“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” ~ Hebrews 10: 23-25
In a recent article, “How Skipping Church Affects Our Children,” Carl Truemann was quoted as saying,
“The church is losing its young people because the parents never taught their children that it was important. I think that applies across the board. It applies to family worship, and it also applies to whether you are in church every Sunday and what priority you demonstrate to your children church has on a Sunday. If the sun shines out and their friends are going to the beach, do you decide to skip church and go to the beach? In which case, you send signals to your children that it is not important.”
Now before you stop reading because you figure this is just one of those articles that’s gonna make you feel guilty about not going to church, don’t! I encourage you to read on.
The “How Skipping Church…” article goes on to remind us that simply being in church doesn’t guarantee a quality relationship with Jesus Christ or a vital faith, much the same way just showing up at the gym won’t help me get into shape and live a healthy life—there’s much more to it—but that’s a conversation for another time. Instead I’ve been thinking about church attendance in the summer time, especially when you’re on vacation.
So, let me ask you a question: “When you’re on vacation, do you attend worship?” Many summers my family and I vacation in Minong, Wisconsin, a small, quiet place in the northwest of the state. We spend a week in a cabin on “Nancy Lake,” where we’ve been going for about 12 years, and where my family has been going for more than 50 years. While there we visit “The River Church,” pastored by Ben Kidder. It’s a great little church, and I’ve learned a lot.
First, as a pastor, it’s always nice to worship with my family. I can go and be a “parishioner,” and that’s great, especially because it helps me see the life of church from your perspective. Sometimes we forget to do that—to experience life through the eyes of someone else; consider what it’s like from a perspective different from our own. When my family and I visit the church, we’re just that—visitors! This helps me remember what it’s like to be a visitor. I’ll never forget the FIRST time we visited “The River.” We were nervous about what to do, where we should go, where we should sit (we didn’t want to sit in someone’s pew), what we could expect, what would there be for the boys, was it expected of them to go to “children’s church,” or could they stay with us? There were so many questions, and the experience helped me remember that as a church, we only get once chance to make a first impression.
There’s a lot we assume guests know when they visit our church. There’s a lot we don’t think about because “we know the routine,” and there’s a lot we overlook because we’ve lived with “it” (whatever it is) for so long.
I used to have a little Suzuki Swift that I loved to drive. It didn’t have a radio, the turn signal switch was backwards, you had to jiggle the ignition to get it to start, and you had to hold the driver’s side window with one hand and crank it up with the other… it had a lot of idiosyncrasies that to me were endearing qualities, and made it MY car. Becky hated to drive it, and so did everyone else. Maybe that’s why I liked the cars “issues,” because then it was all mine. So what about our church?
There are a LOT of great reasons why we should go to church, and one them, especially when we’re traveling and on vacation, is so we can remember what’s it’s like to be a visitor; to experience first-hand why “radical hospitality” is so important in the life of a growing congregation.
I love visiting other churches when I’m on vacation and when traveling to new places, because I get to hear great sermons, meet new people, collect good ideas for new ministries, gather resources, and most of all, remember what it’s like to be a visitor. I come home with a new perspective: “it’s not about me.”
So, let us meet with one another, and as we do, let us never forget that when we gather we’re to encourage one another—especially the visitor among us—and remember that Jesus taught us: when we come, we come to serve, not seeking to be served.
In Surrender and Service to Christ,