Friday, April 02, 2010
The ministry of visiting…it’s what I have the privilege to do.A long time ago I worked with a Board of Deacons at a church that had a simple goal - divide up the congregation and have a Deacon contact, and if members agreed visit, every member of the congregation at least once annually. Every deacon ended up with about 30 households to call upon, so you were looking at less than one "call" a week.
I think it is what pastors and Christian people used to do, what they were expected to do. But something changed in the church.
I had a patient whose wife was an artist, and their situation meant that she was the only one available to care for him. She was struggling with this because she had an artist’s temperament and needed some space and time for herself. She was burning out and needed help. I encouraged her to call one of the local “mega-churches” nearby, thinking that surely they would have a caring person who could come and simply sit with her husband for an hour to give her some respite.
However, when she called, the person in the church office couldn’t seem to understand her request—“No, we don’t have anyone to do that. Are you a member of the church? Is your husband a Christian?—we could send an evangelistic team over. No, that’s not what you want? Well, do you belong to one of our small groups? I could direct you to our small groups pastor and he could take your information and maybe get you connected there, and you could attend a small group meeting and maybe someone in the small group could help you. No, I’m sorry, none of our pastors is available right now. Do you want to make an appointment to meet with one?”
This is Christian “customer service” in today’s church. Press one and get no help at all. Sorry, no option available for “I’m your neighbor who needs some simple human attention.”
The true and living God visits his people. He comes to us. He meets us on our turf. He enters our world. He knocks on our door. He comes personally to sympathize with us and meet our deepest needs. Jesus is the Incarnate One who visits us.
You'd have thought you were asking people to step on hot coals. Many people were simply afraid to call on strangers; some could not find the times, others "did not know what to say" (despite extensive training), and some simply thought it "too intrusive."
There was also a small group of deacons set aside to call on the sick, infirmed, and homebound. They did not have any such issues. When someone had a noticeable "need" such calling was not an issue, but when all appearance were good, well....
And so we can conclude that most people only think the church has much to offer when they are in some state of dire consequence. And yet, as Mike points out, churches are getting less ans less good at doing even that.
But more, how little we think of Jesus when we do not believe that he has something of great consequence to offer anybody, regardless of circumstance.
That's just a shame