When I went to Turkey…
I just returned from an 8-day tour of biblical Turkey—a land replete with sites right out of the book of Acts. At times it felt like I was tripping over the Apostle Paul.
But the trip wasn’t without…disappointment.
I’ll try to be careful as I describe my issue—after all, it was a fabulous experience and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity. Furthermore, the people with whom I traveled were marvelous folks with many fine qualities, and I want to be careful that if any of them read this they do not feel as though their character or competencies are in some way called into question.
But I was reminded (again) of the massive gap between people who want more information and people who want more experiences.
Care to guess where I land?
I didn’t go to Turkey in hopes of acquiring new information. Who would? With the ease and access of the Internet you can learn everything there is to know about a given location, its history, and its significance to the biblical story. Even the pictures available online are better than anything you would see while on site (since my iPhone doesn’t take pictures as well as a professional camera). But when you go, you get the pleasure of walking on the stones, breathing the air, listening to the bees in the wildflowers, being startled by the snake in the grass, feeling the warmth of Turkish tea in your belly while the cold air makes your nose run.
It’s the experience, not the information, that matters.
And though I had a wonderful time—especially with my friends Jason and Becky—and though my travels were chock-full of adventurous escapades, those good things occurred in spite of, not because of, our tour guide and academic tutor. Both men were intelligent and kind. Both men were very knowledgeable. But they wanted to talk (while standing still) for 10-15 minutes at a time, all the time. It was like being invited to a buffet, only to have the chef explain all the ingredients before you were allowed to taste the food; and, once you were permitted to eat, the meal had already gotten cold and you were instructed to move onto the next course.
Perhaps you’re wondering if I’m making too much of this. I mean, sure—new information enhances the experience. Sure—incorrect information falsifies the experience. Granted—incomplete information reduces the experience. Of course—missed information truncates the experience.
But, as even these qualifiers demonstrate, it’s all about the experience.
Consider which you would rather have—a three-hour study session with an expert in the library, or a three hour roaming session by yourself on location in Ephesus?
Is that even a choice?
Would you rather read a book about your wife written by her father? Or spend an evening with her, laughing and sharing dinner?
Rarely do we have to make such silly choices—information and experience flow back and forth—but somewhere, somehow, we’ve bought into the notion that serious study is preferable to joyful encounter, that critical thought is better than exuberant laughter.
Could that be why so many churches are dying?
Could that be why so many churches are greying?
Could that be why so many Christians are perceived as loveless and harsh?
I spent eight days touring the sites of seven churches from the Book of Revelation, but the only times I truly enjoyed were those when I snuck off with my friends to explore. The onsite lectures and geographical info-dumps were…dull.
Was my trip ruined because of this? Of course not! I had a fabulous time and wholeheartedly recommend the experience to all. In fact, the primary reason I went was to investigate leading a team of Windies on a tour of our own. But, suffice to say, the tour company that hosted me in Turkey was better suited to academics than adventurers.