Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

How to Prepare for a Pastoral (Elders') Visit

Written by Dr. Joseph Pipa
Our churches have a tradition of family visitation, and it is required by our Church Order that the elders (with or without the pastor) regularly visit the families and members of the congregation. A new season has commenced and this article gives some useful guidelines. Written by Dr. Joseph Pipa, Director of Advanced Studies at Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California, it is taken from The Outlook (February 1993).
No, the purpose of this article is not to instruct you on what refreshments to serve when your pastor or elder[s]) visit in your home; but rather, it deals with how you may prepare yourself mentally and spiritually for a pastoral [elders'] visit.

God has given to the elders the responsibility to shepherd the flock. Paul says in Acts 20:28: "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He has purchased with His own blood." Similarly, Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:1-3, "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre [gain], but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock."

This is no small task. Church officers will give an answer to God for their discharge of their office. Hebrews 13:17 says; "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give an account." One of the principal ways this oversight is exercised is in pastoral visitation.

Yet, sad to say, pastoral visits are not always used in a manner that allows the parties involved to reap the greatest spiritual benefit. One thing you may do to increase the profit of pastoral visitation is to prepare for the visit. If families prepared for pastoral visits, the time spent would be extremely more profitable. How then does one prepare?

In the first place, use the occasion of the visit of the elders or the pastor to take spiritual inventory. Examine yourself and your family (if you have one) to determine how you are doing spiritually. Seek to answer questions such as: How are you doing in personal Bible study? What Christian books have you read since the last visit? If you have a family, how is the family doing spiritually? What are you doing with respect to family devotions? Can you point to areas in your Christian life where you have grown? Do you see any evidence of grace in your children: is their wilfulness and disobedience abating; are they showing increased interest in the things of the Lord; do they like prayer, Bible reading? If you prepare in this way you will be able to give a substantive answer when you are asked about your spiritual growth. Furthermore, you will benefit spiritually from the period of self-examination.

Out of this inventory should flow a second area of preparation. Are there ares in your Christian experience in which you are having problems? Are you having trouble with consistent study of the Bible or family devotions? Is there a particular problem in your relationship with your husband or wife or with your children? Is there a particular temptation or sin that continues to get the upper hand in your life? Don't wait until the problem becomes unsurmountable. Be prepared to share it and to seek counsel, help and prayer.

A third area of preparation deals with the direct solicitation of advice. Be prepared to ask those visiting you if they see any areas in your life or in the life of your family that you need to work on. Don't be afraid to ask such questions. We all have blinders; such a question will open the doors for frank helpful insight from other Christians. In the same manner, ask if there are things that you could be doing to serve the Lord. We all have promised to support the work and worship of the church to the best of our ability. Find out what things you could be doing in the congregation that you are not doing.

When one goes to his doctor for a check-up, he gives some thought usually to how he has been feeling. He thinks about his various aches and pains and seeks to determine which are important and which are not. The tragedy is that sometimes one fails to tell the doctor about a particular symptom, or worse, because he is afraid of what it might mean. Yet that symptom might be the early warning system of some serious disease that could be remedied much more easily in its present stage. If ignored, the disease worsens until finally much more serious measures must be taken, or as is sometimes the case, it is too late to take any action.

Your elders are physicians of the soul. Their task will be a hundred times easier and more effective if you will examine yourself and speak openly and frankly to them of your spiritual conditions and needs. Remember, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Let's practice spiritual preventive medicine.

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