This article is by Pastor Marion Clark who trained in the tradition of expository preaching under the late James Montgomery Boice. To see sermons preached by Pastor Clark, visit the Marion Clark Sermons page on SermonSearch.
I have two toolboxes, which should identify me as a handyman. For some reason, they do not provide enough evidence for my wife. She has this idea that I should not only use the tools in those boxes but be proficient in handling them. Tools should be used.
I do have other tools that I use regularly, the tools of my trade as a pastor. They are identified in Acts 6:4 by the apostles: “we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Prayer and the Word of God—those are the two tools of the pastor as he visits his flock.
What are your visits like when you visit a member’s home or make a hospital visit—a pleasant chat maybe closed with a brief prayer? There is an understandable desire today to be informal. We want our people, especially church visitors, to feel comfortable around us. We do not want them to tense up from a visit by the pastor. Carrying a Bible into the house or hospital room can seem awkward, like we are signaling that we are paying an official religious visit.
It is understandable, but then, you are a pastor, and carrying and using the tools of your trade ought not to be uncomfortable to you or to your people. And they will not if you use them regularly and proficiently.
Let’s drop in for a visit to a member’s house. Your conversation may be about anything. Your goal is to get to know them, know about their history and family and interests. The time for the visit nears its end. You pull into your toolbox for Word and prayer. “Before I go I would like to read a word of Scripture and have prayer for you. Do you have a favorite passage you would like read?”
They might, which gives you further insight into them. More often they will ask you to choose. This is where the conversation can be helpful. Something they said might trigger in your mind an apt Scripture passage or verse. It’s okay if not. You can choose a passage that you have been reading lately. You can have four or five passages in your toolkit to draw from. For hospital visits I commonly read Psalm 121, especially if I am making a presurgical visit. After reading, you might make a comment about the Scripture read, especially if applies to your discussion or is the one chosen by your member. Or simply use its thoughts to open your prayer with: “Father, thank you for this good word…”
Now the second tool, prayer. Before you pray, you ask, “Is there anything in particular that you would like for me to pray about?” You might think that after a long visit you already know what to pray for, especially if you are visiting someone in the hospital. Quite often, though, the very act of asking this question brings up what really is on the heart of your member that never came up in conversation.
“I have a child who has strayed.” “I have a situation at work.” Perhaps the question itself reminds the member that you are her or his pastor. This is not merely a social visit. Whatever the reason, it often draws something out of the heart.
Even if the individual has no specific request, prayer by one’s pastor for no one else than that individual touches your sheep. This is especially true if you draw in subjects covered by your conversation and apply the Scripture read.
Prayer and the Word used together are the most powerful tools you have for pastoring your people. They should be the tools of the trade that you are known for, that your people value in their pastor.