A passage of scripture from the Jewish Canon that I have longed remembered for its wisdom is Isaiah 54:2. To Jewish exiles easily depressed by the social, economic, political and spiritual realities they faced in their time, an unknown writer counsels: enlarge your tents….but strengthen your stakes.
I’m not much of a camper, but I know enough about tents to recognize that if you are going to make a bigger tent, one also has to lengthen the ropes and better se-cure the stakes, else an unstable tent is likely to come crashing down. This image serves as a parable for us as well as ancient Jewish folks.
The growth of our church, in terms of attendance, number of visitors, and new members has greatly expanded our tent here at ChOTF. That’s Good! Jesus people are primarily in the business of enlarging tents so that everyone is included. However, if we do not correspondently provide strong connections to support the growth….well, the new growth will not sustain itself. So how do we heed the advice of Isaiah and keep the balance right?
First, as individuals, we can deepen our stakes by a regular and disciplined course of study, meditation, prayer, worship, and service. Numerical growth without spiritual growth and maturity will burn out.
Second, the best way to put down some roots around here is to get involved with a small group ministry. Hint to newcomers: don’t wait for an invitation to join a group, contact the leader and ask when they meet. Phone numbers and emails for leaders are in the bulletin and newsletter. I also encourage small group chairs to regularly promote your ministry. Put out tables and up posters on any Sunday, in the courtyard or FH.
Third, the very idea of enlarging tents, either in an exile, or in today’s challenging times is an act of faith. When people in power promote in-tolerance, exclusivism and outright greed, we are called to be faithful to the progressive gospel of Jesus. That includes speaking truth to power. The soul of our nation is at stake. And what does it matter to gain all the wealth in the world if we loose our soul? So strengthen those stakes.