I love to travel. I love to view God’s creation. The Canadian Rockies, the autumn leaves of New England, the Great Smoky Mountains, Monument Valley, Big Bend, the Amazon Rainforest – it is all so amazing. “When we behold the wonders of creation, the flowers that bloom, the raindrops as they fall; the spacious skies and life’s perpetuation, we cannot doubt that God controlled it all” (Song: Lord, I Believe by A.W. Dicus).
However, when I travel, I especially look forward to being with the saints on the first day of the week. When it is possible to meet with other Christians, I plan to do so. It is an encouragement to me. It is an encouragement to the local church. The writer of Hebrews said, “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). Sometimes, I get to meet brethren that I have never met. Sometimes, I get to visit with brethren that I know. Sometimes, I have even been reunited with brethren with whom I had lost contact. Sometimes, I am exposed to new songs. Sometimes, I learn a new method, maybe a better method of doing things. I get to hear God’s word expounded, sometimes with a new thought or insight which helps me. A few times, I have even been called on to preach at the last minute.
Some brethren do not share my enthusiasm in this. Some do not worship when they are away from home. Others take the communion elements with them, and worship with friends and family who are with them, but do not meet with a local church in the area. A common refrain is, “For where two or three are gathered together…” (Matthew 18:20).
I want to encourage all to meet with a local church, when possible, even when away from home. Consider:
- Paul took time, when traveling, to meet with the church (e.g., Acts 20:6-7; 21:3-5). Granted, Paul was an apostle. Moreover, he knew at least some of these brethren. Still, one never finds record of Paul choosing to separately, worship with his travel companions, when he could have met with a local church.
- Why wouldn’t one want to assemble with a local church, when it is possible? If King Charles III was in the area, and was willing to meet you, then wouldn’t you do it? What about the Governor? Michael Jordan? George Strait? Nolan Ryan? Tiger Woods? When I have an opportunity to meet with the saints, I take it. These are people who make up the bride of Christ. These are people with whom I may be able to work and spread the good news. This same point applies to meeting with the saints on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. Why wouldn’t I want to be there if I could be? What is more important? TV? Facebook? Walmart? “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
- We should be careful with scripture. I grant that a local church could consist of two or three Christians coming together for worship. However, the passage in Matthew 18 concerns church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20). It was never intended to be used to justify not meeting with a local church when traveling.
May we “love the brotherhood” (1 Peter 2:17). Current statistics indicate that in the U.S.A. we are losing each month 2,000 members and 9 congregations. May we do all that we can to help strengthen the church and fill the pews with encouragement.