Grace Words

A Daily Bible Reader's Blog

Presented by Mike Tune, Pulpit Minister for the Church of Christ in Falls Church and Amazing Grace International

Disciple: Traveler or Tourist?

[Paul and Barnabas] preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. (Acts 14:21-22)

Do you know the difference between a traveler and a tourist? In his book Your Church Is Too Safe Mark Buchanan notes that a traveler literally means “one who travails.” He labors, suffers, endures. A traveler immerses himself in a culture, learns the language and customs, lives with the locals, imitates the dress, eats what’s set before him. He takes risks, some enormous, and makes sacrifices, some extravagant. He has tight scrapes and narrow escapes. He is gone a long time. If he ever returns, he returns forever altered.

A tourist – not so. Tourist means, literally, “one who goes in circles.” He’s just taking an exotic detour home, He’s only passing through, sampling wares, acquiring souvenirs. He tastes more than eats what’s put before him. He retreats each night to what’s safe and familiar. He spectates and consumes. He returns to where he’s come from with an album of photos, a few mementos, a cheap hat. He’s happy to be back. He declares there’s no place like home.

As a disciple of Christ, are you a traveler or a tourist? The tourist samples the Christian life, but is not changed by it – always returning to what is familiar and comfortable. The “travailer” disciple knows he’s never been home yet. The “travailer” (in Buchanan’s words) “loses her life in order to find it. She steeps in the language and culture of Christ until his word and his world reshape hers, redefines hers, changes inside and out how she sees, and thinks, and dreams and finally, lives . . . ”

All that can be more than a bit uncomfortable of course – painful even – yet, remembering the words of Paul and Barnabas, it is absolutely necessary to discipleship.

Monday, November 10. Acts 13 – 15

First missionary journey

Acts 14 opens with the words: “At Iconium, Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue.”

Why?

Didn’t they know they were just going to stir up trouble? That had certainly been their experience up to now. So why do it?

Because these people would be the best for constituting the Church in a new area. They worshiped the same God. They read the same scripture. They practiced the same moral ethic. All they needed was to become Christians.

But if they worshiped the same God, read the same scripture, and practiced the same moral ethic, weren’t they already Christians?

Evidently not. What was needed was a profession of faith in Jesus as the son of God, a submission to Jesus, his lifestyle and teaching, and a uniting with Jesus through baptism. To be a Christian, those things are still needed today, and our best prospects for bringing people to Christ are those who may already be near, just not there.