There are some people who never leave their hometown. They see no need to. Ironically, they see no need to because they’ve never left their hometown. If they were to do so, they might see oceans, mountains, forests, sites, and canyons that would take their breath away. Instead, they are “content” to experience never-ending “sameness.” This tempts particularly pastors of smaller churches—as they sometimes prefer the “homeyness” of the small church context to the urban jungle of the broader church world.
It’s good to be thankful for one’s home. It’s another to never leave it. Some pastors I know wear out the road to and from their own church building but never stray from that path. They never go to conferences, have lunch with other pastors, or attend other churches. They see it as a waste of time. I know other pastors who have a slightly larger neighborhood defined by their own tribe. It might be Baptist, Anabaptist, Church of Christ, Calvary Chapel, or Presbyterian. But, it’s clearly their own borough. It’s a good borough. But, it’s still just their borough.
Exposing myself to places, books, conferences, relationships, churches, outside my church and tribe has probably done more for my ministry, speaking practically, than anything else. Not only have I learned all sorts of wonderful things and met amazing new people—I’ve been saved from the idea that my hometown is all there is. Even Charles Ingalls left Walnut Grove to go to Minneapolis from time to time. If you don’t know who that is…shame on you J
Some of my colleagues don’t see the point. Like people who have never been to New York asking a friend, “Why on earth would you want to go to New York?” they think they have everything they need right where they are. Sometimes you have to go to New York to know why one would want to go to New York.
We live in a global, rapidly changing world. Churches and those we are trying to reach with the Gospel come from a wider variety of spiritual backgrounds and have interests that require more conversation with the world at large—including the church world at large.
There is a simple beauty in the tranquility of our own ministry. However, generally, isolationism hinders our ministry from becoming what it could be. There are wastes of time out there, to be sure. However, one can certainly waste time at home, as well. Do your homework and seek out those things that really add to your personal development and ministry. All the while, remember there is intrinsic worth in exposure to new ideas, new people, and new experiences.
Let me challenge you to attend more gatherings outside your tribe—at least half of all your off-site gatherings. Study churches outside your tribe. Consider it a part of your ministry like sermon preparation. It should be regular, intentional. You are preparing sermons of a sort, as well as ministry strategy, future partnerships, your heart and mind when you do so. If you are involved in setting the church budget, make sure there are adequate resources available to your pastors to do this. It’s one of the best investments you can make.
One more thing: It isn’t “disloyal” to your faith tribe to attend events and get to know those from other Christian traditions—no matter what a conference director from your own tribe might tell you. Attending more events within our own faith tribe is like getting to know our own neighbors better—always a good thing. However, we also need to get out of the neighborhood altogether, regularly. Be intentional about it, and do it. It will bless your ministry in unbelievable ways and, if your home is in fact your home—deepen your appreciation for home.
Only those who’ve left home before know what it’s like to say, genuinely, “There’s no place like home.” Those who stay home and never leave it don’t have a home. They have a home-sized world. Home-sized ministry worlds feel safe and adequate, but are limiting. There’s a whole big ministry world out there. Maybe it’s time you explore it.