Helped by the article? Then support the work of TGC Canada!


A few years back, I accepted an invitation to speak at a mainline church. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was surprised by what I found: a church bursting with life, and one that clearly preached and treasured the gospel.

The more I visit other churches, the more I’m amazed at what God is doing beyond what I usually see.

Every Christian can benefit from taking an occasional field trip to other churches. Don’t skip your own church; stay committed there and show up as much as you can. But when you travel, or find a church that meets at another time, consider taking a field trip.

Three kinds of field trips might prove useful.

A Small Church

Find a small church that will never be featured in a magazine. Look for a pastor who’s faithfully preaching the gospel. Look for churches that are rooted in the community and content to serve.

Look for the kind of church that James K.A. Smith’s describes in his book On the Road With Saint Augustine:

Let your eyes skate past the megachurch industrial complex and take note of the almost invisible church in your neighborhood that you’ve driven past a thousand times without noticing. Check on it some Tuesday night, and see if there aren’t lights on in the basement. Maybe the food pantry is open. Or the congregation is offering financial management classes or marital counseling for couples who are struggling. It might just be the choir practicing, giving some souls an appointment to look forward to each week that pulls them out of their loneliness.

Honestly, this may be my favourite kind of church. God seems to like to work in places that we overlook. I love finding pastors who serve faithfully in obscure places, and churches bursting with life in places you’d never expect to find them.

Find a small, overlooked, faithful church, and rejoice in what God is doing there. Encourage the pastor and the people you meet. I think you’ll be encouraged too.

A Big Church

Big churches can attract big criticism. It’s easy to take shots at big churches and view them with suspicion. We’re conflicted: we want growth, but distrust those who’ve experienced the growth we desire.

But I’m often encouraged by the ministry of larger churches. I attended one recently and found a faithful ministry team, a congregation eager to hear from Scripture, and a willingness to share resources with smaller churches.

I love the diversity of the kingdom. I praise God for large churches. Find a good one and visit. Pray for continued faithfulness and perseverance. Pray for protection. Look for evidence of God at work, and rejoice in what God is doing through big churches.

A Church That’s Abandoned the Gospel

The final assignment is optional. In this case, we’re not looking for evidence of God at work. We’re looking for an example of what’s at stake if we drift.

Find a church that’s abandoned the gospel. Look for a church that no longer proclaims Scripture. Allow this experience to break your heart. Pray for a recovery of the gospel, and pray that God protects your church from such a fate. Allow it to fuel your commitment to the gospel.

Three field trips, three ways to return to our own ministries with a fresh vision for ministry. Praise God for what he’s doing in other churches, and mourn for churches that have drifted. Allow this to ignite your prayers for churches beyond your own.

Don’t skip your own church, but look for an opportunity to take field trips to three kinds of churches.