Reflections on Pastoral Visitations: A Pastor Grieves Because His Sheep Won’t Read

Derek Ouellette —  January 12, 2011

A part of my job as the marketing guy for a Christian bookstore is to travel the area visiting pastors. It is not the easiest part of my job. Most pastors receive me with a great deal of apprehension, which adds some unnecessary tension to our meetings – though no doubt from experience most pastors have learned to be guarded for good reason unfortunately. It is difficult to get into seeing a pastor from a larger church. They are usually quite busy. But visiting pastors in smaller churches sometimes feels like being invited to a friend’s home for the first time. They want to show you around the house, every room, every feature. With great pleasure, they share an abbreviated history of the church and their time as pastor. Things sometimes warm up quite quickly.

Just the other day I went in to visit a pastor of a small Pentecostal church. His office was too small and cluttered for two people to cohabitate, so when I entered the foyer (which was the same as entering the sanctuary) the first thing I saw was a table set up at the altar of the church, a chair on either side and a bottle of water in front of each seat. He was waiting for me with a big smile and eagerly extended the right hand of fellowship.

Before that I had visited a United Methodist Church where the pastor was just as friendly as he gave me the grand tour. It was beautiful building with great acoustics, recently remodeled. And today another minister, a Baptist pastor, handed me a printed copy of the history of the Church. They had just celebrated their 125th anniversary! Quite the accomplishment for this area.

As I entered the Baptist church I had passed through a large library, high ceilings, large thick wooden shelves which extended to the top, a deep room with a ladder reaching to the high shelves and a table in the center. I marveled as I passed through and into the pastor’s office and had made a comment of how much I like it.

He shared with me how he grieves that no one uses it. The person who built it and stocked it had done so over 25 years prior, they had since passed away. About four years ago a young man took charge of the library, but began to toss anything that seemed “dated”, “irrelevant” or “unknown” to him. The pastor was horrified and put a stop to it as soon as he could. Fortunately, the young man was not in charge long enough to deal too much damage, most of the books were salvaged.

The pastor went on to show me a little book of hardly more than a hundred pages sitting there on his desk.  It was Mark Dever’s What Is A Healthy Church. He said he was going to ask his board members to read it. “It’s small”, he said, “they shouldn’t have much excuse not to. But if I don’t politely, but forcefully ask them to read it, they won’t read at all.”

He then said something which stuck for me, like one of those quotes worth archiving. He said:

“If only six men would read three books a year, it would change the whole environment of our church.”

I grieve with this pastor. In our store we have a quote on the wall by A.W. Tozer:

“… the right book in the hands of the right person, can easily transform a life.”

It did for me. It can for you. It and will for those in your church.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.