Pastoral Exhortation

Visiting One Another

Written by Rev (Dr) Prabhudas Koshy Sunday, 19 May 2013

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James wrote with great emphasis concerning the importance of Christian brethren visiting one another. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

“Visiting” is not just about paying a visit. Here it refers to visiting in order to minister Christian charity, comfort and relief to those who are in need. The fatherless and widows are particularly mentioned as those who are in need of this ministry. Visitation ministry ensures that the needy are not neglected and oppressed in their affliction.

Pure religion must reflect the compassion of God; and, in this regard, it will lead to a life of practical benevolence. Visiting the needy to look after them is thus an imitation of God, who is a father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows. In fact, Jesus spoke of the condemnation of those who neglect the visitation of the poor and needy brethren. “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:41-46).

What We Should Do During Our Visit

Concerning Our Conduct:

1. Bear a good testimony for Christ. Remember that we are there to bear the name of Christ our Lord. So let our appearance be modest and godly. Let our words be gracious and solemn. Let our mannerism be gentle and courteous.

2. Remember that we are there to minister and not to be ministered. Let us be conscientious to make it easier for our host and the team to be seated together as soon as possible so that we can have a time of ministering one to another, as planned by the visitation team leader. If the host willingly and readily extends generous hospitality, do not reject them totally, but receive whatever you can in a gracious and thankful manner.

3. Be mindful and respectful of the privacy of their homes. As guests, we must take care to respect their space and property. Do not peep or walk into rooms, unless invited by the host. Neither demand that you be allowed to see the house. Do not rearrange things without their permission.

4. Do not be noisy during your visit. Avoid unedifying jokes, loud laughter and rowdy behaviour, which would affect the host or his neighbours.

5. Do not overextend your welcome. Keep the time of visit, especially if the host is tired, sick or preparing for a busy day ahead.

Be sensitive to the problems and struggles of those who are sick and needy. Do not insist on your opinions and suggestions. Be careful of the kind of stories you tell. Avoid prescribing your medicines and treatments. Leave such matters to those who are more knowledgeable about their medical conditions, such as relatives and medical personnel.

Concerning Our Ministering:

1. Be ready to minister in different situations. Different spiritual and physical conditions of the people whom we visit would mean that we need to prepare ourselves to minister in each situation appropriately. Normally, the leaders are able to provide appropriate counsel and guidance. So we must follow their advice and leadership carefully, that we may do things which are proper and profitable.

The programmes may vary in different circumstances, and sound discretion must be applied, especially by the leaders of the team.

2. Handle their problems with extra care. If you are told of any grievances or unhappy events, please assure them of your prayers. Take extra care not to stir up the problem any further with your words and responses. Do not try to be a counsellor or problem-solver if you are not equipped to do so. In such cases, advise them to see the elders or pastor for further help.

3. Bring along helpful resource materials. If you are visiting a non-Christian home, bring along some Gospel tracts or audio CDs of evangelistic sermons, etc. to give to the host. If you are visiting someone who is thinking of attending a church, bring along the church pamphlets (with information on church programmes, GCM, GYBH, etc.), church bulletins, Bible Witness magazines, etc. You may also make use of music and sermon CDs or DVDs as gifts for the hosts, to aid in their edification.

4. Visiting absentees. This is always a difficult area of the visitation ministry. There are many reasons why people stay away from church. We should not assume that it is always because somebody has become materialistic or disobedient, or is backsliding. Some may not be coming because of sickness or other problems, which they cannot handle well. So we must not visit them with a preconceived, inflexible mentality.

As much as possible, we must prayerfully persuade all with the truth of God’s Word in tenderness not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

Benefits of Visitation Ministry

Here are some of the benefits that we are certain to experience if we embark on this biblical ministry with ever-increasing enthusiasm and commitment.

May God bless and use every one of us who will submit to the Lord’s call to minister to one another. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Hebrews 10:24). “Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God” (Romans 15:7).