Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Visitation Argument

I recently heard the argument again that all senior pastors must personally visit all church members and do outreach as well. It brought back memories of the expectations of some of the people I have served in the past.

While the pastor is never exempt from the requirement to make personal visits, this expectation does have its roots in smaller churches.

The pastor is a representative of God. When people need God, it is comforting to receive a visit from the one who represents God to them. The personal touch, and personal relationship, are very effective in ministry. Most pastors love to do visitation because it is so rewarding. It is the way true ministry takes place, one on one.

There is a segment of society that will always prefer the personal attention and relationship with the one who carries the title "Pastor." For that reason, there will always be a need for small churches. Some believe that mega-churches in America have just about run their course. The future may see an explosion in the number of small churches, church planting, or even house churches. These small groups consider themselves a "church" and use that title along with the title of "Pastor" for their leader. Every person/member has more influence on the whole group and receives the personal attention of the pastor.

But in more populated areas or larger churches, it is impossible for the pastor to give personal attention to every member. It is debatable how many people a pastor can give personal attention to. But, I have always contended that it is unlikely that a church will break the 200 barrier if the pastor and/or the congregation expect the personal attention of the pastor on a regular basis. It is obvious that Pastor Joel Osteen, Pastor Jetezen Franklin, or Pastor John Hagee could never visit every member even once each year -- it is an impossibility. There are not enough hours in the day nor days in the year.

The churches and pastors who struggle most with this issue are those who attempt to transition from small church to large church. People's expectations are hard to change. "It's always been this way." That is why most churches in America never break the 200 barrier. They don't want to. Change is hard and people don't like it. If a pastor attempts to be a change agent and lead the church in growth, the congregational culture will have to change first, or the church will find a new pastor who will continue in the old ways which they desire. The problem with this attachment to the ways of the past is that in order to keep the church small, it does not make room for the Harvest (the Great Commission work of winning the Lost - new people). If a congregation is truly involved in the Great Commission, baptisms will be happening every week, pews fill up, and attendance grows.

When Christ came to this earth to show us how to do leadership/ministry, here is what He modeled:
  • The disciples watched Him minister
  • The disciples ministered with Him
  • He watched the disciples minister
  • The disciples ministered by themselves
  • The disciples modeled ministry for someone else
  • (The cycle repeats - making disciples who make disciples)

The command which we all serve under is not just to win the Lost, but to make disciples. Church members who refuse to become active in the Great Commission are resisting the concept of the priesthood of all believers. Their mindset is; "We work and we pay our pastor to do all ministry and that's what we expect." The pastor should be the one most involved in ministry. But, that does not exempt every believer from the Great Commission.

May God reinforce every pastor and church leader of all churches of every size to open their doors to new people and become disciple-makers. That means everyone visits and everyone ministers.