What are the common excuses used to neglect visiting the sick and dying?

While in Scotland, we spent some time at Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh.  Dear friends, Paul Rees and Liam Garvie, are faithful and gifted pastors at this church and were gracious hosts to us while staying in Edinburgh.  One task while there, was a training I did on how to visit and care for the sick and afflicted among the congregation.  Before discussing the practical tools on how to engage in this task, I laid out what are the most common reasons (excuses) God’s people do not visit and care for those suffering with physical difficulties in their church.  Here are 5 of those reasons and I challenge you to examine your faithfulness to visit the sick and if deficient, which of these excuses are you most prone to use.

 

We neglect it as a priority.  All of us are busy. Busyness can be the excuse to get out of just about anything.  Make sure busyness is not the reason you are failing to care for your people.  Make it a priority.

We dismiss it as our responsibility.  Visiting the sick is the pastor’s responsibility; no, it’s the deacon’s responsibility; it’s both their responsibility; I have even heard pastors say it is the church member’s responsibility to care for the physically infirmed.  It is the responsibility of the “body of Christ” to care for those physically suffering.  Do not allow yourself to put the responsibility upon others.    

We fail to see the value in it.  We question the value because we do not know if it will be fruitful.  Will they be there?  Will they be coherent to talk?  Will they be gone from the room having tests run?  We question its value and that makes us neglect it.  We fail to see the value, when in actuality, it may be one of the most fruitful ways to serve Christ’s church.

We forget it is biblically commanded.  It is not love one another, or preach the word, but Christ and the apostles commanded that we care for one another, specifically those who are sick (Matt. 25, James 5).   

We avoid it because of fear.  We can fear many things when it comes to going to see someone sick, suffering, and hurting.  We may fear getting sick ourselves.  We may fear facing the reality of sickness and the possibility of death.  We often fear not knowing what to say or do.  Although all these are issues to be prepared to face, they are not reasons to neglect obedience to Christ’s command to serve Him while caring for your brothers and sisters who are sick and dying (Matt. 25).

The best way to overcome fear, is to be equipped and prepared for whatever you might face in visiting the sick in hospitals, rehab centers, nursing homes, and even their own homes.  The practical tools to be equipped for this task is the purpose of this book.  Examine your heart and schedule to make sure you are not hiding behind these excuses and ultimately neglecting Christ’s clear command to care for His people in these moments of greatest need.

Posted in Hospital Visitation, Training for Ministry
7 comments on “What are the common excuses used to neglect visiting the sick and dying?
  1. Nice post, Brian. One question: Do you think it is *not* or *never* the church member’s responsibility to visit and care for the sick, or are you simply saying that the pastor should not use that excuse to avoid visiting the sick himself?

    • briancroft says:

      Yes, it is everyone’s responsibility in the local church, including the church member. The point I was making was the leaders and church members will at times put the responsibility on the other, when all followers of Christ are called (Matt. 25), especially the leaders (James 5). Thanks for the clarification.

  2. I hope I didn’t sound critical. I really enjoyed the post and was challenged to discover my own excuses so I can overcome them to serve others.

  3. Janet says:

    I stumbled on your blog because I just Googled “should a pastor visit the sick?” I have been in non-stop cancer treatment for 5 years this month. My husband and I are regular church-goers in a small Southern Baptist church. The minister has been there for 20 years. In 5 years, our pastor has never visited me at home or in the hospital (neither has any church member). He has never sent a card, he has never sent an email. He has never called. When I go to service, he pats me on the shoulder and says, “Well bless your heart”. Then until I go again, I hear nothing from him. He does tell my husband that he prays for me, but you know, it just adds to the hurt I feel because it’s just a perfunctory thing to say. How can he ignore someone so sick in his congregation? I suspect he doesn’t contact anyone else either but it’s one of those things you’re afraid to ask. I finally had the thought that maybe in this day and age, we’re expecting too much from church. It was one thing to get food and visits and cards in the old days, but now maybe it’s too much to expect from the minister or the other people. Although I send cards to and make food and visit the other sick. I Googled looking for an answer and all I see is that it is still considered a Pastor’s duty to attend to the sick and that ours in nothing but negligent in his duties to his flock. I appreciate the insights I’m seeing online and we’re going to look for a church where maybe I’ll at least get a card once in awhile.

  4. Christina says:

    Hi, my husband and I recently experienced our own trauma when he nearly died due to a sudden drop in blood pressure while recovering from a very difficult surgery. Though he is alive and well and finishing his recovery at home, we were shocked by a lack of visits from anyone from our church. My husband even turned down the option of a visit from the hospital clergy because he expected our pastor to come by. No one came. Their excuse was that they “didn’t know,” even though I’m Facebook friends with so many people from the church (you’d think someone would have alerted the pastor!).

    Instead of making excuses, churches should confess, “We’re sorry we failed.” As believers, we know a church is merely a body of human beings who make mistakes, just as we ourselves do. And after what we recently experienced, I think that every church should have a group of individuals who pray regularly for people in need, as well as visit sick people. The ICU scared the daylights out of me. But I’d go back there to visit someone else, now that I’ve seen what it’s like. Even if a person is not conscious or aware that you are there, their loved ones will see it. And if those loved ones are not believers, you will send a message that speaks far louder than the words in any sermon that could ever be given, because you are putting your words into deeds.

  5. Robert says:

    I would like to reply to Christina’s post. I am a pastor and I visit those from my congregation whom are sick and even send cards. I go to nursing homes, hospitals and their homes when needed. I am sorry that your husband was sick and was not visited. However, may I ask, did you call the church or the pastor? My congregation knows that they can call me and if they are not able then a relative of theirs may call. However, I will not look at Facebook or the internet to find if someone in my congregation is sick and in the hospital. I feel that it is an issue of respect. I don’t mind to visit, but I want to receive word other than 3rd party or internet.

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