Richard Baxter‘s book The Reformed Pastor was on the “must read” list of many English clergy in the 18th century, including John Wesley. The Puritan Baxter offered argument and advice to get parish pastors meeting, visiting, and teaching the members of their parishes.
His contention was that a pastor could not help Christians to advance in their faith if he did not know them and never saw them face-to-face in their houses.
His advice and argument make as much sense today as they did then – or at least they do in the world of small churches. Large and mega-churches tend to farm out this kind of ministry work to staff pastors whose ministry is “congregational care.”
If we do not speak with and visit the people, how will we ever learn the state of their spirit or what they need to go on toward perfection? And yet, this is not easy work.
For one, people are not eager to be visited by a pastor who is coming to take their spiritual temperature. Lest we think this is a post-modern thing, Baxter mentions the same complaint in the 17th century.
Such visits can also be daunting for a pastor who understands his or her role as supporter and nurturing presence more than spiritual doctor.
Such visits also take a lot of time.
And yet, if we are interested in accountability and actually making disciples, it seems to me that pastors need to know their people – not just well enough to shake hands on the way out the door on Sunday morning either.
I don’t know how we do this better. I don’t know how I would do it. But I cannot escape the belief that I should do it and do it better.
3 thoughts on “Will you visit house to house?”
A church that I was a member a long time ago had a problem with the pastor’s sermons. The argument was that he wasn’t spending enough time on them because (I believe) he was spending too much time visiting individuals, both members and recent visitors.
So an agreement was reached by which the pastor would spend more time on sermon preparation and members of the congregation would spend more time visiting people.
In the end, while the pastor’s sermons improved a bit (thought I couldn’t really tell), there was a discernable loss of membership in the church. The committee that was supposed to take care of visitation did very little on their part.
It has often been noted that members should reach out to the visitors of their church so that the pastor can make his or her own visit. If that process takes place, the church grows; if it does not take place, the church dies. And that is what happened at my church.
Visitation is as much a planned ministry as anything else in the church and needs to be viewed as integral and important in the growth plans.
I tend to visit in homes for only a handful of reasons:
1. A homebound, sick, or recovering from surgery member
2. A new family that might be interested in membership or knowing more about the congregation.
3. Sitting down with a layperson in leaderhip to go over church business or run an idea past him / her.
In a previous appointment I would sometimes go just to shoot the breeze with some people, but not so much where I am now. I guess I write this only to say that I hardly envision my visiting as being done to take someone’s spiritual temperature. Get to know them? Absolutely. Learn about their lives, laugh and pray with them? Of course. Exhort them or advise them on ways to grow in Christ? Not unless they bring it up . . . you can probably guess how often that happens.
However, I will second Dr. Tony’s comment – even if the visits are friendly chit chat, I would not be surprised to find that a correlation exists between visitation and church health / growth. I don’t know of any hard data on the subject, but my limited anecdotal evidence I think would support that hypothesis.
I strongly feel it is one home(living room,kitchen table or patio porch at a time.)Wesley went out to the people. No one could have been more busy with preperation and planning than he and he was out there going towards the people, always. I pray that our Lord contuines to bless those who posess and practice the Wesleyan Spirit & ways.
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