Just How Big is That Tent?

Headed south to St. Louis this week.

I’m not a camper.  I like mattresses and air conditioning. The idea of sleeping in a tent and hearing the running of a river sounds nice in theory but it also means bugs and silently pondering how badly I need the outhouse in the middle of the night.

Camping can be messy and uncomfortable. I was at Wild Goose in 2014 (aka The Mud Year) and profusely thanked God all week that HH and I had the sense to be staying in a cabin with a shower.  And a TV. And a little fridge.

I don’t care how big the tent is. It’s still a tent.

“A Big Tent” in politics means that a political party – for example – includes people with different viewpoints on assorted issues while agreeing on The Big Things. One voter’s big issue however might be another voter’s minor issue and especially these days, our Big Tent issue is that we don’t want the other candidate to win.

The Big Tent in my denomination is the national event that happens in between General Assembly years. Next year, the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA will be meeting in St. Louis and so this week The Big Tent also meets in St. Louis for a preview of what’s coming, plus enough workshops, plenaries, and meet-ups to fill a church nerd with unspeakable joy.

Most people in the world do not know or care that the Presbyterians are meeting for The Big Tent this week. That’s okay. What’s important is not that a denominational meeting is happening in St. Louis.

What’s important is whether or not what happens in/under/around that Tent makes an impact that changes lives for good in the name of Jesus Christ.  

Here’s the thing about being The Church in the 21st Century:

  • It’s messy and uncomfortable.  (But that’s okay because so is resurrection.)
  • It includes people we probably do not agree with or look like. (This makes sense because we are an increasingly diverse culture whether we like it or not.)
  • It might actually do ministry in a tent. (Growing congregations are out in the community handing out bottles of water at local Farmer’s Markets or offering neighborhood dinners.)

If we love Jesus, we might even be willing to spend time in a tent with people we wouldn’t otherwise know – and get to know them. This is how the world is changed.

As you read this, I’m headed to St. Louis and I expect this trip to be life-changing. May your lives be changed in similar ways this summer too.


[Note:  Check out what we hope will change many, many lives for good – the PCUSA Hands and Feet Initiative.]

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