Sep6TueSeptember 6, 2016
Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway Christian Resources, is a servant of the Lord for whom I am thankful. Though I recognize we have some differences in philosophy of ministry, I have benefited from many of his blog posts and appreciate the energy he puts into helping leaders evaluate themselves and their churches in order to improve the effectiveness of their ministries. In the past year, I have shared several of his articles with our church staff. Therefore, it is not easy for me to express my deep disappointment with his recent article Fifteen Reasons Why Your Pastor Should Not Visit Much. Frankly, I was startled by it.
Let me make it clear right away that I do not believe the lead pastor should do all the visitation in a church even if he is able to do so. In many cases it would be a hindrance to the overall health of the church and the growth of every-member-ministry if the pastor made all the visits, especially if he made them in the traditional, solo way. A plurality of elders is the biblical pattern of shepherding for a good reason; there are more soul care needs than there are men to meet them. This will always be the case for any church of any size; therefore, I am a strong advocate of training a team of men and women to regularly carry on visitation ministry (I have written on this in the past). In my church, I am already blessed to have multiple staff as well as members who are gifted and faithful in this important demonstration of one-another love. Alongside his own involvement in visiting the flock, it is essential for pastors to be involved in training the saints for the work of ministry, which includes the ministry of personal care.
To be fair to Thom, I should point out that the word “much” in his title surely indicates he does not believe the pastor should not do any visiting at all. Nevertheless, I remain very concerned about the overall message his article sends and find most of his reasons unfounded and unconvincing. In short, I do not believe this is the counsel today’s churches and pastors need. With that said, here are 15 reasons I believe in pastoral visitation.
One of the surest signs of the blessing of God upon His people is the gift of spiritual shepherds who faithfully care for His flock (Jer. 3:15). If local churches need anything in this present age of pragmatism it is a new generation of pastors who will minister the Word through faithful preaching and personal soul care. Of course, they cannot and should not do this alone, but they need to lead the way. May the Lord raise up this new generation for His glory!