“BEMA” is a Hebrew word that refers to the elevated platform in the center of first-century synagogues where the people of God read the Text. The community of God’s people did not gather in buildings that faced a stage with an audience, but rather they allowed their gathering to reflect what they hoped to be true of their lives — centered around the Word of God.
The BEMA program is an attempt to recapture a few of the elements that were present in the early church. It is not our desire to recreate an ancient world, but to learn from its successes and implement something vibrant into the culture of today. There are three things we believe were true then that could be revolutionary if they were true now:
- The people of God in Jesus’s day understood their Text. They knew their Bibles better than we ever could dream of knowing them. This wouldn’t be nearly that important, except that the entirety of Jesus’s ministry, and then the ministry of those he sent out to change the world, was based on a deep understanding and teaching of this very Text. The apostles turned the world upside down by using the Word of God to subvert the stated realities of the Roman Empire. Believing that God’s Word never returns void, they put that Text to use in their writings, teachings, and communities.
- The people of the early church were deeply committed to telling a different story with their lives. Their primary question was not whether or not something was “OK” or permissible — their main concern was whether or not that very thing was constructive. What kind of story did that action tell? What were they saying about the God they served? What did they truly believe about that God? If their actions did not tell the story of that God to the world, then they must be participating in some form of idolatry. This was an intense love for God which cost His people dearly, yet brought order to the chaos all around them.
- The early church was committed to loving others. They subverted all the cultural assumptions about the worth of people. They actively believed every human being was made in the image of the Creator, having value and worth. Any system that sought to divide and distinguish and devalue must be subverted.
The BEMA program is a multi-faceted program seeking to recapture some of these experiences through an attempt to return to a more ancient, rabbinic approach to discipleship. There is a deconstructive study of the Scriptures, an attempt to experiment with intentional community, a “come, follow me” approach to making disciples, and a three-week study tour to Israel and Turkey.
It is our desire to create a space to learn and grow, experiment and fail. A space where asking questions is incentivized and not discouraged. A space that God could fill — the way He desires to fill it.
To love God.
To love others.
To become people of the Text.