My Pastor Knows My Name

In the Reformed tradition, pastors and elders typically are required to visit church members in their homes at least once per year.  In larger churches, an elder assigned to care for a certain number of families often does the visits.  Unfortunately, home visits have not become a universal practice for Presbyterian churches. Many Presbyterian pastors and elders make regular home visits; many do not.

Due to the relatively small sizes of the Presbyterian and Reformed churches of which I have been a member, the pastors usually make the visits themselves, often assisted by another pastor or elder.  This personal act of being in the church members’ homes and caring for their spiritual needs builds much closeness between the consistory/session and the congregation.  It is one thing to say hello in passing on a Sunday or to have a quick conversation after church.  It is another thing entirely to have your pastor in your home, fellowshipping around a table, conversing about spiritual matters.

I learned of the concept of home visits soon after becoming Reformed. Before he came to our home, I presumed that my pastor cared for my wife and me and probably prayed for us.  He even might have thought about our spiritual growth once or twice.  After he visited me in my home, I had deep confidence that he cared for our souls and was very much concerned with our spiritual development.  He takes his role as shepherd very seriously and knows that he is accountable before God for those under his care.

The churches that I had attended in the past could not have been more different.  I had been a member of two Evangelical mega-churches, where the senior pastors had no idea who I was.  How could they know my name when they had congregations of over 5,000 people?  If I missed a Sunday, no one noticed.  The members were supposed to receive their pastoral care in Sunday School, not from the senior pastor. However, my Sunday School class was over 250 people.  My Sunday School pastor knew my name, but overseeing countless ministries left him so overworked that he did not notice when I moved away.  It was not until I joined a new church that the leadership even knew that I was gone.  My own ecclesiology was so lacking that I did not deem it necessary to inform the pastor of my move. Our relationship went about as deep as the relationship that I had with my local barista. I did not tell my barista that I was moving, why tell my pastor? I do not blame the pastors in these churches. Most of them are fine men attempting to bear the workload of three people. It is the corporate system of the mega-church that is flawed.

Mega-churches are not conducive to shepherding people.  The pastors must juggle innumerable projects while caring for thousands of people, many of whom live far from the church.  The congregations of these churches are always transient, with a huge percentage of turnover each year.  Many people who attend these churches eventually leave the congregation and fall away from the faith altogether because they feel forgotten.  Does anybody really care about me as long as there is someone else to fill the offering basket and occupy my seat the next week?

My pastor knows my name; he knows where I live; and he knows what I look like across a kitchen table.  I know the same things about him.  If you are a member of a church and are not being shepherded, respectfully broach the subject of regular pastoral visitation. As a child of God, you have a right to belong to a church whose the pastor will care for your soul.  There is great comfort in this.

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. Thanks, Dan. Well-said.

    As a pastor of a small PCA church and as one who at least tries to do regular pastoral visitation, I really appreciate this post.

  2. It’s not just the mega churches. Home visitations are a rarity. Part of the Sunday bulletin is a section which you tear off so you can alert them to prayer requests and etc. That’s the extent of interaction between the Pastor/Elders and the congregation. Now with PCA church pastors preaching one sermon on Sunday morning and no sermon in the evening or Wednesday night, what else does a Pastor do that requires so much time? I guess taking care of his own family. Oh well, the times, they have changed.

    • I see your point, Richard. I felt like I couldn’t attend a PCA church exactly for the same reasons this article is critical of mega-churches. In the reformed world, a house visit once per year counts as “shepherding.” I am realizing that I am more “low church” and value knowing and living with my church family in more life-on-life situations. I guess it is pretty relative. At the church I attend now, I have dinner and conversation with the elders and shepherds at my church at least 3 times per week.

  3. Dan, as regards mega-churches, haven’t you forgotten the ones that go in for Heavy Shepherding (My personal experience of this is washing loads of my saved-up socks simultaneously after nightfall)?

  4. Just want to make sure the name of my pastor is spelled correctly: Jared Beaird (not Bearid). I appreciate too how personal I can get with Pastor Jared by the way, that’s one of the great things about a church plant. Excellent post by Dan!

  5. We have been slowly implementing regular home visitations at the ARP church I serve. I say slowly because the only stumbling block we have seen to this has been from the people themselves. They had not had this before (and if they did it had been a long time) and thought it peculiar that we would want to visit. So part of the slow implementation has been teaching people why this is an important part of their Christian life and the Elder and Pastoral oversight.

  6. I would like to make a comment regarding the mega churches. I think it’s wrong to say they are all bad and in fact, I used to attend one in New York City and during the time I spent there I grew exponentially in my faith. But I put in the effort, it was about me showing up to spend time with God. Accountability partners existed there, I just had to remain proactive about my faith. When it was time to move on to a smaller congregation and I felt that’s where the Lord was calling me to, I made that move.

    Mega Churches help spread the gospel in amazing ways. Maybe my pastor and I didn’t sit down to lunch every other week, but I gave my life to Christ at that mega church and thousands of other’s do the same thing.

    While I think it’s great to know my pastor personally at this point in my walk, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with mega churches. They’re spreading the gospel in amazing ways and reaching people in masses. That’s amazing. That’s God’s hand moving in a city that so desperately needs to feel His love.

  7. For about seven years I was not only at a mega church much like the one described but also on staff at one as a custodian, too. And even then the only interaction I had with the pastor was about an hour in total—combining the short hellos and small talk while passing each other in the church office as I was taking out the trash or cleaning windows. And that’s no exaggeration.

    At the same time I was doctrinally confused since I hadn’t been catechized in the historic Christian faith, and as a result of that it left me ignorant, insecure and made me bitter over time once I discovered and began researching the ecumenical creeds and Reformed confessions because I wondered why such biblical truth wasn’t taught. I eventually left and went to another (much smaller) church after that and developed a good relationship with the pastor over the three years I was there, for which I am thankful.

    Last August I came to the URCNA church where I’m at today (Ontario URC) and I’ve been immensely blessed by the relationship I have with the pastor and consistory there. To meet with my pastor for catechesis over some good Thai food, talking about the gospel, issues in broader evangelicalism, and the stuff of daily life is refreshing and encouraging to my often heavy and wayward heart. Next Sunday (June 29th) I’ll make my public profession of faith in church at our morning service. To say I’m excited about this next chapter of my life with all the new relationships I have at my church is an understatement! Hallelujah, truly.

  8. Great post. I think it was Eugene Peterson who said that he would never pastor a church where he could not know the name of every member. That was one reason my own church planted a daughter church instead of going to multiple services — keeping it personal in both congregations, even though we sacrificed much in worldly terms to do so.

    My only concern is a one-size-fits-all model for pastoral visitation. Our congregation has a ton of turnover every year due to being in a small college town, where half the population is students. We do our best to make sure every regular attender and member is cared for by an elder/deacon team, but there is no way I could visit every attender (or even member) in their homes; they move around too much.

    All we can do is pour ourselves into people, watch our congregation grow and shrink each year in regular rotation, and work for the Greater Kingdom — hopefully seeing folks plug into healthy Reformed congregations wherever the Lord takes them next.

  9. The Church of those who read the Scriptures and apply them is an even larger Mega-Church, and I hope the Holy Spirit visits each member more than once a year! Indeed I don’t think He ever leaves genuine members.

  10. So true…have sent this post to my ministry pages in facebook read by many other pastors…thanks for this.

  11. Thank you for this post. House visits (whether that be by a pastor, elder, or just people who do it as a ministry on a weekly basis) are all too uncommon. But speaking of mega-churches, you have really hit the nail on the head. Probably more than you actually think.

    Back in 2007 when I listened to this sermon below it was a random thing, as I don’t make it a habit to listen to Steven Furtick all of the time, but do listen from time to time. And generally will listen to a large part of the sermon or the entire sermon so that I’m able to say that I’m not just taking it out of context. The first thing that the defenders of these megachurch pastors will ask is if you listened to the entire sermon or just a clip (which takes away from their having to deal with the actual issue and makes the “hater” the object of criticism). It’s even what was stated in the Elephant Room by Perry Noble (if I recall) – “did you listen to the whole sermon or just a youtube clip?”

    But back to the matter at hand, Furtick said “When I entered vocational ministry, when I decided I wanted to be a pastor I left the ministry.” at around 27 minutes in the sermon below. The primary gist of the sermon about small group ministry being vital isn’t that bad, but that statement said a lot to me and it’s exactly to the point of this blog post about mega-churches failing to have pastors engaged with their congregations. This is really serious business. That

    Does nobody at Elevation Church have a problem with this – with their “lead pastor” not actually believing that he’s in the ministry? Whether he cares about each member as a shepherd would care for his flock? We know from “The Code” that Elevation doesn’t cultivate a culture of going after the one sheep that may leave the flock. If you move on or question any methods, that’s fine because they state they “are more concerned with the people we are trying to reach than the people we are trying to keep.” That is exactly what Steven Furtick means when he said he “left the ministry”. He doesn’t feel the need to minister to each of his flock because that’s what small groups are for. He can’t be burdened with ministering to the sheep – only shepherds can be burdened with sheep. Furtick isn’t a shepherd in this sense.

  12. You need to be careful here. Act 4.4 after preaching 5000 men came to Christ and that doesn’t include the women and children. And there was only one church at this point in time! Or can we ignore the Great British Pastor CH Spurgeon “Metropolitan Tabernacle at Elephant and Castle, Southwark, seating 5000 people with standing room for another 1000. The Metropolitan Tabernacle was the largest church edifice of its day. Spurgeon continued to preach there several times per week until his death 31 years later. He never gave altar calls at the conclusion of his sermons, but he always extended the invitation that if anyone was moved to seek an interest in Christ by his preaching on a Sunday, they could meet with him at his vestry on Monday morning. Without fail, there was always someone at his door the next day.”

    If you have a church with 100 families and you ask them to invite a friend to church and 10% of them invite a friends and you do this every month and before you know it you have 200 families then 300 etc. Few mega-church happen over-night but yes they have challenges but so do the small churches. The fact is big town like Dallas have mainly big churches because there a lot of people living in the area. If you go to where our lake house is the 200 member Baptist church and 150 member church of Christ are your only two options but I’ve visited the Baptist church several times and trust me even though the pastor know my name it not a church I want to be a member of, even though the people or very nice!

    • But to compare Spurgeon’s big crowd who got to hear SPURGEON!, to the big crowd that DESIRES furtick….. yikes. Those are two different messages. Haven’t you heard? – what you win them with is what you win them to.

  13. Hello Matt – I see your point, but I still wonder if the big churches are getting big because they are proclaiming the gospel more faithfully and reaching people OR have a more appealing “product” to offer the culture. The Church in Acts was an instance of supernatural, spirit-driven growth – nothing man-made about it. Even the way the apostles could speak and each person could hear in his/her own language was supernatural. I struggle with this issue in knowing where to worship. I was part of a small PCA church that died several years ago.

  14. Our experience of 10 years in the PCA has not brought about a true shepherding house visit. One visit was for when our 3 oldest children were ready to make a profession of faith. Like one of the others commenting, our main pastor does not preach on Sunday nights or prepare a mid-week sermon or lesson. I’m not singling out the PCA, but that has been our sad experience.

  15. Frankly, i must say that each of us have our own pilgrimage of faith. God leads each of us differently. Some grew in mega churches by leaps and bounds because they are proactive to join all the activities in church and participate in various ministries. While some grew through small congregation because the leaders and pastors are more personal and make effort to visit them and provide soul care. How we grow is how God works in us to desire the things of God and we too play a part by being responsible for our own growth. All in all we work together with God to grow. It does not matter how we grow, importantly we grow in maturity and in knowledge and in our experience of our God. Mega churches have its own advantages as well as small groups.

Comments are closed.