Come Out of The Tent!

James Warren - Lead Pastor | Real Life Ministries Conroe, Conroe, TX

“You!” The shift in tone cracked through the dusty lecture hall, abruptly interrupting the monotonous drone of the lesson. All eyes turned away from their studious notes or distracted doodles to focus on the weathered professor. “Hey, you!” the professor repeated, capturing the attention of every freshman in my Intro to Old Testament class. We all began scanning the room, trying to match Professor Harju’s gaze. And I thought he was looking at me. It made sense. I was the one lost in my doodles. “You, all the way back there in your little tent,” I looked at the girl sitting right next to me, her head down and face concealed by the hood of her jacket. No one else in the class had their head covered. He was talking to her! I glanced at her notes; they were meticulous. She seemed like a diligent student. What had she done wrong? “You, young lady, are an isolationist!” Harju enunciated each syllable as if they were separate blades meant to pierce her spirit. “Why don’t you come out of that little tent and join the class?” The bewildered girl slowly pushed back her hoodie, and the lecture seamlessly resumed as if it had never been interrupted. As it turned out, the professor was right. She was an isolationist. She had come to Bible college with the intention of becoming a single missionary to Africa, independent and distanced from anyone she had ever known. She married me instead.

Jesus showed the value of periodic solitude during His time on earth. In Luke 5:16, we learn that He would purposefully withdraw to desolate places to engage in prayer. He intentionally stepped away from the bustling crowds after ministering to them (Matthew 14:23), took a boat out alone to mourn the loss of a dear friend (Matthew 14:13), and my favorite, withdrew from His friends to nap (Matthew 8:24). Like my wife, I am inclined towards isolation. The idea of withdrawing to a remote location, immersed in the study of God and His infinite mysteries, sounds like paradise! However, such a life is not God’s plan for me. Undoubtedly, spending time alone with God is invaluable, but our mission lies in spending time with others!

For years, I believed I was on the right path. I fully embraced vocational ministry, diligently teaching, preaching, praying, and studying, just as I witnessed the pastors around me doing. However, I distanced myself from people, particularly in forming meaningful relationships. People meant problems, and relationships meant responsibilities. I convinced myself that if God had called an introverted isolationist like me to full-time ministry, then He knew what came with that package. So, I continued my ministry journey, taking copious notes and striving to be a diligent student of Christ.

But one day, a sudden shift in the tone of my relationship with God halted my droning work: “You! You down there, in your safe little ministry tent! You are an isolationist!” God’s words struck me like a whip, exposing a profound truth. Yes, He had called me to ministry, but I had neglected the mission that Jesus had commanded me to fulfill: to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). Making disciples requires meaningful relationships, not isolated ministerial routines. Yes, Jesus exemplified moments of solitude, but He used them strategically for rejuvenation and connection with the Father, so that He could continue investing time in others, loving them in discipling relationships. Maybe I was a good student, but I was all rejuvenation and no relationships! In reality, I had been so focused on doing ministry, I had failed to join the mission.

“Why don’t you step out of that little tent and embrace the real work of the Kingdom?”

I made three simple shifts in answer to God’s revelation, and Jesus exemplified each of them: People over projects, ministry built on mission, and servanthood over solitude.

  1. I must put people before my ministry goals. While I have responsibilities and a long list of tasks to complete each day, I must be interruptible. Those tasks will still be there tomorrow, but the chance to embody Christ’s mission by spending time with someone may pass me by. Call it an inconvenient compassion, but Jesus modeled this in Luke 9:10-17 when He prioritized those in need over secluding Himself with His disciples to debrief after a day of ministry.


  2. My ministry must be founded on the mission of discipleship. This truth has been liberating for my daily work, leading me to abandon practices that do not contribute to making disciples. After all, why would I water the rose bushes while the crops are withering? Prior to His death and resurrection, Jesus declared to His Father that He had already accomplished the work, or mission, He was sent to do (John 17:4). That mission was spending time discipling others. His entire ministry revolved it.

  3. I must prioritize servanthood over solitude. In the past, I used my personality as an excuse to isolate myself. “God made me this way!” I would tell myself. However, I now understand that Jesus can and has transformed me to reflect His character. I am not who I used to be. While I still cherish my alone time with God, I now utilize it to strengthen and enhance my interactions with others, just as Jesus modeled.

By making these intentional shifts, I have aligned my life and ministry more closely with the example Jesus set, and now experience greater fulfillment in carrying out His mission. So, I have a question for you: Are you ready to come out of your tent and join the mission of Christ? 

Go and make disciples!

 

by
James Warren
Lead Pastor
Real Life Ministries Conroe
Conroe, TX