Over the next three months, many of us will be away from our home churches for at least one Sunday. The reason? School is out! It is time for summer vacations! Even if we don’t have kids or they are all grown up and moved out, we still go away for a weekend here or there.
For some of us, this poses a problem: where should we worship on Sunday morning? As summer begins, I would like to offer three pieces of pastoral advice to encourage us to worship – especially when we are on vacation.
1. Make Plans! If you do not deliberately make plans to worship on Sunday mornings when you are away, you probably won’t worship. In all likelihood you will know in advance where you will be on the Sundays you will be away. In planning your vacation, find a church where you can worship and put it on your itinerary. The internet is a great way to discover what churches are in the area you will be visiting and most churches will have a website that will help you determine whether or not the church is an evangelical, Bible believing church.
2. Go to Worship! As people, we have a nasty tendency to be critical of things that are different from what we are used to. We can sometimes be distracted by different orders of worship, different music, different preaching, different furniture… And thought by thought, moment by moment we can end up attending a worship service and doing relatively little worshipping. We are instead preoccupied with our critique of the church in light of our own theological perspective and (more often) personal preferences. Embrace the attitude of Cotton Mather (a third generation new England Puritan): “Wherever we can see anything of Christ, let it be dear to us.” And attend the service in order to worship God despite the ways in which their service differs from yours.
3. Hear the Preaching! I sometimes wonder whether or not we as Christians today spend more time evaluating and judging sermons than we do allowing sermons to evaluate and judge us. The Minister of the Gospel who preaches at the church you visit will use more or less illustrations that are longer or shorter than what you are used to. He will cover more or fewer Bible verses. He will preach for more or less time. He will be easier or more difficult to follow. He may preach more topically than verse-by-verse. He may be wooden or animated; speak too fast or slow, too loud or too quietly. But despite the novelty of his voice or style, you just might hear a godly voice urging you to a closer walk with Christ if you are humbly prepared and diligent to hear it!
This summer, I am looking forward to visiting a church I have never attended before somewhere near Corolla, NC where my family will spend our vacation. In a lot of ways, the worship and the preaching will almost certainly be different from what we do at my church out here in California. But there will be something of Christ there, and I will hold it dear as I worship with my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.” May our habit be one of humble and joyful participation in the Lord’s worship wherever we spend our Lord’s Days during our summer vacations.