In my first appointment in Statesboro, Ga., I was blessed to develop friendships with pastors across denominational lines. One of those pastors – from a Baptist church in the county just west of ours – invited me to preach for a five-night revival.
The Holy Spirit was really present that week as 10 persons came to Christ by profession of faith. I was excited and feeling great, so on the last night of the revival I repeated a phrase I had heard an older, more seasoned pastor use on the final night of a previous revival: “Well, it’s time to take the tent down.”
After my sermon, the pastor of the Baptist church got up to say a few words. He turned and looked at me and said, “I know Rev. Swanson said it’s time to take the tent down because this is the last night of revival. I hate to contradict him, but I believe we would do well to leave the tent up. Revival doesn’t really end with the final night of the preaching service. If it is real, the revival will continue on long after Rev. Swanson’s sermons.”
Well, Annual Conference 2008 ended officially on Wednesday, June 11, but it is my hope that we will not “take the tent down.” My hope is that we will return home fired up and charged by the Holy Spirit to turn our communities upside down as we “Offer Christ” to people in our communities who need the Lord.
I say to Holston just as the Baptist pastor said to me: It’s not time to take the tent down. We must take the momentum that the Holy Spirit has breathed into us and Offer Christ to new people, diverse people, and young people. We must Offer Christ to the “sandwich generation,” older adults, prisoners, homeless people, immigrants, tattooed kids, single moms, and to the people in our pews who have lost their zeal – until this world is transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The ministry we are called to must be undergirded by a sense of urgency. We can no longer afford to procrastinate, pontificate, and posture. We must not take down the tent, but keep it up so that all may know the love of the Lord.
We must not take down the tent, but act so that broken hearts can be mended.
We must not take down the tent, but act so that the hungry may be fed.
We must not take down the tent, but act so the lonely might find comfort.
We must not take down the tent. but invite others to this grand plan of salvation that God has for this world. We must not take down the tent, but we must Offer Them Christ!