(Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference 2003)
by Ian Hamilton, Cambridge.
Do you know the sheep? I was once in a fine church talking to a godly elder who wept saying, "This is the first pastoral visit I have had in 18 years." If you are not convicted of pastoral visiting then you are not fit to be a minister.
WHY VISIT THEM?
1. God loves his sheep, individually and congregationally. In a visit we can bring his care to bear on them.
2. We can understand them
3. How to apply the word to them when we preach. Preaching is not a scatter gun, but more like a doctor applying the balm of Christ where it hurts. What are those hurts?
4. To expose our humanity to the flock. Ministers are sheep before they are shepherds. The man who ministers the word of God to them is someone beset with weaknesses and they must see and hear us through a grid of true humanity
5. It keeps the unity of the flock defusing tensions before they erupt in church meetings.
6. We look for the effect of the Word in the flock.
HOW SHOULD WE VISIT THE FLOCK?
1. As shepherds who are also sheep
2. Not unwillingly
3. As servants
4. Wisely, so that sometimes a fellow elder is brought with us.
5. Familiarly – the solitary are in families.
6. In a gentle and not overbearing spirit, as those who love them.
WHEN SHOULD WE VISIT THEM?
1. It should be a regularly embedded reality in the pastoral ministry.
2. Patiently and steadily it should be done, so that the painful deep iceberg-like needs of some are finally manifest
3. At sensible times, when it suits them, not us.
Our visits do not need to be long and involved meetings. Just a pastoral contact with them is important. This is a central activity and not peripheral to our ministerial calling.
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