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Pastors, there’s never been a better time to pick up the phone

Pastors, there’s never been a better time to pick up the phone

A number of years ago, an older Christian man took on the role of coordinating men’s ministry at my church. What he did next was both a surprise and an unforgettable example.

His time wasn’t consumed with organising men’s events, though these did occur. His priority, over the following 12 months, was to meet with as many of the men at church who would accept his invitation.

He didn’t wait for them to ask or for a crisis to to prompt them to reach out. Instead, he wrote out a list of names and systematically pursued them. As a result of this, men felt cared for and listened to. Many had never met with a pastor and would never initiate this of their own accord.

Through these conversations he was able to gauge (as best as humanly possible) which men may not know the Lord, and find ways to disciple them accordingly. These discussions were also an opportunity to hear firsthand about the challenges facing men and the ways in which they could be served by men’s ministry and in the church more broadly.

Was it time consuming? Undoubtedly. Was it worthwhile? Absolutely.

In The Reformed Pastor, Richard Baxter wrote: “as the physician’s work is half done when he understands the disease, so, when you are well acquainted with your people’s case, you will know what to preach on.

Famous for his home visits, Baxter encouraged other pastors to do the same. This exhortation was met with objections, for example: “We teach our people in public; and how then are we bound to teach them, man by man, besides?” Or as we might say today, “We preach on Sundays, why do we need to meet with people during the week?”

To this he responded:

"You pray for them in public: must you not also pray for them in private? Paul taught every man, and exhorted every man, and that both publicly, and from house to house, night and day, with tears. But what need we say more, when experience speaks so loudly on this subject? I am daily forced to wonder how lamentably ignorant many of our people are, who have seemed diligent hearers of me these ten or twelve years, while I spoke as plainly as I was able to speak. Some know not that each person in the Trinity is God; nor that Christ is God and man; nor that he took his human nature to heaven; nor what they must trust to for pardon and salvation; nor many similar important principles of our faith. Nay, some who come constantly to private meetings are grossly ignorant: whereas, in one hour’s familiar instruction of them in private, they seem to understand more, and better entertain it than they did in all their lives before."

Richard Baxter

I imagine few would argue against the merits of visiting church members. Most people would object on the basis that this is a time consuming exercise.

However, the current Coronavirus pandemic makes these visits via phone (or online) even more beneficial. Here’s 3 reasons why:

  1. There is an increased hunger for personal connection. Generally speaking, this hunger didn’t exist prior to the current crisis.
  2. Many people are struggling and would welcome support. They’ve lost their jobs, are concerned about loved ones, anxious about the future.
  3. It is a sombre reality that this virus present a serious health challenge to older people and people with health conditions that make them more vulnerable. This is an opportunity to minister to these people and ensure their souls are ready for eternity.

There are many competing priorities right now. But now is a great time to pick up the phone.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. g

    April 3, 2020 at 11:37 pm

    I’d sure love to see more of this in churches today. Actually, the pastor of my church would intentionally take the opposite stance. He’s actually stated publicly from the pulpit things like,

    -we are to come to him, he won’t initiate contact with us
    -the only time he ever reaches out to someone is if they need a scolding

    Don’t get me wrong, he’s a terrific preacher, and his doctrine is really solid. But that’s about it; his shepherding seems to be lacking. The sad thing is that it seems to be intentional. I’m going to stick with the church though; I’m in an area where there’s hardly any good, Biblically expository preaching, so even though I could definitely go somewhere else to feel more “loved”, I’d be sacrificing good, sound, healthy doctrine at the expense of a “feeling of connection.” I guess if it has to come down to it, I’d pick good, sound doctrine, but it’s sure not very encouraging to know that I most likely won’t ever be reached out to by the church.

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