The Bethel R&D Culture - Kris Vallotton

April 15, 2016

There have been many things written about Bethel Church and the movement that we have had the privilege of being a part of for more than three decades. Most of what has been said about us is positive. But a small, yet influential coalition of people has shared negative reports about us. These reports often include words such as “controversial,” “unbalanced,” or even the word “cult” to describe us.

To be frank, I can understand why certain religious leaders or unbelievers might view us through these perspectives. We certainly have made our share of mistakes, both as a leadership team and those who follow us. And we have such a high value for freedom and risk that it has created a kind-of research and development culture where people are encouraged to take risks. I think this stems from the fact that we view ourselves much more as pioneers than settlers. Therefore, we celebrate creativity, revelation, invention and innovation above comfort, safety and security.

R&D Culture

This R&D culture (Research and Development) has attracted some of the most wonderful and extraordinary individuals on the planet. Of course, we have also managed to draw some very broken and/or strange people. It’s important to remember that there are some really weird and broken people mentioned in the Bible who God used powerfully. Unique guys like John the Baptist, Ezekiel and Hosea come to mind as well as messed up people like Rahab and Samson. Bethel has chosen to be a family, and as such we do our best to love people wherever they’re at in life, regardless of their character, doctrine, political views or philosophical persuasions.

Much like our natural families (whom we don’t get to choose), God often assigns people to be part of our spiritual family who, like Jacob, walk with a limp, so-to-speak, yet they still deserve to be loved. We work hard to try to understand these people although we sometimes don’t agree with their perspectives.


These factors have combined to form one of the most extraordinary experiences in our history, and yet it’s also inspired many challenges. I have traced the majority of these challenges back to a few common themes. One of these themes is misunderstandings that are rooted in the way various people who hear our teachings apply them. Like any movement, be it spiritual, political or whatever, people often take what you say and practice it in a way you never dreamt of. Sometimes the things people do in the name of something we taught is hilarious, while other times it is downright stupid. I cringe when these misguided people quote us as the catalyst for their crazy exploits.

Another major problem in our movement happens when people innocently take what we say out of context. This has happened to me, personally, on more occasions than I care to count. Many times someone will quote me on Facebook or post a YouTube video that is a three-minute clip of an hour-long message I shared. It’s pretty hard to tell people you didn’t say that, but as with any conversation, the context often dictates the definition.

Twisting the Truth

On the other hand, there are always malicious people who work hard to deceive the masses by intentionally ignoring the context of our teaching to make some distorted point. I really don’t understand how these people live with themselves when they intentionally twist something we teach to deface our character, or undermine our ministry. Some people are so convinced that we are a cult that they are willing to sacrifice their own integrity “to keep people from going astray.” For example, we have had people write negative reviews about our books that they have never read, blog about the source of our income or how we spend our money that has NO semblance of truth in it. Disagreeing with someone is one thing, but lying to make your point is downright wrong.

We really think it’s important to give people the freedom to disagree with what we teach or practice without feeling like they are being disloyal or dishonoring. We have strong feelings about certain subjects that are even contrary to what some of our good friends believe. But we don’t want to be right at the expense of being together. If Jesus only had relationships with people who were doctrinally perfect…well, I would be the only one He would be hanging out with. Lol

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Have you been involved in an R&D Culture? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Topics: All TopicsLeadership