Joshua Swanson: Welcome to The Walk, a devotionals podcast for worshipers.
On today’s episode, we hear from artist, songwriter, and pastor Michael Bethany of Gateway Worship about navigating the uncharted waters of transition. Here we go.
Michael Bethany: Well, thank you, Josh, for allowing me to be a part of this amazing opportunity to share my story. Um, as you guys heard, my name is Michael Bethany. Um, I’m a worship leader, recording artist, uh, I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, grateful believer in Jesus Christ, and I’m so excited about that because as I’ve navigated life, I’ve found that the thing that matters the most is that one thing.
Um, so many things have changed, I’ve had things to, that I’ve celebrated, and then I’ve had things I’ve had to grieve, but the relationship with Jesus has become sweeter and sweeter every single day of my life, so, uh, that’s the foundation of my story. But if you wouldn’t mind, I’m just going to jump right in because I think that there might be something that I’m going to share that’s going to really connect with someone.
And so the theme of just kind of what I want to talk about for my life is really transitions and how I’ve met God in all these transitions. I think sometimes transitions can just throw us off. I mean, I know I’ve been thrown off because typically there’s no warning before the transition happens, and as soon as it happens, I’ve always thought initially something is really wrong.
Um, in the first major transition for me, uh, when I was two years old, my mother passed away. And I wasn’t even aware of what was going on, um, before I even got started understanding destiny and purpose and my gifts and all those things, I lose my mother. Then my father remarries and we move on to life. My father’s a pastor and I grow up and I just want to be like him.
I always thought as a kid, I’m going to pass to this church one day, like I thought, and my father would tell me, and I wasn’t the oldest, but my father and I had this connection. I look just like him. A lot of my characteristics and mannerisms are just like his. I look at my hands. I feel like I’m looking at my dad’s hands, even right now.
And I grew up under that man’s leadership. I remember even receiving Jesus. I’m sitting next to my mother and my father’s preaching and I start to cry and my mother looks at me and I’m like eight or nine years old. And she’s like, what’s wrong with you? And I was like, I don’t know. It’s what my dad is saying right now.
Something that he’s saying is it’s making me cry. And she’s like, go to the altar. And I, I get up out that pew and that little church and I walked down to the altar. I stand there. I’m the only one standing there and my daddy steps out of the platform from behind that big old wooden pulpit, you know, podium. And he comes down and he prays for me. He lays hands on me and I received Jesus.
And that was my hero. And so I grew up and he would tell me, Michael, you’re special. You have something special. You’re going to pass to this church. And I’m like, really? And it’s amazing. So I’m teaching Sunday school. I’m doing all the things.
And then one day my father, he, he passes away. He was sick for quite a while, and I just, I just never imagined that God would let anything bad happen because I had so much hope in what I thought was coming and then everything gets changed. And here I’m headed headfirst into the biggest transition of my life.
And not only did I lose my father at the time, I lost my future because I thought my future was in my father, but my father’s the one that would, that sang and wrote songs. My father preached. He gave me identity. He told me I could do this. My, my, my mother, she was a songwriter and she passed away and he married my new mom and she sang and she preached and all those things were my identity and I thought I’m going to do that right here in St. Louis, Missouri, at this little church. I’m going to reach this community for Jesus. And I will go out into the streets and I would help the homeless and help the guys on the streets. And I’m going to do what my father, my father taught me, and then he was gone, the church was gone, and I was all by myself.
Joshua Swanson: We’re going to take a quick break, and we’ll be right back with more from Michael.
Michael Bethany: When you meet transition, you often feel that transition leaves you isolated. Even though you may be surrounded with people, you don’t feel that people necessarily can relate to you, because what you feel is so deep, and you feel those things all by yourself. And that was the major transition for me. And I went from there and now I’m in a new church and I’ve got a new community.
Am I still a minister? Am I still going to be a pastor? Am I still a leader? And, uh, I emerge again as that guy. And I’m okay, I guess I am this church, new church acknowledges my talents and my, my purpose and my giftings. Now I’m preaching again. I’m singing again. I’m leading again. And then in the middle of all of this is going so well. I’m, I’m even doing great in my career as electrical designer. I’m, I’m doing well. I’m married. And then in the middle of all of that, the Lord tells me, move to Dallas.
I’m like, hold on a second, things are just, I’m just getting my life back on track. I mean, there was so many things that happened during this small window of time. Like I’m married now, I’ve got a house, I’ve got a great job. I’m in Bible college. I’m a real estate investor now. I’ve got two properties. I’m 24 years old. I got two houses. I I’m renovating these homes I’m gonna be rich. Okay, I’m gonna be anointed. I’m gonna be rich I’m gonna be a pastor and I’m gonna do it right in st Louis, Missouri and the Lord disrupts my whole plan in the middle of prayer noon day prayer and he tells me, move to Dallas.
Now, now this is a different kind of transition because I think I get a vote. And so I’m, I’m saying, I’m saying to God, no, I’m not doing that. My wife, maybe the next night or so wakes up and says, I had a dream, Michael, and I’m like, what, what did you dream? She says, I dreamed that we moved to Texas. And I was like, Oh, okay, well, it’s a cool dream.
I’m not going to tell her what the Lord told me cause I don’t want to move to Texas. I’m kind of enjoying my life and I’ve got all my hope in this city. And then one thing after another, after another confirmation, after confirmation, and I know I can no longer deny, go to my pastor, pray for me, pastor, I’m surely, surely you’re not going to send me to Texas because you need me.
And when he and his wife started to pray, he started his prayer like this, “and Lord for the journey, this young man’s about to take,” I’m like, Oh, come on, give me a break. So long story short, we end up in Texas,
We’re in transition. Now, I think transition is going to be one way, but transition has, not only does it sometimes leave you isolated, sometimes it will surprise you because you can make your plans, but you’re in the middle of something that you don’t control. And really in transition, what God is teaching you is, I am the author and the finisher of your faith. I have the first and the final say over your life. I will provide for you. And sometimes I’ll allow things to happen so that I can show you through provision who I really am. So you can trust me beyond your past experiences.
And so now, I’ve planned everything perfectly for this transition. I have all my finances in order. I have a real estate deal on the table. I’m leaving to Texas with some money in the bank, and then the deal goes left. I lose all this money. I have nowhere to live. We’re going to Texas in a small apartment and I’m broke and I’ve got no job. I’m like, that was not a part of the plan.
And here we go again into transition. We get to Texas and I feel like the biggest lesson I learned before I ever gotten to major opportunities in Texas was that God led me and my wife to Texas to get away from the familiar so that we could find him. And really meet him and know him for ourselves and not based on what people said so that we would find our identity in Christ and not our familiar surroundings.
And though I love my family and my small church and all my friends, God loved me better and he knew what was best for me and my wife. And he wanted to plant us in a new city, so the harvest would be something far greater than what we’d ever imagined.
There’s a lot of things that happened after that I can go into this. I mean, I met some amazing people at one of the first. People I met of maybe of great notoriety was this gospel artist named Fred Hammond. I was a Fred Hammond fan, fan. Like if you guys know gospel music, you know, like Fred Hammond was an incredible guy, worship leader. You really, I mean like, of course, legacy music.
And I listened to that music and I met him. He had just moved to Dallas as well. And I get to go to his house. He asked me to sing and I sang for him and the crew. And I was like, Hey, he invited me to be a part of this album. So now I’m in Dallas, Texas singing, recording with one of my heroes and so many things, even after that took place.
Um, then I became a worship pastor for an amazing church in Arlington, Texas. Eventually I met Dr. Tony Evans and I became a worship pastor at his church. And I think as you’re noticing the transitions keep happening, right? From one thing to another, I go from touring and recording with Fred Hammond to then working with Curt Franklin and then working with Marvin Sapp and then working with all these amazing people to being a worship pastor again, and then to, to move it from there and then going to work with Dr. Tony Evans and then. One of the last major transitions that happened right before the pandemic, I moved and connected with Gateway Church and the Lord made this transition happen. I don’t know. I’ll have to write a book about this transition one day, maybe, because that’s just too much to say.
Joshua Swanson: When we come back, Michael expands on how those transitions that he went through broke open new opportunities, which only could have come from the heavenly father.
But first, I wanted to remind all of our listeners about an opportunity to come alive in worship in Israel. Our upcoming tour hosted by Meredith Andrews alongside 3rd Culture Worship and Michael Bahn is for anyone interested in biblical history and worship in the Holy Land. It’s going to be a defining moment in your faith walk, so I really hope you can join us.
Head to worshipthroughisrael. com to learn more. That’s worshipthroughisrael. com space is limited, so reserve your spot now. Also, we have new community groups and one on one coaching opportunities opening up at the worship leader Institute. So if you’re looking to elevate your abilities and learn from those more experienced than yourself, head to worshipleaderinstitute. com.
Okay. Back to Michael Bethany to close us out.
Michael Bethany: The thing I think that resonates with me as I think about all these transitions, of course, I didn’t expect to end up at Gateway Church with Pastor Robert Morris and then a part of that team. And, and even now releasing an album, something that I wanted to do for many years, but God never allowed because there were certain transitions that were necessary for the message to be clear enough for me to give it to you guys through the songs and through this album.
But, but here’s the thing, here’s what comes to mind. There is a verse, and, and this is something that kind of centers me because it gives, it’s humbling when you think about this, this is Genesis 12 verse 1, just one verse, one verse. Uh, now the Lord had said to Abram, get out of your country from your family and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.
Uh, just reading that, and I’m reading a new King’s James version and a new King James version. It seems it’s, it, it reads poetic. It’s, it sounds amazing. It sounds mysterious. It sounds adventurous. But if you see your, if you can see through the eyes of Abram. That is scary because what God leaves out of this poetic, wonderful invitation are all the details that we think we need to navigate life.
And I want to leave this thought with you guys. As God leads us through transitions, first of all, let me say transitions are necessary because we understand the Word teaches that God’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. Sometimes we don’t truly believe that until we experienced some changes that caused us to see him, right, the way he really is in the moment. He’s not changed, but sometimes in certain places, you cannot experience the fullness of who God is because you’re just comfortable with it. You know, I leant, I leaned on my dad. He was my hero. And as much as I loved him and God used him, that was not where God wanted to, to end the story.
And he moved me on. I loved St. Louis, but St. Louis was not the place God wanted to end my story. And then I moved on and I kept, and you know what? There are gonna be more transitions ahead, and God will always leave the details to himself because what’s more important than details is the relationship that we have with him.
What Abram who would become Abraham would eventually learn is you don’t need details in transition. You need a relationship. You need to know the God who’s leading you and trust him. And I learned this trusting God in crazy chaotic transitions leads to incredible experiences of intimacy with God himself.
So it’s changed my perspective as I move into the days ahead. I no longer think that things will remain the same. I know they won’t. I’m sure they won’t. I’m certain they won’t. They can’t. However, I’ve learned to trust God, love God, cling to God, and believe that whatever changes, whatever happens, I’ve got the most critical piece already clear to me, which is the presence of Jesus.
And whatever happens next, I’m still going to have Jesus. In transition, I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost homes, I’ve lost things, but in transitions, I’ve gained more than I lost. I’ve always profited on the other side of it. I’ve learned that the things I lost were really seeds in the ground that God manifest later as harvest because I’ve learned to trust in him and not hold and cling to those things.
I don’t know how this story hits your ears, but for me, I’m encouraged right now just thinking about my own story. And speaking to you, you might be going through a transition right now. So I want to speak to the, to, to the young lady right now, you’re going through a transition right now. Um, I just believe that the things that you have in your heart is just precious as those visions and dreams might be, god has a better one for you. I dreamt to be the pastor of True Hope Tabernacle Church of God in Christ in the inner city of St. Louis, Missouri, and that never happened. But now I get to go around the world ministering to people that my father would never have imagined that he would have been a part of preparing me for.
See, I never thought I would leave St. Louis. I thought it would have been great to go to Chicago, but God sent me to South Africa and Sri Lanka and Japan and Brazil and places all over the world with a new message of unity for the body of Christ. Unity for God’s people. Things I never imagined possible became possible because of the transitions that God has led me through.
And so as I’m praying right now, I know that sometimes the answer to a prayer is probably, probably transition. Probably another transition and so I’m glad you guys were patient enough to hear this story. I hope it’s a blessing to you. And I want to pray for you guys that whatever transitions you’re facing, that you will face those transitions with faith, cling to the God you love and you know, knowing that things might change, God never will. And he’s with you.
God, I pray for my friends. I thank you for covering them, protecting them, leading them. I thank you for the hope that you’re revealing to them in this moment. And though it may seem isolating today, let them understand that you are with them right now. You are Emmanuel God with us. You will never leave or forsake us. And you’re leading us to a place And we’ve never imagined, but it’s better than what we could have ever hoped for ourselves. And we’re living not in our own dreams, but we’re living in the dreams of our father. We’re living in the dreams of the savior, the dreams you have for us, your purpose and your plan.
So we’ll pray like he taught us to pray. Let your kingdom come and you will be done, in Jesus name, Amen.
Joshua Swanson: Thank you Michael so much for sharing your journey with us. We’re going to play out this episode with a new song Michael released on his latest album called Ask Me Why. As always, special thanks to Matt McCartie for producing and editing today’s episode. Jacob Fairclough produced our theme song. The Walk is brought to you by Worship Leader.
I also want to thank the team at Life Audio for their partnership. If you go to lifeaudio. com, you’ll find a collection of faith centered podcasts about health and wellness, parenting, current cultural events, Bible teachings, and more. So check them out at LifeAudio. com I’m Joshua Swanson. Here’s Ask Me Why.