“BEMA” (or bimah) 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. At that time, 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 — it was centered around the Word of God.
The BEMA Discipleship program is an attempt to recapture a few of those elements 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 could dream of knowing ours. This wouldn’t be nearly as 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 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.
BEMA Discipleship 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. The podcast is a deconstructive study of the Scriptures. Throughout the history of the program, we have encouraged attempts to experiment with intentional community. We emulate the “come, follow me” approach to making disciples we see Jesus use in the Text, and we teach others to do the same. Finally, we offer an opportunity to experience these things firsthand through study tours 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.
Structure of the Podcast
The BEMA Podcast consists of six sessions:
- BEMA Session 1: Torah (Episodes -1–32)
- BEMA Session 2: Prophets & Writings (Episodes 33–72)
- BEMA Session 3: Gospels (Episodes 73–133)
- BEMA Session 4: Early Church (Episodes 134–190)
- BEMA Session 5: Church History (Episodes 191–204)
- BEMA Session 6: Postscripts (Episodes 205+)
Visit our Episodes page to find every episode we’ve released so far, which are organized by session/season. We strongly encourage you to start from the beginning and work through all of the episodes. Each episode is built on material we’ve covered earlier in the series. While it may be tempting to skip from Session 1 to Session 3, for example, Jesus quotes and references the Prophets and Writings frequently; having a framework for what is happening within those books will enhance your time working through the Gospels.
To easily listen to the episodes on your mobile device, download one of our recommended apps. You can find links on the Subscribe page.
Origins of Ministry
BEMA Discipleship is a ministry of Impact Campus Ministries. Marty began developing the BEMA material when he was a campus minister and wanted to walk students through the process of discipleship in a manner closer to the way Jesus and other Jewish teachers would have used in the first century.