Hello AG supporters! Next week we are releasing two 50-minute episodes as a preview of American Gospel: Spirit & Fire (which is a 10+ episode docuseries). The episodes are titled “Grave Soaking” and “The House of Generals” and will be live-streamed on AGTV on Wednesday October 25th, 2023. They will be available for subscribers to watch through Tuesday October 31st, 2023. We’re deciding to make these available for a number of reasons, but the main reason is to reward our patient supporters, and to build excitement and support for the project.
Unfortunately this good news is connected with some bad news. As many of you know, my goal in this project has been to include charismatic voices that I disagree with, which has included Dr. Michael Brown. During the episode review process, Dr. Brown has decided to withdraw his participation in this project, meaning I am no longer able to use the 10+ hours of footage that we shot together (1 interview, 2 roundtable discussions). This issue has created a huge roadblock in the progress of this project, which I’ll explain below.
The episodes that Dr. Brown reviewed are titled “The Attraction” and “The Encounter”, which critique the documentary films of Darren Wilson, and explain their impact on individuals who were led into the NAR movement through his work. These episodes focus on essential issues, like true and false conversion, regeneration, the nature of true repentance, adoption & identity, the wrath of God, the nature of man, and evangelism through the lens of the “encounter gospel” (which includes discerning true and false miracles, faith healing manipulation tactics, etc.)— all things that both cessationists and continuationists are able to agree upon. I included both Michael Brown and Daniel Kolenda in these episodes, where they both were in agreement with the critiques of everyone else— that the “encounter gospel” is unbiblical, and can lead to false conversions.
Dr. Michael Brown reviewed and approved how I used his content in the episode, but he began to point out issues with how others in these episodes had categorized ministries that Dr. Brown was involved with as “NAR” (Dr. Brown disagreed with that label or categorization, and viewed that as harmful to those ministries). I offered Michael the opportunity to include his objections to the points that he disagreed with, but he declined to do so. I also offered to allow him to add a video disclaimer to the beginning of the episode, where he would warn of the “false” statements, or the divisive and destructive nature of the episode(s), but after speaking with his colleagues, he ultimately decided to remove himself from the project. You can read his explanation of his decision below:
“When Brandon reached out to me, he explained that he wanted “to create an honest and balanced film, and,” he wrote, “I think your participation is a step toward making that a reality.” He also stated to me in writing that, “My goal is to not make this film become a Strange Fire 2.0. I want more charismatic perspectives to be heard from someone in the continuationist group, and you are one of the few people who responds to charismatic critics.” He also assured me that, “I will not be able to use your interview in the series until you review the project (how you are edited among others), approve of it, and sign your appearance release. If you have any issues, I am willing to fix them (by allowing you to respond with further commentary, etc.), or accepting that you no longer wish to be involved with the project.” Having spent many hours in good faith filming for the project and urging Brandon to make fair editorial changes, I had to drop out because, in my view, AG3 is Strange Fire 2.0 on steroids and is anything but “honest and balanced.” Those wanting to know my own views on the subjects in question can consults my books, broadcasts, articles, and sermons (in full, rather than excerpted in sound bites).”
What I had also communicated to Dr. Brown was that there would be people involved in this project who he has considered to be “hyper-critics” who are also critical of him (his discernment, associations, etc.). Many of the questions that he answered in our interview together were in response to these issues. He also knew that he was participating in a project where people would have disagreement/debate over how the “New Apostolic Reformation” is defined or whether or not it exists (he recorded a 3-hour roundtable discussion with Holly Pivec and Doug Geivett on this very issue). Yet it was this very issue (NAR), and my refusal to edit/remove the opinions and statements of others (while inviting him to add more of his own comments to correct what he viewed as false), which caused him to begin questioning his involvement.
Another issue that caused a further rift in our discussions was the fact that I told him that I was creating a whole episode on the topic of “grave soaking.” Dr. Brown responded to this news by concluding that this project was a “Strange Fire 2.0 on steroids” much like he did in this public video below:
If you don’t have the ability to watch the video above, I’ll describe what Dr. Brown attempts to do. In the video he presents a recent instagram photo of Dr. Steve Lawson wearing the robe of Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones. In the caption, Lawson writes:
Dr. Brown acknowledges that Steve Lawson is obviously joking (Dr. Lawson doesn’t believe an actual anointing was literally in Lloyd Jones’ robe or Bible), but Dr. Brown uses this example to jokingly mock critics of grave soaking, saying: “The heresy of Bible rubbing and cloak wearing!” He also later equates what Lawson was doing (joking) to what Bethel has done in their grave soaking teaching and practice (not joking). Finally, he brings up his conversation with me (without mentioning my name, or the film specifically), and shares a conversation he had with me, where I apparently called grave soaking “communication with the dead.” Sadly, Dr. Brown put words in my mouth that I’ve never said. I’ve never called this practice “heresy” or described it as “communicating with the dead” or “receiving revelation from the dead.” The episodes that I created explicitly reject that straw man characterization and direct viewers to the key issue, which is seeking impartation of anointing or mantles from the dead. In other words, Dr. Brown created a straw man of a “heresy hunter” in order to make his point. When I told Dr. Brown that I would be responding publicly to his statements, he claimed that he was not specifically speaking about me, but about grave soaking critics in general. But his words specifically point to the “individual” who is a filmmaker making an episode on the topic of grave soaking:
“I was interacting with someone producing some films and they're they're going to do this 30-minute episode on Grave Soaking, or this one-hour episode, whatever it was, on Grave soaking. I thought, “Why?” Leaders at Bethel have repudiated it. Leaders at Bethel, where some people who practice it say it's say it's wrong, say it's unbiblical. Why? Why on earth would you put out a whole video about… especially when it represents a fringe of a fringe, of a fringe of a fringe, of a fringe of a fringe, of a fringe practice. But I also said to this individual, “But hang on, the thing itself, you're blowing out of all proportion!” It's not some: “I am going to commune with the dead. I am going to get revelation from the dead...” No! it's people with a misguided practice! But it's not that markedly different from what Steve Lawson did— putting on the D. Martin Lloyd-Jones pulpit outfit, putting his hand on the pulpit bible that he used, and saying maybe some of it will rub off on me.” —Dr. Michael Brown - 'From Grave Soaking to Bible Rubbing' (9/12/23)
Keep in mind that Dr. Brown made these comments about our conversation and these episodes without ever having watched them. Part of my reasoning for wanting to release a preview of these episodes is so that viewers can see my work and decide whether or not Michael Brown was correct in his objections. Is my work divisive, destructive, filled with lies, or out of context clips? I’m confident that any objective viewer will see the truth after watching what we've put together.
In the process of creating this episode, the one “Grave Soaking” episode was later split into 2 episodes: ”Grave Soaking” (Part 1) and “The House of Generals” (Part 2). Why would I spend so much time on this “fringe of a fringe, of a fringe” issue? First, you cannot read an article about Bethel Redding without coming across the topic of “grave soaking,” so it had to be addressed. Second, this issue goes beyond the practice of “grave soaking” into the broader topic of a biblical view of anointing, seeking impartations of additional mantles, or anointings through people, locations (graves), etc. (which apply to charismatic practices beyond Bethel Redding). This practice is foundational to understand Bethel’s culture of pursuing revival through risk-taking, their theology of favor, and the overemphasis on the practice of impartation in the broader apostolic and prophetic movement that this series is critiquing.
Finally, the truth about this issue has remained obscured (whether intentionally or not), including through the interview with Bill Johnson conducted by Dr. Michael Brown. Has Bethel actually been honest about their involvement in this practice? Have they repented of this practice? These episodes will walk you through all of the available evidence, including eyewitness testimony from former Bethel students, and an examination of Bethel’s own claims in their 25-minute “Rediscover Bethel” podcast on this issue. In sum, the content is so long and thorough because I’m trying to be fair in examining all of the evidence. Thankfully, I chose a docuseries format that allows me to go into this level of detail, without neglecting detail in other topics. So Michael Brown’s claims that I am blowing this out of proportion (“straining a gnat and swallowing a camel”) while ignoring other important issues— are false.
Dr. Brown’s assessment of my project’s honesty and balance is based on 2 episodes (a fraction of the entire series) where everyone essentially agreed on the main issues. After he began overemphasizing smaller, debatable differences, encouraging me to change the views/experiences of others, and declining to accept my invitation to add further commentary (to provide more balance), I quickly realized that his involvement was only going to hinder the project’s completion. While I am frustrated at the missed opportunity to create a balanced presentation, and the massive loss of content (as well as time and money), I am also very relieved that I no longer have to deal with the time commitment related to communicating with Dr. Michael Brown. Daniel Kolenda also followed his lead in departing from the project. Ultimately, both were not comfortable being involved in a project that critiques errors within ministries or people that they are friends or partners with.
So how do I move forward, given this roadblock in the projects’ progress and release? I will still attempt to critique and respond to Dr. Brown’s (and Kolenda’s) arguments using public “fair use” footage (from his radio/Youtube program, etc). I spent a lot of time having others respond to Dr. Brown's arguments, so I now I may need to do extra work to have others help explain his arguments. Will you ever get to see the debates that Dr. Brown and others participated in (with Justin Peters, Jim Osman, Sam Storms, or Holly Pivec & Doug Geivett)? That’s up to him. If you’re a charismatic or cessationist and are disappointed in his decision (and I know that many are, and will be), I would advise you not to attack him on social media. He will only see that as further proof that he was right to remove himself from the project. I am thankful for the time that Dr. Brown and Daniel Kolenda gave me, and have great respect for their passion and willingness to help me understand their perspectives, but I am very disappointed in how this all concluded.
Thank you for everyone who has been involved with this so far, for the prayers and encouragement. Please continue to pray for me— for wisdom as I navigate this project to the finish line, which realistically will not be finished by the end of this year due to this recent setback. I currently have five one-hour episodes completed, and hope to have more freedom to show previews like this in the near future!
Update: You can watch the post-episode discussion on these issues here:
Hello AG supporters! I have some exciting news for those who have been anticipating the release of AG3: Spirit & Fire. Next week we will be releasing two 50-minute episodes as a preview of this 10+ episode docuseries. The live-stream will begin on the evening of Wednesday 10/25 and will be available for AGTV subscribers only. They will only be available to watch until 10/31. The entire series is not finished, but we are releasing these episodes as a way to reward our patient supporters who subscribe to AGTV and make our productions possible. We’ll have more details— like the names of the episodes— at the end of this week!