John

Meet John and Maureen.  John was diagnosed with diabetes in his early twenties, has been struggling with health issues for a number of years.  He was taken into hospital last week with a serious heart condition.  We heard that he might not make it.  Well he did make it, and I got to catch up with him with his wife a couple of days later in their home.

He was surprisingly upbeat.  He wasn’t perturbed by the fact that he came very close to death.  Smiling, he pointed his finger up in the air – “I know the reason,” he said, “My room isn’t quite ready yet.”  No, I guess it isn’t John.

We chatted together on a range of different subjects – family, the people at Grace Church, Nelson weather (always a talking point in this area), and his former work as a tool-maker in the Kapiti Coast.  That’s when my eyes lit up.  A fellow-machinist!  That moved the conversation in the direction of lathes and milling and gear making and the like.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw Maureen smiling politely, but looking a little bored.  It was time to move the conversation on.

John then shared about his life as a diabetic.  He was diagnosed early in life, just after the second world war.  Little was known about the disease back then.  He told me about one of his early visits with the doctor.  “Just pull up a piece a skin like this and jab the needle in.  Here’s your insulin.  You’ll need to sharpen the needle every once in a while, but you’re an engineer – I’m sure you’ll come up with a way to do that.”

I stared at John in disbelief – “You re-used the needle?”
He laughed – “Yes, unheard of today isn’t it?”

I forget how far we’ve come.  But that was the way things were.  He was told he must clean the skin first with rubbing alcohol.  Then later he found he didn’t need to do that.  He also found out that pulling up the skin stimulates the nerve ends and causes more pain when you inject.  You are better to push it straight in.  Injecting for John was much more comfortable after that.  Sixty years of three injections a day – well, that’s a hang of a lot of jabs!

John and Maureen took an overseas trip earlier in life, while John was still in good health.  They went to Egypt, Israel and Greece.  The highlight for John was Greece, visiting the cities were the Apostle Paul travelled and standing on the very spot he preached.  “It was magnificent”, he said, “to be there.  I’ll never forget it.”  They went into a restaurant in Athens (or was it Crete?) and people thought they were Americans.  They weren’t getting any service.  When it was made known they were kiwis people were jumping over the counter to come and talk to them.  We laughed about that.  Kiwis’ are loved where ever you go in the world (at least, for the most part).

“We are so blessed,” said Maureen. “God has given us some wonderful years.  We’ve had such a good life.”

There was a lovely serenity about this couple.  They were utterly at peace, perfectly content, trusting God for each and every day, because “days” are all John may have.  One by one, all of the pressures of my day and the tasks that were left undone slowly ebbed into the recesses of my consciousness.  Here was beauty, here was loveliness; here was wholeness.  This was a picture of how God intended things from the beginning.  It was a glimpse of Eden, only with old age and diabetes and decay.  But it was also a glimpse of the new Eden, when all things will become new.

Lord Jesus, may I be like couple this in my latter days. Let me live fully for you now, so when I have lost all strength and vigour, I can end my days in peace and bask in the memories of a life well lived.  Let me live like it’s my last day, every day.  

Emma

Meet Emma, our youngest daughter.  She’s in her final year at Waimea College.  Next year she’ll be heading off to study Health Science at Otago University.  That means she’ll be with us only a few more months.  How quickly the past seventeen years have slipped by!    And yet what a wonderful outcome.  This fun-loving, lively little girl of mine has matured into a beautiful young woman who is thoughtful, intelligent and wise; caring, gentle and conscientious – yet at the same time adventurous, spirited and full of life.  Emma is highly respected in her school, her youth ministry and by her peers.  She’s the kind of daughter that makes her parents swell with pride.

Last Sunday Emma was baptized at our church.  She gave a wonderful testimony about how she came to see her need for Jesus and make the life-changing decision of putting him first in her life.  People often assume that if you grow up in a Christian home where God and his Word are a regular part of everyday life and conversation, committing to follow Jesus is an easy thing.  It’s no big deal.  And it certainly doesn’t require as much of God’s power to save you as it does a murderer or a drug-addict.

But that’s simply not true.

The Bible tells me sin is sin, whether it is clothed with nice Christian morals and carries a bible or wears a prostitute’s skirt.  Because of Adam, we all enter the world spiritually dead.  None of us (actually and truly) seeks for God nor are we consistently and inherently good (Romans 3:11-12).  I know that may sound offensive to some who are reading this.  You likely consider yourself to be a good person.  And there are plenty of people you can think of who are a lot worse.  Compared to Hitler you look like a saint.  But compare yourself to a Holy God and I might confuse you with Lord Voldemort.

It took just the same amount of God’s grace to save Emma, who’s been a sweet little girl since birth and has kept out of trouble (for the most part) as it has me, who spent most of his teenage years eagerly looking for it.  Her conversion might have been less dramatic, but it was equally miraculous and spectacular.  The angels rejoiced with the same energy when she repented as when I did.  Jesus bore her sin with the same pain and agony as he did mine.  The ground is level at the foot of the cross

These things became all the more real to me, as I sat there on the front row, listening to her testimony.  I was filled a mixture of emotion – joy, thankfulness, pride, gratitude, wonder (at the power of the gospel) and delight.  Here is the sum and substance of what she said:

I spent much of my childhood reading the bible with my parents, going to Sunday school, and learning more and more about God.  I knew the story of Jesus’ birth and death inside out, but never really understood the importance of it and what it meant for me – that I was a sinner and I needed a saviour.  Instead, I fell for the common belief that simply going to church and reading my bible would cut it.  I thought that I was doing just fine the way I was.  It wasn’t until I got a little older that I began to deeply think about life and death, and the path that I was walking in.  I started to suffer a lot of anxiety, terrified that I would never be good enough for Jesus, and never make it to heaven.  I found it very difficult to place all my fears upon him, to surrender control over my life.  This resulted many months spent in alternating moods of ‘I can do everything myself’ and ‘I will never be good enough and my life is doomed’.  I wanted so badly to be free, but just couldn’t see a way out.  I had no idea if I was a Christian or not because I just couldn’t really believe that asking Christ for forgiveness and surrendering my life to him was all that I had to do – I expected instant changes in myself and was surprised and disappointed when I found myself sinning again and again.

It was during one such period of anxious depression when I was 15 or so that Mum brought me a bible verse that really helped me; In John 10:27, it says, “My sheep listen to voice. I know them, and they follow me. I will give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my father has given them to me and he is more powerful than anything else. No one can snatch them from the Fathers hand”.  This is an incredibly freeing verse and I am so grateful that she enabled me to find it – it is one that I will always treasure in my heart.

From then on things improved; something about that verse was immensely freeing to me.  I’m not saying that I never worried about my faith ever again, because time and time again my anxious nature takes a hold of me, and I still struggle with the idea that I by myself will never be perfect in this world.  But instead of seeing that as another chain, I am learning to see it as a freedom- I can never be perfect, but I don’t have to be, because Jesus lived a perfect life for me, and when I stand before the father, he will see me “wrapped in a robe of righteousness”, instead of covered in my own sin.

It is a wonderful thing that Jesus died on that cross for me, I am standing here before you all to show that I have chosen to follow him for the rest of my life.  I know that I will make countless mistakes, but Jesus has promised to never leave me, to guide me, and to teach me his ways.

Well done Emma.  We’re with you all the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new era for Grace Church

You’ve seen it all before.  The Pastor gets up on Sunday, all pumped because he thinks he’s found winning formula to triple the size of his church.  He’s got the hip new mission statement, a sharp-looking website along with gift pens to give to your neighbours.  He’s even got a personal endorsement from Richie McCaw.  The first Sunday he’s got everyone revved.  The second Sunday the wind has gone out of the sails.  A month later its fizzled and three months later it’s dead.  Richie’s picture is taken down and everything is back to the way it was.  And do you know why that happens?  Because God wasn’t it.  He wasn’t in it from the beginning.

When the elders and I set about creating a new mission and vision for Grace Church, we didn’t want it to be like that.  We didn’t want it to be a lot of hot air.  We said, “Lord, whatever we come up with, it has to be of you.”  So for a period of 18 months we set about seeking the face of God, praying and searching the Scriptures.  We wrote, re-wrote and then re-wrote again.  Finally, we ended up with something that we believed fitted with where we wanted to head and more importantly, where God was already heading.

And I think that’s the point many churches miss.  They want to come up with something new, something hip and something cool.  So they dream up ideas and words and phrases and then sell them to their congregation.  The congregation buys it because they think it’s from God.  But is it?

Before we could answer the question, “what is going to be our church’s mission?” we needed to answer, “what is God’s mission?”  What’s his purpose for the universe?  For the Church?  For you and me?  The answer is clear in Scripture: It’s all about His glory.  Everything that God does – whether creating the world, making plants grow or saving people is for his glory.

  • The heavens declare God’s glory (Psalm 19:1)
  • We have been created for his glory (Isaiah 43:6-7)
  • God calls Israel for his glory (Isaiah 49:3)
  • He raises up Pharaoh for his glory (Romans 9)
  • Jesus does everything for the Father’s glory (John 7:18)
  • One day the earth will be filled with the knowledge of His glory as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14)

God chose to display his glory through his covenant people.  It began with Abraham.  God says to Him in Genesis 12:2, “I will make you into a great nation.  I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing.”  And then God reveals to Abraham his deeper purpose, “All the peoples on the earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3).  God blesses Abraham, but it’s not ultimately for Abraham’s sake.  He blesses Abraham so that he might be the conduit of God’s blessings to all the earth.

“Enjoy my grace Abraham, and extent my glory”

Abraham became a nation. God calls the nation to himself and he says to them, “I’m going to bless you, but it’s not just for your sake.  It’s so my glory and my grace will be made known to the nations.”

“Enjoy my grace Israel, and extent my glory”

And as spiritual children of Abraham (Gal 3:8-9), that is our purpose in the world.  God has blessed us richly.  We experience far greater blessings and spiritual riches than Abraham or the nation Israel ever had.  We have salvation in Christ.  We have forgiveness of sin.  We have been called out of darkness and into God’s marvelous light.  We have been made sons and daughters of the living God.  And God’s purpose for us is to make known these blessings to the world.

“Enjoy my grace Grace Church, and extent my glory”

This is our calling.  This is what we are here for.  It’s not for ourselves.  It’s not about us.  It’s about making known God and his glory and his grace – by way of the gospel, to the world.  And here’s what it looks like for our church:

God grace, to us, for the world.

We are recipients of God’s marvelous grace.  This grace comes by way of the gospel.  By faith in Jesus, we receive a new identity and are remade in his image.

This gospel has created a new community of redeemed people called the church.  That’s the “to us” part.  The church is made up of disciples (or Jesus followers) who are growing in grace by the power of the Spirit through the teaching of God’s Word.

God did all this, not just for our sake but for others.  He sends us on mission to reach the world.  And we are not talking about Africa and Asia and China.  We are talking about the people on our street and the ones we rub shoulders with each day at work.  They are the ones God wants to reach.  And he wants us to be the conduit to reach them.

It’s not perfect.  Nothing we do ever will be.  And it’s not the only way we think you could say it.  Someone might come up with something better (and likely they will).  But we think it fits – both with the pattern of what God does in history and with the commission that Jesus has given us, to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19-20).

We are hoping and praying that this mission will put us in good stead for many years of fruitful ministry ahead.  For the glory of God.

Many thanks to Jewel Turinsky who designed our new logo. Jewel worked with us over many months, creating a number of different designs, centred around a tree and leaf motif (we have 7 large oak trees on our church property). We wanted something crisp and modern, and that would communicate something about the new life we have in Christ. We also wanted it to reflect a church that’s alive and on the move. The result is something we are really pleased with –  and is uniquely our own. Jewel is married to Mike and serves as Marketing and Systems Developer for Young Life in Auckland. 

Note:  The content of this post is based on the first message of the “Mission Possible” series which unveils the new mission and vision for our church.  You can listen to it here.

 

The blessing of team

Meet my staff team.  Actually, it’s not my team – it’s God’s team.  He put it together and then He was kind enough to bless me with them.

Ministry in the local church is hard work.  There are sermons to prepare, services to plan and organize, people to visit and problems that need sorting out.  Hardly a week goes by that doesn’t present one challenge or another.  There is no way that one individual (even full-time) can address all these needs.  And the bigger the church, the more complex and difficult the job becomes.

In the past I have simply taken on another full-time pastor.  “Two can do a better job than one,” as the saying goes.   And an extra pair of hands certainly makes a difference.  But you’re not likely to find that kind of person in your congregation, which means you have to hire from the outside.  And hiring from the outside requires a very lengthy search process and a certain element of risk: the individual might not be a good fit.

This time I’ve taken a different path.  Instead of hiring one person full-time, I’ve hired several people part-time.  Instead of one pair of extra hands, I have seven.  And they all come from within our church.  So they’ve already been tested.  And they are committed to the church’s mission and vision.  I know them, and I trust them.  And they know and trust me.

Of course it’s important when hiring new staff, that the individuals are competent and have the necessary skills.  But that’s why this team is such a blessing.  Each one of these beautiful people are skilled and competent in their area of ministry.  They not only make my job easier.  They do things that I could never possibly do.

So let me introduce each one of them to you:

This is Rochelle, our administrator.  She is the front door of our church.  It’s her smile and her face people see and her voice they hear when they come into our office.  And she can do more than answer phones and sign for courier parcels.  She teaches bible, disciples young women, writes curriculum, and helps keep our website up to date and looking good.

This is Sean, our Youth Pastor.  He does that 20 hours a week. The other 20 hours he is working on his MDiv so he can be in full-time ministry.  Sean is an ex-cop, so we have any trouble around the place he’s the go-to man.  Sean has a wonderful blend of seriousness and wit, which helps us all take what we do seriously but not take ourselves too seriously.  We love Sean and the Youth Ministry is flourishing under his leadership.

This is Annette.  Annette takes care of the bookings for the Headingly Centre.  She is the interface between our church and the community.  She welcomes groups into our building, provides what they need and then follows up by asking how it all went and what we could have done better.  Annette has a key role because we want outsiders to feel like they are valued and served.

This is Francelle.  Francelle is our Children’s Ministry Director.  Francelle is great with kids and loves to making the big truths of God real to young hearts.  She is also an equipper and wants to train and equip others to do what she does.  It’s a big job ministering to 30 plus kids.  It takes a team to do it well.  Francelle also has a wonderful ministry to the women of our church, teaching them how to study the Word.

This is Linda.  Linda is our Finance and Accounts manager.  She used to do Rochelle’s job and this job at the same time.  Nobody quite figured out how she managed it.  Now that her role has been scaled back, Linda can put more time into the Pinnacle House ministry which she has a real passion for.  Linda would be the most seasoned person on our team so brings a lot of wisdom and experience.

This is Leanne.  Leanne is our new Outreach Influence Team Leader.  Notice the word influence.  Her job is to encourage, stimulate, and inspire all of us to be more intentional in gospel outreach, starting with the people God has already placed around us.  Leanne has a deep love for God, for his church and for the lost.  She is the perfect person for the job.

This is Jada. Jada is our Sunday Services Creative Director, which means she overseas everything that happens on a Sunday morning.  She also looks for fresh and creative ways to communicate the “big idea” of my message.  She meets with me every week and we go over the Sunday coming up as well as the three Sundays that follow.  On top of that she also keeps our church website looking fresh and up to date, as well as doing video shoots and interviews and… (the list goes on!)

My job is to encourage all these wonderful people, care for them, and ensure they don’t overwork themselves in their role.  With most part-time jobs you clock in, do your hours and then clock out and go home.  It doesn’t work that way in local-church ministry (except with the odd exception).  Your work is also your service to Jesus.  You do it for love, not money.  Your work follows you wherever you go.  It becomes part of who you are.  That’s why most part-time church staff work way beyond their allotted hours.  If the church is not careful, it could take advantage of that.

I don’t want that happening with this team. I want to look after them.  I want to make sure they feel supported and appreciated.  It’s not often a pastor gets a crack team like this.  I am truly blessed.

12 things I cannot do

thumbnail_imageIt’s great for pastors to admit there are things they cannot do.  Sometimes they need to make this known to their people so that they realize there are things their pastor cannot do.  When I read Chuck Lawless’ article the other day on 12 Things a Pastor Cannot Do“.  I couldn’t help but chuckle and felt urged to respond in someway.  So I’m responding here.  His post is what you see in black.  My comments are in blue.

_____________________________________________________________________

Pastors are, in my judgment, amazing people. They faithfully serve Sunday after Sunday, often with no desire for recognition or fame. In faith, they can do a lot—but here are several things they can’t do:

1. Read minds. Everybody knows that, but many church members hold pastors accountable for unstated expectations.   Yep, that’s a reality I’m afraid. But the reverse can also be true: pastors sometimes think their people should be able to read their minds. 

2. Be everywhere. No human being can be every place at once, yet some members still get angry when pastors have to say “No.”  I’ve certainly struggled with this one.  Part of the problem is my people-pleasing tendency (which is a form of pride – I want people to think well of me). I wind up to saying “yes” to things I don’t really want to be at and then sit there wishing I was somewhere else (which is usually at home with my family, where I should have been in the first place).  I don’t sense that same pressure here at Grace, which is a blessing.  They are still getting used to the idea of a Lead Pastor.  I tend to be treated like everyone else.

3. Change hearts. Only God can do that.   A reality I have to live with everyday.

4. Know everything. Most pastors study hard, but nobody can answer every question somebody asks.   “You’re the pastor – you’re supposed to know this!”  Yeah right.

5. Please everybody. Even Jesus couldn’t do that.   This is one that I need to keep reminding myself of.

6. Live sinlessly. Nobody can. Including you. And me. We’re all sinners.   That’s very true.  However God does hold pastors to a high standard (James 3:1, 1 Tim 3:2).  They do and will sin, and their people need to understand this.  But if the sin is public, the repentance of that sin needs to be public also.  I try my best to model this so that our people see that I need the grace of God when I sin just as much as they do.

7. Grow churches. If the church does grow, it’s because God does it.   Yes and no.  God also uses means to grow churches.  And those means are his people, empowered by and directed by the Holy Spirit.  I don’t think pastors can get off the hook on this one.  If their church is not growing, they need to take a good hard look at why (see 1 Cor 3:5-15).  Having said that, I pastored a church for almost 3 years where there was negative growth.  It was lack of good leadership that caused this.  The problems were there before I got there. I just happened to unknowingly dig them up. 

8. Multiply dollars. That’s too bad, too, since some churches don’t pay their pastors well.   Ouch. Don’t know who that is aimed at.

9. Escape mistakes. All of us will mess up sometime, often unintentionally and even unknowingly.   Yes indeed.  Just this past week I used an inappropriate word in my sermon (which I will acknowledge on Sunday), neglected the needs of a staff member and spoke harshly and unreasonably to one of my kids.

10. Avoid favoritism. Pastors minister to everybody, but having better (and best) friends is natural.   How true!  Yet so often a congregation won’t allow for this.  They expect the pastor to be equally close to everyone.  It’s that kind of pressure that isolates pastors, leaving them and their wives feeling terribly alone. 

11. Reveal everything. No matter how much you may want to know the details, pastors may not be in a position to tell you.   This is going in Sunday’s bulletin 🙂

12. Ignore sin. Pastors must address this issue, even when it’s not popular.   Well said.  That’s one of my pastoral tasks I don’t particularly enjoy.  Yet it must be done – graciously and lovingly, but it must be done.

Thanks Chuck, I found this very helpful.  It was a good reminder as to my own limitations.

Trading the Police badge for a bible

This is Sean, our new Youth Pastor.  He’s been part of our church family here at Grace for a number of years and has just recently made the decision to hand in his Police uniform for  a career in full-time Christian ministry.  This is no mid-life crises.  This is God’s calling.  It’s a bold and courageous move and one that his wife Kiri, was willing to make with him.  We take our hats off to both of them.

sean-tasman

The Tasman Leader (the local ‘rag’ here in Richmond) caught up with it and published a story on him.  I’ve taken a snapshot of it so you know what to look for.  Simply click the link below and go to page 4 and then use the magnifying tool on the side bar to make for easier reading.  It’s well worth a read.

https://www.neighbourly.co.nz/e-edition/the-tasman-leader/12560

Sean completed a one-year certificate in bible at the Shepherd’s Bible College here in New Zealand but realized he needed further equipping for the rigours and challenges of full-time pastoral ministry.  So he is studying through an on-line course with a Seminary in the United States.  It will take him at least 3 years.  He will also work under me in a mentorship so I can help equip him on the practical ministry side.  The elders of Grace Church are fully behind this.  We get to keep Sean and Kiri, Sean gets the benefit of training on the job, and the youth and congregation at Grace get to see what God does with a man and woman fully surrendered to Him.

I think it’s going to be a great 3 years for us all.

 

 

Some thoughts on Pastoral Visitation

pastor-shepherd2I was just preparing to leave the home of a couple I was visiting this week when the wife turned to me and said, “Pastors don’t visit any more. At our last church our pastor never came and saw us. He said he didn’t believe in it.” I was really saddened by her comment. If there was any truth in what she said – even an ounce of truth, then God’s church is all the poorer. And such pastors ought to be – well in my mind, rebuked.

When Jesus commissioned Peter to lead the people of God he said to him, “Shepherd My sheep” (John 21:16).  Many years later, Peter said the same to those who would continue his work; “Shepherd God’s flock among you” (1 Peter 5:2). Paul, in his final words to the elders at Ephesus said, “Shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).  It seems quite obvious to me: the primary work of the pastor/elder is shepherding. Shepherds spend time with their sheep. Shepherds know their sheep. They know which ones are strong and which are weak; which need more care and which don’t. This is a personal, rather than acquired knowledge.

Now I realize some pastors have very large churches and it would be unrealistic – if not impossible, to expect them to personally visit every member of their church. But they still need to ensure that pastoral care is happening. And they need to model it to their fellow leaders. They need to demonstrate what a loving and caring leader looks like.

While training for pastoral ministry, I attended a church of 8-10,000. There’s no way I expect the Senior Pastor to know me or visit me. One day I met him in a stairway in the church. I gave him a friendly greeting. He not only greeted me back but stopped and talked to me and asked all kinds of questions about me. He was a very busy man, but he took an interest in me. I wasn’t just another face. I was a person; I was one of God’s sheep.  That brief encounter had a lasting impact on my life. It also taught me one important thing: pastors care about people. You’d think that was a given. Unfortunately in so many cases, it is not.

Richard Baxter was a puritan pastor in a little town called Kidderminister. His visitation ministry had such an impact it caused a revival. He wrote a little book called “The Reformed Pastor” that has become a standard text in many seminaries. This is what he wrote:

We must labour to be acquainted, not only with the persons, but with the state of all our people, with their inclinations and conversations; what are the sins of which they are most in danger, and what duties they are most apt to neglect, and what temptations they are most liable to; for if we know not their temperament or disease, we are not likely to prove successful physicians.

Here are some of the benefits that I have gleaned over the years from regular, weekly visitation:

1. You get to know your people better. You learn about their lives. You learn about their past. You learn about their family. You learn about their hopes and dreams and setbacks and disappointments. Knowing someone’s past helps you shepherd them well in the present. It also often explains why they act (or don’t act) the way they do. I was in a home of a couple recently who I knew were very capable ministry leaders. But they are not serving. I always wondered why (and perhaps judged them unfairly because of this). It turns out the husband was abruptly removed from a ministry position in their last church. And it wasn’t done well. They left feeling very hurt and never really recovered. Those are the kind of things people will divulge in the safety of their own living rooms, not in the foyer of the church on a Sunday morning. And it helps me shepherd them better.

2. You get to go beyond the superficial. People consider it a privilege to have a pastor in their home. They don’t want to frit the time away talking about rugby and the weather. They want to talk about real life. And they are interested in finding out more about you. So the conversations tend to be deeper, richer and more meaningful than what you get on a Sunday morning. Every time you cross paths with those individuals in the future, the conversations you have with them are at a deeper level. Looking into their eyes you see a lot more than just a familiar face. You see a life.

3. You get the opportunity to speak into people’s lives.  This is where the real work of shepherding takes place. You listen, you interpret, and then you speak into their situation. In this process, I am in utter dependence on the work of the Spirit of God. I can’t do this on my own. The Spirit of God knows the human heart like no other and if we are listening to his voice, he will direct us to know what to say. Often times when I am listening to someone I will be praying silently, “Lord, please help me respond wisely to this. I don’t know what to say. Give me your words, bring to my mind Scriptures that will edify, encourage or correct. May I be your mouthpiece in this situation.”

4. You get a gauge on how well you and your elders are leading.  Sometimes it is difficult in pastoral leadership to know how well you are leading your flock. People don’t want to criticize (as least to your face!).  Ask for feedback and you’ll likely only hear positive things. But when you are in someone’s home and they give their perspective on how well things are going (or not going) in your church, you get a reality check.  It doesn’t matter how great the rhetoric is from the stage on Sunday. What really counts is what is going on in the hearts and minds of your people.

5. You get to be ministered to by others.  This is the unexpected bonus. I don’t go visiting so I can be encouraged and built up. I go to encourage and build up others. Seldom do I leave such visits however without being encouraged and built up myself.  This is the way things work. This is the way God designed things in his church. The Spirit of God ministers to both the giver and the receiver.  When Paul spoke about his desire to visit the church in Rome, he said this:

“For I want very much to see you, so I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Romans 1:11–12)

Listen to the story of someone’s faith and you will be encouraged. You will be encouraged by God’s faithfulness in their lives. You will be encouraged by their perseverance through trials. And you will be encouraged by their words of affirmation and thankfulness to you, for being their pastor.

If you are a pastor or an elder, and you are not active in visiting your members, make it a new goal for next year. You’ll be all the better for it.