LANSING, Ill. (August 31, 2023) – When Kyle Beckrich was first asked about the Gospel as a freshman in college, he thought it was just a type of music. Now, he’s now the lead pastor of Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Lansing.
Beckrich started as Bethel’s lead pastor on Memorial Day weekend. The 31-year-old, his wife Jenn, and their three kids now live in Dyer after Beckrich accepted the call. The move to Dyer from southern Indiana was somewhat of a return to home for Beckrich, who was born in Crown Point and grew up in Roselawn.
Conversion and start of ministry
An only child, Beckrich grew up in a family that was not Christian. “I never set foot in a church, or read a Bible, or went to a youth group or anything like that,” he said.
Beckrich was a skilled athlete in high school, and now realizes he was “searching for meaning in life” through sports at the time. After graduating high school, he enrolled at Indiana University in Indianapolis to study pre-law.
“My first day, another student knocked on my door and asked me to play intramural flag football. I was the quarterback at our high school so I was excited,” Beckrich said. “He came over to my dorm that night and asked if I’d ever heard of the Gospel before.”
After Beckrich told Seth, the other student, that he thought “Gospel” was a type of music, Seth shared the Biblical message of Jesus Christ with Beckrich, who didn’t initially buy in. But as Beckrich’s friendship with Seth grew, he began to realize something was different about Seth.
“Eventually he would say that it was because of his relationship with Jesus. I thought that was a little silly at first, but I was curious in what he was saying,” Beckrich said.
Returning home for the holiday break, Beckrich went to a party with high school friends and had too much to drink — a turning point for him.
“For the first time in my life, I remember thinking, ‘Maybe Seth is onto something. Maybe there really is something more to life than what I’m doing,'” he said.
Beckrich returned to college with this request of Seth: “If what Jesus said is true, show me.”
By the end of his freshman year, Beckrich was a Christian. By the end of his time in college, he was an established member of the same Christian organization that had helped guide him in his conversion, Campus Outreach. He spent much of his time being the same type of resource Seth was for him — and helped many students become Christians in the process.
As he transitioned to post-college life, he was offered a job with Campus Outreach and moved to work on the campus of Southern Indiana University in Evansville, Indiana, where he and his wife married and started a family. The pair has a 6-year-old, a 4-year-old, and an 8-month-old.
During his eight years working in Evansville, Beckrich also earned a Master of Divinity degree at Covenant Theological Seminary.
Coming to Bethel Church in Lansing
Eventually ready to move away from a college-oriented lifestyle, Beckrich applied for a number of ministry positions in the area, including for Bethel’s lead pastor position.
Bethel’s previous pastor Shaun Buikema resigned in the summer of 2022.
“I applied to Bethel with no intention of taking the job. But I wanted some interview practice, and at the end of the day I was like, ‘Who knows?'” Beckrich said.
After and interview and meeting the congregation, both Beckrich and his wife felt a calling to accept the position.
“Coming back from preaching and interacting with the congregation in the Q&A, my wife was like, ‘We’re coming here, aren’t we?’ and I said, ‘I think we are,'” he said.
The church is not a gated community
A primary function of a pastor is to preach a weekly sermon, and Beckrich is looking forward to that regular rhythm. But what excites him most is not the pulpit.
“What brings me joy in this job is not preaching on Sunday. I love it, but it doesn’t bring me the same joy as interacting with people who are cold or bitter toward God, but are willing to ask questions about their meaning or purpose in life. People who are sick, and need someone to come and visit them when no one else will. Partnering with different schools and ministries that are trying to provide some kind of service in an under-privileged community,” Beckrich said. “At the end of the day the church is not supposed to be a gated community. It’s not a fortress.”
Serving as a lead pastor for the first time, Beckrich is aware of what he doesn’t know, and he’s already been confronted with his own limitations.
“We had someone get diagnosed with leukemia,” he said. “Seminary doesn’t prepare you for how to make that hospital visit. You have no idea. What do you say?”
This self-awareness has led to a humility for Beckrich, and he prefers that people call him “Kyle” rather than “Pastor Kyle.”
“There’s a reverence for that title … but I really view myself as one of the people,” he said.
In only a few months on the job, he’s excited by Bethel Church’s ongoing ministries, and hopes to continue growing them. Those ministries include programs for youth, small groups, Bible studies, and others, including a ministry for women called Thrive. Thrive is a mentorship program that invites speakers from outside of the church to come and speak. The meetings are open to the public and occur on Monday nights.
Christ in community
Beckrich is excited for the ministries that are taking place beyond the walls of Bethel as well.
“We should have a general presence in the community for the community’s good and betterment,” Beckrich said. “It doesn’t mean we ‘Christianize’ the community, but as Christians we take our faith with us.”
He wants Bethel Church — and the people that attend there — to be known in the community for love, compassion, and Christlike-ness.
“When people think about someone from Bethel, they should think, ‘I might not agree with them about what they believe, but man do they love us,'” Beckrich said.
He quoted Philippians 2 as an aspiration for Bethel: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
“If we can be a church that exemplifies [those verese] in this area, then I think we’re fulfilling our purpose out to the world,” Beckrich said.
As an invitation to the wider community, Beckrich said, “I want people to know that wherever they’re at in their view of God, whether they think he exists, whether they think he’s good or not … those people who are skeptical are welcome here. People who haven’t stepped foot in the the church in 20, 30, 40 years who have problems with their marriages, who have addictions, who think if they set foot in a church they’ll be cast out — this is where they’re welcome.”
Bethel Christian Reformed Church is located at 3500 Glenwood Lansing Road in Lansing.