Thursday, November 13, 2008

Practical Help on a Practical Issue: Visiting the Sick

People are rarely more aware of eternity than when they're on their deathbeds. This makes hospital visitation and visiting those who are sick a most important aspect of the Christian ministry. Yet, many pastors, sometimes myself included, would rather not be engaged in this vital work. We find ourselves awkward, unsure of what to say, hesitant about saying the wrong things--all of which are the after shocks of having our self-reliance exposed. If you're paying attention, hospital visitation is sanctifying in that way.

Well, my good friend, Brian Croft, the faithful pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, has written a very practical and helpful book called Visit the Sick: Ministering God's Grace in Times of Illness. In a short 128 pages, and with highly readable style, Brian covers all the ground: biblical, theological, pastoral and practical.


Table of Contents

Introduction

1. Biblical Considerations

2. Theological Considerations

3. Pastoral Considerations

4. Practical Considerations

5. Conclusion

Afterword

A Note to Pastors

Appendix 1 - Checklist

Appendix 2 - Spiritual Conversation

Appendix 3 - FAQ

Appendix 4 - 'Sickness' by J.C. Ryle (Abridged Version)

Further Information and Help

Endnotes


A Couple of Well-Deserved Endorsements

"What do pastors do when visiting the sick? Such visits are crucial both eternally and pastorally. Brian Croft has written a marvellous piece to assist us. His work is theologically grounded, gospel centered and full of practical wisdom. I recommend it enthusiastically."

--Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Teaching Pastor, Clifton Baptist Church


"Every pastor--and many other church leaders as well--will visit the sick. Some feel that their visits are fruitful times of ministry; others feel very awkward. Very, very few, however, have the intuitive people skills and the pastoral experience to do this successfully without some training. Brian Croft's book provides concise, wise and practical instruction for this important aspect of ministry. Read it for yourself, study it as a staff or use it as a training resource for all those in your church who regularly visit the sick. It can help turn a routine responsibility into a time of effective ministry."

--Donald Whitney, Associate Pastor of Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; President, The Center for Biblical Spirituality; and author, Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life


"Brian Croft has served us all well in providing a succinct, thoughtful training manual for hospital visitation. Church member, let this book equip you to become more useful to those in your church who are ailing. Young pastor, gain from Brian's practical wisdom. Let him train you to love and serve your congregation in a way that will adorn your preaching (and help you avoid awkward mistakes). Seasoned pastor, let this book remind you of the privilege it is to serve and encourage the sick in a fallen world. I plan to read it together with my elders, and hope to make it available to my congregation as an equipping tool."

--Paul Alexander, Senior Pastor, Fox Valley Bible Church, St. Charles, Illinois; and co-author of The Deliberate Church.

2 comments:

wwdunc said...

Thabiti,

Speaking of "having our self-reliance exposed", I remember when I had to do my first nursing home visitation. If I remember correctly, I was a recently licensed preacher (about 18 years ago). I was eager to serve but very unsure of myself. I asked my pastor if I could accompany him on that visit to see how it's done. He agreed to that arrangement but backed out when the time came. Left on my own, I did the only thing I knew to do: Sitting in my car in the parking lot of the nursing home, I prayed. I told God about my fear, and asked him for His help, prayed that He would show me what to do and say, and cast myself upon Him for strength. I got through that visit and trust that some good was accomplished.

As it turned out, over the next 4 years that I was at that church, I never had the help of my pastor (neither that pastor nor the man that followed him as our pastor). So, I learned of necessity to depend upon God's help. I never entered a nursing home, hospital or residence when I didn't pray before I went in for Divine help. By God's grace, I had some precious experiences with the sick & shut-in, and I trust that God ministered through me on many of those occasions.

westportexperiment said...

Thank you for this helpful recommendation. What wisdom the servants of God need when seeking to apply spiritual remedies to those suffering physically.

I cannot help but think of the words of the Westminster Assembly's directions on the subject when they write, "Times of sickness and affliction are special opportunities put into his hand by God to minister a word in season to weary souls: because then the consciences of men are or should be more awakened to bethink themselves of their spiritual estate for eternity; and Satan also takes advantage then to load them more with sore and heavy temptations: therefore the minister, being sent for, and repairing to the sick, is to apply himself, with all tenderness and love, to administer some spiritual good to his soul, to this effect."