Will it Kill your Pastor if he Visits You? A Response to Thom S. Rainer

Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources and has a very popular blog on church life. Having read with approval a number of his other articles, I was surprised to find one that I roundly disagreed with.

It is titled “FIFTEEN REASONS WHY YOUR PASTOR SHOULD NOT VISIT MUCH”

And he is serious. He is really not happy with churches which expect to see their pastor in their home any time soon. Unless it’s an emergency. A big one.

So with all due respect, I responded to him on his blog, and will offer much the same thoughts here. (Here is another, very useful, response, by Andrew Roy Croft, who offers a positive argument for pastoral visitation).

To begin with, I thought this was one of those stealth articles that start off, “10 Reasons to Vote the Socialist Ticket,” but turn out to be pro-Republican. But no, I read it through a number of times, and it’s not ironic.

His point is that pastoral visitation a newfangled idea, that there’s altogether too much visitation going on, and it should be slimmed down and (perhaps) limited only to extreme situations. Otherwise pastor visitation is the Zika virus that will kill your church, leave your pastor burned (out) beyond recognition, and make him/her leave! Oh yes he will!!

Don't answer the door! It might be the pastor, and it will lead to him burning out, quitting, and destruction for your church!

Don’t answer the door! It might be the pastor, and it will lead to him burning out, quitting, and apocalyptic destruction for your church!

Pastor Rainer has 15 objections to pastoral visitation, many of which are, upon closer examination, the same reason stated differently. To quote:

  1. It’s unbiblical. 2. It deprives members of their roles and opportunities. 3. It fosters a country club mentality. 4. It turns a church inwardly. 5. It takes away from sermon preparation. 6. It takes away from the pastor’s outward focus (the same as #4, right?) 7. It takes away vital leadership from the pastor. 8. It fosters unhealthy comparisons among the members. 9. It is never enough. 10. It leads to pastoral burnout (see #9). 11. It leads to high pastoral turnover (see #9, 10). 12. It puts a lid on Great Commission growth of the church (see #4, 6). 13. It leads pastors to get their affirmation from the wrong source. 14. It causes biblical church members to leave. 15. It is a sign that the church is dying (see #14). And then later: It’s a key sign of [church] sickness. It’s a clear step toward [congregational] death.

So, it is no exaggeration that his message is that pastoral visitation may even now be killing your church!

Let’s define “pastoral visitation” as, where one or more of the leaders of the church go to where their people are, traditionally but not necessarily in the home, hospital, or long-term care facility, in order to spend time with them and to conduct pastoral ministry (exhortation, encouragement, correction).

Here is part of the response that I wrote on his website, that there were three weaknesses to the argument; I address the author as “you.”

First, the historical. You write that “‘Visitation of the members’ became a common job description of pastors about a century ago.” You imply that it is a recent innovation.

While it may have become more conventional these days to write the thing out in a job description, visitation of the members has been part of the pastoral task since the beginning. In fact, it was a vital aspect (more…)

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Your preaching: does it go out over “channel clear” or “channel staticky”?

"And so, brothers SSSSSS reason for faith SSSSSSS glorif SSSSSS Amen? SSSSS"

“And so, brothers SSSSSS reason for faith SSSSSSS glorif SSSSSS Amen? SSSSS”

Last Sunday I was on a road trip, and wanted to hear some Bible teaching. I guess we had already driven past the FM station that I picked up, so we got a garbled message:

words words static words static words static static

When the buzzes and pops finally prevailed in their assault against the preacher, I switched it off. Message not received.

People in our congregations may be picking up more static than we would estimate. At times I have put myself in the shoes of people with less mileage in Christ than I have, or even people who are not believers; I’ve listened to sermons and mentally pushed a STATIC button every time the preacher used an uncommon word or failed to explain some concept. At times my index finger has been kept very busy. [1]

On the other hand, it is pleasing to Google “plain preaching” and to see the enthusiasm for that topic. Many cite William Perkins – “It is a by-word [“a popular compliment”, let’s say] among us: It was a very plain sermon: And I say again, the plainer, the better.” By plain he did not mean shallow, but the clear and unavoidable speaking of truth.

If I love my neighbor, than I will make sure that he or she can understand God’s Word. If they fail to obey it, it won’t be because they couldn’t make out what I am saying. (more…)

Look before you leap; pray before you preach

Once upon a time, Paul told the new believers in Thessalonica: “So, for this reason we give thanks to God without fail: because when you received the proclaimed word from us, that is, the word of God, you received it, not as a human message, but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thess 2:13).[1]

With these words, Paul communicates that behind the apostles’ success was that they prayed. And in fact, later on he asks them, “pray for us, brothers and sisters, that the word of the Lord might run well and be glorified by its hearers, just as it was with you” (2 Thess 3:1).[2] The successful sharing of the word is prayerful. Paul did not write books on “Proven Methods for Successful Evangelism.” Pastors did not travel to Corinth and lay down bags of denarii to see his PowerPoints on “The Seven Irrefutable Principles of Preaching.” Although it can be proven that he used methods, the heart of the matter for Paul is that neither strategy nor methodology can bring down the power of God from heaven. (more…)