So, I figured some of you might be curious to know what I actually do each day here at Bethel. The structure really is quite fascinating, considering there are 1,200 students in the first year. When we first arrived for registration, we were given our first three books to start reading, a binder with an outline of the entire bible reading plan for the year, assignment templates, deadlines, reading plans and descriptions of Bethel Church’s core values.
Before attending the school, we chose either a morning or afternoon schedule which effectively halves the student numbers and makes life a little more manageable for all. However, all 1,200 students meet together in the middle of the day for corporate worship and teaching, usually from either Kris Vallatton or Bill Johnson.
You are allocated a smaller group of 65 students who you meet up with weekly and do life with as a family for the year, under the facilitation of a pastor and 4 interns (who are 3rd year students). Within this framework, after a weekend away together as a group, the pastor and interns prayerfully place you into a small group whom you meet up with once a week. This helps you to be able to connect in effectively, be accountable, be challenged, be inspired, share the successes and failures of others and process your journey with a trusted group of people.
In addition to this, you are able to pursue workshops of your choice, based on your passions or giftings. In addition to this, you have the opportunity to actually invest in the local community of Redding, choosing one area of interest which you will participate in once a week. This begins later on in the year.
The core values of Bethel both challenge and inspire me. Assignments are not graded. The idea is, that you are not here to work for a grade. You simply get what you put in. You are not here to please your pastor through your wisdom, your assignment quality or your ability to articulate your thoughts clearly. You are here, for Him. How much you grow in intimacy with Him, is dependent upon you.
There is structure around lateness of homework and arrival to classes, simply because some of us need that type of motivation to keep on track, but the idea is that students who don’t keep up, arrive on time or complete work, will eventually “behave their way out of school”. I really love this concept.
You are not allowed to pray/prophesy/ etc over anyone outside of Bethel Church until 6 months into the course. People come from all walks of life to Bethel Church, and if a foundation is unsteady in a persons life, it could impact on a community in a negative way. The training ground for Bethel students within the first 6 months, are other bethel students.
In regards to church services, we are allocated a church service to attend, which is on an 8 weekly roster. Imagine 1,200 students inundating the popular 10am Sunday morning service at Bethel. Yeah. Enough said. Poor locals!
My biggest tension at the moment is juggling the practical with the theory. You are asked to read roughly 2 books per week in addition to 2/3 chapters of the Bible daily, and your head takes in a lot of teaching (Mon through to Thurs) as well. This is completely manageable, but more and more I want to keep the assignments and reading in their proper place. If completing them in a timely manner becomes merely a source of pride for me and my mind is consumed with trying to take in all I am learning from books and the “up the front” teaching, I am missing the main point of being here at Bethel.
Being here, to me, is an invitation to become more aware of God and to partner with what He is doing, in and through my life. I could easily miss that, if I keep my nose continually in the books thinking they will build a relationship with the Lord for me as I read.
If I become wrapped up primarily in the culture here (which is amazing) and the day to day social networking I will have cultivated great relationships, which is important. But, to cultivate intimacy with my heavenly Father is my greatest delight and greatest honour. A culture may or may not come home with me, Father God does.
So, a few musings from me, having been a Bethel student for 3 weeks now. It continues to be challenging, sometimes frustrating but always rewarding as I intentionally walk into each day, very slowly becoming aware, in a way I can’t quite articulate yet, of this God who loves me more than I could ever love Him back.