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Be Motivated: How Does the Bible Model the Importance of Visitation?
It was a cool and sunny February Sunday afternoon. I was helping Bethel Church do a community ministry survey. My visiting partner was Paul, a middle-aged man, and our assignment was to discover any needs community residents had that the church might meet. On that Sunday afternoon Paul and I found most people home, and we were received rather well. As we chatted about the information gathered and some of the things we thought that the church might do to minister to these people, we approached the last house in our assigned territory.
As we knocked on the door, we could hear noises coming from inside the house, but no one answered. We began to wonder if anyone would respond. Finally we heard a woman's voice call out, 'Who is it?' 'Paul and Jerry from Bethel Church,' we replied. 'We were just wondering if we could get some information from you.' She opened the door, holding a four-yearold child who was limp in her arms. 'I've been praying all day that someone would come who could help me with my sick daughter.' She then told us that the girl had been running a fever for two days but that she was worse today. Her husband was a long-distance truck driver, due home any time, but she had no way to contact him. She had run out of money and didn't know what to do.
Paul and I assured her that we would help get medical care for her daughter. Our community ministry survey now seemed unimportant in light of the opportunity to meet an urgent immediate need. We took her to a nearby hospital emergency room that would treat her daughter and allow her to pay later. We stayed until the medical personnel had completed their treatment, and then we took mother and daughter back to their home. As Paul and I drove back to church we agreed that, although we had set out to conduct a community ministry survey, God had given us the unexpected privilege of engaging in on-thespot ministry. We thanked God for this opportunity to minister to the woman and her daughter. The next morning I called the woman to see how her daughter was doing. Her husband, who had arrived during the night, answered the telephone. He reported that the medicine was working and that the little girl's fever had broken. She was expected to make a complete recovery in a few days. He said we'd been an answer to prayer by showing up at such a critical time of need. When I called Paul and shared the news, we prayed together, thanking God that we could be his chosen instruments to meet this family's need. A few days later Paul and his wife visited this family and told them about Bethel Church and about the ways they thought that the church could meet their needs. It wasn't long before they visited Bethel Church. This incident illustrates just one of many forms church visitation can take.
Most Christians want to be sure that what they do is based on Scripture and follows biblical models. The Bible is filled with visitation examples. God himself made visits; angels visited people; the prophets went directly to people; and Jesus practiced visitation as he went to special events, walked along the roads, and went to homes. The apostle Paul was a frequent visitor as he spread the gospel message on his missionary journeys. Peter visited in the homes of Cornelius and Dorcas. The list could go on and on.
Visitation is an ancient practice going back to the times recorded in the book of Genesis and running throughout Scripture. I'll highlight several Bible characters who practiced visitation and then show why they did it. These biblical characters illustrate principles that apply today as we engage in visitation. I trust that this will motivate you as you realize how important the idea of visitation is for God's people right now.
Matthew 28:18--20 has been called the Great Commission because it directs the people of God to be active in visitation and in disciple making:
'Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'
Visitation is not just a weekly church activity, nor is it an activity that Christians do through their own strength and ingenuity. Making contacts for Christ is serious business that requires us to visit in the same spirit Christ had, seeking his blessing and power for this significant endeavor. As Christians we can go out, knowing that Christ's authority goes with us and that he will be with us always, even to the very end of time. Mark 16:15, a briefer version of the Great Commission, states, '[Jesus] said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.'' In some ways Mark is more specific, insofar as the Christian is commanded to go into all the world and preach---to share the good news of Jesus Christ with everyone.
VISITATION ESTABLISHED BY GOD
God visited Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden both before and after their fall into sin:
'The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.' Genesis 2:15--17
God personally placed Adam in the Garden of Eden to work and take care of it. God spent time with Adam there and saw that he needed a helper, so God created the woman, Eve. After this first couple had eaten the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God once again visited them in the Garden of Eden: