You’ve probably heard about the minister who was about to go on holiday. He was told by one of his church members, ‘The devil doesn’t take a holiday, pastor’. He quickly replied, ‘And if I don’t take a holiday I will end up just like him!’
The fact is, we all need to take time out for rest with an annual holiday of some kind. But, for most of us, going away is also an opportunity to visit another church and meet believers we have never met before.
For this reason, it is helpful to have the EN list of holiday churches to find a local evangelical church. But let me offer some suggestions about visiting holiday churches.
1. Be prepared
Firstly, decide which church you are going to attend before you go away. Find out the times of its services and where it meets. Don’t rely on your SatNav to get you there on time, if it means finding somewhere to park and then walking to the church. If we are honest, how many of us have arrived five, ten, 15 minutes into the service because we didn’t think ahead? For those of us who regularly preach, it can be off-putting when people consistently walk in late. While you might be on holiday, remember that the church you are visiting isn’t. For them it might be a regular Sunday. So show them due respect by arriving at the service in good time, just as you would in your home church.
2. Be prayerful
Secondly, pray before going to the service. Ask the Lord to help you as you listen, and guide you in all your conversations while you are there. It may be that you will find yourself sitting next to another holidaymaker who is unconverted. Here’s an opportunity for you to share the gospel with them. In a different church, and in a holiday mood, perhaps they will be more open to listen. You might be sitting next to someone living locally who has come to church for the first time. Or you might be sitting near a regular but unsaved attender of the church — and be enabled to talk to them about the Lord in a fresh way. So pray about these things before the service.
3. Be encouraging
Thirdly, go with the aim of being an encouragement to the church you are visiting. If the service and the preaching has been a blessing to you, tell those you speak to afterwards. If they have refreshments after the service, why not stay behind to talk rather than rushing back to your holiday accommodation for lunch? Some of them will be keen to know who you are and where you are from. If there are encouragements in your church, share those things with them, if appropriate. If the Lord has helped you through difficult times, maybe they will be comforted by this too. And perhaps there are other things you can do to encourage them.
Last summer my wife and I joined the local church on a Sunday afternoon for a short open-air service. It was led well by an elder, and a clear presentation of the gospel was given on the sea front, with many people near enough to hear it.
4. Be teachable
Fourthly, be teachable. God’s word is relevant to us, whether we are on holiday or in our own congregation.
Sometimes we proudly come as critics to judge the preaching rather than as humble hearers. This is especially true for those of us who regularly preach. Instead of listening to what the Lord is saying to us through his word, we are more concerned about the structure of the sermon, the length or the accuracy of the exposition. While those things might be important, primarily we are there to hear what God is saying to our souls.
The late preacher, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, once said of listening to other preachers: ‘I can forgive a man anything, so long as he gives me something for my soul’. That should be our attitude as we listen. Last summer, we were visiting a church on holiday in North Wales and one of the elders preached that morning. His text was Joshua 24.15: ‘Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve’. The message was a faithful explanation of the text, and it was full of application. For me, it was a very timely message, and a blessing. At the end of the service I was eager to tell him how helpful the preaching had been, and to thank him for his ministry that morning.
So the lesson for us is simple — even on holiday, think carefully about the churches you visit. Plan ahead. Pray. And seek to be an encouragement — even as you seek to be encouraged.