Your pastor likely has never seen in person the places he preaches about each week: the holy city of Jerusalem, the waves on the Sea of Galilee, the rocky slopes of the Judean wilderness. To him, these names may be mere words on the pages of his Bible—places he's experienced only in his mind's eye through pictures, Bible atlases, and travel videos.
To be sure, many truths in Scripture we have to accept by faith. But the lands of the Bible are still there to see. The places where Jesus walked, taught, and healed haven't moved—nor are they inaccessible. They stand ready to offer a greater understanding of and love for the Word of God.
I know, because it happened to me.
I was a senior pastor when my wife and I first journeyed to Israel. The experience radically opened my eyes to Scripture, and to my surprise, I discovered it greatly enhanced my pastoral ministry. I decided to research whether or not my experience was unique. What I discovered amazed me.
Why You Should Send Your Pastor to Israel
No doubt, a tour to Israel would benefit any Christian. But how will it specifically bless your pastor? Here are my top three answers.
1. His tour will give him what his seminary didn't.
I received one of the finest theological educations in the world, and yet, experiencing the lands of the Bible remained a mere elective. How much I would have missed if I'd never gone! My research of hundreds who have traveled to Israel affirms this conclusion.
- 84 percent agree with the statement: "If I bought 50 books on Bible lands, they couldn't contribute what my trip to Israel has given me."
- 75 percent agree: "Geography has increased my ability to remember biblical events and the life lessons they teach."
In the same way the original languages offer pastors an unparalleled immediacy to the biblical text, the lands of the Bible reveal to pastors the context of Scripture like nothing else.
2. His tour will increase his clarity in preaching.
The truths of Scripture are rooted within a grammatical-historical and geographical context. Once a pastor adds geography to his preaching, the precision of his communication increases.
- 86 percent agree: "When I include Bible lands in my communication of the Bible, my listeners tell me they understand much better what I am teaching."
- 93 percent of Bible teachers who have journeyed to Israel say they now use biblical geography to help illustrate their teaching.
It's true. A pastor who includes biblical geography in his teaching gives his congregation a better understanding of the Bible.
3. His tour will deepen his walk with God as a spiritual leader.
This is an astounding statistic that I have never seen contradicted in the many Israel tours I have helped lead:
- 99 percent agree: "Experiencing the land of the Bible firsthand has strengthened my spiritual life."
In short, pastors who experience Bible lands enjoy a better memory of biblical events, a clearer understanding of the text, a clearer direction to its application, and a more effective level of communication.
How You Can Send Your Pastor to Israel
A trip to Israel will enhance your pastor's ministry, and you have the privilege of making it happen. How?
1. Approach your church leadership.
Tell your church leaders that you would like to head a committee to raise the funds for your pastor's tour. (Perhaps you can send them a copy of this article!) Explain that you would like to raise the money via fundraisers or a love offering from the congregation. Perhaps the church budget can make up the difference if necessary.
2. Invite the entire congregation to participate (but keep it a secret!).
Send a letter or an e-mail to the church (but not to your pastor), and invite them to participate in your pastor's trip of a lifetime. Explain that they have the chance to show him what his seminary didn't and to enhance his ministry. Describe the manner in which you'd like to collect donations. For example, you could note that your congregation of only 125 adults can cover the cost of sending your pastor and his wife to Israel if each member gives $80. Remind them: "It's a secret!" and tell them to mark the surprise presentation date on their calendars.
3. Present your pastor's tour as a gift one Sunday morning.
Plan to announce the surprise as a gift for "Pastor Appreciation Sunday," Christmas, an anniversary, or some other occasion. Invent a reason to celebrate your shepherd! He and his wife will appreciate the gesture as much as the journey. It will draw you closer to them and them to you. Be sure to affirm that you'll be praying for the tour.
Your pastor will never be the same after his journey to the Holy Land. It will enlarge his perspective and his love for God's Word and will provide him with a greater confidence in what he preaches. And because he will never be the same, neither will you . . . just be sure to get him a round-trip ticket!