Is The Stirring ‘Bethel-Lite?’: Pastor Nate Edwardson Responds

Some call The Stirring “Bethel-lite.” We asked for more information on what connections there might be between the two churches and whether The Stirring shares some of Bethel’s most controversial theology.

11.7.22 9:01 pm: We have updated this story to include Nate Edwardson’s role on the board of Moral Revolution

Redding Council candidate Josh Johnson has, at times, been lumped in with other “Bethel-affiliated” city council candidates this election season. That’s because some call the much smaller church Johnson attends, “Bethel-lite.” On Friday, Shasta Scout spoke with The Stirring’s Lead Pastor, Nate Edwardson, to learn more about what connections the church has with Bethel. We also asked both Edwardson and Johnson about The Stirring’s theological teachings and how they might impact Johnson’s city leadership. This interview has been curated for length and readability. 

What connection does The Stirring have to Bethel Church? 

Edwardson: 

We’re not a sister church to Bethel. We actually have no connection or affiliation with the church other than a friendship that’s similar to our friendships with other pastors and churches across the city. Over the years, we’ve worked to build intentional relationships beyond our denomination with other churches across the city to bring courage and strength. For example, for 10 years, we hosted the Good Friday gathering with a core group of about 20 other churches, including Bethel. The Good Friday services were really all about breaking down divisions between denominations. 

Do you know where the phrase “Bethel-lite” comes from? 

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Edwardson: 

Actually, I’ve never shared this story publicly, but I first heard that phrase when I was sitting in Starbucks about ten years ago. I would just hang out there in the mornings, read my Bible and pray. There were some Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry students talking at the next table and I was eavesdropping a bit and I heard one of them say they had checked out a cool church and the best way they could describe it was “Bethel-lite.” They made jokes about us having half the Holy Spirit and half the parking lot that Bethel Church did. I called Eric Johnson, who used to be the local pastor at Bethel Church and who I’m friends with, and we laughed about it.

Is The Stirring affiliated with any local churches or any denomination? 

Edwardson:

Yes, we’re part of the Christian Missionary Alliance (CMA) and we’re officially connected to the other CMA churches in town, which include Risen King, Gather, and Trinity Alliance. We’re also connected to Simpson University, which is also CMA. 

Are you part of Bethel’s Global Legacy Network, their informal network of national and international churches?

Edwardson: 

No. 

Why do you think you’ve become known as “Bethel-lite”?

Edwardson:

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I think it’s because we have a similar style of worship and we’re also dedicated to the presence of God in worship. We use contemporary worship music and are known as a “spirit-filled church,” which would probably set us apart from a lot of other churches in town. But it’s important that people know that our worship and church atmosphere are very raw and real. It’s all about family and authenticity. I can’t stand the celebrity Christian culture and we don’t do that here. That’s created an elite atmosphere which honors pastors and worship leaders rather than empowering ordinary, everyday people. And it’s never been the heart of Jesus to create a culture of celebrities. Jesus is about bringing strength and wholeness and life to communities.

Do you believe in bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth? And if so what does that mean to you? 

Edwardson:

Jesus’ primary message was about the kingdom of God. For us at The Stirring, that means loving people well by reflecting the heart and character and love of Jesus. The language of the kingdom is not the language of dominance. It doesn’t have anything to do with taking your city for God. It’s about under-power not over-power.  Jesus laid down his life and he is the perfect example of the kingdom of God which is most deeply expressed through mercy, love, and sacrifice. God is passionate not about getting the city into the church, but getting the church out into the city.  At The Stirring, we want to empower people who love Jesus to also love their city, the way Jesus loves their city, as servants.

Do you support Christian Nationalism? 

Edwardson: 

No. To me, Christian Nationalism is all about over-power, it’s about getting the right people in power so we can “take America back for God.” But that’s never been the heart of Jesus. It’s been disappointing recently to see so many churches value something that Jesus never valued. And to see them fight in the name of Jesus, for things Jesus never fought for. God doesn’t love one nation more than another. He loves all nations and all peoples.

Johnson: 

I believe in the separation of church and state and I don’t support Christian Nationalism. I don’t want to legislate Christianity and I don’t want to be elected because I’m a Christian. I want a city where things are be fair and just. As a city council member, you’re voting on public safety and infrastructure, not issues of morality. The way my faith shows up is that it compels me to look at my city differently and become part of the solution, not just complain about the problems.  My grandfather was a pastor and what I learned at home was that my faith should motivate me to get involved in my community. That means being committed to doing the best I can in whatever work I do, not that I should spend my time proselytizing. 

Do you believe in the 7 Mountains Mandate? 

Edwardson: 

The 7 Mountains Mandate theology is confusing and for me doesn’t fit with the narrative of Jesus Christ. The whole point of Jesus’ life was that he came to lay it down for others, to be under-power not over-power. The idea of the mountains is that we have influence from the top down but I believe the most transformative influence actually happens from the inside out by serving people. The goal is not more power, it’s loving people more powerfully. Of course there’s influence that comes through leadership. That’s why it matters who we vote for and who we put into political positions. But that’s different than trying to take things over.

How would you respond to those who worry about how evangelical Christian involvement in the city might affect the gay community? 

Edwardson: 

We have a growing gay community in our church. We want to love that community deeply particularly because they’ve been so rejected by the church. We don’t preach anything from the front that’s going to exclude anyone, whether that’s related to race, gender, or sexuality. I’m convinced that Jesus welcomes everyone the way they are.

Johnson: 

There is no partiality in the Constitution when it comes to equality. That means we must show no partiality in the way the city hires people and in the way it treats its employees and its customers, the people who live and work and visit here. We welcome all. 

Are you connected with the Red, White and Blueprint docu-series?

Nate, your brother, Jeremy Edwardson is the producer of the Red, White and Blueprint a docuseries that’s chronicled the local recall of former Shasta County supervisor Leonard Moty. Does The Stirring support the political work of the Red, White and Blueprint or the local recall?

Edwardson:

Sometimes brothers disagree on things. The Stirring is not connected in any way to the Red, White and Blueprint or the recall.  

Editor’s note: The Stirring lists Moral Revolution as a local partner and Nate Edwardson serves on the organization’s board. Moral Revolution is a ministry dedicated to “healthy sexuality” and associated with Bethel Church’s Kris Vallotton. 

Disclosure: Annelise Pierce is a former member of Bethel Church and a graduate of the first year of BSSM. She left the church eight years ago.

Do you have feedback on how we are covering Bethel or other topics?  Email us, or join the community conversation at Shasta Scout’s Facebook page. Do you have a correction to this story? Submit it here.

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