I recently read an article by Thom S. Rainer. The article was titled, “Fifteen Reasons Why Your Pastor Should Not Visit Much.” Mr. Rainer’s article is expressing a view about why pastors should not visit homebound people so often, and it struck me in two very powerful – but very different – ways.
The first way the article struck me was kind of a shock – it was as if I just heard a pastor speak heresy of some sort. I mean, who has ever heard anyone say that a pastor should not be the primary visitor of the homebound? Everyone knows that pastors are the ones that do that in their church. That’s why we pay them, isn’t it?
The second way was like a breath of fresh air. You see, as a pastor, I feel that obligation to visit our homebound members. The problem is, that’s not one of my spiritual gifts. Some pastors have this gift, and it is a great comfort for those individuals who are homebound. Let’s be honest with each other: it is also a comfort for the rest of the members of the church – it relieves them of the responsibility to visit those members.
Trying to operate outside of your spiritual gifts is difficult at best. However, it can do much more harm than good. For one thing, if you are forced to continue to operate outside of your calling – outside of your spiritual gifts – this will lead to burnout very quickly, and it will also grow into resentment.
Imagine that you are one of the Christians whose spiritual gifts do not include teaching or preaching. But one Sunday, the pastor informs the church that he or she will not be there the following Sunday, and has decided that YOU will give the sermon next week. Oh, you might do it, and you might do a decent job of it. However, it would be difficult for you, and you could not wait to get it behind you. You also pray that you will not have to do that again any time soon.
You might be thinking right now, “What kind of pastor are you, that you do not like going to visit your homebound members?” Or, you might want to say to me, “Cap, you need to pull up your big boy paints. Suck it up, Buttercup, and go do your job.” I mean, isn’t that what pastors are to do? Isn’t in the Bible somewhere?
I’ll wait while you pull out your study Bible or Google it.
Not there, is it? You see, home visits from pastors started a little over 100 years ago. I’m not sure what the reasons were, but in time, it just became what pastors were supposed to do. Yet here I am, a pastor without that spiritual gift.
So, what does the Bible say that a pastor should do?
For the most part, the Bible tells us that pastors are to teach the Word of God with patience (2 Timothy 4:2). It also tells us that we should have double honor for preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 5:17) and more stuff like that.
However, in chapter four of Ephesians, Paul is teaching about unity and maturity in the Body of Christ. We read in verses 11 and 12, “11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service…” Mr. Rainer uses this scripture as his center piece for his article. So, let’s look at it.
The apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are not to do all of the work in service to church and God. As a matter of fact, it is our jobs to raise you, the members, up to do this work of service yourselves. It is not just here that we find this; if you read chapter six in the book of Acts, you will discover the same message.
Look: there are times when it is right and appropriate for pastors to go see the homebound. From time-to-time, the pastor goes along with others to bring Holy Communion. Or, when it is coming close to the end of that person’s life, the pastor should go and make sure all is well with his or her soul. These are the times when people need their pastors. But in all those other times, what homebound people really need – and what they really want – is to be visited by friends.
A pastor’s number one duty to God is preaching the Word of God to all for the salvation of their souls. Anything that takes away from this first duty needs to be limited and prioritized to ensure that the first duty is not being ignored or shuffled to the back. And those of you that say or think, “What are we paying them for then?” or “They are just trying to get out of doing their job,” you need to read Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
God called us to raise you up and to train you to become mature Christians so that you too can serve your God in the fullness that He has called upon your life. In ministry, the church – the Body of Christ – needs to walk with the pastor; where he or she has weaknesses, that is where the Body is to be strong. Don’t make your pastor beg you to do works of service.