Doug CoppageEmbracing a God-Sized Vision

I started to see God at work in Tabernacle Church when my family arrived in Richmond  in 2004 after two years of missions among the Deaf in Hungary. All logic said that we should go to another church with a large children’s ministry, a Deaf congregation, and hundreds and hundreds in attendance every Sunday. Instead, he called us to Tabernacle, where there was a huge building, a couple hundred people, lots of memories, and a few bright hopes.

I distinctly remember an evening meeting when Sterling stood in front of the group and explained how the church was beginning to do all kinds of new, unexpected things. He said, “I don’t know what I’m doing, but God knows.” This exactly reflected my experience in Hungary: I didn’t exactly know what I was doing, but God knew. Sterling credits us with awakening the church’s sense of mission—meaning going and doing, not just giving money. If we were instruments in that way, then I am grateful; it was not intentional. Tabernacle revived my hope that the church could be more than a religious club. I was looking for dynamic discipleship, movement,

We were touched when Tabernacle embraced our return to Hungary in 2005. The church sent a missions team to us in 2010, and that seemed a natural consequence. In recent years, though, God has brought the world to Tabernacle with the arrival of many brothers and sisters from Burma. I hope that this causes everyone to grow, because, while America offers great political and economic freedom to those from other countries, Americans need to learn that money and power offer few spiritual advantages.

It is my hope that Tabernacle grows in ministry to the poor. Not just to apply band-aids to make them feel better (and to make us feel better at being such good people), but to bring hope in the Gospel of Jesus, and support in the strength of Jesus, and eternal life in the sacrificial love of Jesus to those who lose out in a winner-worshiping world. And I hope that the church can speak to those (including ourselves) who might feel superior because of our relative success—and who are not aware of their complicity in a system that often neglects those who cannot fend for themselves.

The body of Jesus Christ in America suffers from an extreme case of hyper-politicism. Everything seems to be relegated to labeling someone conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, capitalist or socialist, etc. This is a symptom of a worse problem: oversimplification. If the solutions were as easy as the political mouths say they are, then why aren’t they so simply fixed? The reason is that one or two (or ten) simple steps will not do. The world suffers from many problems, and shouting louder will not bring us any closer to blessing others. If each of us shut our mouths, got in touch with God (the One True God, not the one someone invented for us), and resolved to follow him in his continuing work of redeeming the world, then the name of Jesus would not be so scorned among non-believers.

  • May God the holy Spirit bless you with a message and a mission to the world that transcends nationality, politics, language, and economics.
  • May God lead you into all truth, so that you do not fall for political propaganda or religious “trends” or economic principles that would distract you from the Gospel.
  • May God bless you with the courage, the unity, and the resolve to take concrete steps to be a blessing to others in the life and ministry that Jesus gives you.

I live far away. I am not aware of the daily situation there. But I know that you all work beside us with your prayers, and you help out with money, and you give us words of encouragement. I am glad to return those favors in this way. May God visit you and empower you to do the work of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus taught us to pray: Your will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven.


Grace and peace to you and yours,

Doug Coppage

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