Charismatic Christians have tried to raise people from the death in their history. Bethel in Redding, California made national news in December of 2019 for trying to resurrect Olive Heiligenthal . Likewise I was part of a charismatic church in Wisconsin that had a pastor who tried to raise someone from the dead. This behavior is incredibly abusive and just disturbing.
“Grief changes shape, but it never ends.“
When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”
John 11:43 ESV
This is a topic that has been on my mind for months. Its a topic that takes my breath away and screams cult like. And its a topic that deals with charismatics and raising people from the dead. Bethel tried to raise a child from the dead recently and I was part of a church in Wisconsin that also tried to raise some one from the dead.
In 2019 Bethel Tries to Raise Olive Heiligenthal From the Dead
In Bethel church Kalley Heiligenthal is one of the worship leaders. In the weekend of December 14, 2019 her young daughter Olive stopped breathing. On Instagram Kailey declared that the Lord would raise her child and called for people to pray for to wake up. The day after her daughter’s death she led worship at Bethel singing “Waymaker.” It caused a sensation among charismatic Christians who jumped on board and proclaimed that this is how you worship God. One of the church movements that drove this is Hillsong down under in Australia which pushed it on social media. The hashtag on social media was #wakeupolive. Meanwhile a GoFundMe was established to raise money for the Bethel worship leader and their family. The GoFundMe is still taking donations and has raised close to $78,000.
Bethel spent over a week praying for a two year old to come back from the dead. Meanwhile while this was going on her body was with the Shasta County coroner in cold storage while Heiligenthal and Bethel expected a miracle to happen. This blog is curious what did Bethel expect? A child to knock on the door of a morgue freezer? Or a two year old that would just pop out of the freezer like Chevy Chase did in Fletch Lives which you can see here. After about a week of praying the family gave up and came to the conclusion that Olive Heiligenthal is dead and will not be raised from the dead. Atheists were critical as were some other Christians. This is how it was announced on Instagram. The family decided to hold a memorial service instead.
Bill Johnson of Redding tried to explain in the video why God didn’t raise the child from the dead and how Bethel is still commanded by the Lord to take action on faith. That statement from Bill Johnson is leading this blog post. You can access all the statements released by Bethel here. This event got quite a bit of press coverage and I will link a number of stories down below.
- Sacramento Bee, “Family giving up prayers to resurrect 2-year-old, ‘moving towards a memorial service’“
- CBN News, “Bethel Singer’s Infant Daughter Pronounced Dead by Doctors: ‘Praying for a Miracle’“
- BuzzFeed News, “The Evangelical Parents Of A Young Girl Who Died Are Using Social Media To Ask For Her Resurrection.“
- Religion News Service, “Northern California church makes headlines as it prays to resurrect girl from the dead.”
- Religion News Service, “Church that prayed to resurrect girl from the dead is moving on with memorial service.”
- Daily Mail, “Christian couple who are seeking to resurrect their dead two-year-old daughter with prayer draw skepticism as their church starts GoFundMe campaign for them with a target of $100,000.”
- Washington Post, “After a toddler’s death, a church has tried for days to resurrect her — with prayer.”
- Friendly Atheist, “Bethel Church Finally Admits a Dead Child Will Not Be Resurrected.”
- USA Today, “‘Olive hasn’t been raised’: After praying for miracle, girl’s family now plans memorial.”
Senior Pastor of Wooded Hills Church Tries to Raise Someone From the Dead in a Hospital in 2003-2004
I was a member of Wooded Hills Bible Church, today Wooded Hills Church from 2003 until 2005. Wooded Hills was a third wave, charismatic church influenced by Mike Bickle, The Elijah List and Rick Joyner. At the time Joe Jenkins led the church. One day I walked into Sunday service and discovered that the service had changed. The planned sermon was scrapped and Joe was going to give a new sermon called, “The Perks of Dying in the Lord.” An Elder at Wooded Hills had died and I learned in the sermon that Joe Jenkins had tried to raise him from the dead in front of his wife. Allegedly what happened from what I heard is that a couple of people were around the deceased elder inside a hospital room with Joe Jenkins commanding him to rise like Lazarus. This most likely happened in a hospital in Menominee Falls, Wisconsin which is a suburb of Milwaukee. At the time I thought that was normal, it shows you how much Kool-Aid I was under.
But there was another thing that happened that today deeply bothers me. Joe’s sermon about death and dying in the Lord was so glamorous it made you want to die as well. The picture of death and how problems would be solved and what heaven was like was so given in a passionate talk that you could walk away from church almost with a suicidal ideation. I walked away from church that morning asking myself, “Why am I living?” And I wondered if others felt the same way. Today almost 15 years out I shake my head in disbelief and ask myself. “What was I involved in?”
Spiritual Abuse and Playing With People in Grief
This is a post that has been on my mind for a long time. It amazes me that this even has to be written but I am stunned by how cruel and manipulative church movements like Bethel and my former charismatic church in Wisconsin can be. It is the height of cruelty to toy with someone’s emotions after a difficult death. Death, as I learned from my parents loss separates your life into a before and after moment. So in the midst of grief a person is being mislead, and led to believe a false reality – that their loved one can be brought back form the dead. And then when that doesn’t happen they still declare victory like Bethel did. Or they pass the blame onto the grieving family and tell them you lacked faith. If you only had more faith your loved one would be back. But you doubted God. That is just sick. Its horrific and its troubling. If you are involved in a church or ministry that attempts to raise someone from the dead you are involved in a cult. Its time to leave. I ma going to leave you with Waymaker from Bethel and listen to the worship leader discuss another medical emergency at Bethel. Its stunning and reveals how manipulative organizations like Bethel can be.