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!

God is on the move (even when we’re stuck)

[Please excuse the break in blogging for the last month – I’ve been taking a hiatus from time online, partly as I settle into a new city/country/marriage/church, and partly as we’ve no WiFi yet at home. Reflections from the last month, on the last 8 years in Ireland are to follow. However I’m delighted to keep connecting with others who have a passion for Jesus, who have found themselves travelling His world and loving every second of it. Here Hannah Rasmussen (Kenya) shares a some reflections flowing from her studies of bi-cultural characters in the Bible:]


We often think of travel as a choice expressing independence. Gap years. Young adults on backpacking adventures. Exotic beach vacations. Travel has been idealized as a coming-of-age experience or luxury for those who can afford it.

But what about when travel is forced? Whether moving as a child, facing closed borders, or fleeing armed conflicts, there are many times travel can be outside our control. What about when you feel stuck where you don’t want to be instead of free to go where you’d rather be?

What about when you feel stuck where you don’t want to be instead of free to go where you’d rather be?

This has become the reality for many people during the COVID pandemic. People were stranded en route to their destination or locked down where they didn’t know anyone. Refugees’ and immigrants’ visas were stalled. International students wondered where they would live. Family members wondered when they would be reunited.

Travel was often forced in the Bible, too. Joseph was a trafficking victim. Moses ran away from Egypt as a fugitive. Daniel was taken into Babylonian captivity. Paul’s travel plans changed due to shipwreck, persecution, and imprisonment. Jesus’s first trips were in utero for a census decreed by one ruler and then fleeing another ruler’s massacre.

Where is God in the “bad” travel?

These characters might well have asked that question. I doubt they ever truly felt at home where they were (Hebrews 11:13-16). They weren’t readily accepted; Joseph and Moses were neither Hebrew nor Egyptian. Daniel was trying to be devout serving a government who wanted to erase his identity and replace it with a culture infamous for sorcery. Paul was a diaspora Jew, Roman citizen, and Gentile-loving former Pharisee. And Jesus must have been lonely knowing his home was with a Father no one could see (Luke 2:49, John 14:8-10).

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 11:13-16

But these biblical characters believed, as we must, that God is right where we are, wherever we are. As Psalm 139 reminds us, even when we feel out of place or abandoned, there is nowhere we can go from his Spirit, whether in outer space or undersea, east to the sunrise or on the far side of the ocean. Nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39).

Instead of bemoaning their ill fate, these biblical examples trusted God. They chose to learn about and adapt to the place they found themselves, without losing their identity or faith. They all experienced rejection, but they kept identifying with “those people” anyway. They followed the advice Jeremiah gave the exiles when they found themselves in a place they didn’t want to be: to settle in, pray for, and “seek the peace and prosperity” of Babylon (Jeremiah 29:4-7). They didn’t realize it, but by doing so they positioned themselves to be used by God right where they were.

“Bloom where you’re planted” may sound cliché. But if we believe in a God sovereign over our botched visas and cancelled conferences, he may have a reason for planting us just where we are.

Exploring places closer to my (Peter’s) new home each week – Cruagh Woods, Dublin

In fact, God may be planting us there for a harvest. These biblical examples each ended up playing huge roles in God’s mission. Because they had adapted to their new contexts without letting go of their original culture or faith, they ended up communicating between parties as mediators. Joseph revealed God’s plan to Pharaoh and saved Israel from starvation. Through Moses traveling back to Egypt and then through a wilderness, God displayed his power to all nations and led Israel to create a new culture in a new land. Still in exile, Daniel’s interpretation ended up in empire-wide proclamation of God’s reign. Through both Paul’s persecuted travels and his restricted movement in prison, he communicated the inclusion of the Gentiles to both them and to Jewish Christians. And Jesus traversed great barriers, first of incarnation and then of death and hell, to reconcile God and humanity.

None of these people could have achieved their mission in God’s kingdom if they had not been forced out of their comfort zone. To be effective, they had to keep identifying with their captors, their betrayers, and their persecuted minority groups. Not only did they go, they also stayed faithful and stayed long enough to become a bridge.

How does this apply to us?

You may not have time to learn a new language or marry into a local family where you’re stuck at the moment. I certainly hope you won’t be in exile or separated from family for years.

But perhaps being stuck is the time to ask ourselves if there’s anything we’re trying to escape when we travel: our own destructive habits, our unkept promises, the relationships we’d rather run from than reconcile. Moses accepted his calling by travelling back to messy relationships and his worst insecurities. Paul and Jesus walked into persecution knowingly. If our travel is motivated by fear, we’re not following in their footsteps. If we crave an adventurous escapade, maybe we can bravely confront what’s got us spiritually stuck.

Or perhaps we might think of small ways we can be present where we’re placed. Instead of spending all our time reconnecting with faraway friends via Zoom calls, perhaps it’s time to go on a walk with the neighbour. Perhaps we read up on the history of our town or find out who is stranded far from home in our city.

If we believe God is always on the move, this dislocation may just be part of his mission for the nations.


Hannah Rasmussen is the author of Good News about Gender: A Bible Study for Young Adults. She grew up as a third-culture-kid in Tanzania and just finished her MDiv in Kenya. She edits Christian books by African authors and blogs at hannahras.wordpress.com

Travelling to Frontier People Groups

How about shaping your 2020 travel plans around something different? Read on…

One of the groups of posts that I have received most feedback about is this one, outlining what Unengaged People Groups are, and why so few are going to them (from a western, reformed perspective). Millions in our world are left with little or no access to the good news of Jesus, and very few of our churches are aware, or perhaps are able to think through how to shape their whole church-life around such a heartbeat – God’s heartbeat for the nations.

Having already introduced Unreached People Groups and Unengaged People Groups (see link above), I have a third category today which I’ve been learning about recently, which will help clear up a number of issues.

Frontier People Groups

What are Frontier People Groups?

Why isn’t ‘Unreached’ and ‘Unengaged’ terminology enough?

There are many problems with the term “Unreached”, and its definition as a people group with under 2% evangelical believers. It means that both the Republic of Ireland and Yemeni people (in Yemen) fall into the same category. But they’re not. In the Republic of Ireland, there has been Judeo-Christian framework shaping the land for hundreds of years, the Bible freely accessible and indigenous evangelical churches growing fast. In Yemen, to the best of my knowledge, none of this is readily available, apart from perhaps the Bible online in a written (variant?) of Arabic. Yet both are called “unreached”.

Hence the addition of “unengaged”?

Well, yes. Unengaged People Groups don’t have workers amongst them, don’t have the scriptures in their language, and have no local indigenous evangelical church movement. But there are still problems with this definition, or at least the usage of it.

Often agencies have been working together to ensure that the most “unengaged” peoples are reached. And as soon as a team, or individuals go to that people group, they become “engaged”. Now if that people group is under 50,000 people, fantastic! But what if that people group is 5 million people? Is this one team now engaging them all? Sadly they are often taken off lists of “unengaged” at this stage, with little understanding that teams are only language learning (not really engaging people), and could well be chucked out (in many Creative Access Nations) very quickly.

There are also some places, where other locals from surrounding areas, could indeed reach into this people group, without a total outsider coming to them, as they have similar culture, language or heritage. We might like to differentiate between these “Unengaged” groups, and unengaged peoples who have no chance of that happening.

And so we arrive at Frontier People Groups.

For definitions of them you can see here and here.

For a deeper rationale on why such terms are needed, you can read here and see diagrams/learn more here.

There’s a danger that such terminology can soon swamp us and dull our imaginations by forcing non-Biblical (though not un-biblical) definitions on us as a narrow framework. But given the lack in emphasis towards the least reached, in our misisonal giving and sending, I hope such definitions will instead sharpen us and be of much use in the years ahead.

And where some of these Frontier People Groups may be inaccessible, some may be dangerous to visit, and some may be unwise to visit on holiday, there are others which the more adventurous amongst you could indeed think about visiting and getting a feel of whether you or your church could be pray-ers, senders or supporters of those who go to such people groups with the good news of Jesus.

Travelling for weddings

My wedding calendar:
May: London, UK
June: County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
July: County Wicklow, Ireland
August: London, UK
September: Marrakesh, Morocco

And I could go on…

From chatting to other young graduates in the Christian scene, I don’t think I’m unique in getting wedding invitations for each month of the year (though perhaps I am a social creature!). It’s a wonderful thing in many ways, that young people still believe in such radical, counter-cultural principles such as love being a choice that one commits to for life. Love is truly the most liberating freedom loss of all time (even if many of us as millenials doubt it, and struggle to commit – either to God or to a person).

But in other ways, the way the west has individualised and internationalised life and society, means that the way we do weddings baffles me, and our habits of thinking of attending many weddings as a good “Christian” thing to do, also makes me ponder.

I have previously written that in Christian mission, the “good” is often the thing that gets in the way of the “best”, and I want in some ways to say that applies here too regarding weddings in two ways.

Photo Copyright and taken by the amazing www.kristianlevenphotography.co.uk

Firstly, if you’re like me and are always on the road to weddings, and each month are forsaking your home community to do so, there’ll be an impact. You’ll be potentially a quarter less effective or useful in your home church, and it’ll impact your finances. For me who is then away on annual leave, or preaching or visiting family some other weekend of the month, it means I’m not in Sunday church for half the month. (Not a worry to you? Here’s some other posts I’ve written.) But for want of sounding stingey and rather heavy-handed in my implications of community life, let me move onto something that has me thinking more.

Secondly, what is the purpose of attending a wedding?

  1. Because you have to? – yes, sometimes you’re a relative, and relatives culturally often feel they can’t say no.
  2. Because they’re an old friend? – often its being invited to someone who was an influence in your life, or whom you influenced in life in the past.
  3. Because they’re a current friend? – most often we don’t need to travel far to our current friends’ weddings, but sometimes we do still.

So which of these would I consider not going to?

Well, no hard and fast rules can be drawn up, nor should they be, but the vows at one wedding caught my attention:

“Do you as a congregation, before God, promise to uphold and support this wedded couple, in any way you can in the years ahead?”

“We do” came the chant back from everyone enthusiastically.

But did I?

For this couple (a generic, hypothetical couple), they were people of my past life – deep friends from years ago. A couple who were unlikely to ever live in my country, nor to contact me apart from social media. Perhaps if we crossed paths in a city again, we might say hello, but ultimately, I knew things weren’t going to be the same again.

So was I realisitically, before God, going to promise to support them in the years ahead?

a. By prayer? There’s only a certain number of couples, missionaries, individuals and friends I could ever say I pray regularly and meaningfully for. “God bless all marriages” doesn’t quite cut it for me.

b. By contact? Once I’ve prioritised my home church community, my family, and perhaps then my inner circle of friends (non-Christian friends as well, of course), it doesn’t leave a huge lot of time to invest in others in life. I’d want to think twice before promising to God that I’d support a marriage.

c. By not doing anything unhelpful? Well, one could take a very hands-off approach and say that (depending on wording of the vow) that I would be supporting them, as long as I’m not negatively influencing them! But I’m not sure we’d want to be so scrouge with our words as to only allow for this.

Ultimately, I would conclude that weddings that have these vows for the congregation, bring the wedding back to The Church, and ground it in a living community that is geographically located. In some ways, this is very helpful. A wedding is not just a gathering of “people like us” but is a full spectrum of the diversity of Christ’s body, united by Him.

Should I have been there?

Well, again, I don’t think there are hard and fast rules. Christianity is not about creating rules, but our heart response to The Groom (Jesus) as His bride (The Church). These were great friends from my past. But perhaps if I can’t honestly say I’ll support the couple that are getting married, it’s one reason I might consider to not attend, if I’ve a list of 12 weddings in a year!

So could the best Christian thing, be not attending a wedding of a friend?

I would suggest the answer could well be “Yes”! So that it means more for you when you do attend them, so that current church communities thrive without people always being away, and so that it means more to the couple who are having people who honestly support them.

In the big picture of our relationship with Jesus, how important is this discussion? Relatively unimportant! But I hope it helps us think again – it’s often the “good” that crowds out the “best” and hinders our Christian walk.

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.

#TravelinTandem Chapter 7: Extra Material

Image chapter 7
Destination unknown!

BLOG POSTS that relate to this chapter:

Will the world burn? Or are we headed for restoration or a mix? Some borrowed thoughts from 1 Peter here.

Travel: a metaphor used for life

Our travel dreams are too small. Some thoughts that shaped this chapter.

Odysseus and a government monitoring travel

Travelling to find yourself

Someone who paints a far better, more persuasive picture than I do is Glynn Harrison in his book about sexuality “A better story”.

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The misty scenes remind me of the lack of clarity we sometimes feel in trying to find ourselves.

Tangential thoughts somewhat related to the chapter:

As I recently made a reading list of what books I’d read in the last 7 years, I noticed a distinct lack of eschatology (end times) on it. And by that, I don’t just mean end times debates about what will happen, but heart-warming thinking and meditating upon the new heavens and the new earth. And that’s all the worse for me – I’m missing out. So often I get lost in philosophising over what I don’t know, or getting angry and arguing about what precise end-times view someone holds, instead of marvelling at what is to come. It’s where I’ve found Nancy Guthrie’s latest book “Even better than Eden” to be a wonderful start.

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Father Ted: exemplary of where conservative culture gets confused with Christianity, and we go round telling people to stop doing things without anything positive.

Feedback from readers on the chapter:

Interestingly this chapter contains the most shared quotation so far: that “Christian culture” should not be our goal – making ourselves comfortable in our own societies (pg. 132). Here’s one example of a review that spoke of it. I find it fascinating that this should be something that the generation of travellers would be passionate about. So why do you think that is?

From living amongst them, and from my own heart, it’s obvious that the culture they react against is the over-politicised, right-wing conservatism, that cares a lot for enforcing “moral laws” (think: abortion, drugs, sexuality, gender etc) but are not as evidently mixing and mingling with, and helping those they are perceived to be campaigning against (often they are not campaigning against them at all, but their lack of engagement on the ground makes it appear that way and implicitly speaks volumes).

And whilst the traveller’s critique is often a fair one, I do wonder whether our own travelling culture needs also challenged here – as we sit creating our own conservative culture in hipster coffee shops, lauding our travel stories to each other from craft-brewing pubs, and going out of our way to know everything about what everyone is doing via social media, without engaging with them. The result, is arguably not much different, in terms of engaging meaningfully with people. Perhaps slightly less influence on national laws, and slightly less public square bitterness towards Christendom. But if we can expect that simply by sitting quietly drinking lattes and engaging positively with the world’s best sights, coffee and news headlines, will win the next generation to Christ, we will be sorely disappointed.

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Looking up, a path is always far harder to spot than looking back!

#TravelinTandem Chapter 6: Extra Material

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Just before the arrival of our gunman

BLOG POSTS that relate to this chapter:

Cross centred travel

When intentionality kills the dream

Does living “dead” to self mean Flight-free-travel? I wrote a ‘starter’ about the environment here and would love to have included more on this relevant topic, but for space (and lack of expertise), it was rightly given the axe. I’m not yet convinced that personal responsibility of carbon cutting by not flying, is a significant enough thing to stop me visiting my family, or other gospel callings. You can convince me otherwise – I’m open!

When we miss out on joy

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Enjoying dinner with sublime views

Tangential thoughts somewhat related to the chapter:

One helpful resource that shaped my thinking on this chapter was the Assemblies of God (USA) resource “The LiveDead Journal“. Made by Dick Brogden and team, this helpful devotional journal seeks to shape our hearts into a attitude of worship, even when that is hard. I have copies I’m willing to post to those in UK/Ireland, or for those in America, it’s easily orderable.

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Sunset after the gunman had left

Feedback from readers on the chapter:

“You need to set higher standards of sacrifice Peter. Where you have thrived in your life is sacrificial living but you need to call others explicitly to that. No books are written anymore about sacrifice after your IFES predecessor Howard Guinness wrote his. Why did you not say more about what living dead looks like? You’ve only touched on the basics.” (Reader in Belfast)

The trouble with writing a book about sacrifice on any topic, is that no-one picks up a book on travel, to be told not to travel. Similarly with enjoying any of God’s good gifts to us. But asides from that (which hopefully would not have stopped me), the article I linked to above contains a few reasons I’m nervous about delving far more into what sacrifice should explicitly look like in your life and mine but I might summarise why I didn’t say more in 3 ways:

  1. The Scriptures only say so much. General principles give radical calls to us to sacrifice, but often leave things to be worked out in our own context.
  2. Your life is different to mine – what might be sacrificial to me, may not be anything to someone else. My culture, socio-economic class, language, physical ability, mental capacity and personality will all play into this (though are also often used as excuses to neglect thinking through an area).
  3. We must primarily bathe ourselves in the good news of our Lord Jesus, and who He is – otherwise strict and continual calls for sacrifice will wear us out quickly, point more towards ourselves than to Him, and rob us of a gospel that makes us feel like His yoke is easy and burden is light. The hard thing, is that this “higher life theology” might still be using “Jesus” language.

Someone once said to me, that you can tell what people take away from what you’ve taught, by what (or whether) they pray afterwards. I think that’s been so helpful to me as I’ve led Bible studies and given talks. Similarly, when I get people on both extremes of a spectrum complaining, I realise that I’m probably at a healthy middle-ground, of holding the tensions of scripture (though not always, of course).

My prayer is that at the end of this book (assuming you’re not too overwhelmed by the challenge, to get to the end of the book!), you’ll be overflowing with an awareness of God’s good character in different ways, that will make us all willing to grow in our Christ-like response to Him.

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To jump the gorge or not to jump?  I said not!

#TravelinTandem Chapter 5: Extra Material

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On a paradise beach with a friend

BLOG POSTS that relate to this chapter:

For those who are keen on travel being mission-centred, I’ve written a 5 part series of posts here, of which many have been reading and responding to recently. I warn you, they go slightly deeper than most, and may take a few minutes to read, particularly when you see the Venn diagram!

Travel in the New Testament (some of the loose thoughts that the book derived from):

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Roman roads….when in Rome

Tangential thoughts somewhat related to the chapter:

I mention “Identification, Persuasion and Invitation” in the chapter, and here are some resources that further expand on that. Well worth listening to over the next while – these principles have shaped me enormously in life.

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Free lunch time talks in the university put on by the Christian Union, trying to identify, persuade and invite people to believe in good news.

Feedback from readers on the chapter:

Amidst many positive things that you’ve said, your questions mean I must admit that I haven’t been to Vanuatu. Nor a few other places in the book (I tell stories of the friends I mention). Perhaps editing may make it seem like I was in all these places, but for the sake of clarity, I should say this now – not that it affects anything in the book! This chapter originally started with a story of my sister and her husband (from Vanuatu) but was later removed to make the chapter more digestible.

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Miles from “normal” civilisation.  Who will reach the nomadic people here?

#TravelinTandem Chapter 4: Extra Material

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Exploring Arabian deserts

BLOG POSTS that relate to this chapter:

Travel in the Old Testament

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Treading arid gorges in intense heat.

Tangential thoughts somewhat related to the chapter:

Does travel restore our faith in humanity?

Home: a topic that so much more could be said about, albeit a sub-theme of the chapter’s main aim of taking us through the Old Testament. Here’s one way a university in England got people engaging on the topic with talks and free lunches on the theme all week (see video below), but I’d love to hear your thoughts on “home” too:

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Just like the many visitors  to Solomon, the nations come to our doorstep.  Pictured here, the local International Student Cafe.

Feedback from readers on the chapter:

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CouchSurfing, Arab-style!

#TravelinTandem Chapter 3: Extra Material

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One of the souks, where we started off

BLOG POSTS that relate to this chapter:

A book review of Ministering in Shame/Hono(u)r Cultures which delves deeper into some of the issues I’d raised.

The potential consequences of getting shame/honour culture wrong: martyrdom.  And then some feedback from those far wiser than I.

God’s Big Picture is one classic that I recommend everyone reads at some point.  But for those of you who aren’t readers, here’s it on video.

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Souks are more relaxing for some than others!

Tangential thoughts somewhat related to the chapter:

Top tips for a day in the souks

More material about souks and culture

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Trying to ascertain what goods are genuine local ware, and what are imported or replica kit, is hard at times!

Feedback from readers on the chapter:

“For this chapter alone, the book is worth it to even the most experienced Christian or cross-cultural worker.  The implications of this chapter are so profound, I’ve to go away and think more about it all, and how it affects my life, nevermind those travelling overseas.” 
(A kind, retired, reviewer in Ireland)

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Further along the Arabian window, you see temperature gauges on the street – this wasn’t as high as they went!