Spiritual Emphasis Week Focuses on Kingdom Citizenship
At the beginning of each fall semester, extra time is set aside during one week to focus specifically on spiritual formation. The week, known as spiritual emphasis week, has become a tradition on campus that many students look forward to. Chapel sessions are held in the mornings and evenings Monday through Thursday, with classes cancelled so students may attend.
“It’s about arranging our lives – our thoughts, attitudes, behaviors and habits – in order that we may know God and put Him first in everything,” says Shawn Holtgren ’95, Ph.D., vice president for student development.
The week was intended to be a time where all members of the Bethel community could discover more of God’s character and their identity in Him. Many were praying for authentic revival.
“I believe that spiritual emphasis week sets the tone for the school year,” says Holtgren.
This year’s featured speaker was Jonathan Brooks, pastor of Canaan Community Church in Chicago, Ill. Brooks, also known as “Pastor J,” works to provide youth development, holistic health options, college scholarships, music lessons and continual support to families of incarcerated males. Brooks also spoke at a chapel service back in February, during Bethel’s urban ministry week, and his message was well received by students.
Brooks began the week with a gripping message about why we worship. Speaking on the story of the good Samaritan, he shared that we are the man on the side of the road and that Jesus is the good Samaritan who came and showed us mercy.
“You were broken and beaten and bloodied on the side of the road,” said Brooks, “but He picked you up and He carried you to a place of rest.”
Students seemed to connect well with Brooks’ message and preaching style.
“I really like it,” says sophomore Colleen Orban. “It’s actually perfect timing. Everything we’ve been talking about I’ve been thinking about for the past couple of weeks.”
Sophomore Calli McGrath commented, “I think he’s relatable. When he talks, I feel like he’s being real.”
Brooks emphasized the theme of God’s love and challenged members of the Bethel community to reach beyond themselves and pass it on to the surrounding Mishawaka area.
The week continued with a series of engaging messages focusing on the importance of reaching beyond our comfort zone and truly being “kingdom citizens.” He challenged the Bethel community to be willing to follow God even when He might lead us to do something we don’t want to do.
“Will you push against the ‘Christian’ status quo if it doesn’t match with kingdom citizenship?” he asked.
“I found spiritual emphasis week to be very filling this year,” says junior Joseph Rasbaugh. “Pastor J was an amazing speaker and I could have listened to him for another seven chapels!”
Rasbaugh says that he especially enjoyed the Q&A session with Brooks in the Dining Commons.
“Pastor J was speaking a lot of building relationships with people and instead of talking — listening,” he said. “God used him last week to do a lot of good things in a lot of people. I for one know that I was impacted and that God is not done working on this campus.”
The full impact of this year’s spiritual emphasis week will become evident over the coming weeks and months as students, faculty and staff reflect on the week and begin to take steps toward action in their spiritual lives. Students are encouraged each year to take their first steps by entering into intentional, meaningful, “iron sharpening iron” relationships with faculty and staff members through one-on-one mentoring or discipleship groups.
The next chapel series will focus on nine weeks of renewing culture, featuring a new topic each Wednesdsay through Nov. 5. Additionally, Bethel will hold two major chapel series during the spring semester.