You are an elder and your program is packed, but may I ask you a question: How much of time do you spend visiting members? I say that because unless you insist on giving certain amounts of your time for visitation, you will seldom have sufficient time to "seek and save the lost."
"My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them." Ezekiel 34:6.
"None did search or seek after them." What would we do without that beautiful pathos-filled story of the lost sheep? What if that heart-burdened shepherd had summoned the excuses behind which we so often hide?
Reasons for Visitation
Let us check ourselves and consider various types of visits which we need to be making. Perhaps the order itself in which we list various kinds of visits may not be important, but let us notice the various ways in which God can use His shepherds to seek out His sheep.
One can visit the sick in the spirit of "Well, I had better go to see him and get this visit checked off my list today or his wife will really be after me," but there must be a specific aim in every visit. That aim may be simply to comfort. And how much such visits are needed! There are so many lonely, empty, even fearing hearts that deserve our tender attention. Put yourself in the place of the suffering one and your visit will be a balm of Gilead to heal a troubled soul.
Again the aim of the sick-call may be to "seek and save the lost." Wonderful! Almost always peoples' hearts are softer when they are on the sick bed. Should we, then, not capitalize on this open-heart condition and move in to lift and save?
Consider sick calls not an added burden in your schedule, but a definite opportunity to save a soul. You need not sermonize, and you certainly should not rebuke the one fallen when sick. Take it for granted he has been doing some solemn thinking, and gently turn his face to the cross so that he may "look and live."
If you follow up all your sick calls, considering your after ministry an opportunity to help an unsurrendered soul to Calvary, you will be surprised to find how many individuals on sick beds you can ransom from the enemy. Sick people are appreciative; sick people are responsive; sick people often sense their need and come under great conviction. Let us never neglect this potential avenue to soul winning.
Important Areas of the Church
The three most important parts of a church are (1) the baptistry, (2) the pulpit, and (3) the lobby. But why should the lobby be rated so highly?
Because from week to week through that lobby pass visitors who are possible candidates for heaven. God sends them to your church daring to hope the church elder will be there to greet them. Sometimes He is disappointed and angels cringe because the ones they are seeking to save are overlooked as they pass through.
Is every visitor to your church greeted each Sabbath morning and made to feel welcome and wanted? That is not all. Do you as elder visit the homes of all the local visitors who come through your church lobby each Sabbath morning? Do it and watch the results. Make a one-month's test and require yourself to look up every local visitor. You will be amazed at the providential contacts you will make in the gateway of your church. God will see that still more seekers for salvation are directed there if He finds He can trust you to follow such interests through to the harvest.
Your church lobby will prove to be one of your most productive seedbeds of souls. Let nothing keep you from making the most of these contacts which will lead you to unnumbered homes-homes where visits hold the greatest promise. May the lobby of your church become the gateway to heaven.
Missionary visitation can be very productive in soul winning. When you visit your flock, be ever alert to find new contacts and leads for future decisions. A few questions may start you on the trail to a gold mine of prospects for the kingdom: "Are all of your children in the church?" "Do you have relatives here in town who believe or who have ever been members?" "Have your neighbors ever shown any interest?" "Are there any with whom you have studied whom we might help to a decision?" "Do you know of any who used to be members?" Ask these questions in all of your visits and you will be guided to souls "only waiting to be gathered in."
Are there young people in your congregation who have not yielded their all to Christ? Are there young people who would be lost if probation closed tonight? Each young person is a possible prospect for heaven. Every such one should be sought out and visited alone.
No evangelistic endeavor will render greater results per hour invested than that of seeking and visiting individual juniors and young people. They appreciate being treated like distinct human beings, and they deserve a personal visit. Remember, souls come by ones, not twos. Each one must be sought out and brought to Jesus. In fishing for souls you catch one at a time on your line, seldom by the netful.
Then there are the counsel-seekers. Really, the majority are not searching for the advice they really need they just want to "unload." Turn such sessions into contacts for the kingdom.
If elders will be as faithful in "tracking down" interest leads as the trapper is his prey, or the salesman is his prospect, he will find a harvest of souls for the kingdom.
Don't wait for the ideal time and place to have a visit. You may accomplish more by walking out across a ploughed field to talk to an interest alone on his tractor than to have by appointment a planned visit in his parlor. He feels you must have cared for him and another advantage, you are able to talk with him alone.
Your visits will take you to offices and homes, to basements and rooftops. One of the best places to have a personal talk with a roofer is on the roof. There you can isolate him from his wife and children and appeal to him alone to make his surrender.
Along highways and byways you must seek for His "other sheep." They can be found, but they must be sought out.
Would you baptize as many as 100 in a single year? Then make 1,000 visits! And you'll doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing your heaven-sent centurion band with you! Try it and see!
Fordyce W. Detamore was a pastor and evangelist in North America when he wrote this.