Do I Strengthen or Do I Lengthen?

Back in 2004, we were in the process of deciding whether or not to buy property and build a larger facility as a church.  During that season, my father-in-law, David Spencer, called me with a ‘word’ from the Lord.  It was Isaiah 54:2-3 which says:

“Enlarge the place of your tent,stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.  For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendantswill dispossess nationsand settle in their desolate cities.”

This was a tremendous encouragement at the time andhas become a theme for me in prayer as we pursue growth as a church and as we extend our reach through church planting.  We have seen God fulfill this ‘word’ to us in that we have spread out and our descendents have gone out to plant churches in spiritually ‘desolate’ towns and cities.

 

Embedded in this prophetic challenge is a strategic balance in terms of our focus and energy.  There are three command given in these verses.  1) Enlarge; 2) Lengthen; 3) Strengthen.  Let me concentrate on the last two.

#1 – LENGTHEN

There are times in ministry where the focus goes toward lengthening the reach of what we do.  When they lengthened the stake of a tent, they were trying to make the territory that was covered by the structure bigger.  They were taking over more ground.  They were working to make the tent they were erecting reach its maximum potential in terms of size and capacity.

  • Every time we plant a new church we lengthen our stakes.
  • When we hold Invitation Months that are designed to reach new people for Christ, we are lengthening.
  • When we send missions teams or raise money for projects we are lengthening.
  • When we do outreach or sacrificially give time or energy into Kingdom initiatives, we are stretching out toward more.

#2 – STRENGTHEN

At the same time, if the stakes of the tent are not driven into the ground firmly, the tent will give way and the entire structure will collapse.  Strengthening involves making sure that the core of who you are is stable.  It involves preparedness and readiness for the unexpected storms of life.  It’s making the foundation of who you are strong.

  • When we budget conservatively and plan well, we strengthen our stakes.
  • When we invest in relationships and built team, we strengthen.
  • When we take seasons to pray and fast, we make our ministry more stable and secure.
  • Leading people into seasons of reflection, solitude, and sabbath makes us strong.
  • Working to resolve conflict, give and receive forgiveness – makes us strong.
  • Spending time just loving and enjoying the people of the church I pastor makes us strong.

I am in one of those ‘strengthening’ seasons right now.  Last year, we were in a lengthening time.  We launched the initiative to plant 100 churches in 10 years.  We have been aggressively reaching out.  We planted a new APC Campus.  A few weeks ago, one of my pastoral team members died in a swimming accident.  My congregation was in shock and is still grieving the loss.

We are not going to stop planting new churches, but our focus is not on strengthening the Parent Church and making sure that our stakes are stable and strong.

Which season are you in right now?