Tourists...or Pilgrims?

At a church staff meeting recently, someone remarked that it can often feel like we do church as tourists on a whirlwind itinerary, almost like seeing Europe in ten days. She nailed what many of us have been feeling lately: that the pace of our lives in the larger, multiple staff, program church can sometimes feel like rushing through exotic scenery at breakneck speed, barely pausing to drink in the wonders of God intersecting people's lives. It reminds me of how I once toured the National Art Gallery in London: I proudly boasted to my friends that I did the whole building in under an hour, a sort of aerobic feat of young American cultural ignorance!

My point is that in the large church setting, we can be so focussed on getting jobs done, programs planned, services conducted, meetings met, sermons written, etc, etc, etc, that we get into such a rushed mode that we can almost literally trample over the mysteries of God, inadvertently missing or mishandling them. And that's a shame. Instead of living counter-culturally, instead of slowing down to ponder and savor the rhythms of God's grace (and offer them to others), instead of pausing to be thankful or compassionate, we rush from one thing to the next, checking things off the list. "Been there, done that, got the T-shirt", if you know what I mean.

It seems to me that instead of being tourists, we people of faith are called to be pilgrims--and the pace of a pilgrim is much slower and more deliberate. In ancient times (and even in parts of the world today) pilgrims walk to their destinations. They sleep under the open sky. Pilgrims sing and laugh and chat as they journey together. Pilgrims pause before the wonders; they take stock and reflect; they contemplate and pray. The journey is just as important as the final destination. And on the journey, God is present, shaping a people for his purposes. It reminds me of a pastor friend who once walked the length of Israel--how much more transformational than the breakneck speed of our tourist buses!

The challenge is to (at least occasionally) keep a pilgrim's pace in a tourist's world, to slow down, to question almighty efficiency, to once in a while abandon our to-do lists, DayTimers, and Palm Pilots and...pause. Sit. Breathe. Reflect.

What would happen if you and I did more of this?


Anonymous said...

i actually find it fascinating that for so many christians i know, "church" is the destination. services, prayer meetings, concerts, square dances are the highlights of their lives.

now, i'm not dissing christian community, but i do wonder about this emphasis on a particular place, a very teeny-tiny sliver of god's creation.

i was talking the other day with one of our pastors, and i asked him, "tell me about your non-christian friends." i was amazed to discover that he didn't have any. not one! i respect his dedication to our church community, and i realize that to a degree that is his calling. but 90% of my friends are not christians, and i ~love~ that.

i realize this post is a call to sabbath of sorts, abiding in christ. and it challenges the pace of church culture. but doesn't it make sense to zoom out further, and question the content of church culture? is our pace on overload, because the content is overloaded with program rather than pilgrim's progress?

i wonder. : )

Carl Hofmann said...

Wow, that's insightful, John. Anyone care to dig a little deeper and address the "whys" of church culture: why are these our values? why do we keep this pace? The overall question for me is: What is the relationship between church culture and the world? Does church culture mirror the world or challenge the world? Do we take our rhythms from the secular workforce or from Someone else? This is challenging stuff!

mbpbooks said...

Why do we keep the pace? To numb the pain, of course. Pilgims suffer; tourists don't.