Holy Places

You’re not at church just for yourself, or even just for yourself and God—as strange as that might sound.

Andy Nash

My sabbatical study tours this past year have taken me to the following holy places: 

  1. Jerusalem’s Temple Mount (the holiest place to Jews) 
  2. Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque (the third-holiest place to Muslims) 
  3. Luxor’s Karnak Temple (the holiest place to ancient Egyptian polytheists) 
  4. Thailand’s Grand Palace/Wat Phra Kaew Temple (the holiest place to Thai Buddhists) 

As I’ve walked these spiritual centers, I was struck anew by the tremendous influence they’ve had on tens of millions of common people. 

Imagine being a simple pilgrim crossing the crest of the Mount of Olives—or the Nile or Chao Phraya rivers. How dazzled would you be to see a massive glistening holy place beyond your wildest imagination? (And how receptive would you be to whatever you were taught by the spiritual leaders at these spiritual places?) 

For Christians, our holy places are different from those of other faiths. Jesus first revealed to a lonely woman at a well that someday soon, believers in God would no longer need to make a pilgrimage to a temple anywhere—instead, wherever they were, they could worship together in spirit and in truth. 

And then He instituted the church. 

Of all the special places I’ve visited this past year, my favorite place was a simple Adventist church in Bangkok, Thailand. On that Sabbath morning here’s what we experienced: 

  • A robust Sabbath School discussion in a circle of believers, studying the same subject that millions of others were studying that same day: “In the Crucible With Christ.” 
  • A visiting Adventist youth choir from the Philippines. At one point in the mini-concert, the Filipino choir sang a Negro spiritual in English—while standing in Thailand. It felt like Pentecost. 
  • A delicious Thai potluck lunch, again in a circle of believers, talking and ministering to one another: the body of Christ doing together what Jesus did alone.

Not long after talking with the lonely woman at the well, Jesus sat in a circle of lonely people who weren’t His family—and He told them that they were His family (Mark 3:33-35). Later He told these same people to do for others as He had done for them—become family together, meeting in His church living room every Sabbath morning. 

Following a pandemic of isolation, many people have been slow to return to a church community. When and where there are personal health concerns, this is appropriate. But those able to return to church should return to church. Because you’re not at church just for yourself, or even just for yourself and God—as strange as that might sound. Jesus instituted the church so that people could be there for others— the lonely hearts who may not have family of their own. 

It’s a new year. It’s time for an old resolution: Let us not give up meeting together (Heb. 10:25).

Andy Nash

Andy Nash ([email protected]) is an Adventist pastor and professor who leads biblical study tours.