So we are about half way through our time here at Bethel. We have only actually been in the environment for about 3 months now but we are about half way through the time. It has been an incredible adventure so far and with our mission trip to Kenya coming up in March it is sure to only get better. We feel the culture and relationships renewing our minds and changing our perspective on so much. A number of people have asked us what is so special about Bethel so I thought it might be fun to share some observations. Why would we travel 5000 miles from home to be part of things here? Surely there are churches and bible schools in the UK? The church has a number of core values and experiences that are fairly unique and exciting. I thought I would share some of what we have discovered so far about this place. I have broken it up into a few short blog posts to make it easier to digest. This part is all about how the church is empowering its members to realise their identity and do relationships well within a supernatural context.
What is so special about Bethel?
Within the church and school there is a strong emphasis on understanding our identity in Christ. We are saints not sinners, princes not paupers and dearly loved sons and daughters no longer orphans. From what I have seen and experienced so far, understanding these ideas in more detail releases huge freedom and authority. Once you really grasp the width and depth of Gods love and grace you are left with no option but to worship him. God did not just deal with the sin issue and leave us orphaned and broken. In fact he has given us the tremendous honor of partnering with him in bringing his Kingdom on earth. We do not need to focus on our inability but on his ability.
Honor and conflict
It is not only in the heavenly perspective that Bethel is unique, the approach to handling relationships is unlike anything I have experienced in any other environment. The senior leadership and pastoral team have found a language to describe how healthy relations can work between believers. Much of this is modeled by Jesus in his approach to his disciples and more generally in Gods dealings with humankind. The umbrella term banded about is a “Culture of Honor” and you can find out more about this in the book of this same name. Underlying this teaching is the idea that we should celebrate who people are (created in Gods image with gifts, talents and personalities) without stumbling over who they are not. When you view people from Gods perspective as a powerful son or daughter of the King it changes your value for them. Learning to celebrate other peoples victories and encourage Godly characteristics within them is an integral part of honoring others. To encourage personal growth in people the pastoral staff have huge value for freedom. Each person is powerful and encouraged to develop self control and in contrast forms of external control, rules and punishment are not practiced. The idea being Jesus has made us unpunishable through dealing with our sin, so what makes us think we should punish those who sin? (Obviously this does not apply to breaches of the law!) Instead the emphasis here is on genuine repentance, dealing with the mess sin causes and tackling the root identity issues. Jesus showed us we should also not fear sin or sinful people, he was perfectly comfortable spending time with people who would make many of us uncomfortable. Another thing Jesus shows us is that we cannot control other people and we should not try to. Trying to control others (something we all do!) is a symptom of fear and does not encourage maturity in anyone. As soon as someone leaves a controlling environment they will rebel. Learning to control ourselves is the most important thing. All of this is of course built on a strong foundation of love. It can be tricky to get your head round but when you see it in action it is both powerful and healthy.