The culture of Bethel Church in Redding CA “is one that is defiantly non-orthodox and non-biblical,” warns Bud Ahlheim of Pulpit & Pen. “So experience-driven and Word-avoiding are the faithful at Bethel that it is reported that Johnson’s wife, Beni, engages in ‘grave sucking,’ a maneuver that presumably allows one to absorb ‘the spiritual anointing of deceased Christians by lying atop their graves.'”
Ahlheim begins with a quote from Charles Spurgeon: “That very church which the world likes best is sure to be that which God abhors.” Now see why he believes God abhors self-professed “apostle” and lead pastor Bill Johnson’s “church.”
Bethel Church of Redding, California was founded in 1952 and was affiliated with the Assemblies of God until 2006, when current pastor Bill Johnson led the church to dissociate itself from the denomination. The current attendance at Bethel’s Redding location is just under 8,700 each Sunday. The now denominationally independent church operates on a $9 million annual budget.
But Bethel’s impact in terms of numbers of souls it touches is far beyond the confines of its Redding headcounts. Bethel is, like Hillsong, an international influence, gaining traction for the prosperity/dominion theology that undergirds it through the primary mechanism of music.
In March 2016, Billboard Magazine noted that, since its first top ten hit on the Top Christian Albums ranking, Bethel Music has had a total of nine Top Ten appearances since that initial 2012 entrance. The album Have It All: Live At Bethel Church sold 25,000 copies in the first week of its release, placing it at number two on the Top Christian Albums chart and taking the twelfth spot on the overall Billboard 200.