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Bethel Church was not what I expected it to be

Serena Dalton is going into her third year at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. She explains what a curious Londoner has learned in the last two years at the charismatic megachurch in California

When I left my life in London two years ago to enrol at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) in California I wanted to be equipped to lead a more supernatural life and I wanted to develop my knowledge of God and the Bible.

What I found flipped my world upside down, in the best way possible. It opened my eyes to see and experience how good God really is.

There’s a phrase here that goes: “He’s always better than you think.” Standing at my first year graduation, wondering what life held outside the walls of BSSM I pondered to God: Are you really as good as they say? Not skipping a beat, he whispered back: “No...I’m better.”

Daily structure

Each year is different at Bethel but we have on average four hours a day of teaching four days a week.

There’s worship on most days, then two talks, which can range in theme from leadership to identity to core values in the church, and then we break into smaller classes to study specific topics or books of the Bible.

We also go on lots of mission trips – both in the US and abroad – to serve and minister in churches and help equip others.

I am just starting my third year at Bethel. I came in 2016 wondering what I’d let myself in for and hoping I didn’t come back “all American,” both in enthusiasm and ‘pant’ size!

My attitude initially was: “I want to learn but I’ll let you know when I’ve decided if it’ll change my mind, thank you! After all, I’m British; I need a healthy dose of sarcasm to keep me chipper and a good spoonful of cynicism so I don’t get too hopeful”. Boy, was my world about to change!

Stepping out of my comfort zone

Entering this world of hugs, laughter and encouragement I couldn’t help but change. At first I thought: It’s just Americans, they’re just far more positive (which is true!). But the more I found out what Jesus thought of me, the more joyful I became.

People at Bethel are so excited to tell you how God sees you, you can’t help but see it too. It pushes you to change your mindset far quicker than ‘a sermon a Sunday’ does. Cynicism had to bow to God’s thoughts of me, and his thoughts were far better than I realised.

Even to the general public, the culture of BSSM spills out. Whether it’s to the cashier or the unsuspecting waitress, the urge to share the love of Jesus seems to bubble out of people here. When you realise what God thinks of you, it compels you to pass it on.

I’m not saying it’s happening every minute or that everyone walks around preaching; we are all just learning. But I haven’t yet lived in an England where people share the gospel at the deli counter in the supermarket as readily as they ask for the price of ham. I hope one day I will.

It inspires, embarrasses and mostly challenges me all at once. Sometimes I have the courage to share the gospel and sometimes I don’t. Most times it makes me resolve that the next time it will be me who steps out. I will be the one to see that lady’s leg healed or that man come to salvation.

Seeing miracles

Being at Bethel and seeing the miraculous on a regular basis has changed how I view situations. I now see people’s ailments as an opportunity for them to experience God’s love and healing.

A sad face is an opening to share God’s comfort and peace. I now know that his plans for those around me are much better than mine are for them: any area of your life that you have no hope for is under the influence of a lie.

These two years have grown my intimacy with God in a whole new way. If that’s the only thing I have gained from this experience, it is enough.

The oft repeated phrase: “Have you asked Holy Spirit what he thinks of that?” has changed the way I approach decision making. It has crushed fears and pushed worry and hopelessness out of first place. It has ushered in God’s perspective and elevated my thinking to his.

Maybe I’m becoming what I thought was ‘American’ or maybe God just has better thoughts than the average Brit and maybe those thoughts are changing mine.

Learning to hear his opinion on the topics that are most precious to me and giving him access to the areas I fear being hurt in most has brought inexpressible peace and joy.

I’ve learned I don’t have to hold the reins of control over my most cherished dreams in fear that he will disappoint. Giving them to him is both liberating and fun. I have grown to understand that he is more invested in my life than I am.

Sharing life and possessions

Generosity is a huge value at Bethel and I have been challenged to give and to receive the generosity of others in so many ways over the last two years. From encouraging words to people giving their entire tuition money away to pay another’s fees, the stories are endless.

The answer is not the fact that we are all rich; I can tell you, after three years of living off the money saved from summer jobs, I am not rich. The answer is hearing his voice and acting on it. The answer is trusting that he cares enough to provide for us even when we give our last two coins away. The answer is finding out he is better than we think.

Hearing God, knowing my identity in him, becoming more generous, becoming bolder in sharing my faith and knowing Jesus has hope for every situation, are just some of the things I’ve learned at Bethel. I can’t wait to discover more of how good God really is.

Serena is a singer songwriter from the UK. She has released 2 EPs, Giant Heart and Rip Tide, and is excited to announce her upcoming single, ‘Be Still’. You can download her music on itunes and Apple.

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