Sozo Ministry of Bethel Church II

Had the opportunity to talk with an acquaintance who had been involved with the Sozo ministry and has since left. I wanted to get a clearer understanding of how a Sozo session was conducted. I will refer to this individual as “my Sozo source” in this article as they will remain anonymous.

While masquerading as a religious experience, the sozo ministry makes false promises of miraculous psychological cures. Pretending to be based on some radically new, profoundly innovative combination of Christian teaching and psychological science, it’s theories and practices are a travesty of both.[1] The concept of inner healing has its roots in the teachings of anti-Christian and occultist, Agnes Sanford. John Wimber, David Yonggi Cho, and Robert Schuller are some of the will known psychological practitioners of the inner healing ministry and it has been picked up by Bill Johnson as well as a number of lay therapist. There are a variety of “memory-healing” psychotherapies masquerading under Christian terminology today, the most deadly are “regressive” therapies designed to probe the unconscious for buried memories to be uncovered and healed.[2]

Inner healing is a theory in practice based upon the implication that we clearly need something more than God’s love and forgiveness in order to love and forgive others who are perceived to have wronged us in the past. The Bible distinctly teaches that Jesus can never be called-up and forced to perform at our command, any Jesus actually visualized would have to be deemed “another Jesus” and not of God. Visualization techniques are used and imaginary memory is created under a highly suggestible, hypnotic-like state.

Below is a snapshot of the Sozo methodology used by Bethel Church, Redding Ca. The Sozo ministry has spread out over the U.S. and is becoming more and more popular.

  • At least one hour before the sessions starts all the team members attend a “soaking prayer” session and as people arrive that are going to be “sozoed” they are asked to attend the soaking prayer session also; to prepare themselves for the session. Dimmed lights, soft music, laying on the floor or sitting in a relaxed position.

Since the 1990s there has been an increased focus on mysticism within various segments of Christianity. Bordering on the esoteric, these mystical experiences broaden the division between a “factual faith” and a “felt faith,” and threaten to replace sound biblical teaching with emotion-driven response. Soaking prayer is one such mystical activity. It is described as resting in God’s presence. This is accomplished by playing some gentle worship songs, either sitting or lying down, and praying short, simple prayers for an extended period of time, but otherwise keeping your mind free of other thoughts. At the point when you sense God’s presence through some type of manifestation like tingling skin, a sensation of heat or cold, or even a gentle wind seemingly blowing through your body, you are to just “soak” in that presence.

Although that might sound a little strange to some, it does not immediately come across as being necessarily bad. However, the rule by which we measure our experiences in life is the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and when soaking prayer is examined accordingly, we find that it comes up wanting for biblical support. Nowhere in the Bible can a model of prayer be found that soaking prayer follows.

Prayer in its simplest form in the Bible is calling on the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:26), and in each instance where it is found in Scripture, it is descriptive of communicating with God. Soaking prayer starts that way, but quickly devolves into a trance-like meditative state. This is when soaking prayer ceases to be biblical and becomes more like a New Age practice or something an adherent of Hinduism would participate in.

There is no denying that experiencing the presence of God can be powerful and life changing. It is not the goal of soaking prayer that is biblically off base; it is its methodology. Soaking prayer focuses on obtaining a spiritual high by seeking out the presence of God through mystical exercises. In this it is very similar to ”contemplative prayer” and contemplative spirituality, which are equally unbiblical. Biblical prayer is talking to God with His will in mind (1 John 5:14). A biblically praying believer already understands that God’s presence is always with him (Psalm 139:7; Matthew 28:20; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:8; 2 Timothy 1:14), and he doesn’t need to experience any type of physical sensation to prove it.[3]

Is soaking prayer a real spiritual experience or is it psychosomatic? By empting one’s mind and entering into a trance-like meditative state it removes any defenses to spiritual entities infiltrating or otherwise influencing an individual. “Nor give place to the devil” (Eph. 4:27) emphasizes that believers can actually give ground in their lives to satanic control or oppression. However, the surrounding context balances the issue making clear that responsible believers cannot glibly blame the devil for sin they yield to in carnal disobedience. The Greek word topos translated “place” in our English Bibles submits that Believers are not to give opportunity, power, or an occasion for the devil to take action or operate in one’s life. The mystical experience which soaking prayer provides lays the foundation for such an action. Physical symptoms, which can include things like a tingling sensation, that occur during Soaking Prayer are similar to those experienced during the Kundalini experience, and both are dangerous and can take the practitioner into a demonic realm.

Brenda Craig’s “Journals of the Heart” says that Soaking Prayer is taking our nation, our churches, and the body of Christ by storm. Or should I say, “By saturation”? Soaking groups are springing up everywhere, in homes and in churches. Soaking is not a new phenomenon, just an acceleration of what we used to call “tarrying” or “waiting on the Lord.” It takes “waiting on the Lord” to a whole new level, ushering the participant into deeper realization of and communion with the Holy Spirit. [4]

With no biblical premise for Soaking Prayer and its relationship to the Kundalini experience and new age ideology the church is being swept off its feet by felt faith methodology. Used in connection to the Sozo ministry, it leaves the participant open to manipulation, or as my Sozo source said, spiritual rape. In the wrong hands, it can become a controlling tactic by the leadership as intimate details are indulged by the sozoee. Have you ever heard the saying, loose lips sink ships, once the word gets out it can be a very destructive tool used against people. (Just a thought)

You may have heard it said that people have more faith in the devil’s power to deceive believers than the Holy Spirit’s ability to lead them into all truth. However, I propose that people have more faith in mystical, emotional experiences, it enables and provides the devil opportunity to deceive. 1 Peter 5:8-9 says; “Be sober (self-controlled), be vigilant (watchful), because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” This means believers are to take an assertive stance against the Adversary’s operations. Satan has the ability to distort the thinking of Christians (Acts 5:5), just imagine what he can do once you “empty your mind” in soaking prayer! Hardly a self-controlled, watchful activity. Employing the armor of God described in Ephesians 6:10-18 includes praying while doing spiritual warfare opposing the antics of the devil. We are instructed to maintain a “battle-stance” against the devil and prayer is the means by which we engage the battle itself and the purpose for which we are armed to begin with. The armor of God enables us to stand in opposition to the scheming’s of the devil (Eph. 6:11). The elements of the armor; truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, and salvation combined are more than just a passive protection in facing the enemy, it is to be used offensively against the adversary and his dominions. You can’t do that if you are empting your mind and floating away is some mystical experience. As much as it pains me to say this, most Christians today are illiterate to Biblical disciplines, in my analysis of soaking prayer I view it as just another devise of the devil (2 Cor. 2:11) to gain more of a foothold within an already desensitized Church.

  • The two or three team members take the “sozoee” into a room that is comfortable (much like a therapists office).

Even though they say it is not counseling, they create the same setting and atmosphere you would find in a therapists office. They throw in the disclaimer they are not professional counselors, yet they provide all the bells and whistles, presenting a therapy forum promising quicker results than a trained professional counselor. Theophostic counseling (which at first used to be written as “TheoPhostic Counseling”) is, essentially, Agnes Sanford’s inner healing in a new jacket. Theos = Greek for God. Phostic = Greek for light. Theophostic counseling is said to bring God’s light into a given situation. Whereas traditional counseling is said to teach coping techniques to deal with painful experiences (now or in the past), the heart of Theophostic Counseling is that Jesus is invited to address the lies and false beliefs resulting from painful experiences.

Though is it adamantly denied, Theophostic Counseling [5] includes a form of guided imagery and visualization, the possible acceptance of recovered memories, and Dr. Ed Smith, a Christian therapist from Campbellsville, Kentucky, believes that Christians can be inhabited with demons. Theophostic Counseling is strikingly similar to the Sozo methodology. The goal of theophostic counseling is to lead a person to Jesus for healing and allow Him to reveal the truth to the suffering person, similar to the process of the Sozo’s “four doors” of hatred, fear, occult, and sexual sin, taking the sozoee as far back as childhood.

  • The “lead team member” does most of the talking and starts asking generic questions most always taking the person back to childhood memories. Attempting to open one or more of the Four doors (hatred, fear, occult, sexual sin) so as to address the memory and then close the doors with Jesus. Similar to getting closure in a situation.

By the time the sozoee enters the sozo session they are already in a heightened state of suggestibility sometimes called guided hypnosis also called guided imagery. (http://creativeguidedimagery.com/about.html) A central belief is that we are the way we are because of past hurts that need to be healed through reliving the past and bringing Jesus into past events. The inner healer believes and teaches that present problems are expressions of past wounds (or, as with the person’s response to them) that must be healed before the person can overcome problems of living and get on with life. In a statement made by my Sozo source, they were told that: “we are a product of our environment and we have no responsibility until we are sozoed……no one is safe or healed until this happens……The Pastor actually said to me I will probably never be really truly done and able to move on from my past ( even with the professional therapy because they do not involve God ) and until I am sozoed I will not truly know peace…..My source finished their comment by adding this disclaimer: one has to walk through their torments with ” Jesus and half the church” before they can move on.”

In the interview with my Sozo source the question was asked if any visualization was done in the sozo sessions? My source replied: ” yes…..especially with the prophecy…..for instance I see you doing this….or even the suggested memory……I see you as a child or baby seeing this happen to you…..and then, the does that fit for you?…..what are they going to say…..”God” is speaking through the person….how can you argue with that…..come to think of it, this reminds me of a séance.

  • The second team member will listen and sometimes write what they think God is saying. If a third team member is present they usually will sit and listen until the end of the sozo session and then say what they “feel.” Questions are littered with words and phrases like “what do you remember, feel, or sense?” Lots of “prophetic words” are spoken over the person, generally about half way through the session. After listening to the person give them some idea of what to “prophesy.” So the prophetic ended up being regurgitated information already shared by the person.
  • Most of the people attending the sozo’s were already Church members and some of the things that were shared were extremely personal and intimate and it was stated that most would not look you in the eye after they were sozoed in a regular church service. They were ashamed and embarrassed.
  • The Father ladder was all about the person and their issues and what God the Father, Jesus His son and the mother or the Holy Spirit could or would do for them.

What is being taught as inner healing/healing of memories is nothing but basic sorcery, which is an attempt to manipulate reality in the past, present, or future, and denies God’s omnipotence by implying that He needs our “creative visualization” in order to apply effectively His forgiveness and healing, while simultaneously, sets us up as gods who can, through prescribed rituals, use Him and His power as our tools. In fact, inner healing/healing of memories is nothing but “Christianized psychoanalysis” that uses the power of suggestion to solve so-called problems, which the technique itself has many times created.[6]

The Word of God teaches that moral choices rather than past traumas determine our current condition and actions, the Bible teaches it is not the act in the past but how one reacts to the act that determines “which soul has sinned” (Ezek. 18). Repentance, Confession, and Faith is all that is need to acquire both a right standing with God, and inner healing.

  • This person interviewed is seriously concerned about the mental, emotional and spiritual health of anyone that goes through a sozo and the damage that is done and even more concerned for those who may go through a sozo that has serious or sever personality disorders.
  • The one thing that was made clear and I have been given permission to quote this person is “This is a spiritual rape that goes on and the pastor and the sozo team are all a part of the rape.

[1] Psychoheresy Awareness Ministries  http://www.psychoheresy-aware.org/images/Bobgan_10-21-05_Response_Miller.pdf

[2] Inner Healing/Healing of Memories: http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology/inheal.htm

[3] gotquestions?org (http://www.gotquestions.org/soaking-prayer.html)

[4] Journals of the Heart (http://www.journalsoftheheart.com/2006/12/soaking-prayer/)

[5] gotquestions?org http://www.gotquestions.org/theophostic-counseling.html

[6] ] Inner Healing/Healing of Memories: http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology/inheal.htm

205 thoughts on “Sozo Ministry of Bethel Church II

  1. Pingback: Bethel Sozo Ministry? – Pilgrimage of Truth

  2. Leslie Pitts

    In many political discussions today when someone does not want, or is unable, to express a lucid argument they launch ad hominem attacks against their opponents.

    “You say that because you are a bigot!”

    “You have this position because you are a racist!”

    The equivalent tactic in the sozo discussions is always:

    “You are a Pharisee!”

    Yawn

    I have been posting and reading posts about sozo for over a decade. I am yet to witness one single sozo proponent do anything other than attack the sozo opponents, and all too often with reference to the Pharisees.

    Leslie, why don’t you make an argument in favor of sozo? Why don’t you address any of the following sozo practices:

    Where does the scripture teach us to go back and heal our memories?

    Where does the scripture teach us to engage in curse deliverance?

    Where does the scripture teach that Christians need to be delivered of demonic possession?

    Why do the sozo proponents find it so difficult to engage in an idea exchange about their practices? Why is there first line of defense usually:

    “You are a Pharisee!”

    Could it be they don’t have any other logical defense? Are they unable to find scriptural support for their beliefs?

    My first post on here was 2012 if my memory is correct. Closingstages is, as far as I know, the single most read anti-sozo blog site on the planet. Tens of thousands of people view these blogs every year and yet not one single sozo proponent is willing to engage in a logical, honest, scriptural dialog about their practices. If what I recently heard is accurate, Bethel sozo claims approximately 80 sozo centers worldwide—I think I have that correct. Is their no one within that organization willing to defend what they are doing?

    Memory Victim

  3. This article was written so many years ago, but if I recall correctly anonymous still had family involved in the church that they had practiced and participated in SOZO. My advice to you would be search the scriptures for yourself. I agree we were never to be sitting inside church walls quietly or otherwise being spoon fed one verse here one verse there and they make a doctrine out of, which is false. Praying that you will stand on the Word and what is says in context not cherry picked verses.

  4. What bothers me is….if this source is so concerned why do they feel they must remain anonymous? Shouldn’t they welcome the opportunity to expose something that is “spiritual rape”?

    I’m not sure where I stand on all this – but what I never am able to get out of my mind is that it was the Pharisees and Sadducees that said Jesus Himself – God’s own son – was possessed of the devil and the world He did were of the devil.

    If Jesus meant that believers would do greater things than He did – do you really think that meant we’d be quietly sitting inside church walls in nice outfits every Sunday?

    I’m not sure where I stand – I see both sides as tending too much toward extremes.

  5. Pingback: Sozo and 'Healing of Memories' - Dynamite Publishing

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