One of the most intriguing churches in the country is Bethel Church in northern California. If there is a Jesus movement among today’s millennials, Bethel is its epicenter.
Despite the thousands of visitors this place receives from around the world, its influence has gone almost unnoticed by the media, which tends to be clueless about current trends among Pentecostals and charismatics.
Fortunately, reporters are beginning to discover Bethel via a book by two scholars affiliated with the University of Southern California’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture. The authors of "The Rise of Network Christianity" have been planting guest editorials in several places warning readers of the evils of this movement, plus why people need to educate themselves about it -- and read their book, of course.
But there hasn’t been a whole lot else. It’s a tough movement to pin down, much less write about. The latest effort at explaining Bethel -- in the form of a first-person feature story -- comes from Buzzfeed. It begins:
It’s the first day of Prophecy Week at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Or, as students here like to call the place, Christian Hogwarts.
The auditorium of the civic center in Redding, California, where first-year students have class, is so full of eager, neatly dressed young people that it’s initially impossible to find a seat. The roomful of some 1,200 students hums with expectant energy…
The piece goes on to describe Bethel Church and Kris Vallotton, one of its main preachers.
The Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry is at the forefront of a burgeoning -- and decidedly youthful -- evangelical Christian revival. Some have called its movement the fastest-growing religious group in America -- a loose network of churches, led by so-called apostles, who see supernatural gifts like prophecy and faith healing as the key to global conversion. While other religious movements struggle to retain members and draw in young people, Bethel attracts millennials in droves.