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Hospital visits

Some pastors loathe the hospital. I have come to find it one of the most precious places on earth to shepherd God's people. No one is there by choice. Yet those who end up there need the tender touch and compassionate words of a shepherd. This is one of those golden opportunities to live out 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8:

"But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us."

Hospital visits are deeply humbling moments when we love and treat our flock with dignity, supply the medicine of God's Word, and try to keep our wits and a good sense of humor. Just last week, as I visited a church member in a continuing care facility, the patient next to her kept interjecting into our conversation. She seemed a bit eccentric and kept asking me how to operate her cell phone. Finally, I checked her minutes and discovered she had used them all up. But as I ended the visit, I was able to include the roommate in our prayer time.

I often try to put the patient at ease by talking about the weather, about life, about my family, and about recent church events. I ask how their family is doing, about some of their fond memories, and pleasant conversation points with the outside world. What I avoid is excessive talk about their health or discussing current political events (they're probably hearing about those things all day on their TV anyway).

Toward the end of the visit, before I pray, I often like to ask if I can read a passage of Scripture as an encouragement to them. Brian Croft in his blog today gives four categories and samples of Scriptures which are very helpful:
  • Passages of comfort (Ps. 23, 28, 34, 46, 62, 145; Heb. 4:14–16)
  • Succinct gospel passages (John 11:25–26, Rom. 5:6–11, Eph. 2:1–10, 2 Cor. 5:17–21)
  • Passages dealing with the purpose of suffering for the believer (2 Cor. 12:7–9, James 1:2–4, 1 Pet. 1:6–7, 1 Pet. 4:12–19)
  • Passages related to the reality and hope of eternity with Christ (John 10:27–30, John 14:1–3, Phil. 1:21–23, 1 Pet. 1:3–5)
Finding time for hospital visits and house calls to shut-ins is a challenge in an already busy schedule, but we dare not forget our sheep who are quietly suffering. And I find it is all worth it when I hear those words, "Thank you, pastor, for coming by today."

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