Service Schedule

Sundays 

Traditional Service 8:00 am

Sunday School 9:15 am (adult and children's options available)

Contemporary Blend 10:30 am (child care available)

Junior Church (K-5th Grade) 10:30 am

BYM Sr (8th thru 12th grade) - 6:00 pm

 

Wednesdays

Choir Practice 6:30 pm

Prayer Meeting 7:30 pm

Kidz Klub (age 4 thru 4th grade) - 6:30 pm

BYM Jr (5th thru 8th grade) - 6:30 pm

Men's and Ladies' Bible Studies - 6:30 pm

Directions

We are located at 155 Reedsville Road, Schuylkill Haven, PA 17972

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If you need to contact us, please call our office at (570) 739-2241. For office hours, click here.

Wet Cement Theology

 A blog from Jeff Byerly at Bethesda EC Church

The world doesn't need another know-it-all theologian. My goal is simply to search the Scriptures, analyze current theological dicussions, respond to the events of the global, national, and local communities in which I live, and share my life incarnationally in order to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God. As I do this please realize that I am wrong from time-to-time and more often than I think. :-) I am also naturally skeptical and often doubt convictions that are held tightly by many others. I invite you to dialogue with me in this same spirit--to explore how Jesus intersects with our world and to keep our sanity as we view this world from his kingdom perspective. 

YOU HAVE HEARD IT SAID ... (PART 1)

Posted by Jeff Byerly on Friday, November 8, 2013 @ 4:13 PM

Some years ago, I was sitting at a lunch with two good friends, where we were talking about things that we are learning and how to help others to understand them—primarily in regard to the missional movement. We conceived of placing these ideas into a form that would help to communicate the new depths that we were discovering. Later, we were affirmed in our pursuit by a seminary professor (Dr. Ken Miller), who was contemplating these same concepts and was considering writing a book about how church, mission, and ministry were defined from this perspective. (I also refer the reader to Scott McKnight’s book, King Jesus Gospel, for further study on the topic.)

Since that time, our denomination’s Futures Initiative Team (of which I am a part) has formed some of these concepts into a document that helps to clarify a more comprehensive definition for the church—an ecclesiology document, for those familiar with it. However recently, we have been experiencing some misunderstanding toward the document, mainly, in my estimation, due to the unfamiliarity of certain terms and definitions that we had used to help others understand the church, and also based on what they may actually think is missing from the document (but is probably found within these misunderstood terms.)

It was during this earlier time, that my friend, Kirk, wrote a short instructive piece based on the way that Jesus helped his hearers redefine some misunderstood terms from the Old Testament (see Matthew 5:21-48). So I want to simply borrow Kirk’s rhetorical device (which he borrowed from Jesus) to develop a series of writings over the next few weeks to help some out there to delve a little deeper into the riches of this perspective. We are not rewriting church doctrine; we believe the same theological concepts as before, but we see them from a new perspective that is motivational (and could be the catalyst) for another great awakening within our culture.

Lastly, from this new perspective, some ways in which we have formerly communicated and defined the gospel are just not sufficient and are actually not very helpful to people seeking a better understanding of God and his work in the world.

Here we go.

 PART 1: THE GOSPEL

You have heard it said that the gospel is the plan of salvation, where Jesus died for your sins and you can go to heaven by accepting him, but I tell you that the gospel is the whole good news of Jesus—who is the Son of the true and living God, entering into human relationship through a marvelous incarnation, living a perfect life, dying on the cross for the salvation of mankind, and rising victoriously from the dead, and ascending into heaven to resume his complete rule. Through this incarnational manifestation, Jesus has destroyed death’s power and has conquered evil in all its forms. Just as Jesus has announced the coming of God’s kingdom and its movement toward completion, everyone is invited to join God in a redemptive and renewed life and community whereby the kingdom is lived today. And within this framework, sins are forgiven through Christ’s atonement and a renewed eternal life for all of creation is promised.

Some of you may actually be saying, “What’s the big difference?” I believe the first concept as well as the second concept. It’s amazing to some of us how often we hear that. However, I will sit in a meeting or a spiritual event with someone who claims to believe both, and then hear them boil the whole Gospel down to a question about where someone will spend eternity; it usually sounds like this, “Do you want to know how to get to heaven when you die?” That’s the first version gospel. That is NOT the second version gospel!

In the former version, the listener is not involved in any understanding of Jesus, except that Jesus was born to die (the only thing that matters) for me. The listener is not invited to participate in God’s kingdom by living a transformed life now, but rather to live in earth’s evil domain until he is taken away to God’s glorious heaven. It’s all about getting to the other side of death in order to live without any context of what God wants to do now. This focus is not helpful, because it removes the believer from joining God to make any impact in the world today.

How did we get here? I think that the Enlightenment reshaped the Gospel for a new world that had emerged with new abilities. The big questions about life were reduced to easily transferable, mass-producible presentations. The big question became: How can I get to heaven? The solution became four universal spiritual laws. People were even told that they could call upon Jesus at the point of death to receive forgiveness for their sins and enter into heaven despite living like a devil all their lives. Something just does not seem fair about that approach. Yet this conclusion can exist without much challenge within the framework of the first view—if the big question is getting to heaven. But is it?

Let me help to give you a glimpse into the beauty of this Gospel: Jesus had existed in a communal relation with the Father and Spirit when he stepped into our space-time reality of fallenness to do battle with the forces of evil and provide liberation to all the created order. He was born of the virgin and undertook the image of God (of the first man—Adam), redefining it, defeating the temptations that the first man could not (Luke 4:1-13), and lived out the perfect human life (a glimpse of how we will live one day), and fulfilled Isaiah’s vision of the Messiah—a healer and liberator (Luke 4:14-21). He did all this before he died on the cross for the sins of the world—yes, an important element of the whole redemptive plan of God. When a person acquires this vision for life that Jesus promised, his life is transformed, his sins are forgiven, and he is a new creation with a new vision for living. I didn’t even mention heaven yet …

You see, I want to pursue this vision now! That’s the difference. I don’t want to wait until the eleventh hour to receive this. That’s a huge difference in perspective! This perspective changes how I live; how I speak; how I view life; how I communicate good news to others; how I preach; how I love in my relationships. I get to participate in it now!

You can have this vision too. Otherwise, you will have to wait until you die to get to heaven and find out what you had been missing all along.

Next week: You have heard it said that salvation is …

 

Kirby Keller said...

Posted on Friday, November 8, 2013 @ 8:07 PM -
I commend you for a thoughtful, provocative piece that resonates in my heart. This new perspective your write about might seem like subtle semantics to some, but as you stated, the difference is very significant in following Jesus. Refreshing to read a perspective that the early church understood very well. I encourage you to continue writing, preaching, and teaching this Gospel that could provide a much needed corrective in evangelical thinking today. Blessings. Keep writing!

Chelly M said...

Posted on Friday, November 8, 2013 @ 6:39 PM -
nicely written, thx for sharing. kinda goes along with our small group study of James.

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