Another Look by David Faust
Dr. Anderson was my family’s M.D. back in the Dark Ages when doctors actually made house calls. He didn’t come to our home often, and that was all right with me because he gave me shots and nasty-tasting cough syrup. Yet, it was comforting to know Dr. Anderson would be there if you really needed him.
Physicians who make house calls went out with manual typewriters and rotary phones. But with all the debate about health care today, no one disputes the value of a trusted family doctor who knows you well and helps you manage your physical health.
Likewise, something in the human heart longs for experienced, caring leaders to assist with our spiritual health care. The Bible calls them shepherds, elders, pastors, ministers—and members of Christ’s body gifted in mercy, service, evangelism, teaching, and helping.
I understand why medical doctors rarely make house calls nowadays, but I am puzzled why church leaders seldom do. What we used to call “visitation” or “calling” is becoming a lost art, and the church is worse off for it.
In part it’s a symptom of culture change. Locked inside air-conditioned houses with cable TV for entertainment, neighbors no longer sit on the front porch in the evening, talking with those who pass by. People value their privacy and might feel embarrassed or imposed upon if the preacher comes to the door unannounced. But I can’t help but wonder if some of the current aversion to home visitation results more from apathy and laziness than it does from others being unapproachable. The Great Commission still compels us to go and make disciples, not wait for others to come to us. Didn’t Jesus say that when we visit the sick and those in prison, we visit him (Matthew 25:31-46)? Didn’t Paul teach “publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20)? And remember the definition of “pure religion” in James 1:27? “To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction” (King James Version).
God wired us to be relational—to give and receive the personal touch. Evangelism and spiritual growth occur not only in the church building, but out where people live.
If you’re sick or injured, it’s incredibly comforting when an elder visits your home or hospital room to express God’s love and offer a prayer (James 5:14). When a loved one dies, it helps for a concerned Christian brother or sister to sit at your kitchen table, share your grief, and “weep with those who weep.” When you have questions about the Bible or your faith comes under attack, a perceptive friend who meets with you one-on-one can help you see God’s Word through fresh eyes. When growing pains challenge or division threatens the church, a wise minister can relieve tension by sitting in church members’ living rooms and listening to their concerns.
Here’s a word for my friends who serve as church leaders. I know your jobs are hard and the demands are many; but I urge you, don’t confine yourself to the office or the boardroom. Get out and swim with the fish. At least once in awhile, be like Dr. Anderson. Make some house calls. Visit the sick. Stop by the hospitals and nursing homes. Practice hospitality and invite guests to your own home as well. As the church grows, you can’t personally attend to everyone’s needs, but you can make pastoral care a priority and lead your congregation to flesh out God’s love in the home, not just in the church building.
Some say the church is a business. If so, let’s remember what business we’re in. The Father’s business model always puts love for people at the top of the list.