Timing: This outdoor Bible study reflection would be ideal for a camp or wilderness trip where your group is living in tents for a few days…
HOW TO MAKE THIS LESSON ON FAITH S+T+IC+K!
Before we dive into this incredible passage with surprisingly relevant theological rationale for outdoor ministry, we need to paint a picture of the back story of Abraham. Imagine, before we start, being out with a group in the wilderness, after sleeping in tents for a couple of days… and then suddenly the S+T+IC=K Method of outdoor teaching hits you between the eyes. This is the perfect setting and the perfect timing to seize a teachable moment … Sitting down with the group you say, “Hey since we’ve been out in tents for a few days, this is a great opportunity to look at Abraham’s Tent-Like Faith…”
THE BACK STORY ON ABRAHAM
Now for the back story: In Genesis 12 we meet a fine young man of 75 years old, his wife Sarah (also very old), and his extended family living quite happily and comfortably in the Fertile Crescent. God comes to Abram in a vision and tells him that he has chosen him for an important mission: He was calling him to leave all the comforts of his extended family and head for a land he knew nothing about, and for which he had no map. Does that sound like an epoch wilderness trip, or not (minus the no-map part)?
God’s promise was that if Abraham obeyed and said yes to this wilderness journey, that although he was childless now, one day God would give him descendants as many as the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore. God gives Abraham compelling “briefing” ever given for a wilderness trip:
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
THE BEVERLEY HILLBILLIES
The briefing was clear: as he went in faith, God would bless him with descendents who would become a great nation, through whom all the nations would be blessed! So naturally, Abram obeyed God. He packed up his tents, some pots and pans, strapped the rocking chair on top of his camel (a bit like Jed Clampett in the Beverley Hillbillies) and off they went.
FAITH-LIFE IS TENT-LIKE (Heb. 11:8-9)
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.
This is a tough concept to ponder because few of us have lived for years on end as roaming shepherds. Yet a lot of us have spent a lot of time in the wilderness, so there is a lot about Abraham’s life to which we can relate. One of the images I get of Abram setting out with his family into the wilderness is the stories we read of the pioneers in the 1800’s who headed out to discover the Western frontiers of America (link to 50 states wilderness blog). The pioneers tell stories of a life what was very basic. Life was hard but not complex… and what really mattered was close relationships…
Similar to these pioneers, the writer of Hebrews unfolds his adventure-faith-theology from looking at the life of Abraham. The author highlights Abraham’s Tent-like faith… Like the pioneers who traveled out West, Abraham set out on a long journey not really knowing where he was going, living in tents with his extended family, believing that in obedience to God’s call there would be reward beyond measure.
CONTEXT AND CATTLE PRODDING
It is important to remember that the audience the letter to the Hebrews was written to, was a bit lackadaisical in their faith. The author wants his audience to look closely at Abraham’s nomadic life as a model of faith. Abraham’s example is like a cattle prod to get us all walking again by faith, not by sight. His life mirrors what true faith looks like. Abraham’s nomadic lifestyle sets a standard from which we should view our own lifestyle, and the values we must hold to in the local churches and mission organizations.
Abraham’s faith challenges us to view our local church and its ministries more like a covered-wagon than a well-fortified settlement.
RELATED POST: Why We Need Wilderness Areas?
Be sure to read my next post on how “Abraham’s Tent-Like Faith Intentionally Resists the Temptation to Settle Down.”
- How would you characterize your church, student ministry program or organization? Is it more pioneer-like (tent-like), or is it more like a “well-fortified settlement?”
- How are some ways you could see outdoor ministry (especially camping in tents for a while) being a catalyst to regularly remind yourself, and those who you are ministering to, that faith-life is more tent-like than note?
- What is stopping you from taking a bold step to introduce outdoor ministry to your church or organization? Or what is keeping you from maximizing the full potential of outdoor ministry in your church or organization?