“Enlarge Your House” – Inspiration for Faith and Optimism
Isaiah 54 verses 2 to 4 are inspiring. “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch the tent curtains wide, lengthen the chords and strengthen the stakes. … do not be afraid.”
Contrary to what circumstances suggest, now could be the right time for optimism. This was the case surrounding the prophesy to Isaiah. It may well be the time to strengthen the church congregations and re-assert the church buildings as places of stability and support.
In these uncertain times, you could be forgiven for thinking that it is simply not the right time to commit to a church building project. Interestingly, through zoom and social media, churches have found new ways of reaching out, and many have grown in virtual attendance numbers. It just shows that people still need God and are finding the support of a church community really valuable. The church’s message of the comfort and the love of God means so much at this time. One can wholeheartedly applaud the way churches have embraced the need for a media driven message, broadcast on the TV or device, right into people’s homes. The question is what will happen after the Covid epidemic is over for good. It is very likely that people are going to want to come to church. The lockdowns have proved how vitally important it is for us to have human contact. We are desperate to meet together.
Meeting and worshipping together has risen to be a top priority, and that is why it is the perfect time to evaluate what it is going to take to strengthen the importance of our church buildings to our expanded congregations. The message of the Gospel is still the most compelling ever, but the receptivity to it is more acute than before.
This pandemic will come to an end, sometime. Should we begin to pray about the possible application of Isaiah 54 vs 2 to 4. What could it mean?
1. Go Big?
The NIV bible says, “enlarge the place of your tent.” That could mean different things – to get a bigger tent or to procure more land on which to put the tent. Some people interpret it as pure metaphor, in which case it would suggest that we should permit ourselves to grow and expand in knowledge or spirituality in some way. The prophecy would certainly suggest that we need to have an expansive mindset.
The New Living Translation tells us to “enlarge your house,” instead of your tent. This is presumably because at that time the people in question lived in tents, so their tents were their houses. We are not suggesting that you invest in a larger tent to take with you on family camping trips to Pembrokeshire, but we are saying that as Christians, our churches are houses of praise and worship, and for our vision to expand, our churches should be ready hold bigger numbers. The Amplified Bible even stipulates that the reason we should be enlarging the site of our tents is to “make room for more children.” We want more children to come to God through the church, so we ought to be ready for them when they do.
The next part of this verse in the NIV reads, “stretch your tent curtains wide.” The New Living Translation has a different interpretation of the original. It says to “build an addition.” That could not mean just an extension for no purpose. In today’s world it would certainly mean new Christians. New Christians involves new families. Could they be accommodated in your current kid’s club or Sunday school? And what about those with specialist needs, are you able to cater for them if they come?
It is tempting to think that we can cross that bridge when we come to it; wait until you have the problem before you solve it. Is this what God told Isiah? As followers of Jesus, it is our job work in faith, and to cater for the needy, the poor and the outcasts. Churches should be making space. We cannot be inclusive and welcoming if there is not space for those who we welcome.
The 1989 film Field of Dreams had it right in this sense when they said, “If you build it, they will come.” It is JBKS’s experience that once a church is extended or reordered there is a 20% or 30% growth in congregation numbers. Perhaps that is why Jesus often chose to preach outside, because buildings did not restrict numbers. God used John Wesley to bring thousands and thousands to faith. He used the fact that the Church of England at the time barred him from using their churches, and this led him into the outdoors to preach to multitudes.
The last part of this verse in the NIV encourages us to “strengthen the stakes.” Any avid camper will tell you how important the tent-pegs are to the effectiveness of the tent in keeping out the elements and withstanding the storms. This could of course mean that we should ensure that the structures of our buildings are stable and well maintained. As Architects we understand this, and it is one of the parts of our work. But here, the structures may mean the structures of leadership and organisation, and the underlying foundations of prayer and connection to God. There is nothing so compelling as the presence of God, and nothing so important as allowing God to move in His amazing ways. Yet this where there will be a battleground of Satan’s attacks in various ways. This is where the strong foundations of prayer need to underpin an expanded ministry. Without strengthening the stakes of assurance and certainty, of integrity and forgiveness, of truth and the absolute adherence to the word of God, and reliance upon it, no church, people or building, will withstand the storms. As 1 Peter 5:8 tells us, “The enemy is like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
At JBKS Architects it is our passion and purpose to work with churches to think about their future, and “enlarge their tents”, and to make them more fit to be places of Christian stability and support for their congregations and their communities. We have experience of rooting requirements in reality, of thinking big enough, but not for vain self-glory. For examples of our recent work in Oxfordshire and the surrounding areas, click here. If you wish to enquire about work for your church building, then get in touch with us here.