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Do You Really Have to Ask if Bethel Redding is a Cult?

beni and bill johnson bethel redding
Bill and Beni Johnson, senior pastors Bethel Redding.

In 2016, I wrote a post titled, Bethel Redding: A Dangerous Evangelical Cult. Since that time, thousands and thousands of people (Almost 14,000 viewers in 2019, 18,000 in 2018, 24,000 in 2017, and 17,000 in 2016) have come to this site seeking information about Bethel Redding, an Evangelical megachurch in Redding, California pastored by Bill and Beni Johnson. Over the past seven days, almost 2,000 people have accessed the Bethel Redding post. Why all the interest in Bethel Redding?

Bethel Redding and its leaders have an outsized influence on Evangelical churches, especially Charismatic congregations. While Bethel’s core doctrines are Evangelical, its peripheral doctrines are anything but, and anyone with an ounce of sense should be able to look at their beliefs and conclude that Bethel is a dangerous cult. Granted, all sects and churches are, by definition, cults. Christianity, in particular, is an ancient blood cult. The difference between Bethel and its affiliates and other Evangelicals churches is that Bethel’s beliefs about the work of the Holy Spirit can and do cause psychological and physical harm. Many Christian churches are quite benign, little more than social clubs for likeminded people. Bethel, on the other hand, is a world-spanning club with all sorts of magical, secret rituals. One such ritual is currently in the news.

Bethel Redding and its pastors believe that they have the power to raise people from the dead. That’s right, they believe they can reanimate corpses that have been dead for hours and days. On December 15, 2019, Bethel worship leader and songwriter Kalley Heiligenthal asked for urgent prayer after doctors pronounced her two-year-old daughter, Olive Alyane, dead. Heiligenthal wrote:

We’re asking for prayer. We believe in a Jesus who died and conclusively defeated every grave, holding the keys to resurrection power. We need it for our little Olive Alayne, who stopped breathing yesterday and has been pronounced dead by doctors. We are asking for bold, unified prayers from the global church to stand with us in belief that He will raise this little girl back to life. Her time here is not done, and it is our time to believe boldly, and with confidence wield what King Jesus paid for. It’s time for her to come to life.

Prophetess Christy Johnston wrote:

Friends, we are joining the Bethel family in a global movement of prayer for this little one, Olive. Ever since we heard yesterday morning, I have been praying prayers of resurrection over this little girl. We serve a miracle working God, and all night in my sleep, I kept hearing the words, ‘Talitha Koum’… little girl, I say to you, get up from the sleep of death in Jesus Name and WALK! I looked up her name meaning just now, Olive Alayne. Olive- ‘evergreen’, which speaks of LIFE in EVERY SEASON. Alayne – ‘AWAKENING’ and ‘dear child.’ ! Lets decree together over her, O-LIVE the AWAKENING breath of Jesus, dear child!
・・・
Our God is the God of miracles, and nothing is impossible for Him! We are asking you, our global church family, to join with us in prayer and in declaring life and resurrection over @kalleyheili and @apheiligenthal’s daughter, Olive Alayne. Kalley, Andrew, and Elise, we stand with you in faith and in agreement for Olive’s life!

Bethel pastor Kris Vallotton shared Heiligenthal’s request on Facebook, saying:

Please join us as we pray in bold faith for a miracle for our own Kalley an [sic] Andrew Heiligenthal.

Thousands of Bethelites left comments such as these:

In JESUS name, and by the power of Holy Spirit , I command the spirit of death to leave Olive now! I speak resurrection LIFE into sweet Olive’s body now in JESUS name and I declare Olive will live and not die and declare the works of the LORD !

Olive… we say you will live and not die in Jesus’ name. Brain – wake up! Heart – wake up! Blood of Jesus we thank you that you speak now throughout every part of Olive the resurrection power and life and unity of our Lords words – wake up!

Praying and interceding from home today. God, we speak life to Olive! You are the God of Miracles! Do it again Papa raise Olive from the dead!

Come back to life, little babe! Jesus walked out of the grave, walk out with Him!!

Jesus raised our daughter from the dead not once, not twice, but three times! I am believing that for Olive! And it is so.

Jesus raise Olive to life in your name Lord! We declare life and liberty in this beautiful child. You have a plan and purpose for Olive. Bring her life, restore her soul, heaven come down. Unite the body to pray for her and see a mighty miracle in the name of Jesus Christ! Bring a testimony to the world Lord of your resurrection power Jesus! Fill our hearts with belief in Jesus name. Amen!

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for breathing the breath of life back into this child’s body. We command her spirit to return to her body, and thank you, Holly Spirit, for quickening and making alive her mortal body right now, in Jesus’ mighty name. We thank you for miracles, signs, and wonders coming forth from the life of this precious little girl. May she be a testimony of your faithfulness. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Her name is Olive???? She will LIVE!!! The very olive tree sprouts new life… Jesus— we ask the same, by your authority… Resurrection power— gives birth to resurrection life— we join together— as one body— to the LIFE of Jesus! Rise up little Olive!!!!

Holy Spirit come and blow the breath of God unto her lungs, neurons we command you to fire, heart we command to pump!! We claim healing in Jesus Name!!

I rebuke the spirit of death off this child. Jesus bore all sickness and disease and lack for this child. He is healed and whole and well. All parts are straight from the warehouse to Olive. God bless you all.

I command the spirit of death to lift off Olive’s little body right now!!! She will live and not die! Breath of Life breathe in her nostrils right now!! In the mighty name of Jesus Christ!!!! HOLY SPIRIT invade that room tight now!!! Hallelujah God we cry out to You! The Giver if life!!! Hallelujah Lord!!!

Four days later, the child is still dead, yet True Believers® continue to delusionally believe that Jesus is going to resurrect Olive from the dead:

I commend the blood of Jesus over her right now in Jesus name every demonic Spirit every Spirit of Witchcraft every sickness every disease every thing that’s trying to choke her out I lose it right now in Jesus name we command healing power to rise up in her right now in Jesus mighty name amen.

Still praying. I feel God tell me to connect more and more to this. The power of Christ’s resurrection is the power that cancels everything. I keep studying scripture and my heart is full of such promises.

We partner with Him by being wise as kings and seeking out the connections. I’m back 3 major events so far and I will not stop until God tells me to stop. Do I ever love God!

I raise a Hallelujah! IN Jesus’ resurrection power I speak LIFE over Olive. Raise up, and live your Destiny Olive.

Covered by the blood of Jesus we are declaring Life over Olive Alayne in Jesus precious name. Thank you Father that you answer to our prayers in Jesus name Amen!

23yrs ago, our 14 mo old baby girl was dead and came back to life on a quiet Winter night to NOW worship AT BETHEL with with Olive’s parents. Olive, Sweetheart, come back and tell us what you know.

Bethel Redding has a “Dead Raising Team.” Let that sink in for a moment.

bethel redding dead raising team

According to The Dead Raising website, Dead Raising teams:

The DRT offers a service of support to any family that is grieving the loss of a loved one. In addition to giving the bereaved spiritual and emotional support, our team of trained ministers will offer prayers of resurrection on behalf of the deceased. Handling each situation with the utmost sensitivity, our team travels to the funeral home, morgue, or family’s home where the deceased is being kept. Upon arrival, we spend time in prayer with the family, as well as the deceased. We will stay as long as we are needed.

Since it was started in late 2006, the DRT has comforted families in the midst of grief, as well as having 15 resurrections to date as a result of their prayers. If this is a service that you would like to make use of in the midst of your pain, please contact us as soon as possible.

Nothing is impossible with God. – The DRT

Fifteen alleged “resurrections” in thirteen years. That’s roughly one reanimated corpse per year. Think of all the prayers that these Deadraiser’s have prayed, and what, exactly, do they have to show for it? Fifteen alleged “resurrections.” No evidence for these science defying resurrections is provided on the Dead Raising website. Until I see solid, verifiable scientific evidence for their claims, I remain skeptical.

The death of any child is tragic, regardless of the religious inclinations of their parents. Sadly, Bethel Redding and its leaders used Olive Heiligenthal’s death as a means to promote their fanatical beliefs. That Olive remains dead is no surprise. That’s what dead people do — stay dead. Reason and common sense tell us that once people die, they stay that way, and all the prayers and magic tricks in the world won’t change that fact.

If you had any doubts about whether Bethel Redding is a cult, the church’s latest foray into raising the dead should put an end to your doubts.

Notes

Bethel’s senior pastor, Bill Johnson, explains why they believe dead people can and do come back to life.

evangelicals at white house december 6 2019

On Friday, December 6th, forty Evangelical preachers and worship leaders gathered at the White House to pray for “baby Christian” President Donald Trump. Seven of those gathered: Brian Johnson, Jenn Johnson, Sean Feucht, Luke Hendrickson, Kiley Goodpasture, Dominic Shahbon, and Jeremy Edwardson were affiliated with Bethel Redding.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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24 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Melissa A Montana

    I read about this on Patheos. There is a GoFundMe linked with the people who claim they will raise her from the dead. When I last checked, they had raised $42,000 and had over 500 donations in one day. Call me cynical, but I smell a scam brewing. Someone is making a fortune off of this tragedy. How much do you want to bet they will say her not rising is God’s will and the money will be claimed for the church?

    • Avatar
      Astreja

      I suppose we could ask GoFundMe to keep an eye on the fundraiser, but in many ways I consider this a Stupid Tax with money just moving to different pockets within the same daft demographic.

  2. Avatar
    GeoffT

    “ Until I see solid, verifiable scientific evidence for their claims, I remain skeptical.”

    Bruce, you’re much too kind. I’m not skeptical, I call them out as downright liars. From a practical point of view resurrection is impossible. The brain can survive without adverse effect for just 6 minutes without oxygen, and after that it deteriorates until it is incapable of functioning again. More than 10 minutes without oxygen and the best that can happen is that you are revived but you’ve become a ‘cabbage’.

    This sort of story is horrific. It provides a false hope, not just to the parents, but to everyone who buys into it. They should be learning to deal with the tragedy, the same that everybody else has to to a greater or lesser extent through their lives. The behaviour exhibited here is reminiscent of something I’d associate with some superstitious African tribe.

  3. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    I really feel for this hurting family that they are desperate to cling onto any spot of hope that their child will be restored. Yet with all our technological advances, we aren’t able yet to reverse death in humans. And with all our technological advances we still have people appealing to chants, rituals, magic, and superstition to try to control what we are still unable to control. These people are no acting no differently from the “pagans” and “heathens” they so vociferously revile.

    I blame this horrible cult, exploiting people’s most vulnerable emotions to make a buck. Revolting.

  4. Avatar
    Ami

    I also feel awful for the family of this child. I also feel anger for cult leaders who have fostered the crazy and for those who don’t know any better and embrace the idea of resurrection of a kid who’s been dead for a week.

    My husband said this morning, ‘how arrogant for them to think they can deny the will of their god’.

  5. Avatar
    dale m.

    Hmmmmm …. This is interesting. I don’t know why people just don’t laugh at them. This “blood cult” is slowly putting the noose around Christianity and is gradually tightening it. More fodder for us. Its an in-family thing folks. Several surround President Trump. But nobody touches that! This makes Trump look like an idiot, though truth be told, he probably didn’t realize just how far these cults would go. But these R the type of Americans that back the current President. But that’s not what I find interesting.

    Its not that some people believe that Man can raise the dead through some icon but, rather, that Religion can actually do this without putting in the work. If anyone or anything EVER raises the dead, that “thing” will have god-like power because of “it’s” ability to manipulate Space-Time on down to the level of Strings …. not Quarks …. but Strings. That “thing” is called SCIENCE (coupled with the appropriate engineering technological know how). Not impossible. Just a long ways off.

    You want to cut the legs out from under these religious cults? Tell them that SCIENCE is working on it. That’s when we’ll have a real fight on our hands. But frankly speaking, we have little experience taking on religion, except in the most tiny, mundane and nearly insignificant of ways. These cults exist and the Presidents that back them because WE let them have their way with us! Hell, they even define us!

  6. Avatar
    Art

    I saw two people die in church. The first, in a rather staid Presbyterian Church, remained dead.

    The other, in a Oneness Pentecostal Church, was ‘resurrected’ by the EMTs who did CPR.

    Really curious about those 15 ‘resurrections’ from the middle aged boy band.

    • Avatar
      howitis

      I had the same thought…and then, I had an even worse thought.

      I can think of two cases in the last year or so, in the city where I live, where a small child was “not breathing.” In one of the cases, the child was brought into the emergency room; in another, paramedics were called to the home. In both cases, the media initially covered it as a terrible, unexplainable tragedy.

      In both cases, after a few days or weeks of investigation, the police had arrested the parents for murder and child abuse.

      A cynical part of me is wondering if the reason this poor baby is still in the morgue, is because her parents are trying to keep the police away from her body, so they can’t see the abuse that resulted in her death. The “prayers for resurrection” is a smoke screen (at least in part) to keep their church and community from finding out the awful truth. We know that many of these cultish, fundie sects advocate for the extreme corporal punishment of children; they believe that even babies and toddlers should be severely beaten when they misbehave.

      Would I be shocked if these parents were eventually arrested for child abuse? No, I would not. I have good friends who work in child welfare. I know too much.

  7. Avatar
    John Arthur

    The Bethel leaders know that none of the dead people that they have claimed to resurrected have ever come back to life. They are preying on grieving people and also on sincere but gullible persons who contribute towards their so-called resurrection fund. Those scammed seem to be blithely unaware of what is happening, while the Bethel leaders keep raking in the money.

  8. Avatar
    thatotherjean

    That’s just cruel. Is the dead-raising team taking credit for the CPR performed by first responders and doctors? It’s possible, sometimes, to re-start a heart–but once your brain is gone, you’re dead and you’re going to stay that way. To convince the parents of a dead child that it might be possible to bring that child back to life if they have enough faith is so heartless. They will feel like failures for the rest of their lives.

  9. Avatar
    James

    Perhaps we should get to be Elijah:

    At noon Elijah began to make fun of them. “Pray louder!” he said. “If Baal really is a god, maybe he is thinking, or busy, or traveling! Maybe he is sleeping so you will have to wake him!” The prophets prayed louder, cutting themselves with swords and spears until their blood flowed, which was the way they worshiped. The afternoon passed, and the prophets continued to act like this until it was time for the evening sacrifice. But no voice was heard; Baal did not answer, and no one paid attention.

  10. Avatar
    dale m

    Be prepared folks. It isn’t over yet. Could the parents be staying in the morgue with the child? This would alleviate charges of involuntary confinement. R the doctors also part of the cult? If so, “reserection day” can’t be far off. The last monstrous scam we had was also with the parents participation. Remember that one? Little boy dies. Sees heaven. Comes back to this world. Tells us the wonders awaiting Christians. Celebrities and Christian corporations endorse him. Publishers beat a path to his door. Little boy draws pics of heaven in crayons. Monies soon to pour in. Little boy confessed all was a lie. He couldn’t take the pressure his parents pushed on him. They were never charged with child abuse. Religion is above the Law of the Land. Kid probably got slapped around after. When he becomes an adult, his book will sell in the millions. We need to place religion in the “organized crime” section and once and for all ….. take the damn thing out of the Constitution.

    • Avatar
      Brian Vanderlip

      Hey dale m, greetings… Maybe we could start the hike to rational thinking by applying a reasonable tax. If Reason can endure a generation or two more in the land of the ‘free’, the home of the slave, then maybe greater change is actually possible. Till then, I hope to continue as long as I am able to help speak for children, to encourage respect and understanding of kids and to allow them to grow unemcumbered. Looking at Bethel, I sometimes feel that my hope is about as likely as the 2nd coming.

  11. Avatar
    dale m

    I have my own ideas about taxation. Don’t tax the corporations at all. They should be tax free. But here in lies the rub. All monies earned by them that R tax free should be placed back into the economy. They should also be held to one more thing for this tax exemption …. the number of people they employ vs the amount their corporation brings in. As far as personal wealth is concerned, don’t punish them for their success but do tax them like the rest of us for anything not directly associated with their business. There is abuse here if you do not close all the loopholes. What’s good for the rich should be good for everyone else too. Problem is, we rarely hold our law makers to this. People like Trump and his affiliates R a problem though. And please don’t insult my intelligence in thinking that the Dems would be any different. We need to hold them ALL to the Law.

  12. Avatar
    John Arthur

    “… fifteen alleged resurrections in thirteen years…”

    These delusional Bethel cultists claim to do the works (miracles, so they say) of Jesus and greater works (miracles) than Jesus (John ch.14). Well, I counted the number of alleged resurrections that Jesus is supposed to have done prior to his death and it was nowhere near 15. The only one that I could find was the alleged resurrection of Lazarus.

    If these cultists could perform resurrections, why don’t the visit the terminally ill in hospitals and, when they die, bring them back to life? Because the leaders know that they can’t do this and they would be found out to be a con job. Not only can’t hey perform resurrections, they can’t even heal any organic diseases. The leaders know that they are lying, but never mind, all they are interested in is deceiving gullible Christians and raking in the money.

  13. Avatar
    Patrick

    I’m the administrator of our local Redding CA Facebook page, investigating Bethel. Redding is the base for Bethel & BSSM, Bethel School of Supernatural.oys horrific what this cult is doing to our city. Bethel teaches the ” seven mountain mandate”, it’s Bethels goal to take over Redding. Currently, they’re succeeding as their elder, Julie winter’s is on our city council & just finished her turn being mayor!

    Bethel has taken over the housing market and opening businesses all over town. People are moving from all over the world to attend this cult and we need HELP to bring their fraudulent activities to light. Pastors Bill Johnson & Kris Volotoon live the lavish lifestyles with multi million dollar home’s, $350,000 sport cars & Gold Rolex watch collection’s. Their biggest cash cow is Bethel music taking in millions upon millions of tax free dollars each year. BSSM students pay $8,000 per year for a 3 year course, which they receive a Bethel certificate at the end which has no value whatsoever. Bethel then sends them back to their home state or county to take over the local churches. Of course by paying off the mortgages on the church with the contingency that the allow the Bethel cult pastor take over. This is happening locally, statewide, in the USA & all over the world.our Facebook page has over 1,500 investigating Bethel members but we don’t have the power to get our local officals to investigate Bethel because they won’t, Bethel has the city leaders in their back pockets. Bethels attempts to raise this poor dead child is insane! However, as per normal with Bethel, they have raied over $61,000 on a GoFundMe account campaign! ( Bethelites love GoFundMe it’s their #1 begging site) Do a search in GoFundMe for Bethel Redding California and you’ll see thousands of accounts begging for everything & anything including free paid vacations (aka missionary trips) as administrator I receive numerous requests from people all over the world seeking information on their friends or family members that have come to Redding to attend BSSM or Bethel but have NO contact with those friends or family members. Typical cult activity, separating them away from reasonable people! They’ve normally sold everything, including homes & tithe everything to Bethel..can anyone help us stop this cult!?!?!? Please! Please! Please!

  14. Avatar
    Jeanne

    My daughter went to Bethel in 2015 through 2018 approximately. Worst thing she ever did in her life. She is so messed up mentally now. She wasn’t like this before Bethel.

    Also Pihop in Pasadena. Another crazy church cult. I guess formally IHOP. I went there with her maybe 3 years ago. It was really creepy. They have what they call interceptors whatever they are. Asked me some questions. They didn’t like what I had to say in my answers and I was so out of there. Bethel sometimes comes down to do whatever they do at Pihop.

    Their singers at Bethel are so annoying. They repeat and repeat the same words over and over again. Too whiney.

    She drove up to Bethel in December to help raise that little girls body. Well? Then Bethel security dragged her across the parking lot. Why? My daughter said she didn’t do anything. She was going to her car. She called Redding police who said that they have trouble with Bethel security a lot.

    Spent all her money for Bethel, and now what?

    The higher they think they are. . .the harder they fall.

  15. Avatar
    Kay

    To Patrick:

    The serious of the allegations I’m writing can be verified by documentation and other sources be willing to help.
    Bethel Church members participated in probate estate fraud child trafficking to parties involved with Pastor involved with the Boston Marathon bombers leading to obstruction in terror investigation causing those attacks and possibly the Redding fires. These parties spread vicious slander and even participated in attempted murder on witnesses who reported criminal activities. And now another boy whom was also involved with same traffickers was recently found dead in a river after threats against the girls life.

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