“The Pastor and an Elder.”
“The Pastor and an Elder!? What are they doing here?!”
Many people understand the main functions of a pastor, or teaching elder, and ruling elder—to preach and teach the Word of God in the case of the former, and to rule the congregation in the case of the latter. People come to church each Sunday and listen to pastor exposit the Word and see the elders, then go home only to see the pastor next Sunday. This scenario, however, is only part of the work of the elders of the church. Yes, the pastor is supposed to preach and teach the Word and the ruling elder is supposed to make decisions and lead the congregation along with the pastor. They are also, however, supposed to shepherd the flock the Lord has given to them. For example, we read in 1 Peter 5.2: “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly.” Similarly, we read in Hebrews 13.17 the following exhortation to Christians: “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.” How are the elders, though, supposed to shepherd, that is tend to the needs of the sheep, and watch out for the souls of the sheep if they only see them once a week?
In days gone by when people used to live in the same town and work in the fields by their homes, the elders would visit the members of their congregation on a regular basis. They would do this work regularly to see how a family was doing, to observe the children, the condition of the home, the interaction between the family members, and inquire about their spiritual state. In our current day, this task might not be so easily accomplished. No longer do members of the church live in the same town. Moreover, it’s not simply a matter of stopping the horse-team in the back forty to talk to the visiting elders. People work miles from where they live and given the traffic of our hectic city, it’s not simply a matter of dropping by for a visit. This, however, does not mean that the elders of Geneva will simply give up on this important shepherding task. On the contrary, it is important that the elders visit the members of the congregation, though the form of the visitation might look a bit different than it did, say 100-200 years ago.
We, the session, want to be obedient to the calling that God has given us as shepherds of His flock, and pastoral visitation is one of the ways that this can be accomplished. Our desire is to get to know the sheep better so that we can tend to their needs. Moreover, it is quite common that pastors and elders visit a home only when there is a problem with which they need to deal. We do not want to visit the homes of the church members only when there are problems. We anticipate our visits to be times where we can minister to the flock and where the flock can minister to us.
We hope that through the pastoral visits, a stronger bond of unity will be built between the shepherds and the flock. We also pray that God will use these visits to edify the saints at Geneva, and that when the Chief Shepherd appears, we will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away (1 Pet. 5.4).