At the beginning of the year I set a goal to read through the whole Bible, and like many Christians, I still face some portions of scripture with a sense of dread. Reading Colossians is one thing, but what about tabernacle measurements, genealogies and levitical law? But in some of the more laborious chapters of Exodus, a glorious truth came alive.
In Exodus chapters 35-40, Moses records the construction of the Tabernacle, including the materials used to build it, it’s contents and the priestly vestments of those who would tend to it. It is a staggering amount of detail. God’s specificity seems almost comical, like an intentionally complex test of the Israelites’ ability to follow directions. It also seemed a heavy task for a nomadic people to collect, fashion and construct all the necessary supplies to form this Tabernacle, the place where God’s presence would dwell. How was this going to be accomplished? Who would do this?
Exodus 35:30-31, 34-35
…the LORD has called by name Bezalel…and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge and with all craftsmanship…both him and Oholiab…He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work…
The task seemed daunting, the labor difficult, the skills necessary specific, and God provided for the need at hand! By the Spirit, God equipped Bezalel and Oholiab for this specific work.
While God’s provision is a biblical theme in this text, that wasn’t what first jumped out. The Tabernacle was to be the dwelling place of God and He had specific designs how it would be built and what it would say about him. When reading the New Testament, the books written after Jesus came, we learn that God has a new dwelling place that he is building and it’s not a location or structure, it’s a people! He dwells in and among us!
What's amazing is this: the same specificity and care with which God would have the Tabernacle constructed is the same specificity and care with which he is building his church! Why does that matter?
PARISH MULTIPLICATION & CHURCH PLANTING
If you’ve been around Sojourn for any amount of time, you’ve heard it said that we want to multiply parishes and plant churches. We aspire to this because we believe the church, the people, is the place where God now dwells! That means that as we multiply parishes and plant churches, the very presence of God expands in the city of Houston. Every time a new parish multiplies or a new church is planted, a new doorway into God’s kingdom and presence is opened.
While that vision is glorious at thirty-thousand feet, on the ground it is incredibly difficult and messy. Parish relationships can become taxing, people come and go, and motivation waxes and wanes. Church planting is costly in a myriad of ways, particularly financially and relationally. And yet, in all the difficulty of life together on mission, I hope we find comfort in the fact that God’s grand, specific, and careful design for his glory in Houston is you. And not just you, but your neighborhood parish and your local church together in your house, on your block and in your neighborhood. If he knows how much gold he wants for the lampstand, he certainly knows what disciples he wants and where he wants them. Sometimes parish multiplication and church planting seem impossible, but take heart, for “all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church.“ By God’s power, Christ’s work and the Spirit’s equipping, the work at hand will be accomplished exactly as God plans to accomplish it.