Wayne S. Walker

     Question:  “If a family spends three weekends out camping, is it
wrong to spend time together instead of going to church, or can they
worship God out in the open air just as well as in a church building?”

     Certainly, there is nothing wrong with camping.  It can be an
excellent opportunity for recreation, which we all need, and a good
chance for a family to be together.  Even Jesus understood the need to
“get away” from the normal routine of things and find some time for rest
and relaxation (see Mark 6.30-31).  And since families need to worship
together, they can do so around a campfire just as well as they can
around the dinner table or in their living room.  

     Thus, we must realize that worship is not limited to a church
building or assembly of the saints, so that when we are able to spend
some time out in God’s creation, we can use it as an occasion to praise
Him for His works.  Psalm 19.1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of
God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.”  On the other hand, those
who are Christians need to recognize that they do have other
responsibilities in their relationship to Christ and His church in
addition to their private, personal worship.

     While it is true that as individuals we can find opportunities to
worship God on a personal basis out in nature and elsewhere, God has also
commanded His people to assemble on a regular basis so that they may
engage in corporate worship together, especially on the first day of the
week.  This is implied when Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 16.2, “On the
first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up
as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”  It is
possible both to enjoy the pleasures of camping and to assemble with
saints on the first day of the week if one just makes the effort to do

     The importance of gathering together on the first day of the week is
confirmed in Acts 20.7 where we read, “Now on the first day of the week,
when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart
the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.”
Notice that the disciples “came together” on this day.  We cannot
substitute any personal devotion that we might do while camping for the
coming together that God commands of His people on the first day of the
week, just as we cannot substitute attending church services on Sunday
for personal piety in our daily lives.  Both are essential to faithful
service in God’s sight.

     In addition, the Bible indicates that fellowship with other
believers is a vital reason for assembling together as a local church.
That is why we are told in Hebrews 10.25, “Not forsaking the assembling
of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one
another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.”  By being
with other Christians on a regular basis we can study together, pray with
one another, and encourage each other in our activities and spiritual

     Colossians 3.16 tells us, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you
richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and
hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the
Lord.”  We cannot teach and admonish others when we are not with others.
Weekend campers who decide not to attend church services miss this for
themselves and fail in their responsibilities to help others.  Our
obligation is not just to the church or the preacher, but to the Lord.
Yet, as we make certain that we please the Lord, we must also recognize
our duties to encourage and exhort others in our worship.  [From “Search
for Truth,”  Oct. 4, 1998.]


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