John Yeats, was challenged by Mike Minter’s book, A Western Jesus: the Wayward Americanization of Christ and the Church. In it, Minter points out that the conversation in the foyer after church has more to do with the 12:30 kickoff than the sermon that was just preached. In comparing the current church in America with the New Testament church, Yeats quotes Minter:
There is more of a cavalier attitude and a general sense of a temporal focus. Life went on as usual. “These aren’t pilgrims,” you say to yourself, “they’re tourists.”
What separates pilgrims from tourists? Well, I’m glad you ask. A tourist focuses only on his destination. He is ready to get to his vacation spot. The tourist wants to stay away from the actual city he’s visiting, but instead spend his time in the highly sanitized tourist areas where he is safe from having to deal with real life. The tourist is there to have a good time and doesn’t want anything to ruin that.
A pilgrim on the other hand, appreciates the journey as part of the experience. While he too has his eye on a destination, it does not prevent him from seeing all the world that is around him during his trip. The pilgrim is focused on immersing himself in the culture of the destination. He wants to experience the city for all its worth – even if that means going out of his way to find some hidden jewels. A pilgrim knows the people are what make a city great, so he spends time with the people, getting to know them.
Most of the time, I am a tourist. I fly through life focused on the next destination – whatever that may be. I don’t take time to experience the present life that Christ has given me. I don’t look around to see the people hurting all around me who need the love of God in there life. “I’m too busy working for God to help you right now. I’ll pray for you,” I yell as I quickly drive away.
Tourist don’t change a culture. They come in, spend some money and leave. However, a group of pilgrims can reshape an either city. They come in, become part of the city and impact the people who are already there for the better. When a pilgrim leaves, he is missed. When a tourist leaves, there are 20 more waiting to take his hotel room or his church pew.
Are you a pilgrim or a tourist?