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541 The Value of Visitation. June 16, 2024

Updated: Jun 16


KEY SCRIPTURE: Matthew 25:35-40

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.


RELEVANCE

There is a well-known quote that goes something like this: The church would be great if it weren’t for the people. 


In one sense, I can understand that phrase, as some people don't mix as well as they should. But in reality, we attend church because we were or are broken and need help and fellowship. Godly fellowship and caring for one another, bearing one another’s burdens, and genuine brotherly love in Christ are trademarks of the Christian church—or should be.


This creates the need for contact with each other outside of church as well as at church. But what is the church? It is not the building, although we call that church. It is the people, the ekklesia—the gathering or assembly of human beings who have given their hearts to Jesus Christ or are in that transition. It is the people!


Therefore, the church extends beyond the building to wherever members are, and so do our welfare responsibilities. 


But can we leave care to a phone call, letter, text or email? Or do we need to visit, that is, be physically present with the person or persons?


I make and take many phone calls due to the tyranny of distance, such as interstate or intrastate, or other barriers where we cannot have a face-to-face catch-up, such as prison. Sometimes the phone calls are lengthy while others are shorter. I also write letters and plenty of emails. 


What is good about a phone call, email or letter?


With a phone call, I can wear my scroungy old trackie pants and hoodie and casually walk around the house or garden or sit in my office or lounge room with my feet up, provided the conversations remain private, which is critical. A lot of good work can be done on the phone, and you can tell when someone has drifted away from the conversation, feeling the heat or pain, or whether I have not understood the issue.   


When writing letters or emails, I can have appropriate music playing in the background, hide my conversations from other household members, and go deep into an issue without interruption. As a bonus, it's easy to retract or redo some words, sentences, or paragraphs to better fit the circumstance, and I can attach literature that I might think is suitable for the moment. 


Zoom calls (Virtual visits) are a fantastic modern way of enjoying meaningful face-to-face conversations (almost). Many people use this medium as it is excellent for long-distance or difficult meet-ups such as prison or hospital isolation or quarantine illnesses. 


But do these methods take the place of visitation? 


 In his wonderful book, ‘I was sick and you visited me” Mike Mellor writes:

God has fully equipped us for this incredibly important work. We have a heavenly Father who sends us into this broken world he so loves. We have a Saviour who, by his death and resurrection, provides all we need in order to be messengers of forgiveness, comfort and hope. And we have the Holy Spirit who empowers us and provides all the compassion, strength and wisdom we need for the task.

 

Clearly, we have no excuse not to go!


Being present with people helps us better understand how they are really doing. Therefore, we visit when we can.


 I learned that the two types of visitation form a cross. The vertical one is the visit from the Pastor. The horizontal one is from us, the average believer visiting others. We are all called to be shepherds of some kind—to look after each other’s welfare.


Jesus perfectly represents the visitation ministry. He made many house visits. In some of them great things happened—people were healed, saved and reprimanded. At one house, the blessing was reversed when Jesus got His feet washed with expensive ointment. When we visit to bring a blessing, we always experience something new. 


Visiting comforts the lonely and ill. It drives our relationships deeper through love, encourages trust and unity, promotes genuine interpersonal relationships in the church, and extends that necessary godly care beyond the church building.  


Visitation ministry often involves physical welfare aspects. We must be big believers in offering real ways to help; otherwise, we're just patting them on the head and wishing them all the best in Jesus. Whether we personally help or arrange for help to happen, or connect people with a solution, this aspect should not be neglected. 


For instance, a group of my friends and I visited a couple who needed woodcutting, rubbish clearance, tree pruning, and lawn mowing done to clean up their property. The work was overwhelming to them. One of our guys even polished their van. We offered it freely as a gesture—not waiting to be asked. It wasn't in the next suburb either. To get there, we drove across town and into the hills. 


I have visited people and found myself arranging numerous things for them because they were buried in trauma or depression or temporarily incapable of doing it themselves. Others have brought casseroles for the sick, cleaned their house, washed their clothes, or brought them something to read or listen to. 


When a person is laid up in the hospital, a surprise visit is refreshing. Otherwise, it's a good idea to organise the visit beforehand. Ensure you are prayed up and bringing love with you. One word of caution, it is not advisable to visit the opposite sex alone without bringing a friend—a witness. 


Also, in some cases, if you plan on several visits to anyone over a long period of time because you perceive them to be in need, discern early whether they are energy wasters or energy givers. Energy givers will take responsibility and help with their situation. On the other hand, energy takers or wasters will expect you to do all the work and are often lazy, manipulative and using you up. You will find there is little shift in their behaviour. If you see no change, don't feel guilty about moving on. The helpers before and after you probably experienced the same. Sadly, there are cases like that, and figuring it out helps you spend your time wisely—on the right people. Even Jesus said, “By their fruits ye shall know them”


Of course, at times we may be sick, lonely or tired, and others may visit us. Greet them gracefully and thankfully, as their time is valuable, and don't dismiss their help if offered. 

 

Either way, when the intentions of Jesus Christ flow through our veins, that spiritual joinery of love and commitment God employs to construct His Church seamlessly fits together. 


Praise Him for His goodness, for unto all humankind a Saviour was born, which is Jesus Christ the Lord—the example of all things good.


Prayer

Dear Lord, thank you for the love and effort so many people put in to help. Many examples flood my mind of people putting aside time to raise others up, to help them on their feet so they can then pass the love on. And thank you for those many people who have gone out of their way to help me in my times of need. Please bless the givers.

Photo by Ben Hershey

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