The Bright Ones, a full-length feature film being marketed to families, youth and churches [debuted] in more than 700 select theaters across the United States on April 22. Billed as an “inspirational” film, Bright Ones tells a story of a group of talented, teenage kids from a performing arts school who face an impossible challenge. But behind the seemingly innocuous story lies the dangerous theology of one of the nation’s most controversial churches – Bethel Church in Redding, California. Led by the “apostle” Bill Johnson and the “prophet” Kris Vallotton, Bethel Church is the spearhead of a fast-growing, theologically aberrant movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation.
In a statement, Bethel Music CEO Joel Taylor said, “We truly feel like this film is the fruit of our community’s culture – to see the next generation rising up and leading while being confident in their gifts and identities in Christ is a powerful thing. As with all things we do, we pray that Bright Ones would not only be a reminder of truth, but also be a resource for other churches to foster their own community of ‘bright ones.’”
On the surface, Taylor’s statement sounds very good. After all, what Christian parents wouldn’t want their children to be confident in their gifts and identities in Christ? Yet, the problem is with what Taylor didn’t say. Lurking behind Bethel’s use of the words “gifts” and “identities” is a set of unbiblical teachings that are peculiar to the New Apostolic Reformation.
For example, when most Christians hear the word “gifts,” they may think of any special talent that God gives to an individual. They may also think of a full range of spiritual gifts that are referred to in Scripture, including gifts of serving, teaching, and acting mercifully (Romans 12:6-8). But when Bethel Church refers to “gifts,” typically they’re referring to miraculous gifts, such as prophesying and healing people of sickness and other physical conditions. What’s more, Bethel Church not only teaches that some people today have those miraculous gifts — a teaching held in common with Pentecostal and charismatic churches. Bethel Church teaching goes way beyond historic Pentecostal and charismatic teaching by claiming that the key to acquiring those gifts is through receiving new, authoritative revelation given by modern-day, governing apostles and prophets, like Bethel’s Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton. These extreme and distinctive teachings represent neither historic Christianity nor historic Pentecostal and charismatic belief.
And, shockingly, Bethel Church teaches that Christians must learn to work greater miracles than Jesus did – as in more spectacular and more awe-inspiring miracles…. According to Bethel leaders, when Christians learn to perform more spectacular miracles there will be a worldwide revival in which a billion people will convert to belief in Christ. In short, this miracle-working army will usher in God’s kingdom. Thus, Christians who do not seek to develop such miraculous gifts and exhibit them in their everyday lives are settling for a “powerless” Christianity. God’s freedom to establish his kingdom on earth has been limited by their unbelief, according to the church’s leaders….In contrast, the Bible teaches that God gives spiritual gifts, including miraculous gifts, to individuals as he alone decides (1 Cor. 12:11). Furthermore, it makes it very clear that not all can have each of these gifts (1 Corinthians 12:29-30).
Yet Bethel Church teaches that miraculous gifts can be “activated” in any person who desires them. In line with this teaching, countless books, curriculums, and workshops – taught by Bethel leaders – offer training to activate the miraculous gifts. In fact, Bethel runs an entire school to train college-age people to work miracles: Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, which has an enrollment of more than 2,500 students from 64 countries. Children are also “activated” into the miraculous gifts at Bethel. In their Sunday School classes, they talk with angels and practice raising the “dead” by wrapping themselves in toilet paper, like mummies. These radical teachings and practices are not what most Christians will have in mind when they take their children to the theater to see Bright Ones.