I was chatting with my wife about next year’s holiday plans yesterday. One of the things we always aim to do whenever we’re away is visit a local church. There are very rare occasions where it just isn’t possible, but it is always our intention to find a local church and go on the Sunday wherever we happen to be. To that end, I thought I would share a bunch of reasons why. So, in no particular order, here they are:
It encourages other churches
Bottom line, we encourage other believers in other places when we find their church and we go. Churches generally like getting visitors. They are encouraged when people come and show an interest in what they are doing. Even on holiday, it blesses God’s people so why not?
It will encourage you
It should be an encouragement to see the way the Lord is working in other places. It tells us we are not alone in the work of the kingdom. More often than not, it causes people to ask about your church too and, not only are they encouraged by how the Lord is working elsewhere too, they very often want to pray for your ongoing ministry. It is also a blessing (particularly if you’re the pastor who preaches most weeks) to be able to sit under someone else’s teaching and benefit from it. A friend recently visited our church and his children were encouraged that, though we did some things a little differently outwardly, all the elements were the same. It is encouraging to see God’s people being God’s people wherever you happen to be.
It sends a good message to your family
One of the things we want our children to understand is that we prioritise the Lord and his people. One of the things we want them to know, as a given, is that unless they’re sick or there is some catastrophic event beyond our control that prevents it, we are going to church and we aren’t ditching it when other things crop up. To that end, we don’t want our kids to understand that whenever we take a holiday, we also have a little break from the Lord and his people. Rather, just as our church is replete with people from all over the world, we want them to see God’s people exist across the world and a holiday does not include a holiday from Jesus.
It makes clear you love Jesus, not just your own church
This may seem like a fine point, but it is one I have seen frequently. I have seen many drawn to the church because they love the particular congregation rather than because they seem to actually love the Lord. The evidence of such things appears when they go away to university and go nowhere because ‘nowhere was quite like my church’. When they come back, they are adamant they want to ‘return to the church’ but have nothing to say about Jesus. Others may fall out of love with their particular congregation, for whatever reason, but never leave and go anywhere else. They just drift off altogether because their faith was in the church, not the Lord. I am convinced it is a healthy sign when believers who love the Lord seek out a church when they are away because they want to worship Jesus and meet with God’s people wherever they are.
It will help appraise your church culture
It is very easy to get cultural blindness. We become used to the way our church does things because it is what we do every week. Going to a new church gives us a different perspective on how things can be done. If it is culturally quite different, we are driven to think about whether our own practice is as helpful as it might be or not.
It may give you good ideas to take home
We may see things in another church that cause us to rejoice, that we think are excellent and we want to take back to our own church. It may just be a new song we’d not heard that we think we could sing back home. It may be an approach to an element of the service that you think would serve your people well. It may be an approach to outreach that you hadn’t thought of before. Whatever it may be, visiting other churches gives us such insights and ideas.
Jesus commands it
If all of that isn’t good enough for you (and I accept none of them are specifically biblical arguments, but just ‘I think these are good’ inferences) we can’t really escape what the Word itself does say. Hebrews 10:25 – however you cut it – wants us not to neglect meeting together with believers, as is the habit of some. If we are going on holiday and insist that we don’t need to meet together with God’s people, and we just don’t fancy it so we don’t bother, I find it hard to see how this isn’t ignoring what God’s Word says here.