BSSM 1.1 - SAFETY
October 21, 2019
I wouldn’t say I came to Bethel warily. In fact, the more I chat with fellow students, the more aware I become of how easy the path really was for me, at least in some respects. It seems almost everyone had family or friends that had genuine concern over their choice to study at Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry, sending them links to sites or videos accusing them of having sketchy theology, or of being a straight-up cult. I’m grateful I didn’t have that. In all honesty, I had pretty high expectations for Bethel, and minimal doubts.
But there’s always a bit of wondering when coming into a new environment. What will the leaders really be like? Will the community accept me? Am I not going to be extreme enough for this environment? Does the church culture have an arrogant slant, looking down on other churches or movements? Is their theology actually as strange as some people think?
Well, I’m (more than) a month in, and I can say I feel nothing but a ton of relief around those questions.
Again and again and over again I see, hear, or experience things that set me at ease.
Leaders, by default, believe in and empower you. Within three minutes of meeting my main pastor for the first time, I was told to feel free to release any words I got for people. Mind = blown. They are brimming with grace and patience. They will talk about and explain Bethel’s theology, why they do what they do how they do it, but they also have no problem with students that disagree (as long, of course, they aren’t disruptive or trying to tear apart the school from the inside out).
Community is more vulnerable, authentic, and encouraging that I would’ve dared to hope. The people in my “Revival Group” (basically groups of 70-ish students that have an assigned pastor and assigned leaders) have shared incredibly vulnerable stuff, things that they likely have shared only with the closest friends before, if at all. Everyone is quick to encourage and build up, and the idea of being competitive or jealous honestly feels a bit foreign.
References to other churches, movements, and denominations are completely honouring, perhaps more than I’ve ever encountered before (though my home church does an absolutely fantastic job too). Basically, if you’re part of the 2.2 billion people that profess to be Christian, Bethel is on your side. The way Bethel puts it, every part of the global group of Christians has their own God-given emphasis. Bethel has theirs, and they are fully committed to it, but they totally support and encourage the emphasis that other groups feel God has given them.
All in all, if there is one word I would use to describe my first month here at Redding at BSSM, it would be SAFE.
I feel safe to be myself. More than that, I feel safe to change who that is, or, more accurately, to discover more fully who God made me to be. There is no expectation to live up to who I am or who I used to be, only encouragement to discover who I was originally intended to be. I feel safe to be vulnerable, safe to be in community. I feel safe to explore my identity and authority in God.
I feel safe to disagree, to think for myself, to consider what’s being taught and decide for myself. I feel safe to go at my own pace. There is no sense of pressure or urgency to get on board with what’s being taught. There’s an overwhelming sense of grace for each person’s individual story and journey.
I feel safe to move on from things in my past, not in a way that dishonours it, but simply to keep moving forward.
This might sound a little wacky, but I feel safe to test out new theology. I’ve decided that even I don’t immediately agree in my mind with some teaching of Bethel, as long as I don’t feel a Holy Spirit warning, it’s actually ok to just try it out and see what happens. If it turns out that it’s not Jesus, I trust that God will redirect me back to the right path. And, if it is Jesus, I don’t want any of my previous experience or teachings to hold me back from one shred of correct theology. One of my most frequent prayers in the first month was “Jesus, if this is You, I want it.”
I feel safe to risk in a way that I’ve never experienced before. I feel safe, oh-so-safe, to fail. To make mistakes, many of them. I feel safe to own up to those mistakes, learn from them, and carry on in my pursuit of Jesus and all that He has for me.
As Kris Vallotton put it, “if Bethel were a cult, we’d be the worst cult in the world, because we tell everyone to think for themselves and to leave once they’re done.”
Yep. I feel so very, incredibly, completely, SAFE.
But I suppose I should also tell about what I’m actually learning more than just what I’m feeling. The hard part is figuring out what specifically to talk about.
I could talk about how my assigned church service never ran shorter than three and a half hours (because, um, it’s UHMAZING). I could talk about how my “Revival Group” already feels like family in a way that I honestly wouldn’t have expected possible. I could talk about God redefining and reconstructing the concept of worship in my mind, using in part the experience of not making the student worship team. I could talk about nature adventures to Whiskeytown Lake, Clam Beach, Founders Tree Park (Redwoods! 😳), or Minder Park, my go-to running route where I’ve seen deer two or three times already. I could tell of several life-giving coffee chats with people, talking about hopes, dreams, fears, failures, hurts, and struggles. I could talk about a collection of sin issues and broken mindsets that have been revealed and resolved, things that I was entirely unaware of. I could talk about how Jesus has taken me back some 15 or so years to illuminate and heal moments and experiences that I had long since given up on understanding.
But I think there’s a better topic to sum up the focus of my first month in Redding.
I think it was when my sister-in-law, Brittany, asked me a few days before I left Cornwall in August that I finally worked out the best, most concise answer to the standard question of “what’s the one thing you want to get out of your year at Bethel?”
“I want to find my fit in the Kingdom of God,” was my response. I suppose to sum it up even further, I could’ve just said destiny. My goal in coming here was finding my destiny in God.
It still is. Kind of. Except… Well, I guess it’s not my main goal anymore.
Yes, I came here for my destiny, excited to find my fit in the Kingdom of God and discover what that looked like for me.
And I feel like God was just sitting back, chuckling to Himself, saying something along the lines of:
“Aww, that’s cute. You can think that if you want; whatever gets you to BSSM is fine with me, but my plans look a little different than yours…”
Turns out God’s way more interested in my identity than my destiny. He’s way more interested in my status as a son than in my productivity in the Kingdom.
Jesus says in Matthew 22:37 that the greatest commandment, the one we should focus on the most, is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” That’s actually our main “job” as human beings.
But at the same time, 1 John 4:19 says that “We love because He first loved us.” We’re actually not capable of properly loving God (or anyone else, for that matter) until we are loved.
I’m already loved fully and completely. Before doing anything, before impacting the nations, before witnessing to my neighbour, before worshipping, before reading my Bible, I am loved. I could literally lie on my couch for the next 13 years of my life eating potato chips, and God’s love for me wouldn’t dial down a millimetre.
My identity as a loved son of God is concrete, set in stone, unable to be shaken by anything or anyone.
I realize that none of this stuff sounds revolutionary for anyone who has lived in a church culture for long enough, so it’s hard for me to fully convey what I feel like I’ve learned, but it starts to change everything.
I guess parts of this start to dribble into my second month in Redding, but I’ve felt God challenge me in strange ways recently.
“Don’t read your Bible today; instead, just let me celebrate you.”
“Cut your devotion time in half, and watch how you are still my delight.”
It’s breaking my knee-jerk thoughts that I have to reach for His delight, that I have to do something to obtain that feeling of love.
Rather than trying to run around getting the whole world saved, my first priority needs to be pointing the cup up my life upward, letting it get so full of the love of God that I couldn’t help my overflow on the people around me. I’m still working on that. I don’t think I’ve received enough love yet.
I’ve also been learning about what kinds of things come from being the son of a King. Ephesians 2:6, talking about Christians, says that God “… raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Colossians 3:1 says that we are “… raised with Christ.” John 20:21 & 23 say “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you,” and “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; and if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Matthew 28:18-19 says “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore…” The implication (as I read it) is that Jesus has passed on that authority to us.
What’s all this mean? I definitely don’t have it all figured out, but I think it means that we, as Christians, actually have a lot more authority and power than we generally tend to walk in. If we are, right now, actively raised with Christ and seated in heavenly places, I think it’s safe to say we as Christians should really be walking around with more power and authority than those that aren’t (yet) believers. If we’re supposed to be Jesus’ representatives on the planet and He was given all authority and explicitly gave us the authority to forgive sins, I’d say we should walk with a little bit of confidence.
Now, don’t misunderstand me: none of this is for us. None of our authority or power is to puff us up with pride or give us grounds to look down anyone else. This is not, in any way, to condescend unbelievers or anyone else.
On the contrary, all of this stuff has only one purpose: to point people back to Jesus (or, to use a Christian-eze term, “make disciples”). Should Christians walk in miracles and signs and wonders? My answer is “Heck yes!,” but not so we can parade around talking about how great we are. We should walk in miracles and signs and wonders so that human beings can encounter the love of God through, as Jesus put it, His “Kingdom.”
So yeah… I guess those are some things I’ve been learning at BSSM. My identity as a son is enough, fully enough, and there isn’t a single thing I could do to change God’s constant flow of outrageous love that I will never full understand. What I do or don’t do or accomplish for the rest of my life has absolutely no impact on that. However, if I am really the son of the King of Kings, that actually means I’ve got some serious pull. And the more I use that pull, the more I can point people back to the King, and the larger the family of God gets.
That sounds like a pretty fun way to live a life.
Sidebar: March is gonna be epic
Ok, so this isn’t really part of my first month at BSSM, but I wanted to sneak it in here anyways.
Part of the year here at BSSM (which, funny story, I kinda forgot about before I got here) includes doing a missions trip. All the students apply for seven of them, ordered based on preference, and then the BSSM staff figures out who actually gets to go where. And I kinda feel like Jesus likes me a lot ‘cause I got my first choice:
[Cue dance music here]
Yeaaaaaaaaas indeed. I AM STOKED.
Ok, so why Netherlands? Two main reasons.
First, all four of my grandparents came from the Netherlands, so my entire heritage is from there. I still have some distant relatives there, but I’ve never been, not even anywhere in Europe. So it will be super awesome to visit the motherland, as it were, and connect with some of those roots.
But the second, far more important reason, is because the Netherlands needs Jesus. Most countries do, but the Netherlands is predominately an atheist country, making it ripe for some Jesus light to come break open the prevalent darkness. And getting to do with a group of healing-working, prophecy-spewing Jesus freaks from BSSM makes me more excited than watching the NHL playoffs live.
Yeah. I went there. It’s for real.
But going on this trip also involves something else:
(Did I mention I kinda forgot about this trip when I came here? Man, why couldn’t these things just be magically free…)
Ok, so for real, my intention is not to turn this blog into one of those heart-string pulling, guilt-inducing pleas for money. I know Jesus wants me here in Redding right now. I believe He wants me to go to Netherlands in March. I also know He’s not short on cash. I’m not worried about Him providing. He’s pretty good at that.
Really, this is an invitation.
An invitation to invest in me while I’m attending BSSM, investing in my ability to “build the Kingdom", and an invitation to invest in bringing the light of Jesus into the Netherlands. I cannot wait to take what I’ve learned all year at Bethel and unleash it in the country of my ancestors.
For those interested in details, I need a total of $2,150 for the trip, about $300 of which is due by November 1st.
Again, none of this is to make you guilted into financing me or my trip, but if you find yourself getting excited about it and want to be part of my journey here in California at BSSM, any contributions would be a massive blessing! I will be most appreciative of any and all donations, which can be made online here.
Please shoot an email to Kevin@KevinBrink.com if you have any questions at all.
Ya'll rock and I love you. Thanks for reading this far. You'll be hearing from me again in a couple weeks.