Sozo Ministry of Bethel Church III

How does God speak to us? How does the Holy Spirit give us guidance? In what form does God teach us what we need to know?

     The Scripture is the only definitive structure God has given us for guidance, if we obey that, He directs our steps providentially. We have always been taught to listen to that “still small voice” in our head or what we call our heart. You imagine God is telling you something, and more often than not many have been tripped up in the direction God has for them. What we must learn instead is to see, hear, and obey the revealed will of God within the framework of His Word. We are never encouraged to listen to any inner promptings, but rather to heed what is clearly and concisely revealed in Scripture. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? (Jer. 17:9). The heart is the inner self, which thinks, feels, and acts. It is the central part of man which is deceitful and unreliable to acumen God’s will for us outside of the boundaries of Scripture. Subjective impressions are not reliable, and we are not commanded by Scripture to tune into any inner voice, we are commanded to study and meditate on Scripture, we are commanded to cultivate discernment, to be sober and vigilant, to walk circumspectly.

     One of the deficiencies of prophecy (as it is used today), is the lack of Biblical discernment and the ability to determine if what is being said is merely the dictates of one’s own heart rather than what the Holy Spirit is saying. 2 Peter 1:20 says; “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” To be “moved by the Holy Spirit” in the Greek means to be conveyed or borne, with the suggestion of force or speed. This means the Holy Spirit is the vehicle of such speaking, He is in control of what is spoken. To be moved by the Spirit is like being carried along, as a ship is carried by the wind. Prophecy is not the invention of men and since the Holy Spirit gives the Word, only the Spirit can interpret it accurately. Speaking by the Holy Spirit transcends human understand, the Holy Spirit is omniscient knowing both the mind of God and the heart of man. So then, why is it that those speaking prophetic words or words of knowledge in these sozo sessions always having to follow up with…does that fit for you?, or does that sound right to you? The Hebrew nabi, ” “prophet,” meant an announcer or interpreter of God: he, as God’s spokesman, interpreted not his own “private” will or thought, but God’s.[1]

     Taken with what is said in verse 19; “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,” Peter affirms Scripture to be more dependable than a voice from heaven heard with the natural ear. Much of what is seen today in the Prophetic movement and in the Sozo ministries are teachers who go beyond Scripture, constructing cunningly devised mystical theories. Have you ever noticed how personal prophecies, words of knowledge are always subjective, generic, and generalized? If a person is speaking “by the Holy Spirit” you would think there would be an exact, precise word given, hitting the mark. The snare and the trap of these personal prophecies and words of knowledge is it make it all about US rather than about God.

     At bethelsozo.com they describe the SOZO ministry as a unique inner healing and deliverance ministry in which the main aim is to get to the root of those things hindering your personal connection with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (emphasis mine) By using the six tools (Father Ladder, Four Doors, Presenting Jesus, The Wall, Trigger Mechanisms (Advanced Tool), and Divine Editing (Advanced Tool)) and following the Holy Spirit, wounds are healed, strongholds broken, truth revealed, and “doors” closed. (emphasis mine) [2]

     The Greek word “Sozo” means “to be saved, delivered, to make whole, preserve from danger, loss, or destruction.” It is used in the four gospels fourteen times relating to deliverance from disease or demon possession. Twenty times it is used in reference to the rescue of physical life from some impending peril or instant death. The rest are all related to spiritual salvation. The three verses the sozo ministries use as their mantra verses are:

Salvation
“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you shall be saved (sozo).” Romans 10:9

Healing
“But Jesus turning and seeing her said ‘Daughter take courage your faith has made you well (sozo) and at once the woman was made well (sozo).” Matthew 9:22

Deliverance
“And those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been made well (sozo).” Luke 8:36

     Do you see the problem here, first, the only ones having a sozo done are people already professing Christ and claim to be Christian. Romans 10:9 is dealing with spiritual salvation, not inner healing. Matthew 9:22 is dealing with physical healing, not inner healing and Luke 8:36 has to do with demon-possession, again, this is not an inner healing problem. From what I have learned from God’s Word, Christians cannot be demon possessed but oppressed. The verses they are using as opposed to the ministry service they are providing doesn’t jive. The main aim of the SOZO ministry (from their own words) “is to get to the root of those things hindering your personal connection with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Does this mean that Christians are getting Spiritually saved? Physically healed? and de-demonized? all while crying out MORE LORD, MORE and doing more carpet time? HARDLY! Or, are they allegorizing the Scripture bringing out a hidden meaning that only the Apostle can interpret because they have an open celestial vortex above them with access to the throne of God? And yes, I’m being snide! These ministers and ministries try to challenge every precept of the Bible because they have been brought up in a permissive pre and postmodern world where “every man does what is right in their own eyes” (Jud. 17:6, 21:25; Pr. 12:15, 21:2). Judges 17:6 is a classic example of relativism. Relativism is the philosophical position that all points of view no matter how strange or ridiculous they may seem are equally valid and that all truth is left up to the individual to define. This means that all moral positions, all religious systems are truths that are relative to each individual.[3] Hence the question, …does that work for you? In the Sozo sessions the prophetic words become suggestive from the Sozoer, but are converted into what is relative to the Sozoee. All prophetic speaking, words of knowledge, etc. are comparative to the Word of God by these people. In other words, they believe prophetic speaking flows out from the very mouth of God, therefore, it is truth, even if it contradicts Scripture. By their own actions they demonstrate they are rebellious unstable souls attempting to re-present a mystical Jesus rather than present the historical, Biblical Jesus who bled and died for the sin of mankind.

     What the prophetic has become is similar to a psychic reading where you return over and over for the next word. It develops into an addiction as people want more, they become dependent upon it for guidance rather than searching the Word of God and letting it marinate within you and bring about the growth God desires. We use to go to a prophetic conference every six months with the anticipation of hearing a fresh word from the Lord. The prophetic conferences were held at a church under the umbrella of Bill Hamon. We were always told that the prophetic was partial, progressive, and conditional which meant the prophetic words given and there outcome were totally dependent upon on us, its subjective. Bill Hamon defines prophecy as: “…simply God communicating His thoughts and intents to mankind. When a true prophecy is given, the Holy Spirit inspires someone to communicate God’s pure and exact words to the individual or group for whom they are intended. It is delivered without any additions or subtractions by the one prophesying, including any applications or interpretations suggested by the one speaking. To be most effective, it must also be delivered in God’s timing and with the proper spirit or attitude.”[4] In Bill Hamon’s definition the individual (prophet or one speaking by the Gift of the Spirit) is speaking under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit communicating God’s pure and exact words. This then would lead one to conclude that a prophetic word or personal prophecy would have to be considered the infallible Word of God. But are they bringing into the Prophetic a doctrinal “hobby horse” into a prophetic situation, twisting and or giving an unbalanced presentation of what they think is the Holy Spirits voice. Or worse, is it a “Trojan horse” tactic of the Devil to gain access into the Body of Christ to decisively trick the church.

     The Sozo sessions, from what I have read, and from what people who were involved in it said, is much the same. At bethelsozo.com they say “A sozo session is a time of interacting with Father, Son and Holy Spirit for wholeness and pursuing of your destiny.” And of course it is the prophetic which guides you to discover your destiny. From their FAQ page under the question “How to handle team members who need to get the client totally healed” they say “All of us wish that everyone would walk out completely healed. However, sometimes, the sozoee won’t allow you to go any farther. We tell team members to look at what was accomplished rather than what was left to be done. We also tell the sozoee to live with the healing they have received and come back in 3 to 6 months for more healing.” How much healing does one need? And, if Jesus could heal completely and instantaneously, why is it that these ministries who claim they can do “greater works than Jesus did” have to spend such extensive time getting people healed and still can’t get it done? And again, in the sozo session they bring Jesus into it to heal and close doors, yet people leave the session incomplete, unhealed! It becomes an habitual “got to get my fix” dilemma. I’m amazed at how people will put more faith in failed prophecies and botched healings and still run back for more. It’s like hanging a carrot in front of people who can never quite reach it, they have to keep coming back. Is it that the Sozo sessions does more damage than good as they probe and attempt to heal area’s that God has already completed in some of these people?

M’kayla, a fellow blogger commented: “Before I was walking with the Lord I went through some guided imagery with a therapist. I can’t say why and it makes no sense, but the sozo was far more dangerous than what was considered secular. I had more visions and strange experiences during those moments than ever. It did more damage than good in an area that God had already settled in me some time before. All the peace he gave me previously seemed to erode away after those sessions and my experiences were horrifying. In the end, nothing positive comes of the sessions and nothing inside ever changes, but becomes worse. I think it is possible for a person to lose their sanity because of what transpires.” As I stated in my second article, one lady who was involved in the Sozo ministry made a strong point that the Sozo sessions were nothing short of spiritual rape. It makes victims of people seeking a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and I am astonished at how aggressive these ministries are to get everyone Sozoed.

Luke 9:62

No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

     Here Jesus focuses on the truth that service for His kingdom demands undivided attention. “Is not fit for the kingdom of God” means that halfhearted discipleship eliminates one from God’s maximum use. As servants of the Most High God we cannot afford to have divided interests, the expression “looking back” has a manifest reference to Lots wife (Gen. 19:26). The Sozo ministry centers around the concept of “looking back,” into ones past through imagery and prophetic words. Scripture teaches we are forget what is behind and reach forward to those things which are ahead (Phil. 3:13-14). Those reluctant to break with their past are not useful to the Kingdom of Christ. The very context (Luke 9:57-62) insist we put “me first” aside for the sake of following Jesus.

[1] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. 1997. A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. On spine: Critical and explanatory commentary. Logos Research Systems, Inc.: Oak Harbor, WA

[2] http://bethelsozo.com/index.phpoption=com_content&view=article&id=14&Itemid=28

[3] Is it Wrong to Judge? by the way of the master, Youtube.com

[4] Dr. Bill Hamon, Prophets and Personal Prophecy (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image)

5 thoughts on “Sozo Ministry of Bethel Church III

  1. Pingback: Victim’s of Johnson’s Sozo Ministry Speak Out | Closingstages

  2. I am currently receiving “Shabar” ministry and was alerted by The Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit)that all was not right with this healing type ministry.
    I need more direct help with confronting this blasphemy than I see on this blog
    Michael.

  3. Peter, give me a few days and will will try to give you some of my thoughts. One problem I think is we are so “experience driven” in our culture that we forget that God requires us to walk by faith, and that often means walking by faith when we don’t hear God speak, or see God move. From my experiences with movements such as Bill Johnson’s and others, it is mostly sensationalism. Bottom line, God has always required obedience to His Word, and the faith to act on it. As hard as it has been for me, I have had to learn to simplify my life, get rid of the clutter, and return to simple walking by faith. I don’t need to see great miracles to believe God. I see Him everyday in all the small things He does. Anyway, let me think on this and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.

  4. Dear ClosingStages,
    For your information and considered comment:
    My uncle, who is a very loving and happy pastor of a congregation in Cape Town, South Africa, travelled with a small delegation to Nigeria (Lagos, I presume) about ten years ago to attend revival meetings held by a local prophet, teacher who leads a church of many thousands. The delegation went in response to healings of chronically ill people from South Africa of various ethnic backgrounds.

    The process went something like this: everyonw entering the premises for the service was video’d, stating their name, home town, and reason for visiting. The prophet sat backstage and watched the video and prayed for guidance, then he woudl appear on the stage and call people to the stage and start a healing service. Everyone would be healed, but not as we know healing – there was almost always a spiritual root identified and a demon cast out – physically and graphically. Buckets were used to receive vast volumes of bright;ly-coloured liquid that those being healed would vomit or defecate!! Then the lame would walk, the deaf would hear, etc etc, and the people would rejoice. But not only that, witchdoctors would regularly attend the meetings to curse the people there. My uncle and his delegation witnessed the following:

    The prophet’s teamstood on the stage and enquired of the congregation ‘what happens to those who aren’t saved, the devil and his agents?’ and the ritual response was ‘burn, burn, burn’ at which several witchdoctors began to scream and experience the pain of being burned by invisible flames. this went on unitl they relented and submitted to a cleansig process whereby they would become christians, and were lead backstage by the team for, I presume, a great deal of puking and defecating!

    The church owns a seven-storey building occupied by their deliverance ministry. Evert new convert starts on the top floor and works his/her way to the ground floor where they become members of the church, and every floor specialises in deliverance from a different vice. You are presented with a card that lists every known demonic activity and you tickthe ones you suffer from. After experiencing the service, nobody is foolish enough to miss a tick, and then you’re ‘processed’. The prophet informed my uncle that he and his delegation suffered from the demons of apathy and greed, and offered to have them ‘processed’.

    They declined the offer but returned to Cape Town conflicted – they were in awe of God and the visible clash of two kingdoms in Nigeria, but were saddened by the thought that their comfortable western-style church services might soon be overrun by signs and wonders like this.

    Now, it’s of interest to note the cultural differences between western communities and african communities – african cultures are attuned to the spirit world. They speak to their ancestors, they walk in dread fear of witchdoctors who are eblieved (and witnessed) to change form and travel across space to appear elsewhere and who ritually curse and cure, and they have a heady mix of christian gospel and ethnic belief, whether that be animism or whatever has been conjured up by the withdoctors in their tribe or locale. They are extremely superstitious. As a result, burning a witchdoctor, and puking volumes of coloured sauce is an effective antidote to the heady mix of ethnic belief, and being ‘processed’ is a physical removal and setting-aside process that is necessary (parallels that of the Muslims whereby they are given a new name).

    Western society, on the other hand, with it’s ‘greed and apathy’ is possiby even harder to evangelise. We hide away from interaction with the supernatural, unless we desperately need it, in which case we may be willing to fly to Nigeria and be healed by a radical prophet. We have norms and traditions, many of which are as far removed from the pages of the bible as are the practices in Nigeria.

    I submit to you that what is happening at Bethel is both a process of poorly-researched and possibly dangerously mis-presented counter-institutionalism (anti-conservatism) that is driven by the youth and encouraged by a mix of missionary zeal and financial gain, as well as a perplexing disengagement with the traditions (and here I mean the lessons and wisdom) of the main-stream church (catholic) and a flirtation with the supernatural world – something that psychoanalysis has meandered around the edge of for decades.

    The differences that I see, (in having read some of your writing and perused the Bethel site, and having been a member of the Vineyard movement for som etime and read it’s history including an engagement with signs and wonders and eventual distancing itself from the runawaty Toronto manifestations), between the devastating advance of a kingdom of power against an entrenched kingdom of darkness in Nigeria vs the pop cultural pseudo-psychological ‘revival’ in California, is simply that in Nigeria the outpouring of power is (was?) directly culturally appropriate – it meets the enemy head-on and expresses itself in a culturally-normal way, whereas the Californian revival is (typically Amrican) ‘new’ hip and counter-culture.

    Revivals are always counter-culture. According to the Vineyard’s history, in a book called ‘the Quest for the Radical Middle’ the author notes that all new movements are inherently counter-culture as the basis oif their existence, but over time, in orer to survive and to provide growth and teaching and stability, they become mainstream (or risk dissipating in a sort of centrifugsal spin).

    The interesting thing for me, looking at these (cultural) phenomena over a period if time, and with the understanding that they, by their very nature, cannot last indefinitely in their current form ( and certainly God would not want a disciple to continuously be ‘processed’ ) ; and with a view similar to that espoused by Foster in his ‘Streams of Living Water’, is to try to discern where such movements might be taking the the church at large – are they leading western intellectual civilization towards spritualism, are they leading spiritualists towards a redemptive conservativism?

    And then how does this reflect in my own walk with Jesus? Admittedly I am a little jealous of the zeal of the youth, but I was there too, twenty years ago, in an Anglican youth group that experienced being pinned to the floor in ecstacy, and later knowing a group of christian jazz musicians who couldn’t play at all (immobilized) during a concert whilst Gid ministered to the audience on His own. I would love to experience that again. In hindsight though, I have come to the conclusion that the Spirit is poured out in power for a purpose, and in many different ways – to empower youth to prophesy, to help the wise to dream dreams, to knit commuities and nations together, but never ‘for kick’s, and always for a purpose. And I am convicted, by the lack of the miraculous in my own life, of my own dreary apathy and beholdenness to the ‘things’ that I cover in my own life – cars, houses, children, clothes, education, and I am aware that I am just like the rich young ruler who can’t see how to give it all away and step into the Kingdom that Jesus brings…

    I’d be very interested in your considered thoughts.

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