Bethel Church (Redding, California)
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|Bethel Church (Redding, California)|
|Denomination||Non-denominational charismatic, Pentecostal|
|Previous denomination||Assemblies of God|
|Senior pastor(s)||Bill Johnson|
|Pastor(s)||Eric Johnson, Beni Johnson, Danny Silk, Kris Vallotton|
Bethel Church is a non-denominational charismatic megachurch, that was established in 1954 in Redding, California. The church, which is currently being led by Bill Johnson, is notable for their controversial ministry style, supernatural ministry school, and music label Bethel Music. There have been many articles, both in print publications and online, written about Bethel and their ministry, including in the Record Searchlight, Christianity Today, and Charisma magazine.
- Bill and Beni Johnson - Senior Leaders (1996–current)
- Kris and Kathy Vallotton - Senior Associate Leaders (1998–current)
- Eric and Candace Johnson - Senior Pastors of Bethel Redding (2015–current)
- Ray Larson (1984–1996)
- Edward Joe Brown (1984–1984)
- Val Munson (1982–1984)
- M. Earl Johnson (1968–1982)
- Vic Trimer (1966–1968)
- Robert Doherty (1952–1966)
Bethel Church began in 1952, with several families meeting in a private home. As the number of members grew, the church rented the Eagle's Veterans' Hall on Yuba Street. In 1954, the Seventh-day Adventist Church building became their home and it was then that the application was made with the Assemblies of God to become incorporated as Bethel Church. Under Pastor Doherty's ministry, the church was able to purchase property on Bechelli Lane and the facility there was dedicated in 1964. Pastor Doherty's vision was that Bethel Church, being on a hill overlooking Redding, would be a light to the city.
In 1966, Reverend Vic Trimer, an evangelist from Wichita, Kansas, became the pastor of Bethel Church. He left in 1968 when the district office assigned him to the mission field in Malaysia.
In 1968, Earl Johnson moved from Downey, California, to become the pastor of Bethel Church. During his 14 years of pastoring the church, Bethel grew to over 1,000 in attendance and expanded its ministries. In 1982, after Pastor Earl Johnson was called to serve as the Assistant Superintendent of the Northern California/Nevada District of the Assemblies of God, Val Munson became the pastor. Pastor Ed Brown was Pastor Val Munson's assistant Pastor. When Val left the church, Pastor Brown became Senior Pastor until the church found Pastor Larson to take over. Pastor Ed Brown went on to be sent out by the AG to build and restore churches through Northern Calinfornia with his wife, three daughters and a son, Rev. Jonathan E.D. Brown known as "The Rev" who has followed in his father's footsteps.
In 1984, the congregation invited Ray and Rebecca Larson from Sacramento, California, to lead the congregation. Under their leadership, the church grew to nearly 2,000 in attendance and relocated to the present 71-acre (0.29 km2) site.
In February 1996, the congregation invited Bill Johnson from Weaverville, California, to lead the congregation. Johnson, the son of former pastor Earl Johnson, only had one stipulation before he was voted in: that the message would always be about revival and that the subject of revival would never change. He received nearly unanimous approval by the congregation and the church board.
In November 2005, the membership of Bethel Church voted unanimously to withdraw the church's affiliation with the Assemblies of God and become a non-denominational church. However, the Assemblies of God's bylaws required Bethel to invite the leadership of the Northern California-Nevada District to speak to the congregation. On January 15, 2006, Bethel's membership voted to rescind the withdrawal and invited the district leadership to Redding. The district leadership met with the congregation in January 17, but the result was a near-unanimous vote to withdraw. In a letter, Johnson points out that this action was "...not a reaction to conflict but a response to a call... we feel called to create a network that helps other networks thrive — to be one of many ongoing catalysts in this continuing revival. Our call feels unique enough theologically and practically from the call on the Assemblies of God that this change is appropriate." Since that time, the church has grown to nearly 9,000 attendees a week.
Bethel Church and Bill Johnson have been featured in video segments by Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). The segments reviewed the church's approach to outreach.
Bethel Church provides a variety of ministries to congregants and the general public that include weekly services for adults, teenagers, and children, a form of inner-healing ministry known as Sozo (based on the Greek word sózó which can mean saved, delivered, healed, rescued, or made whole), various forms of community service, and street ministry. The church hosts a variety of conferences and schools each year. The church also runs a preschool through 8th grade school.
Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry
In the fall of 1998, Bethel Church began Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, under the direction of Kris Vallotton, Bethel's senior associate pastor. The normal program is one academic year (September through May) and students have the opportunity to return for a second and third year. Approximately 15% of the students stay for the full three years. The school was founded with 36 students, and by 2010, the school enrollment numbered over 1,200 students annually. They are an unaccredited program and do not offer a degree or credits but a certificate.
BSSM now has more the 8,000 alumni. In 2016/17, an extensive survey on BSSM alumni was carried out by Eido Research. From a representative sample from all years of graduation since 1999, the survey found that 97% of BSSM graduates are still “confident in their faith,” and that 90% attend a church service at least monthly. Likewise, graduates reported seeing at least 35,000 salvations since 1999, and 50,000 physical healings over the past year. The report also showed that BSSM graduates have a divorce rate that is 4 times lower than the American Christian average.
Since Bill Johnson took over as head pastor in 1996, Bethel has received criticism in both the local community and by other Christian organizations for their beliefs, practices, and usage of church funds.
Claims of healing and other miracles
People associated with Bethel, including the pastor, have made many statements about miracles and healing that have taken place at the church, including gold dust appearing in the auditorium  and people being brought back from the dead.
Usage of funds
In April 2017, Bethel offered to donate $500,000 to the city of Redding to assist in funding the salary for police officers. Some in the community thought the church was trying to pay off the city for future building permits, an assertion Pastor Kris Vallotton refuted at a city council meeting. The city ultimately voted to receive the donation. Shortly after receiving the donation, Redding City Council, which includes several Bethel members, unanimously approved a $96 million new campus for Bethel, despite dozens of formally submitted citizen concerns.
- Jones, Martyn. Inside the Popular, Controversial Bethel Church. Christianity Today, April 2016
- Winters, Amanda. Bethel burgeons under pastor's visions of prosperity. Record Searchlight, January 16, 2010
- Vallotton, Kris. Bethel Beliefs on Signs, Wonders and Miracles. Charisma Magazine, April 2016.
- "Leadership Archive | Bethel Church". www.bethel.com. Retrieved 2018-02-07.
- Biography. Bill Johnson Ministries Retrieved on April 12, 2017
- Johnson, Bill. Bethel and the Assemblies of God. Bethel Church, 2006
- Living a Life of Miracles. Christian Broadcasting Network, April 7, 2011
- Miracles Outside the Church Walls. Christian Broadcasting Network, April 7, 2011
- Structure. Retrieved on Oct 21, 2017.
- "The story of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry Alumni". Eido Research. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
- "The story of BSSM alumni" (PDF). Eido Research. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
- "About - Bethel Music". bethelmusic.com. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
- Winters, Amanda. Faith healings, dead raising teams part of Bethel experience. Record Searchlight, January 18, 2010.
- Longoria, Sean. Bethel, city officials defend $500,000 donation. Record Spotlight, April 2017.
- Redding council backs Bethel's new campus. Record Searchlight, December 6, 2017