Recently a member left our church because she was angry at me. When she was in the hospital for an operation I did not visit her, but a pastor from a nearby church did come and prayed over her. She was upset because she felt that her own pastor did not care for her as much as a pastor of another church. Then she heard a testimony at church where the speaker said she was greatly helped by my visit. That was the last straw for her. She felt she was being discriminated against and she moved to the church of the pastor who had come to visit her. He not only visited her but led a Bible study afterward with her alone.
It’s been a rule of mine to visit members at hospitals when they’re about to receive a major operation. Unfortunately, I missed quite a few of these situations because I was out of town for various speaking engagements. As a result, some have felt they were discriminated against.
I no longer do hospital visitations. One reason is that I don’t want our church members to feel like I’m favoring certain members over others. This perception disappears if I do not visit anyone at all. More importantly, I do not want to sacrifice prayer time. As you know, I pray for 3 hours in the morning. Most of the time is spent praying for church members. I’m able to cover more than 100 people during this time.
Major operations usually start early in the morning. When I visit a patient at a hospital about 100 people have to be sacrificed prayer-wise. Because of this, I offer a special prayer in the morning for patients who are about to undergo a major operation instead of visiting them. Our church leaders appreciate my decision. Our late brother Park Yong-Joo, who served as a deacon for a long time, even urged me on the phone to not visit him at all. He simply asked me to include his name on my prayer list on the day of his operation.
Although I do not make personal visitations, it does not mean that church members are neglected. They are well cared for because shepherds visit them and I pray for them . The problem isn’t that members aren’t being cared for, but that some don’t feel that they’re being cared for unless they are visited by their pastors. Some feel that only visits from pastors are “real” visits, and that visits from shepherds are not.
We must abandon once and for all the idea that only clergymen are pastors. We should recognize that shepherds as pastors: lay pastors. Shepherds themselves should recognize this fact and take pride. When shepherds visit a patient and find clergy there, don’t be intimidated, but perform the ministerial duty as a lay pastor for the members of your house church.
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