Three invitations to adventure…

Having looked around for the last four to five years at what Christians are intentionally doing in the travel industry and, more often than not, what people who love-travel-and-happen-to-be-Christian, are creating, I want to suggest a few opportunities for followers of Jesus who have a heart for travel, and something that may act as a warning and an opportunity at the same time.

[I caveat all of this with the usual footnotes, declaring that I am not able to search all the hashtags in other languages (knowing only French, English and bits and pieces of others), and much as I’ve tried my hardest with networking and asking around the globe, I’ve of course not got exhaustive reach to find everyone. Please, if you know of folk who I should connect with, pass on details or send them this post.]

To do that, let’s take a look at two videos, both produced here in the island of Ireland by (in some ways) very different people. The first we’ll dig into deeply and the second we’ll just throw out a couple of challenges to you if you’re a follower of Jesus and love travel!

  1. A Secular Invitation to travel

What makes a travel video a secular one? And how would travel through secular humanist eyes be different to through the eyes of a follower of Jesus?

Most Christians will happily watch anything that doesn’t have overt and explicit actions of “sin” in it. For example, some might complain to the TV regulating authorities if a narrative involves particular explicit sins (sexual, violent or other). They may try to justify how that is different to watching James Bond (for example) whose treatment of females has often been horrific, and who glorifies particular views of humanity which one might find hard to sustain from a Biblical text. And there are many other actions, emphases and plotlines that Christian morals in the West have gradually excused or got used to that are far from ‘Christian’ but that Christians are quite happy enjoying (rightly or wrongly) as part of a series, show or film.

If we draw these lines for Christian travellers, then nearly everything in the travel industry will be Christian to us, or at least permissable to engage with as Christians. But let’s stop for a minute and see where that leaves us. I present to you video 1 below. Kevin Penrose is the Wild Irish Wanderer on Instagram and has his own YouTube channel. I pick one of his videos to critique, not because I have anything against him, but in fact because he is one of Ireland’s up and coming travel videographers, finding his feet in the trade. Why not enjoy the stunning videography he captures of our island below, but as you do so, ask yourself this:

Is this a Christian travel video? Why or why not? Or could it be neutral?

[Before I say anything, let me say that most of what I frame this discussion around comes stolen from the pen of Dan Strange who wrote a very accessible guide “Plugged In” which helps us think more about all of this.]

So what’s your verdict, Christian travel video or not?!

Well let’s look at the evidence (under headings you can use again in future).

a) Who made it?
For many things, including this one, we can’t be too sure whether the creator is a Christian or not. Here, I don’t know Kevin and have not seen a mad amount of his creative work to say any more. But let’s remember, plenty of Christians have made things that don’t reflect the glory of God or explicitly mention faith, so knowing the answer to this question doesn’t always tell us whether it’s a Christian travel video per se.

b) What does it say?
And not just audibly. What does it feel like? What image does it show us? What narrative does it scream?

Well, Kevin gives us an incredible view of [God’s] world in Ireland. Stunning shot after shot take our breath away. In this sense, one might say there is nothing wrong for us as Christians to be watching this! But listen to the narrative he gives over this. Perhaps you can see some things in the narrative that ring true to the gospel/Bible and we would agree with. Other things are violently opposed to the good news of Jesus. It’s a common narrative that you can find similarly elsewhere in famous travel videos (like this one). I’ve printed some of it here for you to see:

This year was supposed to be different.
We all had goals to accomplish, dreams to chase and plans in place, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Instead, we were taught to slow down, rest and recharge.
Our way of life changed forever. We were given time to think, reflect and appreciate the important things in life.
We always plan for tomorrow rather than seizing today.
You are in control. You can make it happen. We finally have the opportunity to live in the moment. Take that trip. Do what makes you happy. Nobody knows what the future holds. But just remember, the choice is yours. So before we go any further, let me ask you this:

What will it take for you to truly live?

c) Who engages with this video and what is the intended affect?
Sometimes when there aren’t such explicit words to narrate the video or show, the messages can be so much more subtle. For example, there’s another STUNNING film called “Baraka” (part of a trilogy) that is worth getting to see on a big screen. It has no words at all (for over an hour!) but is directed and crafted with the explicit intention to persuade you of pluralism and some western liberal/secular values, all done through the lens of eastern thought and powerful imagery and sequences.

Here things are more obvious. In this narrative, who are we as human beings? What place do we have in the universe? What’s gone wrong? What’s the solution? What happens when we die?

Kevin either believes this message, or thinks we’ll share his video more if he says it: We control our own destiny, should live in the moment and make every second count. The fact that the first half of the message was about Covid cancelling all our plans and showing us we weren’t in control, doesn’t seem to phase him. And besides, with footage like he has playing in the foreground, we don’t really mind what he says, as long as it sounds cool and empowers us, right??

And he’s got us. So many of the things do seem true to some extent. But this, without he or many of us realising it, is anti-gospel. It’s not good news. Us being the prime ones in our life who are in control isn’t good news – life would suck if we were on the throne ruling over our reality – what a limited perspective that would be! And how daunting to feel we had to control it all. Us living only for our immediate happiness will ruin us long-term and hurt us as we all have immature desires that we are glad we didn’t act on, at times!

Some other questions that may help you think through the connections to the good news of Jesus, and the disconnect/confrontation with the good news:

  • How is the message of the media we watch interpreting or reinterpreting God’s good news?
  • Are there things that are beautiful, good and true about what is said?
  • Are there things that are ugly, bad for humanity and false about what is being said?
  • Are there good things (that God gives us) that the creator is turning into ultimate things (when we lose sight of God)?

So where does that leave us?


Well you’ll see that some of the video connects with the good news we know, and quite a bit of it tries to persuade you of a different reality. Should we watch it? Well, personally my conscience allows me to watch it, my context says nothing against watching it, and my character is not predominantly being shaped by such things. So I’m happy. But for others who struggle with lusting after travel, spending all their money on travel or unproductively scrolling YouTube videos of travel all their working days, it may not be wise or helpful to feed their hunger with this (or other travel videos for that regard).

The trouble more lies with the many of us who see no nudity, no blasphemy and no violence in the video and think “Oh, this is completely neutral for me to watch as a Christian”. Video after video gets consumed unthinkingly, and soon we’re just eating a steady diet of secular anti-gospel, and occasionally sticking a worship video in there to be Christian. Now this may not seem like a problem, until we realise just how much it shapes us. If we unthinkingly are listening to these things more than we are gospel voices (the Bible, other Christans etc.), we’ll soon find ourselves swayed from our faith, buying the false promises held out to us in the shiny menu of secularism. Before biting into our food and finding it to be lacking any nourishment or diverse flavour at all.

You’ll see it on dozens of Insta profiles, blogs and travel sites. The word “Christian” will be there, but otherwise it looks pretty much the same as any other. Perhaps it will mention the beauty of God’s world, a Christian playlist to listen to or a short-term mission trip they were on, but otherwise it’s all the same. Similar language, similar desires. And of course some of that is not a worry! But in many ways, we’re just imbibing secularism and sticking our Christian label on top. We need to do some thinking.But before you groan and think we’re going all super-intellectual, do not fear! Thinking does not mean we can’t relax and enjoy videos. It doesn’t mean we need to have an hour after every film to philosophically analyse everything. And like many things we start to be aware of – it comes more naturally the more we get used to it.

  • If you’re wanting to think more about all of culture, media and things you consume, then Dan Strange’s book is a great place to start. It’s super-short, practical and gives a framework that’ll help you with all of life. I’ve linked to it further up in this post.
  • If you’re wanting to think more about travel, travel videos and travel culture and how it both connects to the good news and robs of us the good news, then my book is perhaps a good place to start. It’s got the advantage of being written by a travel-lover, for travel-lovers, so I hope it’s easily accessible.

But now, let me get on very briefly to two invitations to adventure which I will ask you to join me in…

2. A Christian invitation to travel:

The video above is a Christian travel company in Northern Ireland who seek to partner Christians/churches in high-evangelical populations of the world with those church planting in areas with low evangelical populations (or none). Seeing them develop some videos has been fantastic even though they aren’t with the same aim or even the same target audience as would be needed to connect with most travel-lovers. Still, these folks have a depth of theology to them and have really thought through faith and travel.

They are one of many voices that will be needed in the days ahead to lift us out of a shallow mimicking of what the world has to offer us regarding travel. Such a mimicry under the guise of “Christian travel” will simply lure many to chase after travel, make it their heartbeat, and wonder why worshipping God on his terms, doesn’t seem as attractive anymore.

So there’s my first invitation: would you become a traveller who seeks to wrestle with how their faith engages with their travel, and form a theology of travel? If not, you’re missing out. Travelling without Jesus shaping your travels will leave you with a half-hearted vision for travel. And it’ll leave you with a version of travel which hurts others more too.

Would you become a traveller who seeks to wrestle with how their faith engages with their travel, and form a theology of travel?

My second invitation to followers of Jesus is a more practical one: would you become a traveller who seeks to apply their theology of travel to every part of their travelling? We are looking for:

  • Travel bloggers: who are more concerned with what they produce and how they engage with others, than in chasing blog hits or YouTube subscriptions. You will feel the freedom!
  • Videographers: who may develop to share top class videography, but not to make their own name great, to make themselves look impressive to the world or to repeat the many messages that are already out there, but to reflect some of the glory of God (explicitly stated or more likely not) and powerfully capture the goodness of sustainable, ethical travel under the good Lordship of Jesus.
  • Travel company workers: who are not completely ruined by the pandemic downfall in tourism and travel, because their identity is in the Travel-maker, and their hope is not in profit-margins, but in the creator of Travel himself, and helping others meet him.
  • Frequent flyers: who care passionately for the local Church, and shape their life round investing deeply in relationships of discipleship and being present in meaningful ways for both Christians and those who don’t yet know Jesus.
  • Travel-lovers: who shape their life round taking up their cross and following Jesus, rather than maximising their own pleasure in the same way others in the industry do.
  • Instagram-ers: who let God’s word and His voice shape their priorities and desires, over the stunning images which they can scroll through before even getting up in the morning.
  • Ordinary Christians: who have learned the contentment that comes with knowing Jesus, who are daily not just living for their Annual Leave, or the next chance they get to make a break.
  • Community Hosts: who host travellers from round the world either formally (through hostels and other spaces) or informally (through Couchsurfing and other networks) and shape that through the lenses of faith.
  • Travel writers: who write books from a Christian perspective, who write travel devotionals to help stir hearts to worship, who write evangelistically to persuasively introduce fellow travellers to Jesus.
  • Travel Community Leaders: who facilitate geographical communities where Christians can be developing some of the gifts above and working out a theology of travel together as a community.

Would you become a traveller who seeks to apply their theology of travel to every part of their travelling?

And I could go on….

There’s space for everyone at the table. And like everything in the Christian life, we have to start somewhere. So don’t worry about getting everything perfect to start with – we’re here to help each other onwards with that.

Don’t know where to start?

Drop me a line to see if there are others in your part of the world, or gather a group of friends together (while travel is still limited) to read Dan’s book or my own book in a book-group (online or otherwise) to get you thinking. And let us know if you’re already doing some of these things!

Happy travelling!

2021 travel goals

My travel goals are already looking unlikely for this year. About as soon as I’d drawn them up, they were in part decimated by new government restrictions limiting us to 5km from our home for all of the month of January. But with a vaccine being rolled out across the globe (or at least to the bits which can afford it), it looks likely that 2021 may still allow some travel at some stage. At least more than 2020 did!

But although 2020 may have gone down as your least favourite year of your life so far (at least for those of us who haven’t lived through wars, epidemics, famines or natural disasters yet in our lives), could I (perhaps bizarrely) suggest that the Christian traveller could have a different perspective?

Let me explain.

A flying 2019
You see September – November 2019 looked MAD for me with my travels.

  • 2 trips to Edinburgh to help a new bookshop start up
  • 1 trip to Oxford as part of an IFES cross-cultural network I’m part of
  • 1 trip to Glasgow with the same network
  • 1 week to Inverness to help my sister’s family redecorate their home before they moved back to Africa.
  • 2 trips back to my old stomping ground in Munster with work projects
  • 3 or 4 trips to Dublin to visit my (at the time) soon-to-be fiancée
  • 2 house moves (including one change of country)

By December my housemate had realised that the maximum amount of consecutive nights I’d been sleeping at home was 4! All of that while being present every Sunday at my local church, helping serve on 3 teams in the church, and building friendships with local non-church people too. With all of this, even a travel-lover like me was exhausted and so I cancelled my travel plans for another couple of work trips that month.

Little did I know that it was going to be my last ‘proper’ travel until 2021

Down to earth with a bang
Doubtless even if 2020 wasn’t so bad and you managed a fair bit of travelling (I take my hat off to you for being able to dodge the government lockdowns, travel bans and border closures!), or if this year is looking more optimistic for you, I wouldn’t let your year’s expectations ride on your travel goals, regardless how good a year it may be for them. And I’ve said that on a normal year. We as Christian travellers can enjoy a more free-ing perspective.

Undefeatable 2021 plans
You see, much as I find it fun to travel, and much as many good things can be achieved through travel (as none of my 2019 travel listed above was purely ‘pleasure travel’ per se), Jesus would have us know that we would be fools to stake our worth in whether we will get to travel this year. Why not instead root our year in the God who made travel? Why not find our satisfaction in Him even when we don’t get to travel? The questions he asks us are completely different ones (aren’t they always!) to what we might naturally ask of 2021. And each one leads to consequences in the next.

01


Desire

What will you yearn for most this year in your heart? It is probably a glimpse of what you worship. Is that the God who made travel, or is that your travel plans with god in your pocket?

02


Design

Will you let this year primarily be shaped by scriptural convictions – by God and his good plans and gentle heart? Or by your other desires, justifiable as they may be? They care nothing for you and will be harsh task-masters if you let them shape your year.

03


Success

What will you measure success by this year? Travel destinations ticked off your bucket list? Or growth in godliness in your response to whatever this year has in store for us? One will give you contentedness in all circumstances and a purpose that will never be frustrated.

04


Grow

Are you committed to investing in a local church community and having others invest in you this year? It will mean sticking around somewhere long enough to be known by them, and to know even the people you don’t really want to know or spend time with. This is where growth in Godliness will occur.

Enlarging your joy
Unsure of what your year would look like differently? Not sure whether it sounds so appetising to do this? Well if you want to have more space to think about it this year, why not grab my e-book Travel: in Tandem with God’s Heart” for £0.99 (available at this price until the end of January) and read it with a friend? It’s an easy blend of travel stories, bits of stuff from Jesus’ words in the Bible, questions to help you think and things that might help you respond. And I pray that it might help you see that far from robbing you of your 2021 travel joys, having the God who made travel at the helm of your life will be like arriving at a destination in real life compared to only having experienced it through the brochure and Instagram pictures of it.

The old travel brochures that enticed us have long been replaced by Instagram and the internet. Above: 1948-1949 Quality Courts United travel brochure Photo credit: Choice Hotels International, Inc.

Something to sing about
But for now, why don’t I leave us on a positive by saying: of course none of this (committing to Godliness via a local church community) completely limits travel. As we’ve seen plenty of times elsewhere, travel is a great gift of the creator to us. In fact, in recently reading a book that Keith and Kristyn Getty wrote about singing (sadistic I know, given we can’t sing in our church buildings for a few more months until the virus passes – I wanted to find out what we’re missing when we don’t sing), they suggested that one of ten things that would most fuel our kids’ hearts for singing is….travel! Or more precisely:

Cultivate high opinions of all types of art: teach them to be lifelong students of discovery in this amazing creation God built all around us and in us. In the Getty and Lennox households we both benefitted from lively artistic discussions on classical music, books, travel and faith that encouraged curiosity, sincerity and creativity.”

“Sing: How worship transforms your life, family and church” (Getty, B&H Publishing)

Because out of the overflow from the joyful heart, comes worship.

Happy New Year!

And may we enjoy knowing the God who made travel, more and more.


A unique book that blends the author’s travel experiences with a whistle-stop tour through the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible. It’s a curious blend of travel writing, theology and personal testimony. I found it strangely gripping and thought provoking. It certainly opens doors for wide discussion on the Christian life, liberty and mission. It’s an easy read that’s both sincerely enjoyable and seriously challenging.
Bob J (Amazon reviewer)

One post to rule them all

Once you’ve been blogging for years, the older posts tend to get lost into the back end of the blogosphere never to surface again. So here’s a pinned mini-library for those of you here for the first time, or those wondering where to begin. Doubtless it’ll be an incomplete list, but I hope it may highlight the main thrust of content on here and save you hours of scrolling past irrelevant content.

Firstly, my main purpose in writing was to help myself explore the intersection of faith and travel. To that end I put a short (Christian) theology of travel together here, before I wrote the book. It itself is a mini-library, organised according to Biblical theology and Systematic theology, though not updated since well before I wrote Travel. You can find it here. Of course some of the most popular material I have written is not on this site either – things like this where I was interviewed by Andrew Wilson for Christianity Today.

Secondly, I have been told that some other series I have written would be useful to have linked here prominently. Often nonsense gets the most internet hits (sadly blog posts with words like “sex” in or blog posts that just tell people what to do on controversial topics [people seem to secretly love being told what to do]), but these are significant not for the number of blog hits they get but for the reasons stated.

  • A series on Unengaged People Groups (UPG): if you’ve never heard of a UPG, aren’t regularly praying for UPGs and wonder why the western church doesn’t speak much about them, despite God’s heart for them, then you may like this series. It takes work done by others and applies it locally, but it may well still apply to some of your setting too.
  • A stolen series on unity in diversity: courtesy of Dave Bish (now the pastor of the church I went to during university days), there’s some thoughts on Christian unity. His models have caused many a conversation with pastors when I’ve been on the road, and have been very helpful in work. Other posts on unity also can be found here and here.
  • A series on how western mission agencies need to change: Like everything I write, it generally stems from work that others have done. This time taking from my experiences and from Eddie Arthur (@kouya) and applying it to the Irish setting. This series has helped round-table discussions amongst agencies on the island.
(C) mine

Thirdly, you may not like me hand-picking what I think you should read, and would prefer to walk into the blogosphere and climb a ladder to the fifteenth shelf and pick a blogpost that better interests you. To do this, most will know how WordPress blogs work:

  • There is a simple search function on the right-hand-side.
  • I have an unusual love of books. You can find all my book reviews and blog posts that resemble book reviews over under the topic heading “book reviews” on the right-hand-side.
  • All my posts about ‘faith & travel’ I tend to categorise under the two tags “theology” and “travel” – you can bring them all up using the right-hand pane. There are far more than just the ones in the section mentioned above.
  • Guest posts are also available through that “tag” on the right-hand-side. You’ll find more varied opinion in there than simply that of a young Irish lad.

Finally, there are some blog posts on here that fall into categories far away from anything about faith and travel but still seem popular. Here are a few of them:

  • The Irish 4 Peak Challenge: could you climb the highest mountain in all 4 Irish provinces in 24 hours? Not many have done this challenge, but having completed it in 2019 I’m willing to help any others who want to give it a go.
  • Tales from round the world: some of my blog posts I write simply for the joy of writing and telling (true) stories about things that have happened to me. You’ll see a few samples here:

[As things are written or re-discovered, I may update this as time goes on – we’ll see!]

Addicted to travel?

No-one ever admits they’re addicted to things. Just the way that no-one ever publicly admits to being lonely. Socially we don’t do that. I remember once confessing the fact that my heart was sometimes a little racist in some of my reactions in life. There was uproar at such a thought! There appear to be some things we are not allowed to admit. The ultimate sins of the age.

And then there are the things everyone is addicted to, so we don’t even call it addiction. Checking our phone notifications or social media (probably many times per hour for those with iPhones/androids). Sadly for our culture, even watching porn probably comes into this category – many we know in our society would struggle to stop.

But how can we tell if we’re addicted to travel? How do we know if it has gripped our hearts more than Jesus? I was caused to think through this questions by a recent article I read online:

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/oct/12/cabin-fever-tickets-for-meal-aboard-singapore-parked-plane-sell-out

People not only paying for flights that don’t go anywhere (return to the same destination as they leave), but paying to eat aeroplane food, on a stationary aeroplane! Now given the fact that most aeroplane food is atrocious, and some might want to pay to not receive it, this bizarre phenomenon must be explained by other reasons. Why would people pay sums of money to eat on a stationary plane?

Well obviously because they miss that aeroplane experience. They are so used to flying, or dreaming of what the conitation of flying evokes in their memories and desires, that being back within the shell of a plane, even if it doesn’t go anywhere, is worth the cost of the food alone. No one pays large sums for plane food by choice. People pay for what their hearts crave for – the feeling of freedom that travel gives – the longing for the ‘normal’ to return.

Now admittedly, in these weird times, one could pay for the novelty of such things, even when one has no attachment to travel at all, but it is unlikely. So is anyone who steps on that plane addicted to travel?

Our trouble with this is that we can justify away anything. Our hearts are fantastic at the “justification game” – making up excuses to justify our behaviour and claim that it is acceptable, even moral. And on the other hand, we also love to point at other people and declare them to be at fault (in this case, addicted to travel) based on our preconceived and cultural notions of what is healthy and what is not.

So I’d want to be careful in my broad brush-stroking everyone who does a certain thing, with an assumed heart motive. But at the same time it got me thinking. What would signify that my heart was addicted to travel?

MONEY

  • when I spend more money on pleasure travel than I give to world mission in a year?
  • when I go into debt or borrow to finance my travels?
  • when I can’t give to some sustainable project in a place I’m visiting because I’ve budgeted every last bit of money to suit my travels/needs?

TIME

  • when my bucket list dominates how I spend my annual leave or my free time?
  • when my friends say they don’t see me much because I’m away travelling all the time?
  • when I turn down helping on a Saturday night rota or Sunday in church because I am hoping to be away weekends?

PERSPECTIVE

  • when my social media feed causes me to long for travel more than praise the God who made travel?
  • when I’m more aware of the travel destinations or tourist attractions in a country than I am aware of the state of God’s people (the Church) in that country, or the great needs of the country?
  • when I seek to justify my travels by using mission, visiting people or short-term volunteer projects as an excuse?

LOVING OTHERS

  • when I don’t act to counter the ethical affects that my travels have on the environment and on the most impoverished in the countries I visit?
  • when I don’t have the energy or heart to regularly serve a local community of believers in some ways each week? (whether formally or informally)
  • when I don’t have the energy or heart to regularly reach out to local unbelieving community each week?

COVID

  • when I think of this period as the ‘waiting time’ before real life returns?
  • when I relish saving lots of money over this period (from not eating out, not travelling, not spending much) because it means I can travel far more for my own pleasure in future?
  • when I long for travel to return more than I long for Jesus’ return?

OTHER

  • when I start paying for meals on stationary planes?!

Now don’t get me wrong. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it a perfect list. You may object to some of my questions and may do so rightly (though I’d be interested to hear from you which ones). You may also think I haven’t touched on some areas which we could ask questions about (please do send your heart-revealing questions in!). But even for those who have started working in the travel industry (as travel bloggers or otherwise), I hope these questions are still fair ones to ask.

This also is not primarily meant to be a list to spiritually beat you up, make you feel bad about your faith and demand you do more good stuff to make up for it. But if you feel really bad, or even feel a bit angry at me writing such a list, I might suggest that perhaps it has touched a sore point in our hearts where we realise we may fall short on an awful lot of these suggested things! We don’t need to be addicted to travel, for us to feel the increasing tug of it on our hearts day by day. Could this be a time to take stock and re-orientate our hearts towards the God who made travel?

The good news, is that the response is better than simply taking a pledge to abstinence. You are not required to sign up to a Travel-holics Anonymous class. You don’t have to bathe in shame for the foreseeable future either.

“If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

(1 John 1:9)

In coming to Jesus as creator of travel and asking him to help us glimpse the his goodness and the One who is transforming it all under His good rule and reign towards a new heavens and earth one day, our hearts can be captured by infinitely better dreams than anything travel could give us.

Now to help us see this, and to help us see Jesus’ good news for our lives as “an easy yoke” and “a light burden”, you may still find it easier to grab a close friend in church and chat through your struggles or questions with them, and let them help you establish perspectives and patterns in your life which help re-orientate your heart to an infinitely bigger and better gospel than the gospel of travel (alone) can ever provide.

And why not do it now, while we have time to think during Covid and when we realise how unsatisfying living for travel is, during this season?

It’s why we need to talk about travel, at the time it seems most silly to talk about travel – when no travel can happen.

Travelling to be baptised

The two things that pub conversations usually bring up quite quickly with folk who are getting to know me and seeing where I stand on things as a Christian, are whether I know my religious festivals, saints, or other-things-very-religious-people-talk-about, and whether I am as old-fashioned, naive and conservative as they think religious people are.

And once more this week it was true.  A German man was slightly shocked I didn’t know his country’s public holidays, which are largely religious festivals.  Similarly I still remember the shame of my primary five school teacher as she publicly derided me at the age of 8 for not being able to say the “Our Father” word for word accurately in the translation of the English Bible she had chosen.

In the land I live, much of the landscape is named and dominated by Saints of old.

Some day, for the sake of loving my friends who value some church’s carefully selected days and Saints, I may sit down and learn them but for now, I’ll happily praise God each day for those who’ve gone before me, both religious and not, who have made this world a better place.  (Thus this post was highly unusual and a delightfully “ecumenical matter, Father”)

Whether I am old-fashioned, naive and as conservative as you think religious people are, I’ll leave for you to find out in person.  But for now just one more comment that often gets thrown my way:

“Peter, wouldn’t you just love to go to Israel?”

To which, strangely for once, isn’t anything to do with them stereotyping Christians as a right-wing, Israel-supporting (DUP?) people, and more a genuine question that they think I’ll jump at.

“Oh Israel, the land where my God walked!  I’d love to go!”

^The line I’ve never said.  

And as many Christians run off left, right and centre to go there, why am I not so keen?

Well in all honesty from what I’ve heard from many others, it’s a bit of a tourist trap.  Lots of guesswork on where exact (fairly unimportant) things were, and for the things that are known, lots of tourist money to be had.  And for what reason?  To get a feel and experience of where Biblical characters lived and walked.  For me, I feel like I’ve had enough theological training and experiences in middle eastern like cultures, that I don’t think I’d come back with any paradigm shift in understanding or experience, but perhaps that’s just my arrogance or naivety.

Walking the gorges similar to Biblical landscape

But more what I was fascinated to know, was that several of my new believing friends were off there to get baptised.  To be baptised in the same waters/place that Christ was baptised (they think).  To which baffles me given:

  • they have largely been baptised already in a faithful Irish church
  • the people who are baptising them have no clue who they are, or whether their profession of faith is genuine or not
  • baptism is surely a sign of baptism into something…The Church, and so having it isolated from such a local expression of church (elders, deacons, those who will be “one-anothering” each other in future etc), seems bizarre to me
  • to do another baptism for the experience of it, makes a mockery of the real thing, which is sufficient and which is there as a lifetime reminder of God’s covenantal love to His (unfaithful) people.

Instead of chasing another spiritual experience like a second baptism, I hope we can:

  • enjoy committing to our own church, and letting them enjoy our unity in Christ, reflected in baptism, even when it seems less glamorous. Why not even try chatting with them on why you feel like being baptised again?
  • see how you can avail of the spiritual gift of baptism to us, by improving on your baptism! (Now there’s language I don’t often hear used about baptism!) As the authors of the above (linked) post remind us, baptism is not just a cannon that was fired once in life and then sits there rusting as a relic of the past.

So for now, apologies to those who still really want to go to Israel – let me not stop you in that! But when you’re there, please don’t be persuaded that you’ll be more spiritual if you practice certain things over there.

Christianity Today interview about “Travel: in tandem with God’s Heart”

A month or two ago I “sat down” with a like-minded traveller from the other side of the globe, and had a Skype which turned into this Christianity Today article.  It’s been one of the joys of this whole process – being introduced to top thinkers and practitioners in various settings and from various theological backgrounds – what a joy!

Do check it out!

Hot off the press! Travel: in tandem with God’s heart (IVP UK)

It’s here!  From October 18th (today!), Travel: in Tandem with God’s Heart is available on:

The Publisher’s Website (*ebook and paperback)

Amazon and with free postage to Europe: The Book Depository

The Evangelical Bookshop (*cheapest, and includes free postage to UK)

Unbound Cork (*10% off when you enter “welcome” as giftcode when paying)

All good local bookshops

TRAVEL flyer front
TRAVEL Flyer Back

Pre-order “Travel: in Tandem with God’s Heart” today

 

 

 

 

The final manuscript has been sent off to the publisher, the printing will start soon, and come October, they’ll be making their way to a bookshop (or online retailer near you!).

For the cheapest price so far, you can pre-order it here (with free postage to the UK)

If you’re an Amazon junkie, it’s available through their normal pre-order system.

Or if you want it on the Publisher’s (IVP) website (free delivery if you buy a couple more to give to your avid travelling friends and family): click here

Finally, I’ll be touring Ireland (with a few UK stops too) with a “Travel Experience” event this academic year, so you can buy reduced price copies at all of these events.  Details tbc.

Here’s what others have been saying about it:

I have been travelling internationally for 45 years. I wish I’d been able to read this book years ago – it would certainly have made me travel more thoughtfully: it’s a travelogue; it’s theology; it’s cultural education; it’s mission challenge all rolled into one. A fascinating read.

– Peter Maiden, International Director Emeritus of Operation Mobilization and former Chairman of Keswick Ministries

Loved it! What a marvelous journey through the stories of Scripture (and the author’s life) that will challenge, encourage and widen your perspective, not only on travel, but also on the amazing One who created it all. In a world where it is easier than ever to work or study abroad, this book deserves to be widely read.

– Sinead Norman, International Student Ministry Administrator at International Fellowship of Evangelical Students

Peter Grier gives us excellent, fresh ideas for honouring God with our travels, and helps shape perspective on mission, tourism and the meaningful welcoming of international students.

– Alan Tower, National Director of Friends International
If you’d like to help me spread word about the book, host a “travel experience” evening to get people thinking about the topic, or have me to speak, I’d be delighted to consider any invitations.
Thanks in advance!  Happy reading!