I was asked today to put together some Scriptures that talk about the need for the church to be involved in a visitation program, especially with regards to shut-ins. This is the group of folks who are unable to attend church services regularly due to prolonged illness, etc. After putting this together, I decided to pot it here as well.
In the New Testament, there are 2 types of visitation ministries. The first is to unbelievers and the second is to believers.
1. Ministry of visiting unbelievers:
In the Gospels, Jesus often ministered to the sick and to those with various needs. He did this to demonstrate His Deity and authority. It was to show them (and us) that He is in fact the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world. This ministry was done to show who Jesus was. He also sent His disciples out in Matthew 10:5-42. He instructs them about going out to share the Message of God’s Kingdom. This was an evangelistic mission. This was a mission that would bring difficulty and hardship to their very own lives.
In the book of Acts, we see Paul and others undertaking numerous journeys to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to a world full of unbelievers. It was a dangerous task for which many lost their lives. Their primary reason to go to unbelievers was to lead them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ
2. Ministry of visiting believers:
In the New Testament there is much discussion about the Church ministering to fellow believers in this way. This is what we usually think of regarding what we call “Visitation.” There is not a description of this type of visiting to unbelievers, only ministry like this to believers. For the ministry to unbelievers, the New Testament church was very evangelistic and intentional about sharing the Gospel message in hopes of leading people to faith in Christ.
There are several places that we see believers sharing their possessions with fellow believers. This was done primarily because they had to rely on each other, particularly when faced with persecution. They often sold possessions and used the proceeds to meet the needs of fellow believers. This is seen in Acts 4:32-37, in 2 Corinthians 8:12-15, and in Galatians 6:10. We are told to be hospitable in this ministry in Romans 12:13. Paul gives Timothy some instruction regarding our response to older men and women in 1 Timothy 5:1-2. There is a lengthy, detailed discussion about ministering to widows in 1 Timothy 5:2-16. This passage shows us the responsibility we as a church have to minister to the widows in our church. Within that, there are “guidelines” that Paul gives.
Concerning ministry to shut-ins, the passage that comes to mind is Hebrews 10:24-25. Here, we are told that the church members have a responsibility to encourage one another. He says this is why we should not “forsake the assembling of ourselves together.” In other words he says, “don’t skip church due to laziness and irresponsibility.” One of the primary reasons we gather together to worship the Lord is so we can all encourage one another. Those who are shut-in due to medical and other conditions are unable to do this. We who are healthy have a tremendous opportunity to go to them and give them encouragement. They also have the opportunity to encourage us and spend time with fellow believers since they are unable to do it on a regular basis. So, this passage in Hebrews that focuses on church attendance, gives us more reason to visit believers who are unable to attend church.