A LETTER from a retired minister, now an active member of a church with between 300 and 400 members and still called on to preach although he is approaching 80 years of age, expresses the burden he carries for the care of the members. He finds it hard to understand why there should be so many within the church who seem worldly and indifferent to the need of real spiritual growth. As he puts it, "It is hard to believe that such a condition could exist in the church in the light of all the signs we see today of Christ's coming."
Obviously a partial solution to the problem, at least as he expresses it, is "for our pastors to visit the homes of the flock." This he feels is often neglected. He says, "Our membership has grown to such an extent that many pastors feel that the task of visiting is too great, so they hold an office at the church with the understanding that members may call upon them. The sad part is that those who need help seldom come."
Later in his letter he reports his own experience. "I have spent a lifetime as pastor in our churches, and I have found it is possible to visit all the flock at least once a year by budgeting my time. This can be done with a membership of 500, and when the member ship is larger, the associate pastor helps to make it possible. Spend the morning hours in study, and the afternoons and evenings when possible in visitation. Suppose three visits are made a day. In a church of 500, counting three members to a family, within a period of 167 days all the flock have been visited. Of course, some may require many visits."
Ellen White makes it very clear that personal visitation in the homes of the people is extremely important if they are to be made ready for the coming of Christ. This is not an option, but an imperative. Our good brother quotes the following:
"If one entering upon this work chooses the least self-sacrificing part, contenting himself with preaching, and leaving the work of personal ministry for someone else, his labors will not be acceptable to God. Souls for whom Christ died are perishing for want of well-directed, personal labor; and he has mistaken his calling who, entering upon the ministry, is unwilling to do the personal work that the care of the flock demands." --The Acts of the Apostles, p. 527. (Italics supplied.)
"He should enter the different families, and carry Christ there, carry his sermons there, carry them out in his actions and his words. As he visits a family he should inquire into their condition. Is he the shepherd of the flock? The work of a shepherd is not all done in the desk. He should talk with all the members of the flock, with the parents to learn their standing, and with the children to learn theirs." --Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 618.
The letter from this retired pas tor closes with the appeal, "Our pioneers were faithful visitors, let's revive the program."
Pastors who are truly successful, in terms of seeing real spiritual growth among the members, are those whose personal concern leads them into members' homes. This is God's method. It is God's plan. Every effort to short-cut the program by eliminating such personal labor shows up spiritual degeneracy on the part of both ministry and people.
Good preaching is also essential, and this requires hours of personal study and devotion, but good preaching is most effective in the lives of those with whom the dedicated pastor has had intimate contact in the home. It is then that the messages from the pulpit find most intimate lodgment in the soul.
According to the inspired statements above, those who are unwilling "to do the personal work that the care of the flock demands" have mistaken their calling. These are strong words and should be taken seriously by every pastor. In the light of the great need, we must surely underscore personal care of the flock as one of our first priorities in seeking "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."