Saturday, July 29, 2017

What is BSSD?

Note from the Future: 

I eventually spoke to Willy (the founder of BSSD) about all this. He explained that the staff was taken off guard by an unexpected influx of students this past year. It is true that the Revival Group Pastors were swamped and unable to provide the discipleship that they INTENDED to provide. In preparation for next year, Willy is in the process of hiring more staff. The school will not be taken off guard again. To me, however, Willy apologized and asked my forgiveness. They had done their best, but they had not been able to provide the discipleship we had all hoped for.

He also told me that he could not promise that BSSD will not "make mistakes", but he DOES promise that they will only make "honest" ones. And when they become aware of these mistakes, he will be the first one to admit it, apologize, and make changes.

Written 12.10.16

I am continually trying to wrap my head around, what is Bethel School of Supernatural Discipleship (BSSD)? Continually wrestling with the disconnect between how BSSD seems to represent itself and what I actually observe. What I actually observe isn't bad, but it is different from what I was/am told, and that makes me feel deceived and robbed.

1. I was told that BSSD (Bethel School of Supernatural Discipleship) is functionally equivalent to BSSM (Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry), just smaller and more personal. And yet, when switching to BSSM, BSSD students have to start back at the beginning. To put it in academic terminology, the credits don't transfer.

2. There is an outside reputation that BSSD is a prep school for BSSM - a place where you can go to get help resolving issues before entering BSSM. This is actually what my BSSM interviewer said to me and the reason why I decided to attend BSSD. The staff of BSSD, however, do not see their school that way. They deny that their student body has more "issues" (relative to the BSSM student body) and the program itself doesn't seem particularly equipped to assist students with "special needs".

3. One thing everyone seems to agree on is that a significant aspect of BSSD is small community and personal discipleship. The student body, however, has been growing steadily (rather than being kept artificially small.) And as things are this year, the Revival Group Pastors are already overwhelmed, leaning on interns to mentor the students, just like at BSSM.

All of these mismatches between the representation and observable reality severely undermined my trust in the integrity of the leadership before I even started. Secondly, though there were legitimate reasons to prefer BSSM, (vibrant international community, huge amount of resources available through Bethel Church, etc.) when BSSM became unavailable, (and BSSD became available,) I decided that I actually DID want to spend the money and time at BSSD for the sake of the personal mentorship and assistance resolving my "issues".  Thus I am frustrated when I find these are not particularly available.

So all of this is background explains some of my emotional confusion and apprehension.

If I were to represent BSSD honestly, (which was the point of this paper) I would say this:

BSSD is a sister school of BSSM. BSSD is similar to BSSM but has its own flavor and personality. BSSD is a relatively young school (eight years), started small, and is growing fast. Regardless of what it has been in the past, BSSD is in the midst of a huge transition now. The host church just fused with two other churches; BSSD doubled their staff this year, including hiring a new head of first year; next year they will start taking international students and they expect to double their student body again. BSSD IS NOT what it has been in the past and next year it will be unrecognizably different from what it is now.

I can't compare nuances with BSSM because I haven't witnessed both first hand, but BSSD does seem to have a greater focus on personal, individual growth as opposed to a focus on equipping for ministry. Students seem to be expected to arrive with baggage, which is expected to rise to the surface (causing distress and dysfunction) during the first three months of the year.

The overarching goal of BSSD seems to be to facilitate an encounter with the living God and then steward students through the results of that encounter. This looks like extended worship sessions, guided meditative encounters with Jesus, endless repetition of positive faith statements, exercises in asking God questions and then checking if the “answer” we hear match reality, hearing testimonies of leaders' experiences, books about God's love, bible worksheets, classes about the heart of God, and receiving/delivering personal messages from God (“prophetic words”).

The breakthrough goal seems to be: For students to come to a heart level conviction of their personal worth. Known, chosen, adored by God. Accepted and acceptable. Fully equipped to be as powerful, significant, and glorious as any Christian hero you can imagine. The whole of God's glorious reality and resources as available to me as to Bill Johnson or Billy Graham or Joan of Arc or the Apostle Paul or Jesus Himself. When students realize this (and truly believe it) they explode with joy, confidence, and (somewhat counter intuitively) humility, able to magnanimously walk in power and love, bestowing grace and blessings to all around them. At least, that is the idea....

Its a nice idea. A nice message. And the validity of the message is not dependent on the perfection of the messengers. The leaders are certainly not perfect. But that does not directly mean their message is wrong.

So, when honestly describing BSSD, in addition to pointing out that the school is in transition, describing the overarching goal, and specifying some of the methods, I would caution students to recognize that BSSD leadership are human. As BSSD would agree, ultimately each student is responsible for themselves – do not expect BSSD to “take care of you”. Take care of yourself and whatever you can glean from BSSD is bonus on top.

Additional note from the Future:

Let me tell you, by the end of the year, I came to have close, personal relationships with many of the staff. I love them and miss them and am so grateful to them for showing me so much love and grace.
Anna, Taylor, Naoko and I
Naoko is from Japan and took me under her wing. Though I was not her responsibility, she told me, "I want to make sure you always receive the care you need. I want to see you many many times. You need to know how precious you are. You are not a burden."
Lacey, the valiant head of First Year.
Lacey is a prophet and the spiritual daughter of Kris Vallatoon. But that's not what makes me love her. Though I never sought her out, multiple times she pulled me aside to check in with me and offer me personal time in her office. When I told her how I felt I needed prayer ministry, she immediately got me an appointment with her own mother.
Nancy Heyne - the wife of missions pastor Jerry Heyne
Nancy is pure gold wrapped in home spun linen. Nancy championed me like a daughter, even inviting me to spend holidays with her family. She taught me to bake pies and would've let me work with her in the garden, if I had stayed the summer. 
And last but not least, Marty Provonost and Willy Bowles on the day of graduation
I am so grateful for all they do

1 comment:

  1. "The overarching goal of BSSD seems to be..." was a very helpful paragraph, because it details the goal (which is not always known, when we do things), and the methods they use to reach the goal. Now I have a better idea of what the whole thing is about.