I recently attended a conference with the rest of the team where Kris Vallotton was the main speaker. We were going mostly as a fellowship, not for the message, as I had only heard Kris Valloton briefly on a single web cast before. I just knew that the Bethel related guys were doing cool things and the host of the conference was very excited about having him in. We didn’t go because we were big followers of his, but because we were looking for an opportunity for the guys to have an encounter with God, and do something as a team. Kris tells some great “God stories” Everyone laughed a lot during the services. I cried a couple of times over the stories. It was a great experience. People know Kris Valloton and the Bethel guys, though, not because they are funny, but because they are saying something profound to the church in this time.
There was a very nice anointing around his life that I feel like restored my fire and “freshness” with God (not to mention the worship really moved me). Vallotton’s signature is what I might call “prophetic worldview insights.” This made him a little bit like a Graham Cooke that was more focused on the church orientation than strictly personal issues. One of Kris Vallotton’s trademarks is to throw big ideas on the table, and then just move on rather than fully develop them. This perhaps is because they are actually coming from God as revelations and he himself does not fully know what they mean or imply yet. He put several big ideas on the table that I want to interact with here. Keep in mind, though I disagree with Kris on several points, I see him as operating under a real mantle from God for changing the church in our generation. I’m just a guy with a blog trying to figure out what to do with this stuff.
I say this as someone who didn’t feel like I naturally “fit in” with the Bethel folks or the people that they attract. The spike-haired pastor with the USSR t-shirt giving the blessing was only one of many “fish out of water” experiences for us. However, God is speaking to the church through them right now, and we need to listen and hear what they are saying. I felt like God showed me tonight how even people who are committed to a life of following the cloud of the anoint will can the new anointing. I always thought that as a Charismatic who was sold on following the Spirit, all I had to do was ride the wave, but it doesn’t exactly work like that. Even radical Spirit-filled types can miss what God is doing in their generation because God will design it in a package that maybe doesn’t look so radical and Spirit filled on the surface. Well the Bethel guys are really shaking things up by changing our orientation toward church.
Bethel as the new Kansas City? Kris Vallotton is definitely one who is looking at a more long term horizon for the church, unlike those in the Kansas City movement. In fact, one could see how Bethel Church in some ways has picked up the mantle that Kansas City put down—by blending the Latter Rain (prophetic) with Pentecostal and Vineyard influences. Kansas City you could say lost out because its leaders lacked the humility to complement their gifts, and now because what remains (the IHOP movement) has gone over to an unhealthy view of the end times. Bethel comes with an anointing to get the Charismatic church back on track – actually reaching people instead of just waving banners around. Some of the observations of Bill Johnson could have come straight from the mouth of Curry Blake, but Johnson has the mantle for charismatic people to listen. The difference is that Bethel doesn’t come with a lot of stunning fireworks. I don’t really enjoy Bill Johnson as a teacher and they don’t do “wow” prophetic meetings. Overall I saw the genius of God in this. Charismatics pride themselves on following the cloud – how can a people who have built their lives around chasing God miss the next move of God? Well if God comes to them “in a whisper,” without hype or fireworks, then they will only know it is God if they recognize His hand and voice in what is taking place. God is not a miracle factory. He is looking for a people that will join with him to bring the Kingdom to earth.
Historiography. Kris Vallotton referred to the Catholic church as our mother and said he really didn’t know whether or not it was a good idea in 1517 to separate from the Catholic church or not. He did not come across as an advocate for return to modern Catholicism, however. This is a reversal of Latter Rain “Restorationism” such as laid out by Kevin Conner and Bill Hamon. It says we need to get back to a place we were, rather than emphasizing the things God has strategically done to bring us forward in the past 5 centuries. Conner would see God continually restoring the church doctrine by doctrine and practice by practice beginning with Luther, through Wesley and right down to now. I side with Conner and the Latter Rainers on this one. I see the Medieval Catholic Church as being corrupt necessarily because of its tight integration of Church and State, not something we want to rebuild or revisit.
Relationship to the World. Vallotton is pointing to something real though that God is doing in our time. He’s rolling Spirit-filled people into places of influence in the City of Man. They are a kind of New Testament Daniel Company. He talks about this as a collaboration between God ordained secular (Romans 13) government, and God ordained Church (Ephesians 6) government. There is a lot (2000 years of history and thought) to deal with here. What I saw out of this was lighting a different way forward than strict political activism. This was a more about a kind of civic activism – the Kingdom is something that comes and saves souls, but also shakes up the culture of the city. This is very powerful. Rather than focus on the national political scene which tends to marginalize us, or focusing on spiritual mapping which may not actually do anything, here we have an approach that says “transform your immediate environment.” by leveraging the God given power of Romans 13 offices. We have to end our hostility toward these offices as “the world,” and start looking at them as the powers which God has established over our city. He gave examples which included a Christian prophetically elected as mayor, a reformist mayor in a corrupt city supported by the church, and secular officials supported in doing good by the church. He talked about how solving problems in the city gives the church credibility that we have lost as well.
Eschatology. Kris Vallotton specifically attacked the Hal Lindsey (premillennial) gloom and doom worldview, saying that this kind of view actually gives power to the devil. We start awaiting the coming and empowerment of the anti-Christ not the coming of Christ. I am on board with these points. Where he got into murkier water was the expectation of the church’s role in the world. There was definitely a postmillennial eschatology (church taking over) overtone to his teaching. For example, he held up the Renaissance as a point to which we should return. He saw this as a time of church dominance in the culture and that as a goal. He also told some great stories which revealed his orientation to be less about theonomy (takeover by law) and more about real influence in the culture. His contention was that we should be the people who solve the problems of our cities, and that that can start by us taking a servant attitude toward our civic leadership. As an amillennial, I fit this insight about the government of this world not into a “redeem the city” paradigm since I follow Augustine in truly seeing a “City of Man” which will ultimately be destroyed. I see impacting the city as being about saving souls ultimately, but secondarily about making the manifold wisdom known to the principalities and powers. You don’t bring down the principality over a city through a “prayer walk.” Even a revival alone will not do it. The instrument of civil government working with the church, however, can do it. It’s a kind of taking “Spiritual Warfare” onto the devil’s home turf.
Protestant Individualism. Vallotton identified and criticized Protestantism’s orientation toward valuing people only based on doctrine. He saw this as being historically rooted in the tradition of Protestants separating and joining based on doctrine, but I don’t think he made a strong enough connection that this orientation is partly dictated by Protestant theology. Individual salvation by faith leads us to separate from our families and others and forge our own lives based on Christ. In fact, individualism is the sine qua non of Protestant civilization. Our desire to “separate” or “join” with others based on “doctrine” is intimately connected with the idea of individual salvation versus the Catholic or Orthodox ideas of salvation by the Church. So we can’t exactly throw that overboard. What we could do, however, is tweak it, and I think his ultimate conclusion was very good: we have to value and love people because they are people, not based on their level of agreement with us as we are apt to do as Protestants. He talked about an “iron curtain coming down” which was a very powerful image. That iron curtain is the strict separation we place between ourselves and unbelievers and the way we instrumentalize them by focusing on their conversion (changing their minds) more than actually loving them through their lives.
Judgment versus Reaping and Sowing. Kris Vallotton told a story of being with a bunch of other apostolic/prophetic voices and challenging their assumption that God was judging us for this or that. He seems to agree with Jim Richards that God doesn’t bring “judgment” per se after the cross. He allows us to reap the consequences of our actions. Was September 11th a judgment or a consequence of our actions and attitudes? He specifically called out David Wilkerson as being one who has prophesied a lot of gloom and doom over the years, none of which has come to pass, and said we need to get out of that mindset. Kris sees it as a contradiction for God to bring death on us because of our bringing death on others (such as through abortion). He made great points about “culture” and how it really is a feedback loop: you have to change the system. However, I don’t think that this means that God can’t allow or even bring death as a consequence of our killing. This is certainly the basis of capital punishment. On the other hand, I think Kris is onto something when he takes the focus off of “God’s judgment” and puts it back onto us and by extension the activity of the Enemy of our souls to exploit our sin to destroy us.
Remarkably, these were only a few of the major paradigm shifting ideas that Vallotton put forward. He also discussed “Apostleships”, the “Owl” prophetic movement, and multi-generational church just to name a few others that I can’t cover here. All of this led me to conclude that I need to be spending more time with God and less time with my brain. God is a genius, so He tells you things that you could never figure out from a lifetime of study. He breathes on an idea and it has life. I need that a lot more than another degree.