS! In Kundalini Warning, Strom shows us recordings from a kundalini meeting, where people according to him behave just like charismatic Christians. The guru lays his hands on people, and they start to shake, laugh, cry and praise the gods. Thus, when John Arnott lays his hands on people and they start to shake, laugh, cry and praise God, it is the work of the devil. If they are quiet, say amen and go and drink coffee afterwards, it’s the Holy Spirit, I guess.
Hotel Bar Revival in Redding, California
A month ago, I wrote about how my friend Simon Adahl was released in the gifts of the Spirit after Matthew had told him to love his enemies. Since then, he and his good friend Orjan Armgren have led many to faith in Jesus through the gifts of the Spirit, especially the gift of prophecy. When people experience a miracle, it is hard for them to deny the existence and power of God.
About three years ago Orjan told Simon: “The Lord wants us to go to Redding in the United States.” “No way!” Simon said, “there are so many strange people in the US, they don’t need two more!” He really didn’t want to go, but he agreed to pray “Lord, if it is your will let it happen and fix the money and so on.” He hoped that nothing would happen.
A few days later, they were visiting a prophetic woman, and as soon as she opened the door she exclaimed “You are going to the US, I pay it all!” Oh crap, Simon thought for himself. “The Lord has told me that you are going on the first of November!” When Simon checked his calender, he had no work between the first and fifteenth of November, and his wife was by coincidence also free from work on exactly those days so that she could take care of their child.
Orjan had said that they were going to visit Bethel Church. When Simon checked their website he saw that they arranged a “Leadership Advanced Conference” for pastors and leaders. It was only possible to participate if one got an invitation from the church. He emailed them: “Hi my name is Simon Adahl and I don’t even want to go but the Lord has provided for us in a supernatural way for us to come.” They got the invitation.
Marc Dupont, minister, prophet and revivalist, has in his book Healing Today (co-written with Anglican minister Mark Stibbe) described a creative miracle he experienced in the 80’s. By creative miracle, I mean a healing which involves the sudden appearence of something that previously did not exist, for example like when Jesus gave a man, who was blind from birth, his sight (Jn 9). In Dupont’s case, it concerned a clubfoot that transformed into a normal one (pp. 130f.):
A woman brought her young son, who had a clubfoot, to me for prayer at the end of a meeting. In fact, it was the last of four nightly meetings held while I was visiting a church in the mid-west of the United States. After four nights of extensive ministry I was very tired. So when she showed me his foot with the obvious deformity, my tiredness took over and I felt no faith whatsoever to pray for this five- or six-year-old boy.
As she explained that he could walk OK, but had never been able to run successfully in his life, my heart went out to him, but I still felt my tiredness upon me. To step into a faith mode and believe for the impossible seemed even more impossible at that point in time.
However, as I knelt down and began to pray for his foot, almost immediately right in front of my eyes it began to change shape. What had, more or less, appeared as a block of wood covered by skin began to change into a normal foot with toes, an arch etc, all in normal size and shape. It had taken place so quickly that I was a bit dizzy. I wasn’t sure whether I was actually seeing a miracle happen, or was imagining it. It took all about five seconds for the transition to take place.
The Supernatural and Political Kingdom of God
I’ve written a lot about how inspired I am by the life and teaching of John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard movement. The Kingdom of God was the most central concept in his theology, just as it also was the most central concept in the teachings of Jesus. And what Wimber showed quite clearly was that the Kingdom cannot by any means be separated from signs and wonders.
The reason for this is that miracles manifest power. When God does impossible things like raising the dead or multiplying food, it becomes evident that He is an almighty King, and that He alone can save us from sin and death. Therefore, it is not surprising that the gospels tell us how Jesus and the disciples preached about the Kingdom and healed the sick at the same time (Mt 4:23, Lk 9:2). “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” (1 Cor 4:20)
Wimber’s teaching got a huge impact. The Kingdom of God is central not only in the Vineyard but also in other Charismatic movements like New Wine, Bethel Church and Global Awakening. However, I’m afraid that they have missed a very important aspect of the Kingdom that is quite evident in the Scriptures. The Kingdom of God is of course also a political term, with political consequences in our lives.