A church member came to me over a year ago and asked if I would join him in doing weekly visits to homebound members in our church. He wanted me to go with him, bring my guitar—sing a few songs—and (being the minister) administer Holy Communion. His vision was to “take the church to them.” I was delighted he asked me to be a part of this endeavor, but if I am being perfectly honest with you, I didn’t know why he asked me, and to be frank with you, I didn’t know if it would be the best use of my time.
Surely, I thought, there are better people than me to do this, and there are other things I could do that would be a more effective use of my time. Right? I could plan the music for an upcoming Sunday! I could order new music for the choir! I could recruit someone to play in our praise band! Perhaps I could read a book!
I was immeasurably wrong for such a nearsighted and fatuously selfish line of thought.
Jesus Christ tells us in the Bible that what we do to the least of our brethren, we do to Him. I have often thought of this verse as referring only to the poor. No. This refers to anyone in need.
Being completely honest, when it comes to the homebound, most of the people I have had the honor to engage with would be seen by our world as “the least of these.”
Not to me. Not now.
I have subsequently been rebuked by the Lord over my initial thoughts toward visiting the homebound on a regular basis. I was wrong for this. I have learned an eternal lesson. I only wish I had learned it earlier. I have begun to wonder, in my previous places of ministry, what if I had been more engaged? What if I had visited the homebound more often? Could I have made an impact for the Kingdom of God?
I am a staunch advocate for life. I am 100% anti-abortion and unashamedly pro-life. Why haven’t I been consistent? Why have I not, up to this point in my life, had the same passion for the elderly that I have had for the unborn? I have been that which I despise: I have been inconsistent.
God has a way of knocking sense into us.
What I can tell you is that I have been infinitely blessed through visiting these precious souls. I have learned (so I am told) that I have a knack for meeting people and getting to know them. I am a quiet person by nature, and I must work at opening up to people; but it is as if I have some sort of an innate gift when it comes to visiting with people who aren’t able to get out much. I honestly feel that I have been equipped in this area.
It is as if God takes control of my personality, and He guides me to engage the person at the specific point that is most effective.
I have watched folks that haven’t smiled in a long time smile because of a conversation. I have seen a mute person try to sing along with me. I have seen a person who, until I arrived hadn’t said a word all day, talk my ear off. I have seen God use me in ways I could not have dreamed.
This often comes by way of a song. When I began studying music in 2000, I would have never dreamed that one day I would be able to walk into a room and just begin to play the piano and sing songs that would move people to tears. I never even took piano lessons! I would have never imagined I could ever take “requests!” I never would have imagined that I could play songs on the guitar that would prompt a person (the shell of themselves after a debilitating stroke) to sing along with me.
I never imagined that I could have that effect. I’m just a regular guy. I am nothing special.
Despite my skepticism, God has a plan for me. Me and my accountability partners, Scott, John, and Jay, have been reading through the Old Testament together. We have studied Abraham, Moses, Noah, Joseph, and David. You know what I have learned?
God can do more with LESS, when LESS if fully reliant on Him, than he can do with MORE when MORE is fully reliant on self.
Just today, I went to visit a church member who had a debilitating stroke a few years ago. He is the shell of the man he once was. When I arrived at the nursing home, I was told that he was not up to receiving visitors. I began to leave….but then…
The chaplain (who I have never seen before in my life) saw me and my guitar and said, as if he was waiting for me, “Young sir, please follow me.” I did. He led me to a small chapel with an out of tune piano and said, “Please, if you would, wait here.” Within a few moments there was a room full of people wanting to hear ME play music. The chaplain looked at me, gestured toward them and said to me, “do your thang.”
I sang and played and took requests for over an hour. I couldn’t have been more fulfilled were I playing at a Gaither Homecoming Concert (and truth be told…that is all I ever wanted to do… sing on the Gaither stage). Today, I saw tears, heard laughter, heard singing–and truly heard God minister to people–through……Me?
God used…. ME. It is hard to fathom and hard to describe; yet I know that it happened. I am aware that God used me today. I am truly humbled.
But truth be told, I received the greater end of the blessing. God witnessed to me more in that hour than I have experienced Him in the past couple years.
Why do I write this post? Please do not interpret this as a boast. It isn’t. For years, I have not been willing to visit shut ins. They have not been at the top of my priority list. For that, I have been wrong. I confess this.
Thankfully, God gives second chances.
I am not special. I have a skill or two that I am willing to use. It just happens to be a skill (music) that leads directly to the heart. I honestly believe that God equipped me with music, not for the big stage, but for ministry.
A few years ago, when I sensed that God was not calling me to be a performer, but a minister, I found myself asking, “Why? How can I be a singer, but not be on the stage? How could God possibly use me without a platform?”
I underestimated God. He can use me however He sees fit. Whether it is on a stage singing to thousands or in a nursing home singing to the “least of these,” He can use those who are willing for His glory.
Here is just one little evidence that blew my mind: The gentleman that I go visit with once noted that “John doesn’t know these people. Many of them have been ill since before he arrived in Pascagoula; yet, he often locates something in the room that has importance or may even be insignificant—yet important, and brings it into the conversation. He asks questions about something important to them. Immediately, they know that he is genuinely interested in their personal history.”
I wish I could tell you that this was a tactic that I employed on purpose. I wish I could tell you that I learned this in seminary or college. I cant do that.
I didn’t even realize that I did this until he told me.
My greatest joy now is sharing this with my children. I routinely take my 6-year old daughter with me to visit people in the hospital or in the nursing homes. I want her to develop what I have come to find as a treasure.
To God be the Glory.