One of the most important tasks in a pastor’s ministry is one of the most neglected: Going to hospitals to care for the sick and dying. It has practically become a lost art in the younger generations of pastors. Why is this? Here are 5 of the most common reasons Christians do not go to hospitals and visit the sick and dying.
Christians neglect it as a priority. All of us are busy. Busyness can be the excuse to get out of just about anything. Make sure busyness is not the reason you are failing to care for your people. Make it a priority.
Christians dismiss it as our responsibility. Visiting the sick is the pastor’s responsibility; no, it’s the deacon’s responsibility; it’s both their responsibility; I have even heard pastors say it is the church member’s responsibility to care for the physically infirmed. It is the responsibility of the “body of Christ” to care for those physically suffering. Do not allow yourself to put the responsibility upon others.
Christians fail to see the value in it. We question the value because we do not know if it will be fruitful. Will they be there? Will they be coherent to talk? Will they be gone from the room having tests run? We question its value and that makes us neglect it. We fail to see the value; when in actuality, it may be one of the most fruitful ways to serve Christ’s church.
Christians forget it is biblically commanded. It is not love one another, or preach the word, but Christ and the apostles commanded that we care for one another, specifically those who are sick (Matt. 25; James 5).
Christians avoid it because of fear. We can fear many things when it comes to going to see someone sick, suffering, and hurting. We may fear getting sick ourselves. We may fear facing the reality of sickness and the possibility of death. We often fear not knowing what to say or do. Although all these are issues to be prepared to face, they are not reasons to neglect obedience to Christ’s command to serve Him while caring for your brothers and sisters who are sick and dying (Matt. 25).
The best way to overcome fear is to be equipped and prepared for whatever you might face in visiting the sick in hospitals, rehab centers, nursing homes, and even their own homes. The practical tools to be equipped for this task is the purpose of this book. Examine your heart and your daily schedule to make sure you are not hiding behind these excuses and ultimately neglecting Christ’s clear command to care for His people in these moments of greatest need.
Pastors, it is not just your responsibility to set the example for your people in this area, but a hospital is where some of our most significant ministry takes place. Go and find out.
Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.