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Sozo Conference at Encounter Community Church; Biblical or Mystical Practice?

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"And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers." (John 10:5)

The Encounter Community Church of Henderson, a Foursquare, Pentacostal church a few minutes away from downtown Las Vegas, is promoting an upcoming basic "sozo" training on September 21st and 22nd, 2012.

What is sozo prayer?

Encounter Community Church explains that sozo is a prayer and healing ministry that started in Bill Johnson's Bethel Church in Redding, California a few years ago and has spread throughout the world. Bill Johnson is in close association with these ministries run by Todd Bentley, Randy Clark (Toronto Blessing Movement), Paul Goulet (of International Church of Las Vegas), Rick Joyner, John Arnott and more. They teach that these healing sessions can help a person "walk in the destiny to which you have been called". Bethel Church is infamous and controversial because of the strange manifestations that occur in their building such as feathers, gold dust and clouds in church and other strange teaching, signs and wonders. Are all signs and wonders from God? The Bible says:

"The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)

The book Union With God by Bonnie Johnson at the Ibethel Store is described by Bethel Church as "a study of mystics, meditation and miracles". Beni Johnson (wife of Bill Johnson) has also written favorably about mystics on her website. Johnson teaches his followers that Christ laid aside His divinity and had to become born again:

"He laid his divinity aside" (When Heaven Invades Earth; ch. 7; p. 110).

Johnson also preaches that Jesus did His miracles as a man and not as God. 2 Corinthians 11 is a great chapter to read during these times. What did Jesus claim about His own divinity? A lot! Even the Pharisees told Jesus He was claiming to be one with God. Here are just two scriptures in the Bible on the divine nature (hypostatic union) and Godhead of Christ:

"But if I do, though you believe not me, believe the works: that you may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him." John 10:38

"The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone you not; but for blasphemy; and because that you, being a man, make yourself God." John 10:33

As Christians, we are commanded to "test the spirits" (new practices, doctrines, teachers and teachings) to the Word of God instead of blindly following a leader or new teaching. If this new sozo practice is Biblical, why don't we see these sessions practiced by Jesus and His disciples? We don't see the apostles or other early Christians practicing sozo sessions and especially not for a fee.

The sozo website uses the following terms which also occur nowhere in the entire Bible:

  • Father Ladder
  • Four Doors
  • Presenting Jesus
  • The Wall
  • Trigger Mechanisms
  • Divine Editing

If the sozo sessions do not work, the sozo team recommends continuing on to the "Shabar" sessions.

Shabar is a ministry to individuals who have continued to have inner healing ministry and yet cannot hold on to their healing.

The Bible says, "If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36).

Sozo also uses the "healing of memories" technique which is not found in the Word of God. We are called to be our new creation in Christ, not go back and dig into our past (old self) using new age techniques like visualization, contemplative prayer or soaking prayer. Romans 6 says, "For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin" (vs. 6,7). If a person is "born-again", then they are a new creation! "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

One author explained,

We do not believe that Sozo ministry / prayer is a godly practice or something that is needed, or helpful, for a believer’s fellowship with God. Sozo is much more closely related to mysticism and spiritism than to true intimacy with God. True intimacy with Him happens by illumination of the Word of God by the Holy Spirit and fellowship with Christ as we show love for the Father through obedience to and imitation of Him; Ephesians 5:1 (1).

Related Resources:

1. What is Sozo Prayer by Got Questions

2. Contemplative Prayer and the Evangelical Church by Ray Yungen

3. Contemplative/Centering Prayer and Emerging Church (interview with Ray Yungen)

4. Sozo by Closing Stages Ministry

5. Sozo by M'Kayla Kelly

6. Sozo by Godlee4Life Ministries

7. Be Still... and Watch in Horror as Contemplative Apostasy Floods the Church by Spiritual Research Network

8. Doctrinal Fruit (interview with Johanna Michaelson)

9. Bethel Sozo Research Group (BSRG) an online apologetics ministry

10. Birds of a Feather Flock Together: Strange Manifestations in 'Christian' Circles - from God or not? Feathers in Church? Bill Johnson of Bethel Church, Redding California... on The Christian Post

11. Jesus's Two Natures: God and Man by CARM (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry)

12. Wakey, Wakey! A Mystical Teaching by Beni Johnson

13. The False Teachings of Rick Joyner by Deception in the Church

14. Rick Joyner, Todd Bentley and the New Apostolic Reformation by Apprising Ministries

15. Beth Moore Gives Thumbs Up to Be Still DVD by Lighthouse Trails Research

16. Does Beth Moore Promote New Age Teaching, Apologetics Article Part I by Becky Savio

17. Saved from Bethel Church (a testimony by Jesus Culture Awakening)

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