Bethel Church / Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry

There’s this interesting indepth article that was published in Buzzfeed about three years ago. We had not really read a lot about Bethel before this time, and it’s uncommon for New Zealanders to go over there and study, but it has happened. There tends to be a lot of controversy surrounding Bethel, and a lot of “discernment ministries” have jumped on them, but most of these types of sites are virulently anti-charismatic in nature, which means what they write has to be considered as unnecessarily divisive and monotheological in nature. We think the characterisation by some of those ministries that Bethel or BSSM members risk going to hell because of the alleged doctrinal error is a very extreme viewpoint that we don’t endorse.

However, we also don’t feel that BC/BSSM beliefs are necessarily all correct. The church is at the forefront of what is called a “signs and wonders” type of ministry or theology. This has not got a massive following worldwide, and if it did, what BC/BSSM was doing would be less controversial. Ultimately the fact that BC/BSSM’s ministry is fairly well outside the norm of many charismatic or pentecostal churches lets us express our views that people should exercise a degree of caution about some of their beliefs. We think there are genuine people in the movement who are actually capable of doing good ministry work, it just comes down to a question of whether the BSSM part of what they do, in particular, is sufficiently theologically balanced in and of itself, or whether the signs and wonders emphasis has taken over too much of what they do there, like the ministry of the church as a whole.

Let’s be clear, we don’t shun “signs and wonders” at all ourselves. We believe they are potentially a part of every Christian’s personal ministry abilities, although there are many who will not enter into using them because they have not been willing to make the degree of personal commitment needed to enter into ministry. Apart from the bigger question of whether some of the manifestations ascribed to BC/BSSM are genuinely of the Holy Spirit, there are issues of whether the correct theology is in use there or whether the activity of the church ticks the right boxes with a balance or sufficient emphasis on teaching and preaching, for example, in the overall balance of activities that are part of a regular Sunday service programme. We can see from some of the beliefs articulated that the church has entered into the questionable “dominionism” theology, as well as its “new apolostolic reformation” variant. Both of these are essentially descendents of dispensationalism and subject to its limitations.

So whilst there are elements of question over the theologies of BC/BSSM at least some of what they do is similar to other charismatic or pentecostal churches. It’s really just a question of balance and whether BSSM in particular is giving their students a solid theological background.