The “2012 Kingdom Culture” conference hosted annually by Bethel Church, in Redding, California, starts today- and I’m intrigued. (Are any of you participating? I’d be curious to hear more about what you know or have experienced here.)
I’m most intrigued because of the way that Bethel Church describes itself: their web site reads that “the personal, regional and global expansion of God’s kingdom through His manifest presence” is Bethel’s mission, with one implication being that “every believer is a supernatural minister” and that “signs and wonders follow thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”
And, I’m cautiously optimistic about what seems at least from first impressions as a church living into God’s mission. A mission that is very much about the unleashing of the kingdom of God. (Here in the United States I don’t see this sort of intentional kingdom living modeled by churches very often.)
That said, I’d also like to know more about the emphasis here on “signs and wonders.” To be sure, the Jesus we meet in Scripture is always healing the sick in miraculous ways; but Jesus Himself would ask, “Which is easier, to say ‘your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk?'” (Luke 5:23). In other words, what measure, if any, in the way of “signs and wonders,” is Bethel Church using to define this dawning kingdom of God in people’s lives?
The other day an acquaintance was once again marveling at the amazing things God is doing through the healing ministry to which he belongs through his church, “Three in One Church.” (For some reason the Triune God is always last on my shortlist of associations here, with golf and the world of retail sales vying for first; and if you’re wondering, yes, this really is the name of his church and I did not make it up.) This time my friend had been wowed by what he described as a kind of “manna from heaven” experience- only this time the “manna” falling from the sky came in the form of a small, rough-cut diamond. This was not the first time apparently that a diamond had fallen from the ceiling of the building where “Three in One” worships. But it was the first time my friend had witnessed it; and he had quickly become a convert to the notion that God randomly drops diamonds from ceilings as a sign of God’s favor.
Another “sign and wonder”? Maybe. There seem to be all sorts of things that might qualify under this rather broad rubric of God’s sovereign omnipotence. Still, I couldn’t help but be skeptical.
It seems to me that when we begin to set our expectations on dramatic healings from cancer or diamonds that fall from the sky, often at the expense of more “ordinary” but equally mysterious happenings, we actually limit our vision of what God is doing in inaugurating a kingdom that is truly cosmic in scope. Afterall, we worship a God who can reveal Himself both in roaring thunder and gentle whispers (1 Kings 19).
So, what do you think about all this “signs and wonders” stuff? And, got more info or firsthand experience on Bethel? Send it along!
Tomorrow, an update to “The Minister and the Little, Black Dress” and other miscellany.