Spiritual travel

Acts 10:1-8
Mark Twain once made a great observation. He said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” In short, travel is the cure for ignorance.

Maybe a bit of spiritual traveling would benefit us, too. Many Christians don’t know faith outside of their personal context. That is, what they know of following Jesus is what they’ve learned in their one church. Now, the local church is an effective means by which God shapes who we are. But we can learn from each other. Like traveling broadens our perspectives, spiritual traveling grants us fresh eyes.

That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong, necessarily, with your church. As we open ourselves to see how other Christians worship and serve, we get a new sense of God’s work.

My guess is every preacher has a special folder. It’s the one full of printed material they’ve collected from other congregations. I’ve even had people bring stuff to me from other churches. Bulletins. Prayer Cards. Giving sheets. Sermon notes. For me, there’s a practical reason I keep these. I’m always looking for better design elements. But even more than that, these materials remind me of the congregations I visit.

For example, John Wesley UMC in Nashville, TN is the most hospitable church I’ve ever attended. Their welcome stuck with me. You could tell welcoming strangers wasn’t new or awkward to them. It was an important element of their worship of God and love of neighbor.

What about the church that had a small play and rest area in their worship space? This was for their children to sit together and worship with the rest of the church. No one seemed bothered by their noise. They didn’t need a special time during the service just for them because they were already a part of it. I’ve seen churches designate rocking chairs for parents to soothe their babies. There was no need to have to excuse yourself from the sanctuary.

What do those ideas say about the values of those churches?

I have more examples. They all have contributed to my life of worship and even my pastoral ministry. I encourage you to take advantage of opportunities to visit other Christians, too. No, don’t skip out on your church. They need you. Your presence matters there.

When you go on vacation, though, pick a church to visit. When a local congregation in your community has a special event, join them. My city has a church that hosts a heavy metal worship service. It’s not my kind of music, but I’m intrigued. There’s a group of people I probably wouldn’t share too many other experiences with. But God gives us these opportunities to unite in Christian fellowship.

Acts 10 reminds us that we can find faithful people in the most unexpected places. But they’re only unexpected because we think they are. Make spiritual travels and you come to expect to see God.

Limiting our exposure to other people and places limits our love for others. Some studies suggest it may keep you from being a more trusting person. It’s good for our soul and faith to travel. So, get out there. Plan some spiritual traveling. Look forward to a new thing God might show you.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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