"The Tent Ministry"

Recently, there have been a lot of stirrings over the restoration of the Tent Anointing. That is especially so from Kenneth Copeland's and other allied ministries. It does not surprise me, and I fully embrace that anointing and ministry. Since the early 1970s, I never ceased hoping and praying for its return and restoration. And now is the time! If you read my article entitled The Twenty Year Cycle, you'll see what I mean.

The Branham Tent Vision

Brother Branham had a vision about a revived tent ministry. I do not believe that has been fulfilled, yet. Some Message followers have attempted explain it allegorically. But I believe it was an actual real tangible tent, and a last days revival to prepare the Bride of Jesus Christ. In my mind it is foolish to ignore what a prophet has spoken, especially one who was so vindicated by God as Brother Branham.

The Tent Calling

All my life I have felt drawn to the tent ministry. I've made many failed attempts in the Tent Ministry. Due to those repeated failures, at times I thought maybe it was just because I first witnessed the power of God demonstrated in an old fashion Pentecostal tent meeting. I remember when Jack Coe came to town, June of 1955. The whole region was electrified with anticipation. I was there! My little four year old eyes saw things I will NEVER forget! I became a believer in Jesus Christ in one of those meetings. And I've never stopped believing since. My first recollection of "The Stigmata" was soon after Jack Coe's Miami Campaign. But this drawing toward the tent ministry was something way more powerful than nostalgia.

Chasing down the rebel

Over the years I would be drawn to every tent meeting that came to town. I remember one night during my rebellious years, I wasn't even old enough to drive yet. But I was out doing some underage drinking with my school buddies. When we passed a tent meeting, something rose up in me and I demanded they stop. We went in, sat on the back row. I saw a young man I knew from the old Pentecostal church. He had been stricken with polio in his youth. I knew him when my age was still in single digits. And I knew his affliction was real. Then the power of God fell. I watched that brother tear his braces off and begin to hobble around by faith. Suddenly, the power hit him and he began to run through that ten like an Olympic sprinter. A presence filled to tent. I was instantly sober! It seems one of my buddies may have said something like, “I'm getting' the hell out of here!” Then we left. That experience nearly totally occupied my mind for days.

Uncle Tommy's Trees

Another memory is of old family friend and successful entrepreneur, who was more like family. His name was Tommy Northcutt, "Uncle Tommy" to my cousins and me. One of his enterprises was to sell Christmas trees each year. Spread all over Dade County, you could find huge canvas tents with the famous brand Northcutt and Sons written across the top. I couldn't pass one those tents without counting the poles, calculating how many people it would hold. I would daydream of holding meetings in one of them. Back then I knew the formula for how many people would fit per square foot. His largest was a nine pole tent. I would find myself being tempted to call Uncle Tommy. I imagined myself asking him if he'd allow me to hold meetings in one of them; just for a couple of weeks, before he broke the tents down. The phrase that rolled over and over in my mind was, Lord, what a waste of a tent!

A Nine Pole Tent

There were times when I was in my twenties, that I used to say aloud, “...if I just had a fully outfitted nine pole tent, I'd have it made....” All I can say about that today is, “...when I was a child I spake as a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things....” It takes way more than just a tent!

Over the years I would be drawn to nearly every tent ministry that came to town. I worked many roles with tent preachers from stake driver, to gopher, to stacking chairs; and I was always a supporting minister sitting on the platform. Not the least of these were Bob Schambach, and Dave Epley.

Most tent preachers were legit. In my opinion, a small few were frauds, possibly ignorant frauds. But I learned a lot from them all. I value what I learned, even from distasteful and unpleasant ministries. As one of the older brothers in the Branham following says of his similar experiences, “ was all part of God's plan for my preparation....”

I do not give my critics such power

Critics railed against my dreams, saying that the days of the tent ministry were over. They said it was antiquated, impractical, expensive, and it was definitely never gonna happen for me. My response was "yeah, some say the days of miracles are over too, but we know they're wrong...and what's impractical is, NOT doing what God puts in your heart to do...that's not just impractical, that's insane...."

I was not deterred by the unbelief of others, nor would I give their words the power to confine me to the prison of their unbelief. But over the years, any demonstration of unshakable faith was confused with arrogance; and having the courage to be different, when it was appropriate to be different, was misinterpreted as stubbornness and rebellion. I was often viewed as some ecclesiastical hood, a spiritual rabble rouser, and in some circles, an unmitigated nut job.

Warner Robbins AFB and the Tent Ministry

As the old saying goes, I try to put my money where my mouth is. My dad served in War 2 in Patton's Division. He revered General Patton. Countless times he reflected on Patton's willingness to do "un-general" like things like to swim the Rhine to lead his men across. That was ingrained in me to practice what I preach. I've tried diligently, to never teach people to do anything I was not willing to do myself.

So the year after we were married, we drove to Warner Robbins, Georgia to a military auction. They were auctioning some old Command Post Tents. Everything I saw in life was through the lens of ministry. I thought, a CP tent is large enough for at least 40-50 people to meet in. I can start with that and build on it. But the tents were in rough shape, so I didn't bid on them.

But when we developed the photos we took on that trip, some were filled with streaks of light, similar to what we have seen in the past in photos of Brother Branham. I took it as God being pleased that we had hearts to serve Him. At the time I thought nothing of driving a thousand-and-a-half miles, just to have a chance to buy a tent. I was excited at the opportunity.

On our way home, we stopped in Valdosta, Georgia and contacted Gordon Shaw, at Valdosta Tent Company. We asked him if he had any used canvas tents for sale. He did, but nothing we could afford. Several times I contacted David Wine, in Bartow, Florida, inquiring about used tents. David manufactured vinyl tents, which had numerous advantages over canvas, and was my preference.

Tents still going to waste

Through the years and to this day, I can't pass a tent without thinking of how it could be used for holding old fashion revival meetings. Last month, prior to July 4th, there were a couple of tents set up locally to sell fireworks. As they began tearing them down, I thought, “boy I wish I had that thing...I'd fill it up with people, and we'd pray down the power and glory of God!” I cannot say for sure what I would've done with it, had they given one of them to me. But I know I'd be on my face seeking God's direction.

Nothing in my life has immunity

For the past decade, even my desktop wallpaper/background, or whatever it's called has not been immune from The Tent Ministry influence. Below is an old photograph I found online of an actual pre-WWII tent meeting. That has been my wallpaper/background for several years.

Tent Meeting

It's still here

So after all these decades, it's still there. Just like when I couldn't ride past one of Uncle Tommy's Christmas tree tents; without seeing it filled with people, praising God, sinners being saved, oppressed being set free, and sick and lame being healed; and the dead (actual and proverbial) being raised. Even after every July 4th, as the fireworks merchants "strike the tents", I feel something inside screaming that phrase again Lord, what a waste of a tent!

But the old fire needs to be re-stoked. Only God can do that. We can stir up the gift that is in us; but only His Holy Spirit can provide the true fire.

I might be getting older, but I ain't done yet!

Though I am forty some years older now, that feeling has never left me. Yet in spite of several failed attempts over several decades, the critics still have it. Still, I have never gotten that tent ministry off the ground; yet!

But like old Caleb, if God gives me the green light, I will take that mountain, by God!

I've always been different

In closing, all my life I've been different. I don't try to be different. Sometimes, I just see things from a different perspective. Often God has led me to do things in an illogical and unorthodox way. He did that with most of the people He anointed throughout history. And I've dared to obey Him, sometimes at a very high price. Human nature is to view anything abnormal and unconventional as wrong. A vast majority in first century Israel espoused such a view about our Lord Jesus Christ. He was in fact very different, and in their eyes very unconventional for what they expected of God's Messiah. But history has proven which side was right, and which side was wrong.

The Macon Project

As a side note, recently, I've wondered whether a tent might be the answer to the venue question for The Macon Project? It would certainly draw people who might never set foot in a church auditorium. It is definitely something worth praying about.

But it really does take more than just a Tent

If I had the tent, that alone doesn't guarantee success. It's only an opportunity for success. The prerequisite for success is something only He can provide. Just like I stated in my article entitled My Credentials, what matters are those things only He can do; that is what bring glory to Him alone.

Recently, I heard Kenneth Copeland deliver one of the most practical messages I've heard in a long time regarding ministry. He gave four principles necessary to carry out a ministry/mission for God. Midway in the sermon he shifted into another gear as he told those four things: first, you have to know God's plan for the mission; second, you must have a strong spirit, soul, and body, sufficient to carry out the mission; third, you must have people to be a part of your life and ministry, to come along side you and help you, as well as have people to minister to; fourth, you must have the money. You cannot be seeking God, doing warfare, and chasing down money. God has people anointed to support the mission with their time, their labor, and their money.

I would only add to that, we also need for God to open a door that no man can shut, and to know His voice and hear His voice to be led through that door. But technically, I suppose that would naturally come under item one, knowing His plan.

I apologize for the length of this article. We covet your prayers for every ministry endeavor we face today.



- GERRY PHILLIPS - 1955-2015