The Hyles Church Manual
by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 13 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, The Hyles Church Manual)
13. The Sick and Shut-ins
“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”-Jas. 5:13-15.
One of the most important ministries of the New Testament church was ministering to the sick. Jesus spent much of His life ministering to the sick. The book of Acts is filled with examples of ministering to those who were sick and shut-in. Since this is such a vital part of the church program, let us examine carefully to the sick and shut-ins.
1. The people of the church should be trained to call the pastor or the staff when they are ill. It is amazing that people call the doctor and call their friends but simply expect word to get back to the pastor about their illnesses. Constant stress should be upon informing the pastor there is illness. It should also be emphasized that friends of sick people should alert the pastor as to their condition so that no one will be overlooked.
Once a lady came out to the public services and said to her pastor.
“Well, I was sick and you didn’t come to see me.”
The pastor replied, “Did the doctor come?”
“Oh yes, many times.” said the Lady.
“How did the doctor know you were sick?” the pastor asked.
“Well, I called him, of course.”
Then the pastor said, “Maybe I could have seen you many times, too, if you had called me.”
It is very important that contact be made with the pastor or the office concerning the sick and shut-ins.
2. A card file should be kept of all visits to the sick and shut-ins. When a person enters the hospital or becomes sick enough to need prayer, the church office should be called. Immediately, a card should be made in the church office for this person. On the card should be the name of the patient, the hospital, and the room number. Then the pastor or staff member should list each visit made to the parties. This file should be kept as a permanent one for future reference. Oftentimes members may become offended because a certain person was not visited at their request. Proof of this visit can be given if a card file is kept. Below is a card taken from the files of the First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana:
3. The pastor should send get-well cards to folks who are hospitalized or seriously ill. Scripture text get-well cards may be purchased from any Bible bookstore and can be a real blessing and help to people when they realize the pastor has thought of them in their illness and has sent them a get-well greeting.
4. The names of the sick should be included on a weekly prayer list that is mimeographed or printed and given to the people. When a person calls to say that he is sick or has his name called in as being ill, the entire church family should be notified. The best way to do this is to mimeograph or print a prayer list and give it to the congregation weekly. At First Baptist Church in Hammond we have for years passed out such a prayer sheet in the Wednesday evening service. This prayer sheet is kept by the people for the entire week. Not only are the sick listed but others who request prayer. We have also found it helpful to list the names of the people who are having birthdays during the week, and we encourage our people to pray for each person on his birthday. This enables each member of the church to pray for the entire membership once a year. Below is a sample prayer sheet:
5. Regular visits should be made to the hospitals and to the sick. In our church we divide this into four different areas of visitation.
1. Local hospitals
2. Out-of-town hospitals
3. Sick at home
Those in local hospitals get a daily visit. Those in out-of-town hospitals, within reasonable driving distance of the church, get a visit once or twice a week. Folks who are sick at home get a weekly visit and those who are shut-in get a lengthy monthly visit. In a large church the staff members may divide these responsibilities. In a smaller church the pastor could care for them all. In some cases, lay people could be chosen for some of these responsibilities.
The Hospital Visit
The hospital visit should be characterized by several things. First, brevity. The patient usually does not feel like having a long visit and is oftentimes made to feel worse by a long visit. The hospital staff will also appreciate the brevity of visits. Second, a visit should be very cheerful. A little appropriate humor, a warm smile, and a cheery greeting is always in order. Bring the patient up to date on the news of the church and the happy events of the outside. Do not tell him of people who have had his illness and died, but be optimistic in the visit. Next, the visit should include words of comfort. These should be brief, encouraging words of interest to the patient and words of assurance of the prayers of the church and friends. Included in the hospital visit should be a witness for Christ if the person is not converted. It might also be wise to speak a cheery word of greeting to each person in the room and take an opportunity to witness to them concerning their spiritual condition.
A few weeks ago I was in a hospital and was witnessing to a dying man. He knew he was dying and had called for a preacher. I found that he had never been saved. Carefully I told him the plan of salvation and led him to the Lord Jesus Christ. Realizing that he would die in a few moments, he was so happy that he had found Christ on his deathbed. I then tried to lead him to assurance and so very soberly and carefully I asked him, “Where are you going when you die?” He looked up at me through tear-filled eyes and said, “Kentucky.” We both laughed when we realized that ha had misunderstood my question. He was telling me that his body would be shipped to back to Kentucky. He laughed as he went to Heaven. It is always important to inquire as to the condition of the soul of one in the hospital.
Then a brief prayer should always be given at the bedside. It should be a prayer of faith, praying for healing, grace, comfort, strength, etc. I have found it helpful simply to hold the hand of the patient as I pray this prayer.
The Shut-in Visit
In a similar church the pastor could care for the shut-ins. In the church the size of the one I pastor now it requires the help of many to keep up with the sick and shut-ins. We employ a lady to spend one entire day a week working with the shut-ins. Since she has from thirty-five to forty, she is able to visit each shut-in once a month. Here are some observations concerning this vital ministry:
1. The visit is usually a lengthy one lasting anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour depending upon the condition of the shut-in and the degree of interest the shut-in has in spiritual matters.
2. A gift is taken to the shut-ins. Since the visit is made only once a month it is made to be a very impressive one. The pastor may take a gift or his representative may simply say, “The pastor sent this gift to you.” Sometimes it is a small box of candy; in other cases, a small bouquet of flowers. A book is a splendid gift for a shut-in. Each shut-in receives a lovely remembrance from the pastor.
3. A tape recorder is taken by the visitor and a personal taped message is given by the pastor. The visitor prepares the tape recorder and plays this tape. The pastor speaks to the shut-in something like this:
Message From Pastor to Shut-in
Once again it is a real joy for me to spend some time with my shut-in friends. Many times I have been to the beautiful city of Washington, D. C., and crossed the Potomac River over to the famous cemetery not far from the Washington National Airport. In this great cemetery, where President Kennedy is buried and where the bodies of many of our great statesmen lie, there is a grave called simply “The tomb of the Unknown Soldier.” Military guards are posted here, for this man represents the millions of little soldiers who have died for their country. Yes, little as far as man is concerned, but who can say one who dies for his country is little.
When I think of the Unknown Soldier and the unknown soldiers I think of you, our shut-in friends. You write no books that will be read by thousands of people. You preach no sermons that will be a blessing to millions. Your names are never in the headlines of religious periodicals, but I wonder if the Lord has a beautiful monument in Heaven to the unknown soldiers such as you-unknown on earth but well-known in Heaven. I think that among these unknown soldiers would have to be included our shut-in friends.
All of that was said to say this: God knows what you do. He knows your prayers. He knows your sincerity. He knows your heart. What you do for God, the prayers you offer, the kindly deeds you do, the gracious spirit you manifest does not go unnoticed. The great recorder in Heaven records your faithfulness in prayer and the great unknown soldiers, my prayer warriors, and my faithful, loyal friends. May God bless you as you continue to pray for me, other preachers, and other Christian workers. Rest assured that there is a place in our hearts for the “unknown soldiers.”
This is always a high hour in the lives of the shut-ins.
4. For those who are able and who desire to hear it, the music and sermon from the previous Sunday are played.
5. The visitor should be a good listener. Realizing that shut-ins talk to few people and want to talk and be heard, it is very vital that the visitor listen carefully to the needs of the patient and be interested in listening.
6. After giving the gift, playing the pastor’s personal message, playing the music and sermon from a recent service, and listening and conversing for awhile, the visitor then says, “Could we pray together before I leave?” A Prayer is offered which is a little more lengthy than the one at a hospital for there is more time. This prayer should be more personal concerning the needs of the shut-in.
The shut-ins are invited to the annual Shut-in Day at the church. On this day the church honors her shut-ins. Wheelchairs, hospital beds, crutches, or any other equipment needed is provided by the church. On occasion an ambulance can be used to transport the shut-ins to the church. This is their day. They come by car, by bus, and by ambulance. They are honored in the service. They are given a special gift from the pastor, and a luncheon is prepared for them after the morning service. This is a high day for them.
A monthly paper called Glad Times is mimeographed and mailed to the shut-ins. This little paper informs them of happening at church and news of other shut-ins. It is just for them. It is their paper and is mailed to their homes each month.
The pastor should never forget that the shut-ins have more time to pray for him than all the rest of the church collectively. Think of the potential power in the prayers of these dear saints. The Pastor should constantly be asking for the prayers of the shut-ins and thanking them for remembering him at the Throne of Grace. Here is an untapped source of power in our churches.
For the sake of the church, for the sake of the power of God, and for the sake of the shut-ins, let us not neglect them but make them feel that they are a vital part of the church life.
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