Bethel Church is a non-denominational charismatic megachurch that was established in 1954 in Redding, California. The church, which is currently being led by Bill Johnson, is notable for their music label Bethel Music. There have been many articles, both in print publications and online, written about Bethel and their ministry, including in the Record Searchlight, Christianity Today, and Charisma magazine.
Robert Doherty began the church in 1952 and the congregation was an affiliate of the Assemblies of God beginning in 1954. In February 1996, the congregation invited Bill Johnson from Weaverville, California, to lead the congregation. Johnson, the son of former pastor Earl Johnson, only had one stipulation before he was voted in: that the message would always be about revival and that the subject of revival would never change.
In November 2005, the membership of Bethel Church voted unanimously to withdraw the church's affiliation with the Assemblies of God and become a non-denominational church. However, the Assemblies of God's bylaws required Bethel to invite the leadership of the Northern California-Nevada District to speak to the congregation. On January 15, 2006, Bethel's membership voted to rescind the withdrawal and invited the district leadership to Redding. The district leadership met with the congregation in January 17, but the result was a near-unanimous vote to withdraw. In a letter, Johnson points out that this action was "...not a reaction to conflict but a response to a call... we feel called to create a network that helps other networks thrive — to be one of many ongoing catalysts in this continuing revival. Our call feels unique enough theologically and practically from the call on the Assemblies of God that this change is appropriate." Since that time, the church has grown to nearly 9,000 attendees a week.
Bethel Church and Bill Johnson have been featured in video segments by Christian Broadcasting Network and Trinity Broadcasting Network .
Bethel Church has set up ministries in conjunction to the needs of its growing congregation within Redding, California. These ministries span a range of different sections for public service, internal structure, and even products and brands. One of the more well known of these ministries is Bethel Music due to their popular music domestically and worldwide.
In the fall of 1998, Bethel Church began Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, under the direction of Kris Vallotton, Bethel's senior associate pastor. The normal program is one academic year and students have the opportunity to return for a second and third year. Approximately 15% of the students stay for the full three years. The school was founded with 36 students, and in 2010 and 2016 the school enrollment numbered over 1,200 and 2,000 students, respectively. They are an unaccredited program and do not offer a degree or credits but a certificate.
BSSM now has more the 10,000 alumni. In 2016–17, an extensive survey on alumni was carried out by Eido Research by alumni of the program. From a representative sample from all years of graduation since 1999, the survey found that 97% of graduates are still "confident in their faith", and that 90% attend a church service at least monthly. Likewise, graduates reported seeing at least 35,000 salvations since 1999, and 50,000 physical healings over the previous year. The report also showed that BSSM graduates have a divorce rate that is four times lower than the American Christian average.
Bethel Music is a record label and publishing company associated with Bethel Church, led by Bill Johnson's son Brian Johnson.
Since Bill Johnson took over as head pastor in 1996, Bethel has received criticism in both the local community and by other Christian organizations for their beliefs, practices, and usage of church funds.
People associated with Bethel, including Johnson, have made many statements about miracles and healing, including gold dust appearing in the auditorium and people being brought back from the dead.
In April 2017, Bethel offered to donate $500,000 to the city of Redding to assist in funding the salary for police officers. Some in the community thought the church was trying to pay off the city for future building permits, an assertion Pastor Kris Vallotton refuted at a city council meeting. The city ultimately voted to receive the donation. Seven months after receiving the donation, Redding City Council unanimously approved a $96 million new Bethel campus, despite dozens of formally submitted citizen concerns. The city councilperson who is a member of Bethel recused herself from voting.