We may face new challenges, but the heart of our calling remains the same.
So much has changed in this world since COVID-19 reared its ugly head at the beginning of last year. The lasting and unintended consequences of quarantine have resulted in a sharp decrease in church attendance. Some parishioners who’ve stepped away from church involvement may never return. We fear that Sunday morning will forever be negatively affected.
That’s not the only matter of grave concern. The challenge of separation has made it very difficult for pastors to carry out the care of souls. Pastoral visitation—a core part of providing individual soul care—may very well continue to challenge pastors for a long while or may even be forever changed.
But one thing is certain: Even when visitation becomes more difficult, pastors are still called to deliver God’s gifts to sin-sick souls, wherever they may be. Pastoral visitation must be part of the pastor’s primary work for the care of souls. The reason: By definition, pastors are visitors.
In 1 Timothy 3:1, Paul writes to pastor Timothy, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (ESV). The office of overseer to which Paul refers is the pastoral office (episkopos); pastors are overseers according to the Bible. However, when the verb form of this noun is used, the activity of the pastor is defined. The verb episkopeo actually means “to visit.”
Visiting is more than just one of the many tasks the pastor does. Visitation is essential pastoral work. The pastoral office embodies the activity of visitation; they are one and the same in function and essence. Simply put, pastors are visitors.
But how can pastors be faithful to their calling as visitors when so much stands in the way of meeting members …