(This follows on from the last blog. If you have not read that it might be helpful to get the context.)
A second thing that I noticed in my time at Bethel, Redding is that there is an incredible generosity about the whole place. It starts with the leadership and flows on into every aspect of church life. I could talk about principles now but I think that it is better just to give practical examples because without these principles are just so much theory.
Every Sunday morning when thousands are arriving and leaving for one of the three services there is a team outside who provide food, drink and other supplies and services for the homeless. Redding seems to have a lot of homeless and one reason, I suspect, is because of the impact of Bethel Church within that community. Generous love attracts those who feel most in need. I spoke to one of the English students from the BSSM (Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry) who told me that she loved to be on duty with this aspect of Bethel’s work. I saw homeless people later on in the church building with armfuls of food provided by the church team that morning.
On one of the Sundays that I was there Bill Johnson launched his new book, God is Good. They had hardback copies available for every family there that morning as a gift, a lot of books let me tell you. Bill Johnson stood at the back of the building after he had spoken and greeted us all as we were given a copy of the book (if we wished to take it). That wasn’t clever marketing, that was generosity.
Several times I noticed that at the coffee shop, appropriately named HeBrews, individuals would pay in advance for the next one or several people in the queue. I am told that some of the senior leaders regularly do this in a quiet but extremely generous manner.
The church have access to a large voluntary force in the shape of the BSSM student body, about 2000 people. Each week of their school year they engage in practical service for their city. This is mostly in low skilled jobs such as keeping the parks and public spaces clean, just stuff that helps to make Redding a nicer place to be. Bethel have invested money in all of the equipment necessary and there is a full time post for managing this programme. Last year, because of this help, they saved the city one million dollars which enabled Redding to keep some other services going and for the people working in those services to keep their jobs.
Much is spoken and written of Bethel and a good deal of it in a negative manner about certain aspects of their ministry. I think that it is helpful to have a more complete view of the church there before drawing too many conclusions. We should take care before criticising those brothers and sisters who love the same Father and seek to serve Him with all their hearts.
More to follow.