bethel bible series leadership training


The Bethel Series is a vehicle designed to aid church members in gaining a deeper understanding of the biblical message.

Its primary objective is to help the student secure a knowledgeable overview of the Scriptures to serve as a base or a springboard for further in-depth biblical studies.

The Bethel Series simply attempts to acquaint the student with a basic understanding of both the Old and New Testament narratives. It seeks to present these motifs in the clearest, most systematic manner possible giving the student the ability to see the interrelationship of events and ideas within the Scriptures. The goal is to have the student recognize how each part relates to the whole and how the whole relates to each part.

Along with its attempt to provide an overview of the biblical message, the Bethel Series seeks to give the student an appreciation for interpretive principles, which must be honored if the Bible is to convey a relevant message.


  • It is designed to familiarize the student with the various literary media that the biblical writers used to convey their message, lest the student by an insistence upon literalism force the Bible to say things that it does not say.


  • It gives substantial attention to defining the radical difference between Hebrew-thought form and Western-thought form, lest the student impose Greek questions upon the Bible and then expect answers from the Scriptures which it is not designed to give.


  • It accents the necessity of seeing the various parts of the biblical message in their direct relationship to the historical context in which that message was given.


  • It seeks to let Scripture interpret Scripture in those segments where there seems, at first sight, to be a conflict in concept; and it demands that the part never be interpreted in isolation but always in relationship to the whole of God's revelation in history.


To gain its primary objective of a deeper understanding of the biblical message, the course demands academic disciplines on the part of its participants.  Little is promised to those who put nothing into the course.  Learning is more than listening. It is involvement in the material at hand. When students apply themselves to a disciplined study of the Bible, both inside and outside the classroom, there is discovery; there is enlightenment; and there are changed lives.

The Bethel Series makes use of 40 pictures that are used as visual aids to facilitate the retention of the material.  Be it known that these visual aids are not “art pieces” but the pictures created specifically for this study program.  They represent a body of knowledge, including historical events and biblical themes, and the pictures carry specific meanings that have been imposed upon them.  These visual aids are of immense value in the teaching and the retaining of biblical material.  Years after participating in the Bethel Series, students can look at one of the pictures and recall facts and concepts that would otherwise likely be forgotten.


A Brief History of the Bethel Series

To fully appreciate and understand the Bethel Series, we invite you to meet the author, Harley Swiggum.

Harley was born in a sleepy little town in Wisconsin on the outskirts of Mt. Horeb, a quaint Norwegian settlement. In his early childhood, his family experienced the crushing blows of the depression. During those years, he discovered what it means to belong to a caring community and recalls his family receiving baskets of food placed anonymously on their doorstep.

During his teen years, he saw no relevance within the church; and he walked away from his childhood faith.

Toward the end of World War II, Harley joined the Navy and found himself on the island of Saipan. Out of sheer boredom, he began reading the only material available—the New Testament, which each of them had received from the Gideon Society. He read and reread that small pocket Testament; and through this total immersion, he recognized that his teenage rebellion was not against the Christ of the Scriptures, but was against the distortions of the Scriptures. He began to see that the root cause of the distortions was biblical illiteracy, and he recognized the need within the church for a better understanding of the Scriptures. He believed that people's lives could drastically change, once they were confronted with the true living Christ, and the impact of a biblically literate laity would most certainly be felt within the church.

Following the war, Harley had a period of wandering, and the experiences during those years also made a mark in his life. He lived with the homeless and ate in the soup kitchens of the Salvation Army. Harley would never say it this way; but those of us who know him can see that God had a plan for him and each of these experiences played a role in the unfolding of his future mission.

Harley enrolled in a Christian college, completed his degree in three years, and then entered the seminary. Following his seminary training, the door opened for him to develop an adult Christian education program for a large church in Madison, Wisconsin. With a lot of support from the senior pastor, Harley worked on a plan that would give the laity of the church an excellent biblical education. His idea was to train a carefully selected cadre in the parish, using a disciplined, high commitment arrangement, and then utilize the gifts of these trainees to teach the rest of the congregation.

The experiment began with the choice of 28 trainees to begin the intensive course. It worked! At the end of the two years, all 28 had stayed with the disciplines and were highly motivated to make a difference in their church. They were responsible for enrolling 500 People in biblical studies and actually had another 300 on the waiting list.

After the remarkable success at Bethel Lutheran Church, the Adult Christian Education Foundation was established and the Bethel Series was born. With its birth, a basic description was formulated:

The textbook is the Bible. The approach is an overview giving the biblical student the big picture that ties Old Testament concepts to New Testament themes. The students are taught that in order to understand the biblical narrative, they must understand how the writers of the Bible thought and how they expressed themselves. The phrase "think like a Hebrew" is an important concept during the training sessions. After completing the course, the students see each part of the Scripture in relationship to the whole and they are aware that they must pay attention to the historical context to know what the particular scriptural passage means.

The Bethel Series has impacted the lives of countless numbers of Christians around the world. It has been translated into several languages, the most recent being Spanish and Chinese, and has been taught in several countries, including China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Russia, Germany, Hungary and Canada. Over 12,000 congregations worldwide have been impacted by the Bethel Series and over 1,000,000 lay people have participated at the congregational level.

At Christ the King we are using the Bethel Bible Series as a form of leadership training for both existing and potential leaders in the life and mission of Christ the King.