Brian Croft. Visit the Sick: Ministering God’s Grace in Times of Illness. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014. 94 pp. $12.99.
Church and Ministry
In an essay on “Sickness” J. C. Ryle wrote: “The prevalence of sickness calls us to always be ready to feel with and help our fellow human beings” (Visit the Sick, 86). Yet, few are prepared to visit the sick and do it well. Is this you? Because it certainly is me!
Brian Croft, senior pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church and founder of Practical Shepherding, offers to help with Visit the Sick, a newly revised and updated book from Zondervan’s Practical Shepherding imprint.
Visit the Sick begins with a biblical theology in chapter one. This chapter starts at creation and goes to new creation. It surveys care of the sick in the life of Israel, Christ, and the Church before proceeding to a forward look to the new creation.
Chapter two provides a step-by-step theologically precise procedure for each visit, which includes these four steps: ask leading question, reading Scripture, pray the Gospel, and trust God’s sovereign plan.
Chapters three and four include sensible tips. Tips like being mindful of time, leaving notes, making eye contact, and giving affirming touch are included in these chapters. The finer points of these tips are better fleshed out upon reading these chapters.
Chapter five closes Visit the Sick by encouraging pastors to inspire whole congregations to participate in visitation. Croft includes five ways for pastors to stimulate God’s people to love the afflicted and dying within the church.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
It would be an injustice to overlook Croft’s brief but piercing biblical theology in chapter one. This chapter is not some biblical footnote or an appetizer to the main course of graceful visitations. This biblical theology is the main course that drives the premise of Visit the Sick. We should especially heed this observation from chapter one. “We must not miss the call that Jesus gives to his followers to care for those who are afflicted” (23-24). Croft goes on to point readers to the discourse in Matthew 25 on caring for other’s in Jesus name. He’s right. We mustn’t miss but rather mimic Jesus’s tenderness towards the afflicted.
I unashamedly admitted above that I feel ill prepared for visiting the sick. One of my favorite features of this book is how Croft comforts us about the uncomfortable nature of this task. He prepares us to respond to the many unknowns. How do we interact with family? What if the patient doesn’t know the Lord? What if the patient has a health issue while you’re visiting? Suppose you visit and the patient is not accessible? Visit the Sick addresses delicate scenarios in an accommodating fashion.
Visit the Sick not only prepares us for delicate scenarios, it centers on the most important one – preparing others for life after death. Croft’s pensive section on praying the gospel with patients is powerful. Listen to this exhortation: “We should never leave a hospital room, nursing home, rehabilitation center, or home of a sick person (or healthy person, for that matter) without praying the hope of God in Christ” (34). We should mind this urgent call.
The instructive appendices are also a major benefit of Visit the Sick. There you’ll find a checklist for your visit, a couple demonstrations for turning a conversation to spiritual matters, some frequently asked questions about visiting the sick, and J. C. Ryle’s abridged essay, “Sickness.” Don’t just close the book after finishing chapter five. You’ll want to closely visit the appendices for sure.
Honestly, I’m not aware of another resource that so thoroughly covers the subject of visitation quite as well as Croft does in Visit the Sick. This book should be given to every young pastor and seasoned veterans will find Visit the Sick recharging as well.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
Croft’s treatment in Visit the Sick is a well-mixed cordial of practical pastoral advice and theologically rich instruction.