If done wisely, small groups can be a benefit to Christ’s church. On the other hand, small groups can sometimes get in the way of the church’s ministry. It takes wisdom, patience, grace, and work to ensure that small groups help rather than hinder spiritual growth in the local church. One aspect of the church’s spiritual growth that many forget today is the practice of family visitation. In historic Reformed churches the elders and pastors go “from house to house” every two or three years to visit the members of the congregation (Acts 20:20b). During these visits, they pray, read Scripture, and discuss the Christian church and life with God’s people. Some might disagree, but I would say that this kind of family visiting is even more important than small groups.
Here’s a book that I very much recommend on this topic: Taking Heed to the Flock by P. Y. DeJong. This book talks about various aspects of family visit: its history, biblical basis, spiritual purpose, necessity, value, and so on. Taking Heed to the Flock is one of the best books you’ll find on family visiting. Here’s one excerpt that was encouraging for me thinking about family visits in the church I serve:
In an age in which individualism is rampant and has wreaked havoc everywhere, it is essential to stress the organic aspect of life. We cannot live without each other. Nowhere is this more valid than in the church among the communion of saints.
Where this law of life is understood, the elders do not regard themselves as policemen of the congregation. Theirs is not the duty of trying to uncover all the sins which mar the hearts of God’s people who are as yet imperfect. But, realizing the almost insurmountable obstacles in the way of a well-rounded Christian life, they visit the families for the purpose of helping all to see their duty more clearly.
This makes for the closest possible fellowship between the officers and members of the church on the one hand and between the m embers among each other on the other. They learn to stand shoulder to shoulder in the great spiritual struggle against the common foe and learn to wage this war more successfully. It makes of the church truly a ‘militant’ church. As each soldier has his own position and duty and obliges himself to carry it out in strict obedience to the commands of his superior, so too in the church all the members find their calling outlined by Christ in His Word. The purpose of the work of the elders is to remind the believers in the name of the Commander-in-Chief of their personal and social responsibilities. Where this is found, the words of the well-known hymn are immortalized in the life of the congregation:
Like a mighty army
Moves the church of God
Brothers, we are treading
Where the saints have trod.
We are not divided,
All one body we,
One in hope and doctrine,
One in charity.
As this is progressively realized in the life of the church, she marches forward from victory to victory in the name of the Captain of her salvation.
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015