Last week we held our annual training day for the deacons, elders, lay shepherds, and pastors of Trinity CRC. I consistently advocate for people to attend events like these as they provide us with tools for doing our work.
Something that Pastor Mark Beernink said was especially helpful: While speaking about making visits, Mark encouraged us to pray ahead of time that we may enter into what God is already doing in the person’s life. It’s a helpful corrective for people (like me!) who more often tend to prepare for a visit with someone by wondering what I need to accomplish in our time together. Mark’s comment reminds me how the Holy Spirit of Jesus is already at work in a person way before I show up… And He’ll continue working in that person long after I leave again. My posture should not be one of trying to figure out what to do or say, but to be sensitive to what God is already saying and doing in the person who I have the privilege of walking alongside for a time.
Such a posture is humbling: A pastoral visit is not about me. It’s not even first of all about the person I’m visiting. It’s about discerning and nurturing and celebrating God’s presence and work in the person’s life.
Such a posture offers a tremendous relief: I cannot – nor am I expected to – control what is happening in the life of the person I’m visiting. Instead, I’m invited to trust God in what He is doing and encourage the person I’m visiting to also trust in the God who is already at work in his or her life.
Such a posture guarantees that the visit will not remain just a social visit (not that there’s anything wrong with those on other occasions!). Ahead of time, during the visit, and following it, I’m focusing on what Jesus is up to, and inviting the person with whom I’m spending time to focus on Him, too. While hanging out with anyone, I figure that is time well spent.
(If you’re in the northwest Iowa area, Dordt College is planning and hosting another training day for church leaders on Saturday, 2 February. Day of Encouragement details are here.)