“That Church is Too Far Away”
I get asked a certain question quite often, namely, “How far is too far to attend a church?” Wow. Is it that hard to answer?
Don’t get me wrong, I know all about driving distances when it comes to churches. Throughout the 90’s and into 20’whatever, I’ve driven about an hour to church every Sunday. Make that twice on Sunday’s. Then you had Wednesday nights.
Currently, heading to church on Sunday mornings is roughly a 25 mile drive. Of course, then you have to drive home, there’s 50. After lunch, there’s the near obligatory afternoon nap with golf in the background (how can anyone not find that soft clap from the gallery and the whispers of golf analysts sleep-enticing?)
Basically, for us, we drive 100 miles every Sunday, to and from church. That’s not 100 miles on a big, wide highway either. It’s 100 miles down snaky, winding roads, into a valley, over a mountain, shortcuts on gravel roads until eventually, we arrive. It’s a beautiful drive, but you have to pay attention! Curvy roads with hidden spots can be dangerous, especially when ‘all those blessed idiots’ are speeding and crossing the yellow line at every turn. There’s lot’s of farmland, livestock of every kind, gorgeous countryside, and of course, being in Virginia, the mountains. We love it.
But that doesn’t answer the question, does it?
Ok, then, let me ask you this: How important is God’s Word to you? Eventually, you’ve got to answer that for yourself.
The fact is, I’m surrounded by churches. In Blacksburg alone, there are myriads of them – I served in one for most of 30 years, but I can’t think of one that I would recommend anymore, and I’ve lived in Blacksburg and the surrounding area for most of my life. Yeah, I know who’s who and for the most part, what they teach. That helps in recommending churches for folks to attend.
And then there’s the celebrity factor. Sure, 15 minutes away from here is a church plant by Paul Washer. I can almost hear some of you drool. Don’t. We attended there for over a year, but, there’s a cost. Yes, it’s close by, but the doctrine and leadership is, surprisingly, not worth it. Yes, you could be in the same room with Paul Washer, but is that why you’d go to church in the first place? C’mon. We left because of doctrinal differences. That and watching charismatic theology being mixed with reformed theology, and watching people fall out of chairs and performing long, elaborate, superficial prayers.
More than superficial, actually. It was competitive. What a shame. Young people trying to outdo one another, not in honoring one another, but by trying to outdo one another in spiritual profundity. It was pretty sick. Falling out of chairs as if ‘slain by the Spirit’, and during standing prayer, hitting the floor as if knocked on the head and laying prostrate like some muslim during afternoon prayers. Add to that missionaries who were allowed to preach without ever being set apart by any church, self-electing ‘elders’ who were nothing more than immature kids (one now the ‘pastor’) hanging on to the coattail of Washer, and well, you get the idea. Did I mention the freaky thing about people moving clear across the country to be a part of the plant? Brrr. There’s more to it, but, why bother?
What was the question? Oh yeah, how far is too far to go to Church.
Well, again, how important is the Word of God to you? How important is it for you to be fed expositional preaching by a man actually called and appointed by God – not a celebrity – … as opposed to a local, nearby convenient ‘fellowship’.
I’m currently driving 25 miles, one way to feed and be fed. Personally, I’d double that before I compromised and locked hands with any celebrity or convenient location.
Doctrine matters. Drive as far as you can to get the right stuff. And there’s your answer.
Ok. It’s somewhat easy to say that when your congregation is a mere 25 miles away. Quintuple that distance you talk about (I have to drive nearly twice that to get to work each day), add six kids (and the gas guzzler needed to transport them), and then re-ask that question.
Now put yourself in my shoes. I literally cannot afford to drive the 120 miles, one way, to get to the nearest doctrinally sound twice every Sunday and once on Wednesday. Yes, I have searched literally everywhere in between. Look at a map of western ND sometime to see what I mean.
I don’t think one has to be dogmatic about attending “once on Wednesday and twice on Sundays”. I also won’t be told that I don’t value God’s word because I don’t have $100+ dollars to pay, one way, for gas. There are not many vehicles that get good gas mileage capable of hauling all eight of us.
We go when we can. I understand that not going as often as you do might imply that I have added responsibility as a husband/father/teacher. That’s just what it is. I am contractually constrained from changing jobs, and financially constrained from moving due to home and rental prices being up 400% as a result of an oil boom. I want to LOL when people flippantly tell me to move closer to a church.
Not everwhere is the densely populated eastern US. It was worse when I lived in Alaska.
Things aren’t always that simple.
That’s my answer.
I have no idea how to answer the basic question. I’m fortunate in that I have a small bible-believing sovereign-grace-teaching Baptist church four miles away, but there are vast swaths of the “densely populated eastern U.S.” without a solid church in sight. Sadly, most church buildings are tempes of rank idolatry, which is why my little Baptist congregation has a number of families driving one to two hours each way to attend. Some of them probably pass 50 different churches on their way to ours.
FWIW, about forty-five years ago our pastor was fired from an SBC congregation after he told the deacons he had become a Calvinist. The majority of our congregation are also former SBC dispensational freewillers.
I grew up in South Dakota. I knew a pastor who drove 200 miles every Sunday to feed four congregations. They made it work. When I was a minister in Nebraska, I used to rotate serving five congregations without pastors every sunday (two one week and three the next), and then also rotate to serve a small congregation in Kansas, 100 miles away. Where there is a will, there is a way.
We never saw anyone falling out of chairs Perhaps some immaturity but with the average age around 26 thats understandable. Don’t you think they could use your wisdom and experience. We were actually thinking about going back, mainly because our place has not sold but I also think it is a cool church.
Hey Vince. We certainly saw folks fall out of chairs, maybe that was after you left, and yes, age can be a factor, but when the guy falling out of the chair is a Heartcry missionary? Nah. There’s some other motivation. Secondly, Paul Washer’s church plant does not desire anyone’s age, wisdom or experience as a pastor. They have their own agenda, and that was made very clear. Thirdly, to move a family across country, in my opinion, is absurd. There are good, solid churches in Arkansas, check them out. You don’t have to sit under celebrity apprentices to be holy. Hope all is well, and God bless. 🙂
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Speaking as one who lives without a car, my heart breaks for those of you who have to drive long distances to church. Boo Hoo. At least you can go. Suck it up, Nancy.