Visitation and Oversight
“Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. Acts 15:36, 41
One of the most difficult aspects of the COVID-19 restrictions was the prohibitions of hospital and nursing home visits. In addition to the responsibilities to preach the Word and administer the Sacraments, pastors are called to visit nursing home residents, hospital patients, shut-ins, and also any members of the flock who are in need of pastoral care. The Greek word for bishop or overseer comes from the same word for “to visit.”
The eighth objective of the Synod is to “provide evangelical supervision, counsel, and care for pastors, teachers, and other professional church workers of the Synod in the performance of their official duties.” Visitation and oversight are understood to be tied together. One cannot exercise oversight without visiting. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament states, “Even when [it] means ‘to seek out someone’ in the NT, it never implies merely ‘to visit’ them in the usual sense, or for selfish ends, but always ‘to be concerned’ about them, with a sense of responsibility for others.” (vol II, p. 604) Ultimately, visitation points others to the One who visited us through His holy incarnation and who continues to visit us through His Word and His body and blood. Visitation always encourages others with the comfort and strength of the Gospel.
The Synod is structured for the sake of visitation. The President of the Synod conducted an official visitation of the Missouri District in January 2021. District Presidents, District Vice Presidents, and Circuit Visitors, participate in an organized process of visitation of congregations. These visitations are for the purpose of care, as well as supervision and counsel. For nearly three years, our pastors, Directors of Christian Education, deaconesses, principals, and teachers have faithfully served during extremely challenging circumstances. The objective to care for all of these workers has been carried out in Missouri through visitation (individual and corporate) as we strive to strengthen the steps of our servants in our walk together. This aspect of our life together may not always be heralded, but it is vital that our congregations and church workers know that they are not alone. Just like St. Paul set out to do, visitation is about that “supervision, counsel and care.” May God bless this critical work of visitation in Missouri District.
Prayer – O Lord, graciously receive the prayers of Your Church that, being delivered from adversity and error, it may serve You in safety and freedom and dwell in Your peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan