The Joy of Pastoral Visitation
I learned to love pastoral visitation whilst living in Kirkcaldy, Scotland. It was a pastorate in a rather compact, small city. No one traveled very far to come to our little Baptist congregation. It was a convenient place for me to learn what God’s people enjoyed about having their pastor come over for a “cuppa” (cup of tea) and “blether” (chat).
Some pastors do no pastoral visitation, while others do about nothing else. Not everyone who sat under my preaching ministry would consider me their pastor, however. There is something unique to the bond between one who is a pastor, by profession, and one who calls the man of God, “Pastor David.” Others would call me, “Dave” or “David” but they were careful not to call me “Pastor” or “Pastor Dave.” As a result, I knew that was not our relationship.
As a pastor, my desire was the care of souls. In order to let someone care for your soul, you must let them into your life, and this requires you see them, as sent from God, to love you with the truth that is in Jesus Christ (Eph 4:21). There must be trust and some degree of respect for the office (elder) and the task (shepherd the flock of God).
On the one hand, one must have that Spirit and gift given to Barnabas, who served as an encourager. No doubt, Paul wanted to return to the churches of Asia, to encourage them in their faith, but one must see how Paul and Barnabas would approach that task differently. They were different men, with different spiritual gifts. Their hearts were to be with God’s people, however. That is pastoral ministry. When it is engaged, the venue may be the church, a coffee house, restaurant, or in one’s home.
When a pastor is separated from the flock, to which He was appointed by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28), as an elder, his care is interrupted. This may be the result of political intrigue, a change in calling, or a choice of the pastor in need of the change.
Returning to former pastoral locales has a profound effect upon my own soul. The deep love and affection for those who loved me (somewhat difficult for sure!) is re-kindled. There is a mutual excitement in learning what God has been willing and doing to fulfill His good pleasure (Phil 2:13).
The pristine example of a pastoral/flock reunion is Jesus Christ returning to His disciples, following His death, burial and resurrection. The exuberance, the amazement, the realization of life after death would have knit their hearts together with the Son of God like never before. They were changed men, after seeing the resurrected Christ and receiving His Spirit (Acts 2).
This fellowship would have yet another dimension when the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit for a permanent communion (Jn 14:17, 26; 15:26), after Jesus ascended into heaven. This emboldened these slaves of Christ like nothing else. They would never be apart from Christ, again, and all things became possible, as a result of His permanent indwelling presence (Rom 8:9, 11; 1 Cor 3:16; 2 Cor 1:21–22; Jas 4:5).
Pastors, filled with the Holy Spirit, are sent from God to those who receive them. These recipients become the beneficiaries of all that God has built into the pastor. We are not to despise young pastors, but older pastors potentially hold much more benefit for us. This is simply because of their years in the Scripture and exposure to the ministry. We should be wiser as we get older.
Communion, especially reunion communion, is sweet fellowship. It is refreshment because it is new again. The third party to a pastoral visit is the Holy Spirit, who has arranged the meeting for His purposes. God is at work when His people convene and confer with one another.
The effect of believers gathering together can be potent in the moment, and it can serve long into the future. There is expectancy when reunion occurs. This meeting is a gift of God, and He blesses us with love and unity. It is good for Christians to meet with their pastors, as it was known of those who had been with the Lord.
Pastors must know the state of their flock. They can only do this with occasional, personal encounters. In small churches, this can be accomplished at regular meeting times, before and after the purpose of the meeting. In larger congregations, time must be allocated for the task, during each week. In days gone by, mornings were given to study and afternoons or evenings were for pastoral visitation.
Christian, has your pastor been to your home to check on the well-being of your soul? Does he care to hear and know the story of God’s marvelous grace, in conforming you to the image of Christ? It is appropriate for you to ask for his presence, and it is appropriate for him to ask to be in your presence. God the Spirit will join you, to bless and encourage both of you.
Finally, pastoral visitation is a powerful time for the Word of God to have its place of sanctification (Jn 17:17). It is a time for love, for truth, for reflection on life itself. Who is better positioned to walk with you on your pilgrimage to glory than your pastor? He is with you, in your home, because He cares for your soul. Give thanks to God for the Spirit-filled man of God, assigned by the Almighty to visit you and to bless you.
Flathead Lake, Montana
July 24, 2022