Orley M. Berg is an executive editor of The Ministry.


ONE OF the finest compliments a pastor can receive is one I recently overheard concerning a minister friend: "He is a person we know we can go to and be received with understanding. He is so easy to talk with, so approachable, and he always brings encouragement and hope."

This relationship between the pastor and his congregation is becoming increasingly important in these days crowded with cares, concerns, and anxieties. Group polarizations are developing on every hand. It is becoming more and more difficult to get through. There are serious gaps, gaps between husbands and wives, parents and children, the home and the church, pastor and people.

Statistics reveal that the chances for happiness in marriage, even within the church, are constantly diminishing. Also, that a growing number of youth brought up in Seventh-day Adventist homes are leaving the faith. The significant role of the pastor in this distraught picture is worthy of serious consideration. He is to stand as a vital link between the laity and the Lord. He is to represent the church and what the church has to offer. Through him Christ and His church are to be set forth as providing ample resources to cope with all the exigencies of the turbulent seventies.

If he is to do this effectively he must, first of all, come to know those under his care. He must know them in a far more personal way than simply being able to address them by name as they leave the worship service on Sabbath morning. He must know them as individuals, persons with whom he is intimately involved. He must become one with them in their interests, their joys, and their fears. He should be able to sympathize with them in times of sorrow or tragedy. They must know that his heart beats with theirs and that he stands as a tower of strength and encouragement to them.

This close relationship cannot be developed or sustained from the pulpit alone. Preaching occupies a place of pre-eminence in the pastor's work, but much of its relevance and effectiveness comes through parish visitation. It is in the homes of the people that the pastor comes to know them. It is there that he wins his way into their hearts and gains their confidence and trust.

The relative merits of pastoral preaching and pastoral visitation are not to be considered on an either/or basis. Both are important. Each supplements the other. Neither can be carried on successfully in a pastoral program without the other. Someone has said, "A minister builds up his congregation by wearing out automobile tires and shoe leather, and holds the congregation together by worthy preaching." Without visitation, sermons often fall on deaf ears. Too many of the modern generation cop out on the preacher because they think he is a phony. They listen to his pleasing platitudes and niceties but question his sincerity. The fact may be that they just don't know him. Pastoral visitation can help to break down this barrier.

In pastoral visitation not only does the pastor come to know his people but his people come to know him. This is equally important. In the home he will demonstrate a sincere interest in every member of the family, from the tiny tot in the crib to grandmother in the wheel chair. He will ask the young students how things are going at school. He will inquire about the work in which the members of the family are engaged. He will identify with all, not in a superficial or professional way, but as one who is genuinely interested in their welfare. All the while he will manifest a healthy, radiant, Christlike bearing, so he will be thought of as a deeply spiritual person and genuinely sincere. He will be remembered most for his prayers, the faith he inspires, and the wise counsel he offers.

These meaningful visits in the home can be supplemented by various other thoughtful considerations. This will, of course, be true when illness comes, whether to a child or adult. A birthday card or a special visit just before Henry goes off to college can be very significant. An appropriate card for graduation, a letter of appreciation for some special work done in the church or school or community, a word of congratulation at the time of a promotion at the office, or a few words of understanding during a period of crisis or difficulty can contribute much toward establishing a close relationship that can be so rewarding.

Preventive Medicine

Trouble is always just around the corner, and sooner or later it comes to all. If the right relationship has been established, the pastor enters naturally into these situations and becomes a balm in Gilead, whose wise counsel is sought out and welcomed. However, the minister will be more than one who stands by to give first aid or emergency care in time of disaster.

The greatest service the pastor can offer is in the area of preventive medicine. By having established the relationship suggested here, he will accomplish much through his kindly ministry and the over-all program of the church either to prevent many of the situations from developing into crisis proportions or to help members know how to face such periods of stress with the inner resources Christ has to offer.

Most of our problems center around home relationships. Some threaten the marriage vows, others have to do with children who are drifting away from parents and the church. This being so, it is at once apparent that it is in the areas of marriage counseling and parent education that guidance is often needed. The alert pastor recognizes this and seeks to do something about it.

Fortunately, God has provided us with ample resources in these areas. Our problem is not the lack of instruction, but rather a strange indifference toward the instruction we have. The books The Adventist Home and Child Guidance are particularly important in giving the direction so desperately needed today. The Ministry of Healing and other books also have passages that can help carry many a soul through a time of trouble. The wise counsels given here are more up to date than the latest works on psychology and education.

The pastor who carries his congregation on his heart will recognize the great need for more serious attention to these valuable counsels. During recent years special courses of study have been prepared using these books as a basis of instruction. Three such courses are presently available, developed under the direction of the Ellen G. White Estate and the General Conference Department of Education. Although they can be of great value for individual study, many more people can be involved if the courses are used as a basis for group study. A course for homemakers called The Study Guide to the Adventist Home consists of a study guide which is divided into 18 lessons. These are of such a general nature as to make them ideal as a basis for prayer meeting studies. De signed for teen-agers, newlyweds, and all husbands and wives, the course uses The Adventist Home as its textbook.*

For character building in childhood, a series of twelve lessons based on Christian Home Pamphlets, Series C is available for fathers and mothers of children from birth to puberty. The child guidance course, entitled "Study Guide to Child Guidance," is based on the book of the same name. It consists of a study guide divided into 19 sections, and is for parents-to-be and fathers and mothers.* With such materials and guides so readily available, the program of parent education can be successfully carried on in every church. As to its importance, Ellen G. White has said, "We are sustaining terrible losses in every branch of the work through the neglect of home training."—Child Guidance, p. 303. Again she declares, "Home religion, home training, is what is now most needed." —Signs of the Times, April 8, 1886.

Present conditions in our society, in our churches, and in our homes should awaken a new desire to do more in this very important area if our families are to be saved in the kingdom. Bringing children into this world of sin has always been a solemn responsibility, but never has it presented a greater challenge to parents than now. Without divine instruction training children is an impossible task. Fortunately, the divine instruction is available, but in too many cases it has been given but slight attention. What excuse will avail in the day of judgment for such laxity? The challenge is one that faces every pastor and congregation. It would be well if some carefully planned program of parental and home education could be offered at least once each year in every church. This, together with meaningful visitation and Spirit-filled preaching, will help save many a family for the kingdom.


* Both the study guides and the Christian Home Pamphlets, Series C are available through your local Book and
Bible House. The study guides are $1.25 each, and the set of 12 pamphlets is $2.75.

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Orley M. Berg is an executive editor of The Ministry.

April 1977

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