Letter to the Editor: Bethel is a Prosperity Gospel Church

A lot has been written about Bethel Church’s disturbing 7 Mountains Mandate, and its outsized – and growing – local influence and control. However, not as much has been said about the fact that Bethel is virtually a textbook example of a prosperity gospel church. For those who aren’t familiar with the prosperity gospel, it’s based on the claim that if congregants donate extravagantly enough to the church (and to the lavish lifestyles of church leaders) God will reward them with wealth of their own. If that doesn’t happen, it’s supposedly because the person isn’t “obedient” enough in other areas of their life.

According to this theology the poor and otherwise afflicted are conveniently viewed as being out of favor with God, and their suffering is God’s punishment for living a sinful life. On the other hand, the well-off are ostensibly being rewarded for their godliness and virtue. How else could prosperity gospel preachers justify their obvious wealth, and the luxurious trappings they surround themselves with?

Bethel leaders urge their followers to literally donate more than they can afford (beyond the cutomary 10 percent, and even before paying their rent or buying groceries) because not donating generously enough is considered “robbery” by God, and proves they don’t trust God to meet their needs. If congregants can’t pay the church first and still have enough left over to pay their rent, they are advised to move to cheaper housing or work two jobs.

In addition, giving generously to the church before paying off debt will supposedly inspire God to help them pay their debt off faster. Any money the person can beg from family members or on GoFundMe pages (heavily used by Bethel followers) to avert a financial crisis is deceptively labeled a “miracle from God” by Bethel leaders.

And according to Bethel CEO Bill Johnson’s “Ten Points on Tithing”, the tithe and any additional money is for the “priests” to do with as they please. Congregants are given no say in how their money is spent.

Amazingly most Bethel followers don’t seem to realize that Bethel is – in every way – a prosperity gospel church. I hope they catch on soon, for the sake of their financial well-being.

Patrecia Barrett
Green Valley, Arizona
(former 40-year Redding resident)

https://krisvallotton.com/should-i-tithe-when-im-in-debt-and-5-other-common-tithing-questions-answered/

https://www.bethel.com/testimonies/physical-obedience-brings-spiritual-release/

https://oslo.church/read/billjohnson-tenpoints-tithing

https://medium.com/we-know-what-we-know/prosperity-gospel-scam-5543be96d8c3

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78 Responses

  1. Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

    Many thanks to A News Cafe for publishing this letter.

  2. Avatar Patrick says:

    Spot on! If I hadn’t watched Bethel’s leader, Bill Johnson on a Bethel TV video stating to members, ” Tithe to us first and God will take care of your bills” I wouldn’t believe that an alledged pastor would say such a ridiculous thing! Bill Johnson did. At what point does a non profit, tax free “church” become a money making machine? Bethel IS at that point of being nothing more than a money making tax free scam, that’s solely benefiting the leaders. Wake up Redding!

    • Avatar Rob Belgeri says:

      In that regard Bethel is unremarkable. Every region of the nation has at least one major-league prosperity grift con going on, complete with garish edifices on which they pay no property taxes. The difference, of course, is the vast majority of them are satisfied to merely fleece their marks, er, congregants and pay lip service to the shiny fetish objects that drive the hive mind of said marks, e.g., anti-abortion, prayer in schools, funs in every pocket, etc., but not make it an express point of their dogma to actively take over the politics of an entire community for the purpose of imposing said dogma on the non-believers.

      • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

        Rob,

        It’s certainly true that every church expects their members to tithe, but most don’t take it to the extremes that prosperity gospel churches do. Per my links above Bethel leaders are basically demanding that their congregants prioritize giving a greater portion of their money to the church than other churches require ahead of paying for basic needs, paying off debt etc., with the promise that some magical being is going to step in and save the day.

  3. Avatar Randy says:

    2 key points from, “BILL JOHNSON: TEN POINTS ON TITHING”

    3) Another significant question is: Can I choose where the tithe is to go?
    Answer: No. The tithe is a payment, already designated by God to go into the storehouse for the ministry of the local church. «Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house» – (Malachi 3:10)

    4) What is the purpose of the tithe?
    Answer: To provide for the priests. They are the ones in ministry that work to equip the saints for service. «For the tithe of the children of Israel, which they offer as a heave offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance…» – (Numbers 18:24)

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      The biblical tithe was actually a portion of a person’s crops and livestock every few months to help feed the poor (widows, orphans, the elderly infirm, the disabled, etc.). It was not to enrich church leaders, or (as is the case with Dominionist churches like Bethel) to aid them in taking over government and everything else in sight for their religion.

  4. Avatar Doug Cook says:

    What church doesn’t tithe or take donations? That is how they are funded. Mormons tithe 10% to the church. Why is it so evil for Bethel to do it?

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      Doug,

      If you’ll read my links above you’ll discover that Bethel leaders claim the 10 percent tithe is only the minimum, and that God supposedly rewards congregants according to how much money they give BEYOND the tithe – even if it means neglecting their basic needs.

      I also believe that most church pastors aren’t paid enough to live extravagant lifestyles, and don’t spend some portion of the vast amount of tax-free money received on political activities (as Bethel certainly does, with its notable presence in Washington D.C.) to influence laws to reflect their beliefs.

    • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

      Doug, Patrecia is very clear in her article that she s talking about Bethel, no other church, and how their leaders live in lavish lifestyles while relegating their members to poverty.
      The Mormon church has many churches, not one single mega church, and their bishops do not live in lavish lifestyles, most have regular jobs while in charge of their local church. I know personally a few right there in Redding who work regular jobs and do not live lavishly. You are just trying to twist what she said when you know absolutely nothing about the Mormon Church. The Mormons, unlike Bethel, have taken care of the poor for over 150 years. Their Housing First program, noted by many cities as how to help the homeless, may have run out of funds but they got over 2100 families off the street and into homes. How many homeless has Bethel got off the street?

      • Avatar Joe Foust says:

        I’m no advocate of the Mormon church, but regarding your comment of bethel not helping the homeless. Bethel had to be publicly shamed before they would open their doors to help the carr fire victims during the fire. Absolutely disgusting politics displayed by any “church”.

        I see the snake in you bethel. I see it very well. You may have some people snowed but not this believer.

        • Avatar Doug Cook says:

          Sorry, Joe. .that is just not true, ” A spokesperson for American Red Cross said Bethel Church offered their site as an evacuation center, but their location was too close to the fire line to have people staying overnight. Instead the church worked with the Salvation Army to be a distribution hub.”

          • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

            Doug,

            Yes, Bethel eventually allowed the Salvation Army to distribute its own merchandise on church property for a couple of days. However, there are a few things that most people don’t know about Bethel’s other responses to the fires.

            Bethel encouraged its membership after to the fire (when there was no lodging available) to rent out rooms in their homes, granny cottages, etc. to fire victims and basically charge everything they could get, then donate that money to the church. That smacks of exploitation to me.

            Bethel solicited money from churches and religious organizations all over the world with the supposed goal of giving out one thousand dollars to everyone who lost a home in the fires. Very early in its fundraising campaign Bethel reported being halfway to its goal, at which point the public accounting abruptly stopped. However, that very early figure is all that Bethel has ever admitted to or accounted for. And let’s keep in mind that this was all OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY, and not money that came from its own coffers.

            In addition, it appears that Bethel only gave that money to homeowners who applied (and who would likely have made more well-heeled potential Bethel members), and not to renters. Many of those homeowners didn’t need the money, but instead donated it to the HIV food bank (in protest of Bethel’s very public anti-LGTB efforts), or gave it to other people they knew who actually did need it but were turned away by Bethel.

            And instead of giving the remaining money to renters who lost their residences, it used some portion of that to provide equipment to volunteers to clear dead trees (good publicity gimmick).

          • Avatar Doug Cook says:

            Patrecia, I was responding to Joe’s false claim that Bethel did not open their doors to fire victims. They offered but was told by the Red Cross that it was too close to the fire. “…had to be publicly shamed “…Absolutely disgusting politics”. All sentiments that are formed over false information.

          • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

            Doug Cook,

            If it’s true as presented, and not just a position someone associated with the Red Cross was talked into agreeing with. I’ve learned in following Bethel’s activities over the years that anything its leaders and agents claim needs to be verified independently and/or taken with a grain of salt.

    • Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

      Many churches don’t ethically connect tithes to God’s favor and the giver’s future propserity. Tithing pays the upkeep on a place of worship and pays the bills. Some churches have paid positions. Churches and temples are not usually a “for profit” part of a community.

  5. Avatar Candace says:

    I have a question. Probably a short-sighted one because I readily admit that I don’t know the ins-and-outs of what constitutes the parameters of having a non-profit status. I was recently reading about Bethel’s “Changed” (loosely, “pray the gay away”) program. I read that Bethel Church says it does not fund the program but that it pays the salaries of the two (?) people that run the program. How is that different? If I’m reading correctly there’s a fee to participate and a fee for learning materials attached to their Conversion Therapy (apparently they reject that term saying it has a pejorative meaning brought about by LGBTQ people and their supporters). I’m assuming some of the fees go towards the making of the learning materials and from the looks of it, towards travel to Sacramento/Washington (don’t remember which or both without looking back at the group photos of the “
    Changed” group) for political sway purposes having to do with limiting LGBTQ protections and civil rights. How does that square with the “non-profit” status. I’m familiar with the argument about the government not cracking down on churches that blur/cross church/state lines. Serious question hoping for an informed, unemotional response. That said, maybe the answer is as simple as the “not cracking down” thing.

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      Candace,

      I’m afraid I don’t know all the ins-and-outs either. However, Bethel is definitely violating the constitutional separation of church and state. Its leaders openly endorse political candidates from their ministry pages (which are just additional pulpits) in violation of the Johnson Amendment. They also urge their congregants from the actual church pulpit to engage in political activity designed to threaten the rights of gay people, women, etc. – which involves time they are being paid for. I would say that Bethel is funding its extensive lobbying activities in Sacramento and Washington D.C. – either directly or indirectly – but it’s impossible to know to what extent, since the law allows churches to get away with hiding their finances to a much greater extent than other tax-exempt organizations.

      • Avatar James Montgomery says:

        “Nonprofits” are free to make profits, but they cannot distribute them to shareholders, partners, etc. They must use them for the purposes stated in their mission statements.
        That can include paying salaries, which is how you pull this scam off.
        This is far from unique to Bethel. There are a great many nonprofits that largely exist as employment scams, and it is true on all sides of any aisle you care to define, conservative, liberal, Christian, atheist . . .
        There are also a great many nonprofits that faithfully serve their missions, whatever they may be. You have to look into their practices.
        https://www.charitywatch.org/

  6. Avatar James Montgomery says:

    You call it prosperity gospel. I call it Church of the Holy Dollar, and I am here to minister unto you poor sinners. If you will just send me $1000 today, I will intercede with God on your behalf. Its either that or burn in hell for eternity. Your choice, sister.

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      It’s incomprehensible that so many people actually believe that if they just pour enough of their hard-earned money into a wealthy mega-church (which does almost nothing Christ-like) they will somehow magically become as wealthy as Bethel leaders. And if they don’t practically give away the farm to these charlatans, “God” will punish them.

      The prosperity gospel is an abusive financial scam, and it’s beyond me why everyone doesn’t realize it.

    • Avatar Candace says:

      James, thanks for reminding me about Charity Watch. I tend to stick with Heifer Intl, and some local food bank charities for my donations but it’s always good to check out other worthy charities. There is certainly no lack of good causes that are in need of support.

  7. Chuck Prudhomme Chuck Prudhomme says:

    Proverbs 22:16

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      Good catch Chuck. I looked it up. It reads:

      “One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth, and one who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty”.

  8. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    Millions of kids on this planet are malnourished. Some starve to death, or die of diseases that healthy people recover from. Children are raped and murdered. Others suffer and die from horribly painful diseases. Incomprehensible awful things happen to kids every day.

    But we have preachers telling us that God does big favors for people who give 10% of their money to preachers. Tithing is an investment—it’s all about ROI. God is tending bank accounts…sorry kids.

    I don’t get it. I don’t want to get it.

    Jesus reportedly has a few things to say about striving for and hoarding wealth. It wasn’t positive. So did Paul…

    ”These are the things you are to teach and insist on. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.“ — 1 Timothy 6 3-5

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      Steve, I will go back to my example of a young lady that worked for me for a few years that travelled extensively to Thailand getting young girls… children out of the sex trade industry. Most of the funding for these trips were from the Bethel Church. The church funds many of these type of trips. This one woman has saved dozens of children from a life of prostitution…I’m sure you would agree that this is a good use of tithing, correct?

      • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

        Doug Cook,

        Cult followers are required to pay for their own “mission trips”. It’s also my understanding that “rescuing” these women involves walking into bars etc. where they work (and are actually free to leave at any time) and convincing them to move into Bethel-affiliated halfway houses, where they become workers for the cult, and in at least one case I turned up are expected to provide free labor for businesses owned by the Bethel member running the halfway house.

        • Avatar Doug Cook says:

          Oh good gawd, Patrecia. That is an outright falsehood. Good grief

          • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

            Many of the Bethel-affiliated “missions” are actually outright scams – like the wide-spread “orphanage” scams in Africa their government is now cracking down on.

            Your desperation to defend Bethel at all costs has become tiring.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        Doug — Yes, I would regard steering Thai children out of prostitution as an excellent use of tithed money. For now, I regard it as hearsay.

        I do know that The McConnell Foundation actively supports various programs that support women and refugees in Nepal, Laos, and here in Shasta County. It’s not difficult to confirm the breadth and depth of this support because TMC is relatively transparent about it. It’s the kind of transparency that encourages others (NOPs agencies, and individuals) to also contribute and volunteer.

        I have Bethelite friends who have gone on repeated missions to help build a school in Mexico. Regardless of their intensions (I’d be somewhat shocked if it’s not an evangelical parochial school), I greatly admire their unselfishness. I strongly doubt that the money for these missions is fully supported by tithes to Bethel, but I have no way of really knowing. How Bethel spends its tithings is anything but transparent.

        As BJ and KV tell their congregants about the fate of their tithes: Noneya bidness.

        • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

          Bethel’s supernatural students and other cult followers are required to come up with the money for their mission trips themselves (a student-paid yearly mission trip is actually a requirement for BSSM students).

          That’s why you see so many Bethel followers begging for money to finance their mission trips on GoFundMe pages. I also believe that Bethel’s BSSM website makes plain that this is the case.

  9. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    When I learn that someone “is Bethel,” someone who is seemingly intelligent and “normal,” I wonder what brain cog slipped so far that following the likes of Johnson and Vallotton is logical to that person. The Bethel communion wine must be made up of a helluva dose of Kool Aid.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      At one level I think I understand the attraction of Bethel. Some people need to feel part of something bigger than themselves—in the case of Bethelites, REALLY big.

      I get it. Attending a college football game or a rock concert in a big stadium or arena is a very different experience than watching it alone on your couch, or even in a sports bar with 25 other people. Being a part of a big crowd lends itself to achieving the gold standard of religious experience: ecstasy. In that sense, Bethel isn’t much different than the predominantly black Glide Memorial in San Francisco, which puts on a hell of a show, too. (Though Glide Memorial provides three daily feedings of the poor, offers heath care services, and provides a host of other services to the downtrodden, so I don’t want to strain the comparison too much.)

      So I understand some of the attraction, but I’ll never understand the affinity for those two hayseed used car salesmen and their White Claw Jesus, though. Every time I read something scribed by BJ or KV, I”m struck by the utter theological vacuousness of it. I suspect that there are many smart Bethelites who just choose to look past that in order to enjoy the afore-mentioned upsides.

      • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

        Interestingly science has now proven that what’s responsible for the feelings of joy and euphoria people experience in large hysterical church services like Bethel’s is actually just the release of high levels of oxytocin in the brain (not “God” or the “Holy Spirit”).

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          Let’s not forget the difference between ultimate and proximate cause.

          We might all—religious and non-religious—agree that the release of high levels of oxytocin in certain social settings causes increased euphoria and ecstasy. That’s the proximate, mechanical cause.

          An evolutionary biologist would argue that this mechanism evolved in service of social cohesion, which is beneficial in contexts where cooperation provides survival and reproductive advantages. That ultimate cause is natural selection’s “purpose.” (With natural selection, it’s not really a purpose—it’s an outcome.)

          A Christian medical doctor might argue that this physiological mechanism exists because God designed it as such so that His worshipers could more fervently glorify His existence and creations. The ultimate cause is God’s purpose.

          At any rate, the religious view need not deny the biological mechanism. (Why God put the same oxytocin/joy circuitry in chimps and rats is a mystery, I guess.)

          I would argue that if you’ve never had a truly religious or quasi-religious transcendental experience, you’re not really religious except in the sense of social inertia/intellectual laziness (you wuz raised that way), or that you value and make practical use of the ready-made social network/power hierarchy.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            thank you Steve

          • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

            Steve,

            I think that might be too intellectual for me. However, people can experience the same euphoria in the middle of cheering crowds at a football game and in other non-religious settings. If there are any differences it’s likely due to the power of suggestion and wishful thinking.

            I always thought it was interesting that while the audience at Bethel services goes bat-s*** crazy, the preachers and cameramen filming all this hysteria are never affected.

          • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

            Patrecia — I also wonder what percentage of the attendees as a charismatic religious service—where people are speaking in tongues, writhing on the floor, waving their hands in the air, and rolling their eyes back in their heads—are faking the ecstasy. It’s gotta be more than a few.

          • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

            I can kind of understand young people going along with all this hysteria at Bethel’s rock concert-like services, but I can’t imagine what motivates the adults.

            Of course as long as no one is being harmed (which I’m not at all convinced is the case with Bethel) they’re free to do whatever they please in the confines of their church, and in other private venues to which they’ve been invited. However, when they force their religious agenda into the public sphere (as Bethel does big time), that’s where we all need to draw the line.

  10. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    I learned a lot from reading your article Patricia, and following the links you provided. The Bethel business reminds me of the television evangelicals who have been so successful for decades in the U.S. Equating wealth to virtue and worth probably kept the peasants under thumb back in the day, but it’s hard to imagine such a kooky notion suriving in a country that offers 9 years of free education to all. The notion that God is a celestial bookkeeper is totally foreign to me.

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      Thank you Joanne. Those peasants were told that kings and other royals were actually gods themselves, which isn’t much different than Bethel leader’s claim that they’re “apostles” and “prophets” (just like in the bible), with a direct line to God.

  11. Avatar David ward says:

    Lord Jesus I ask that these leaders repent of their wrong doing to their flock and repent and ask for forgiveness. Amen.

  12. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    The Tower of Babylon {aka Bethel} is about to crumble. Be patient. BJ & KV are watching this happening as we all speak our piece. They know they’ve reached their peak in this City and folks are waking up. You can only have your lemmings go so far and be smiling and goofy at the same time. I met a 30 something guy at TJs in Redding recently, he told me how he cured his arthoscopic knee injury by envisoning a flurry of angels and ringing bells. He’s part of The Tribe, an off-shoot of Bethel. I offered him several psychiatric evaluators in town, he just turned around and drove off. Good job Ms. Barrett.

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      Thank you!

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      Frank, I hope your observation is correct, but could you elaborate why you feel Bethel is about to crumble? Has anything you’ve seen or heard or observed led you to this conclusion? I truly hope Bethel implodes in Redding even if, as so many have stated, the economy is affected. Seems to me that moderate locals could step in when Bethel-affiliated businesses close. I think it was Joanne who wrote of a friend who closed her business because she couldn’t compete with a Bethel business.

      • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

        The religious take-over of business is part of Bethel’s 7 Mountains Dominionist plans, and it’s well on its way to taking over the local business community (along with everything else in sight).

  13. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    Ummmm. . . . did Johnson/Vallotin/et el, miss that parable where the wealthy young man came to Jesus and asked what he needed to do to secure his place in the Kingdom of God and where Jesus answered that needed to give away all his belongings and wealth to feed the poor and he would be saved? Who to believe, Johnson or Jesus? . . . .

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      Bethel leaders claim that (as “apostles” and “prophets”) they have a direct line to God, and that they’re getting “new” information that basically over-rides the bible. In fact Bill Johnson has said (in so many words) that the bible is “not enough”.

  14. Avatar Russell K. Hunt says:

    I am not that concerned with the main church. But the sub-ministries stuff four converts in each bedroom and a few have them sell “Jesus Herbs”. But what the facts are, are that few of the students come back for a second year.

  15. Avatar Chad Magnuson says:

    While patiently waiting in my car for my wife to shop, I ran the battery down and the car wouldn’t start.
    I called AAA.
    As I was waiting, with my hood up, three young Bethel followers approach me and asked what was going on? After I explained what AAA was, yeah they were not familiar with roadside service, they asked to pray over the battery. They did so and by golly prayer was answered, a miracle occurred.
    AAA showed up and jumped the battery.

  16. Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

    Just to mention – there’s a photo of Bethel leader Bill Johnson’s son and daughter-in-law and its candidate for Congress (Sean Feucht) posted in my Bethel watchdog group standing next to Trump in the Oval Office following a by-invitation-only prayer event. Bethel is both a local and NATIONAL threat.

  17. Avatar Richard Christoph says:

    For sheer illuminating entertainment, view Burt Lancaster as the preacher in the multiple Oscar winning film “Elmer Gantry,” and “Marjoe,” about child evangelist Marjoe Gortner, which won the 1972 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Time well spent.

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      Thank you Richard. I’ve never seen Marjoe, but it sounds fascinating. The addition of the prosperity gospel basically raised religious scams to the next level. I hope we’ll be seeing a movie or documentary at some point exposing these modern-day charlatans.

  18. Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

    Another movie I would love to have shown in every classroom in America is “Inherit the Wind”. I can’t believe that we’re still struggling nearly a hundred years later to keep religion out of public schools. For anyone who is interested, several versions of this outstanding movie are available free on YouTube.

  19. Avatar Derrick Adams says:

    I grew up in Tulsa, OK which is Oral Robert’s backyard. I remember being a kid and hearing his fundraising campaign which was, “A 900 foot Jesus appeared to me. He instructed me to raise $30 for our medical school or Jesus would take me!” (Seriously. You can look it up.) It was unclear how much money he actually raised. But the medical school got built and evidently Jesus did not take him until some years after. Sadly, the medical school closed after massive mismanagement of funds. There are so many parallels here in the area. Sadly, I predict this will go on decades as Oral Roberts’ Ministries and even Robert Tilton can still bring in the bucks.

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      Derrick – I remember that fundraising gimmick. I think the difference now is that national so-called “Christian” legal organizations are coming out of the woodwork, and provide legal advice to mega-churches like Bethel that keep them just this side of the line. Religious scamming is becoming more sophisticated.

    • Avatar derrick says:

      I meant to say $30 million.

  20. Avatar Captain Spaulding says:

    I grew up at Bethel and watched it grow from a tiny church to the mega-influential entity that it is today.
    Bethel is run by human beings so of course it’s not perfect. There are things I disagree with, but overall, I think it’s a wonderful church run by passionate people who sincerely believe in what they’re doing. Sure, there are a few idiots, but like anywhere else in the world… you will always run into idiots.

    This article reads as biased, like it was written by someone who actually has no relationships to people who are involved in the church at leadership levels. If you don’t like what they preach, don’t go. But don’t slander them, which is how this article comes across to someone who went there almost their entire life and has had relationships with leaders there in high positions.

    Bethel is not a Prosperity Gospel Church. They simply run their congregation like a business–which is how most churches in the United States run today (whether you like that or not, that’s up to you). They provide a service (a well-groomed facility for people to meet together and worship, hear good teaching, and encounter some of the best speakers in the world). I see Bethel Church’s services as Ted Talks with the Holy Spirit. Churches have to keep their lights on, so of course they’re going to encourage their people to give.

    Unless the policies have changed after my absence, this statement is a complete lie: “Congregants are given no say in how their money is spent.” When you fill out your tithe form (for a check or cash) or submit it electronically, you can literally designate where you want the tithe to go. If you want it to go towards Missions, you can designate that. Or if you want it to go to other categories, you can do that as well. There are literally several categories to choose from. Just mark where you want your money to go and it will go to that area. It’s not a slush fund for church leaders to reach in and do whatever they want.
    Again, I had relationships with key people in the finances department for years, so painting Bethel as a nefarious, take-your-money-cash-grab is insincere and poorly researched.

    Now, I have heard this sentiment from fellow members at Bethel Church: “donat[ing] more than they can afford (beyond the customary 10 percent, and even before paying their rent or buying groceries) because not donating generously enough is considered “robbery” by God, and proves they don’t trust God to meet their needs.” But I’m not sure which leaders are saying this. Stephen De Silva, who served as the CFO for Bethel for over 20 years has told people again and again, “DO NOT GO INTO DEBT TO GIVE!” So maybe Bill has said this from the front, but I have never heard it. And even if he did, I don’t agree with him and have free will to do with my money what I feel is right. So who cares! If people are too stupid to think for themselves and will spend more money than they have, then that is on them. There might be a few idiots or even vipers at Bethel Church spewing out garbage, but they tend to get weeded out by senior leadership. Overall, Bethel is made up of a lot of good people doing their best to change the world according to how they see fit.

    Also, I have never heard this from any leader at Bethel: “If congregants can’t pay the church first and still have enough left over to pay their rent, they are advised to move to cheaper housing or work two jobs.” If any leader was saying this, they’d be fired cause it’s obviously cultish and vile.

    It sounds like you have gotten your research from putting your own slants on the words and teachings of the church’s leaders. Or maybe some gullible, addle-brained BSSM Students who are too star-struck to think for themselves, because who seriously would be stupid enough to think like this: “In addition, giving generously to the church before paying off debt will supposedly inspire God to help them pay their debt off faster.”

    In summary, most of this story is biased, poorly-researched journalism. If you want to know how Bethel really works, talk with someone high up and on the inside. It’s easy to cast stones from afar, like the Pharisees.

    Captain Spaulding out!

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      Captain Spaulding,

      The information in this letter came directly from Bethel leaders, which is why I posted links (in their own words, and from their own websites) to support my claims.

      I would suggest that you familiarize yourself with the prosperity gospel. As I pointed out early on in the letter, Bethel is virtually a textbook example of this scam.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Captain Spaulding — Understand that many of us regard some of the animosity aimed at Bethel to be products of: (1) jealousy on the part of competing and less-successful local churches, and (2) squabbling about doctrine that, to non-Christians, appears to be little more than pot-kettle-black nonsense.

      But there are two areas where I think concerns about Bethel have merit:

      1. The “7 Mountains Mandate,” which looks to non-Bethelites like an explicit agenda to end the commitment by the Founders to the principal of separation of church and state. To say that many of us don’t want America turned into a conservative Christian fundamentalist theocracy is an understatement.

      2. The two rube theological lightweights who run the church and tell their congregants things like: “I’m a prophet. God talks directly to me so that I can tell you what’s what. So yeah, He really favors Donald Trump and all of that winning. If you oppose Trump, you oppose God’s plan. You don’t want to piss the Big Guy off—he says he’s bringing smiting back. As for you Ellen DeGeneres and Neil Patrick Harris fans, let’s just say He’s not down with those types.”

  21. Avatar Bob says:

    Parents have killed their children, sadly this sometimes does happen.

    • Avatar Bob says:

      Why did baby Olive stop breathing ????

      • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

        Bob,

        It’s probably best not to jump to conclusions. I assume there would have been an autopsy following this tragedy. I think the situation we’re actually looking at is a church exploiting the death of a child to for money. Earlier today the GoFundMe account set up by the church had already reached $50,000.00 (halfway to its stated goal of $100,000.00).

        People in my Bethel watchdog group are questioning why such a large amount is being sought, since the little girl passed away at home, and was not hospitalized. I feel so bad for the parents that they’re being led with false hope to believe that bringing their daughter back to life is actually a possibility.

        • Avatar Bob says:

          It is very, very unusual for a healthy 2yr. old just to stop breathing.

          The detective will get to the bottom of this. The longer it takes to clear this up , the more likely to be foul play involved.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            While SIDS technically only covers infants age 0-364 days, sudden unexplained sleep deaths do occur throughout childhood in a declining pattern:

            Risk of SIDS:
            1-4 months: 1 in 2,000
            5-6 months: 1 in 7,500
            6-12 months: 1 in 15,000

            Risk of SUCD:
            1-4 years: 1 in 75,000
            5-9 years: 1 in 750,000

          • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

            Thank you Tim – I would assume that’s the cause. How very sad.

  22. Avatar Sam says:

    From a pure outsider-ish perspective and someone who is not raging and spewing from the mouth: I’ve been to Bethel and other so-called prosperity gospel places and Bethel is actually not that bad (shrugs). They don’t really do anything too culty other than the occasional random speaking in tongue and the preachers there are not nearly as crazy as other pastors I’ve seen. At least you do see them on Sundays and not hanging out in their mansions all the time. Plus for every 100 bad articles criticizing a church like Bethel there’s many 1 or 2 things about helping and donating to the community which I know firsthand that they do so I guess ppl just need to find their agenda and hate I guess but that’s just me.

    • Avatar Patrecia Barrett says:

      Sam,

      If you’ve been attending Bethel you aren’t an “outsider”. Bethel apparently has quite a variety of services and other activities, and not all of them are of the Sunday for-mass-public-consumption variety.

      There is actual video footage of Bethel in the link below, along with other interesting footage of this movement in general.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWeUNoR30_0