Our Vision for Bethany                                                                             

 

As we look to the future under God, we again have developed a picture of how Bethany should grow over the next three years.  As we did in 2001, we have considered a number of aspects about the Bethany community from the practical to the social, to the theological and assessed how well our practice coincides with our statement of faith and our values.  As we consider our continued development over the next few years we have again organized our thoughts into three categories:


1.  Things that will not change—these are areas where our statement of faith, our practice and our values coincide well.  We remain committed to preserving and enhancing these areas.
2.  Things that will change—these are areas where our statement of faith, our practice and our values do not coincide well.  We are committed to bringing these three elements into alignment, so change in these areas is necessary.
3.  Things that may change—these are areas where our statement of faith, our practice and our values seem to be out of balance or in tension.  We are committed to seriously looking at these areas so as to harmonize our beliefs, our practice and our values.  Looking back you will see that some things did change, but others did not.  This was an area of great concern in 2001, as people worried about wholesale change for the sake of change.  Again, we assure you that any change in these areas will be considered carefully before the Lord and implemented prudently.


As you read through these next few pages, you will notice that many things have changed and impacted our communal worship in positive ways.  Some things came and went.  We still have a picture of a warm, accepting, diverse and spiritually vibrant community of faith as a goal.  More than anything else, we want to be faithful as we reflect God to one another, to our local community and to the world.  Pray with us for courage and commitment as we move toward God’s ideal for a 21st Century church. 

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Things that will not change

 
1. Anything concerning our statement of faith.  We are absolutely committed to all of the principles set forth in that document.
2. Commitment to a coherent, consistent interpretation of the Bible as the inspired Word of God to guide our practice as a church and as individuals.  This will be reflected both in the philosophical background and actual content of all Bethany ministries.
3. We will continue to emphasize the weekly remembrance of the Lord Jesus Christ by partaking of the bread & wine in an open format meeting as the most significant weekly focal point for corporate worship and praise.
4. Servant leadership exercised by a group of male elders who will oversee the spiritual development of the assembly.  Elders, as shepherds of the flock, are accountable to the Lord who is the Chief Shepherd.   At the same time they must be responsive to the needs of the flock.   Other leaders will be responsible to the elders and will submit to their authority.   Deacons serve by responding to the material needs of the assembly.
5. We will continue to emphasize the recognition, development, and use of Spirit endowed gifts for the purpose of glorifying God and edifying the body of Christ.

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Things that will change


1. The elders will continue to take a more hands-on approach to leadership in response to the perceived need of the assembly for clear direction.  While we feel that we have progressed in this area, much of our response has been reactive rather than proactive.  We are growing into our roles as shepherds and this has led to a greater sense of family.  We encourage each one to share their concerns, which can then be addressed.  We see the need for dynamic leadership.  We also understand the need to develop and recognize new leaders in the years to come.
2. Issues will be dealt with more openly and specific teaching reflecting the conclusions of the elders will be presented.  We have tried to deal with issues openly and honestly (i.e. the issue of the type of bread used at the Lord’s Supper.)  There is a liberty at the pulpit which is appreciated by speakers and by the audience.  While we realize that change can be a slow process, we must remember that we live (and worship) in a community, and need to work together as a group respecting the diversity of those in fellowship.
3. The elders will engage in more direct teaching/preaching with the goal of aiding the assembly to understand clearly where we stand on a variety of potentially confusing and contentious issues facing the church today. 
4. The commitment of the elders to engage in leadership and pastoral ministry will increase because they will have a clear direction articulated.
5. The commitment of those who catch the vision for Bethany will increase because they know where we are headed and want to go there, too.  With some exceptions (i.e., favourite speakers, and testimony nights) the Sunday evening service has not been well attended and some specific changes will be studied to improve attendance.
6. The nurture and integration of the next generation will require exploitation of new opportunities for service for these younger believers.  There will be an increased presence of younger believers in public meetings, leading singing, giving announcements, reading the Scriptures, and leading in prayer.  The early successes we noticed in this regard have diminished somewhat.  The elders will look for ways to encourage the participation by younger believers.
7. The composition of the Bethany family will change in at least two ways:
a) Positively, new believers and spouses of our Christian young people will join us.  Negatively, some young people currently in our fellowship will move away for education, employment, or marriage.
b) Inevitably, we will lose some older saints in the fellowship as they become less able to meet with us and as the Lord calls them home.
8. A strong sense of unity based on commonly held beliefs, values and vision will develop.  While some small groups still exist they are mainly organized and attended by like-minded individuals and not part of the programme of Bethany Gospel Chapel.  We would like to encourage much more involvement in small groups.
9. Bethany will be characterized by acceptance of diversity within the body of Christ as evidenced in personal and social differences, and a variety of spiritual interests and points of view.
10. The elders see a need for discipleship and building up the flock.  We will try to develop new opportunities for mentoring and discipleship.
11. We are committed to encouraging broader participation at the Lord’s Supper.

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Things that may change


1. The corporate prayer life of the assembly.  We will be vigilant to observe and eager to implement any practical ways of increasing the prayer offered through, for and by believers in fellowship at Bethany.  Although the monthly corporate prayer sessions at the Family Bible Hour have continued, we have lost ground in this area.  This is partially due to the lack of success in maintaining small groups.
2. Recognition of a variety of spiritual gifts, natural abilities, and acquired skills may allow for their greater use in glorifying God and encouraging others in both formal and informal contexts; for example, incorporating drama and music into services like the FBH, displaying Christian art work in the church building, encouraging creative writing of Christian literature, encouraging the writing and performing of Christian music and Christian dramas.  This has become a new strength at Bethany.  The two Arts Weekends have been very successful.  There could be more progress, especially in the emphasis of using spiritual gifts.  We have a strong desire to see everyone recognizing and using their spiritual gifts.  People are often reticent to recognize (and hence deploy) their own spiritual gifts.  One suggestion is to identify certain individuals and specifically encourage them regarding the use of their gifts, thus enhancing involvement and contributions.
3. As we increase the emphasis on missions—local,  domestic, and foreign—we may build more time into our services to highlight missions, missionaries, and para-church organizations; for example, a mission or missionary of the month focus. We may encourage or organize short term mission trips.  We wish to encourage the development of mission-interest at Bethany.  The possibility of organizing short-term missions for all interested parties (from leadership to youth) is being studied.
4. A more aggressive program of evangelism using a wider range of methods needs to be put into action in an effort to reach unbelievers with the gospel.  Just when this can happen depends on interest and resources. We believe that the primary focus for evangelism is NOT from the platform but rather it should be based in relationships.
5. As new believers join us a more formal approach to discipleship will need to be implemented to ensure their full integration into the life of the assembly.  Again this will depend on interest and resources.  There is strong interest in increasing the involvement of people in mentoring and discipleship.
6. With the Scriptures as our guide for matters of Christian practice, the public participation of women in the assembly may come to reflect a broader understanding of the priesthood of all believers as we reexamine of the role of women in worship and ministry.  This is perhaps the most difficult issue to implement in a way that will maintain harmony and unity.  There are several ways to involve women in more ‘hands-on’ activities (i.e., counting offerings; serving the emblems).  It is important that those people who hold differing views on this (and any other issue) try to understand the reasons for holding opposite views.  To this end we encourage open and frank discussion.  The first rule of communication is “to listen to understand”.
7. The decor of the building was adjusted to reflect a more celebratory attitude in worship.  Recent dramatic presentations and the on-going use of the expanded platform for the Praise Team and Downpour Band show the added flexibility.  There still needs to be training on the proper use of the new PA system (which presents challenges from time to time).  
8. Adjustments to the current programs at Bethany may be necessary to achieve the goals we have in mind for the assembly.  These may include changes in meeting times in some cases.  While this has not been the case so far, certainly a Congolese church meeting on Sunday afternoons would have an impact.
9. The demographic make-up of the assembly could become narrower if a significant number of the Bethany family decides that this vision statement does not sufficiently reflect its point of view. We have not experienced any such problem.  This acceptance of change (if sometimes guarded) is encouraging.  It speaks to the maturity and openness of the believers who meet at Bethany and to the development of the family atmosphere.   It is encouraging to see baptisms of young believers, and to see the “family” atmosphere of Bethany growing.  One is reminded of the concept “it takes a whole town to raise a child.”
 

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               Bethany Gospel Chapel  ~  155 Gage Avenue North   Hamilton, Ontario   L8L 7A3   ~   905-545-0156 ~    bethanychapel@mail.com